Although Henry had won the throne at Bosworth, it was by no means certain that he would be able to maintain it. Enough disgruntled Ricardians remained, particularly in the North, to make rebellion a distinct possibility.
Henry strengthened his support by marrying Elizabeth of York – the daughter of Edward IV – and placed the 15-year-old Earl of Warwick, Edward’s nephew, in ‘protective custody’ in the Tower of London.
He craftily dated his reign from the day before Bosworth, thus ensuring that anyone fighting for Richard III at Bosworth was technically guilty of treason. As it happened, the only significant execution after Bosworth was that of Sir William Catesby, one of Richard’s close associates. Henry preferred to ensure the loyalty of potential opponents by taking bonds from them – sums of money deposited as a guarantee of future good behaviour.
In 1486, Henry was faced by two attempted rebellions – one in the Midlands and one in the North – but neither attracted much support and both were quickly suppressed.
In 1487, however, he faced a more serious threat. A Ricardian force landed in Lancashire, representing a man claiming to be the Earl of Warwick and who had been crowned Edward VI in Dublin that May. The ‘Earl’ was, in fact, an imposter who was later named as Lambert Simnel.
The rebellion was funded by Richard III’s sister Margaret of Burgundy, and led by the Earl of Lincoln (who had been Richard’s heir) and Richard’s old friend Francis Lord Lovell. Like Henry’s army two years earlier, the core of the force was made up of foreign troops – mercenaries from Switzerland and Germany and 4,000 Irish – and, like Henry’s force, it failed to attract much English support. Even so the rebels had clearly been in correspondence with some of the English nobility, and it was with some relief that Henry saw his vanguard defeat the rebels on 16 June at Stoke near Newark.
Stoke was the final battle of the Wars. Although he had to deal with other rebellions and face another pretender in Perkin Warbeck later in his reign, he never had to take the field against a rival again.
This content first appeared in the August 2015 issue of BBC History Revealed