HistoryExtra Magazine: Lambert Simnel by John Ashdown-Hill

Claiming to be Richard III’s heir and the rightful king of England, this boy – supposedly Edward Earl of Warwick, the son of Richard III’s brother, George, Duke of Clarence – was crowned king of England in Dublin Cathedral, despite the Tudor government insisting that his real name was Lambert Simnel and that he was an imposter. Now, in his new book, author and historian John Ashdown-Hill questions the generally accepted Tudor view that this boy was a mere pretender to the throne.

In The Dublin King, Ashdown-Hill uses previously unpublished information to uncover the true identity of the Yorkist heir, who he concludes had a stronger claim to the throne than Henry VII. He also debunks the belief by some that the so-called ‘Dublin King’ himself claimed to be one of the ‘princes in the Tower’.

Here, Ashdown-Hill reveals the two conflicting life stories of Edward, 17th Earl of Warwick…

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Review of "The Dublin King" by the Society of Antiquaries, London

From THE SOCIETY OF ANTIQUARIES OF LONDON, Salon online newsletter: Issue 334 ‏

Fellow John Ashdown-Hill, whose genealogical research played such an important role in the identification of Richard III’s remains by matching the king’s mitochondrial DNA to that of direct descendants down the female line, has written another book in which genetics could be used to solve a long-standing mystery. In this case, it concerns the boy who, in 1486, a year after Richard III’s death, claimed to be Edward, Earl of Warwick, son and heir of George, Duke of Clarence, the last surviving male of the house of York. This claimant to the throne was championed by Yorkists in the first serious challenge to the authority of Henry VII, the mystery concerning the fate of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, the sons of Edward IV, simply adding fuel to the fire.

Henry VII’s supporters declared the boy to be an imposter by the name of Lambert Simnel, and most historians (and the author of the ODNB entry for Simnel) have tended to follow the official Tudor line. Even so, as John Ashdown-Hill demonstrates, the evidence is not quite so conclusive. As he unravels the story of the boy’s coronation in Dublin on 24 May 1487 and his attempt to invade England eleven days later, on 4 June, with an army of German mercenaries and Irish infantry, doubts begin to emerge. The story is made more complex by the mixed motives of many of the aristocrats involved, all anxious to scramble to power. What is clear is just how many challenges Henry VII faced to his legitimacy as monarch and with what skill he and his supporters met these potentially serious rebellions.

The author concludes that there are two versions of Simnel’s story: the authorised one, publicised by successive English governments, and the unofficial one, which can be reconstructed from various sources, and that cannot easily be dismissed as fraudulent. As none of the evidence is cut and dried, John suggests that the best way to make the picture clearer is to seek the remains of some of the key protagonists and use DNA analysis to try to work out who they really were.


The Dublin King: the true story of Edward, Earl of Warwick, Lambert Simnel and the ‘Princes in the Tower', by John Ashdown-Hill; ISBN 9780750960342; The History Press, 2015


 

About "The Dublin King" by John Ashdown-Hill

In 1486 – just a year after Henry VII had killed Richard III at the battle of Bosworth and seized the crown - a young man claiming to be a Yorkist prince appeared to oust the usurper and reclaim the throne for the legitimate royal family. 

Who was this boy?

One Tudor historian said he claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, younger of the ‘princes in the Tower’. Another wrote that he claimed to be Edward, Earl of Warwick, cousin of the ‘princes,’ and son of George, Duke of Clarence.

Some modern historians have suggested that he may really have been Edward V – the elder ‘prince in the Tower’.

Henry VII’s government officially announced that the boy was an imposter called Lambert Simnel, son of a craftsman from Oxford.

But late fifteenth-century Continental and Irish writers insisted that he was the genuine Earl of Warwick.

Whoever he was, he had the backing of key members of the Yorkist royal family, notably Margaret of York Duchess of Burgundy, and John de La Pole, Earl of Lincoln  - the sister and the nephew of the late King Richard III).

Whoever he was, he was crowned King of England in Dublin’s cathedral. He then invaded England, only to be defeated at the battle of Stoke. Reputedly he was subsequently employed in a menial capacity in Henry VII’s household.

"The Dublin King"

Henry VII’s official statements about him have generally been accepted by subsequent historians. But this new book questions them, and because of the uncertainty about the pretender’s real identity, it generally prefers to refer to him as ‘The Dublin King’

Every possible boyhood of the Dublin King is explored:

  • Richard Duke of York and Edward V (the ‘princes in the Tower’)
  • the two possible life histories of Edward Earl of Warwick (son of George, Duke of Clarence)
  • and the story of Lambert Simnel. 

On the way, some intriguing new or little-known information is revealed.

The book then traces the lead-up to his coronation and explores evidence of his reign and the story of the battle of Stoke. Clear evidence is presented of the boy’s royal title, and we even get to see a contemporary fifteenth-century image of him in his role as King of England!

The book ends by exploring the after-lives of the Dublin King (in his various possible identities) -  and those of his supporters, and of key people affected by him.

A Fresh Approach

THE DUBLIN KING adopts a new approach to a puzzling and controversial story.

It questions the simple, standard answers.

It offers new and unfamiliar evidence.

In the process of seeking the truth behind the 500 year old story of the Dublin boy-king of 1487, it also sheds new light on the stories of the ‘princes in the Tower’ and of the Earl of Warwick.

The book’s plates, text-illustrations and tables offer an important and fascinating back-up to its written evidence.

Coming in January 2015

In 1486 – just a year after Henry VII had killed Richard III at the battle of Bosworth and seized the crown - a young man claiming to be a Yorkist prince appeared to oust the usurper and reclaim the throne for the legitimate royal family. 

 Who was this boy?

One Tudor historian said he claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, younger of the ‘princes in the Tower’. Another wrote that he claimed to be Edward, Earl of Warwick, cousin of the ‘princes,’ and son of George, Duke of Clarence.

Some modern historians have suggested that he may really have been Edward V – the elder ‘prince in the Tower’.

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