Wednesday, 13 August 2008

"Lambert Simnel"

In 1487, the first reports that a rival King had been proclaimed in Dublin were received in London.

Lady Matilda Rose, now working in the private sector as a royal pundit, immediately put the word out on the grapevine that it was someone impersonating Richard of York, younger brother of Edward V.

When later reports named the rival King as Edward, Henry Tudor was ready. He had imprisoned Edward, son of Clarence, in the Tower from the start of his reign, even though Edward posed no real threat as he was barred from the throne by his father's attainder. The story was propagated that the claimant in Dublin was Edward, son of Clarence. Henry allowed his prisoner a rare excursion to St Paul's Cathedral. Everyone saw that the real son of Clarence was in London, and concluded that the one in Dublin was an impostor.

As Henry well knew, the Dublin pretender was actually Edward V. From Ireland, Edward brought a substantial army which fought its way through Lancashire, Yorkshire and Sherwood Forest as far south as the river Trent. At Stoke Field near Newark, forces loyal to Henry finally overcame it. Edward was killed, but Henry had something different for public consumption. He alleged that the impostor had been captured alive and spared. A young lad was presented with a well prepared back story and the distinctive name of "Lambert Simnel". Elizabeth Lambert was the real name of "Jane Shore", so "Lambert" had useful connotations of illegitimacy. "Simnel", the time of year, was an unknown surname so instantly memorable. It also commenced the long tradition of associating conspiracy theories with fruitcakes. Henry displayed his magnanimity by appointing "Simnel" to the position of royal spit turner, and kept the legend in the public consciousness by subsequently promoting him to royal falconer.

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