Battle of Stoke Field 1487 – War of the Roses

The battle of Stoke Field was fought on the morning of the 16th June 1487. Its considered to be the last major battle of the War of the Roses. It was also the last engagement in which a Lancastrian King would face a Yorkist army.

The Yorkist were led by an impostor claiming to be Edward, called Lambert Simnel. Edward had a legimate claim to throne, was supposed to locked up in the tower.

With the help of Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and also Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Lincoln recruited 4,500 Irish mercenaries, mostly Kerns, lightly armoured and highly mobile.

With the support of the Irish nobility and clergy, Lincoln had the pretender Lambert Simnel crowned “King Edward VI” in Dublin on 24 May, 1487. Although a Parliament was called for the new “King”, Lincoln had no intention of remaining in Dublin and instead packed up the army and Simnel and set sail for north Lancashire.

Once in England Simnel and Lincoln were joined by by a number of the local gentry led by Sir Thomas Broughton, the army was now approxiamtely 8,000 strong.

Lord Lovell led 2,000 men on a night raid against 400 lancastrians under the command of Lord Clifford at Bramham Moor, near Tadcaster. This gave the Yorkists a good victory, in which to bolster suppport.

The Yorkists continued to march south, at Doncaster they encountered cavalry under the command of Lord Scales, which led to three days of skirmishing as they moved through Sherwood Forest. Scales was forced to retreat back to Nottingham, but this encounter had slowed the Yorkist march down considerbly. Which allowed additional reinforcments to arrive at Nottingham for the Lancastrains.

On the 15th June Henry moved towards Newark after reports that Lincoln had crossed the River Trent. Around nine in the morning of 16 June, King Henry’s forward troops, commanded by the Earl of Oxford, encountered the Yorkist army assembled in a single block, on a brow of a hill surrounded on three sides by the River Trent at the village of East Stoke.

The Yorkists made an unusual tactical error, in that they gave away the high ground by going on the immediate attack, this may have cost them the battle. For over three hours the two sides fought bitterly, but the Irish were being cut down due to a lack of armour.

Unable to retreat, the German and Swiss mercenaries fought it out. All of the Yorkist commanders: Lincoln, Fitzgerald, Broughton, and Schwartz, fell fighting. Only Lord Lovell escaped and, according to legend, died hidden in a secret room at his house. Simnel was captured, but was pardoned by Henry in a gesture of clemency which did his reputation no harm. Henry realised that Simnel was merely a puppet for the leading Yorkists.

This battle pretty much cemented Henry’s power base, and put pay to any claims from the Yorkists faction. Henry’s throne was again challenged in 1491 with the appearance of the pretender Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard, Duke of York (the younger of the two Princes in the Tower).

Warbeck made repeated attempts to incite revolts, with support at various times from the court of Burgundy and James IV of Scotland. He was captured after the failed Second Cornish Uprising of 1497, and executed in 1499 after attempting to escape imprisonment.

Battle of Stoke Troop Numbers;

Lancastrians: Approximately 15,000 with around 100 losses

Yorkists; 8,000 with approximate losses of 4,000


1 thought on “Battle of Stoke Field 1487 – War of the Roses”

  1. The Yorkists left the high ground and launched an immediate attack. It was a tactical error indeed, but there may have been a good reason. A very large part of their army was composed of Irish foot soldiers who had practically no armour and were therefore easy targets for Lancastrian bowmen. Henry VII had enough of these in his force to inflict withering fire on the Yorkists. If the Yorkists hadn’t attacked immediately, they would have lost around half their force to Lancastrian arrows before the two armies even engaged in hand-to-hand. The German and Swiss crossbows were not enough to counter this threat. It made sense for the Yorkists therefore to try and close in hand to hand combat as quickly as possible, where their Irish recruits would be safe from long bows and actually able to return blows.

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