Lambert Simnel

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XXIII. ...continued

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The native Irish appear not to have had the least doubt that Simnel was what he represented himself to be. The Anglo-Irish nobles were nearly all devoted to the House of York; but it is impossible now to determine whether they were really deceived, or if they only made the youth a pretext for rebellion. His appearance is admitted by all parties to have been in his favour; but the King asserted that the real Earl of Warwick was then confined in the Tower, and paraded him through London [3] as soon as the pseudo-noble was crowned in Ireland. Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, was the great promoter of the scheme. She despatched Martin Swart, a famous soldier, of noble birth, to Ireland, with 2,000 men. The expedition was fitted out at her own expense. The English Yorkists joined his party, and the little army landed at Dublin, in May, 1487. On Whit-Sunday, the 24th of that month, Lambert Simnel was crowned in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. After the ceremony he was borne in state, on the shoulders of tall men, to the Castle. One of his bearers, a gigantic Anglo-Irishman, was called Great Darcy. Coins were now struck, proclamations issued, and all the writs and public acts of the colony executed in the name of Edward VI.

Soon after, Simnel's party conducted him to England, where they were joined by a few desperate men of the Yorkist party. The battle of Stoke, in Nottinghamshire, terminated the affair. The youth and his tutor were captured, and the principal officers were slain. According to one account, Simnel was made a turnspit in the royal kitchen; according to another authority [4] he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. It would appear as if Henry was afraid to visit the Earl of Kildare too heavily for his transgressions, as he retained him in the office of Lord Deputy.

The use of fire-arms appears to have become general in Ireland about this period (1487), as the Annals mention that an O'Rourke was slain by an O'Donnell, "with a ball from a gun;" and the following year the Earl of Kildare destroyed the Castle of Balrath, in Westmeath, with ordnance. The early guns were termed hand-cannons and hand-guns, to distinguish them from the original firearms, which were not portable, though there were exceptions to this rule; for some of the early cannons were so small, that the cannonier held his gun in his hand, or supported it on his shoulder, when firing it.[5]

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[3] London.—The Irish Yorkists declared that this youth was a counterfeit. The Earl of Lincoln, son of Elizabeth Plantagenet, sister of Richard III., saw and conversed with the boy at the court at Shene, and appeared to be convinced that he was not his real cousin, for he joined the movement in favour of Simnel immediately after the interview. Mr. Gilbert remarks in his Viceroys, p. 605, that the fact of all the documents referring to this period of Irish history having been destroyed, has been quite overlooked. A special Act of Poyning's Parliament commanded the destruction of all "records, processes, ordinances, &c, done in the 'Laddes' name."

[4] Authority.—Gilbert's Viceroys, p. 605. The English Parliament attainted those English gentlemen and nobles who had fought against the King at Stoke, but they took no notice of the English in Ireland, who were the real promoters of the rebellion. This is a curious and valuable illustration of the state of affairs in that country.

[5] Firing it.—A valuable paper on this subject, by Sir S. P. Meyrick, will be found in the Archaeologia, vol. xxii. The people of Lucca are supposed to have been the first to use hand-cannons, at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Cannon-balls were first made of stone, but at the battle of Cressy the English "shot small balls of iron." For popular information on this subject, see Fairholt, History of Costume.


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