Medieval War of the Roses

Battle of Stoke Field 1487

The Yorkist defeat at Battle of Stoke Field in 1487 was one of the bloodiest battles and last battle of the War of the Roses.

The Battle of Stoke Field, considered as the last major battle during the War of the Roses. King Henry VII had became crowned two years previously after the victorious Battle of Bosworth against Richard III.

18th January 1486, Henry VII married Elizabeth of York at Westminster Abbey to unify the Houses of York and Lancaster. England then become under the rule of the House of Tudor.

The young pretender Lambert Simnel claimed to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick. It came to the attention of John del la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. Richard III had named his nephew, the Earl of Lincoln heir to the throne.

Lambert Simnel got the backing for the claim of the throne from the Earl of Lincoln. This was a way of getting back at Henry VII.

Gathering a rebellion army

The Earl of Lincoln travelled to Burgundy. His aunt Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy provided the finance and support. The support had been in the form of 2,000 German and Swiss mercenaries. They came commanded by the experienced Martin Schwartz.

More support came from the supporters of Richard III, such as Francis Lovell, 1st Viscount Lovell. They sailed to Ireland to gather further support.

4th May 1487, the Earl of Lincoln arrived at Dublin, Ireland with the Yorkist fleet. A force of 4,500 Irish mercenaries had become recruited.

Lambert Simnel crowned

lambert simnel carried through the streets of dublin 1487
Lambert Simnel carried through the streets of Dublin 1487, by James Ward

24th May 1487, at Dublin, the pretender Lambert Simnel became crowned King Edward VI.

4th June 1487, the Newly crowned Lambert Simnel and the Yorkist army landed in England. Sir Thomas Broughton joined Yorkist army now numbered around 8,000 men. The army had gathered more men as they marched.

10th June 1487, after marching 200 miles, the Yorkist army had reached Bramham Moor, near Tadcaster. Lord Lovell lead 2,000 Yorkist men to victory during a night attack against Lord Clifford’s army of 400 men.

12th June 1487, John Scrope, 5th Baron Scrope of Bolton and his brother Thomas Scrope, 6th Baron Scrope of Masham made an unsuccessful attack on Bootham Bar in York. They withdrew northwards whilst they had become pursued by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland and his army.

The Earl of Lincoln with the main Yorkist army marched to Doncaster. Henry VII sent Edward Woodville, Lord Scales to Doncaster with his light cavalry. He repeatedly harassed the Yorkists with a series of skirmishes in Sherwood Forest. The objective was to slow the Yorkist army down, giving Henry VII time to gather reinforcements commanded by George Stanley, 9th Baron Strange.

Henry VII received more reinforcements from Wales under the command of Sir Rhys ap Thomas. Both military commanders John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford and Jasper Tudor, 1st Duke of Bedford had joined Henry VII’s army. The army had around 15,000 men, while the opposing Yorkists army had around 8,000 men.

15th June 1487, the Earl of Lincoln and the main Yorkist army had marched over the River Trent. Henry VII marched northeast towards Newark.

Battle of Stoke Field

german mercenaries being felled at the battle of stoke field in 1487
German mercenaries being felled at the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487

16th June 1487, during the morning, the Yorkist army had positioned themselves on the brow of Rampire Hill at East Stoke. They had formed into one large block, with the River Trent curving around three of their sides.

The Earl of Oxford arrived leading Henry VII’s army, and positioned them into three divisions. He would lead from the vanguard of the formation.

The Yorkist come under fire from a hail of arrows, causing casualties and death amongst the ranks. The Irish troops lack of body armour meant they had become cut down by the consent volleys of arrows. They decided to charge down the hill and attack the Earl of Oxford’s vanguard of around 6,000 men. The hand-to-hand combat lasted for over three hours.

The German mercenaries with the latest handguns, no match for the number of Archers equipped with the traditional longbow. The longbows could become quickly loaded, and the arrows fired more accurately. Both German and Swiss mercenaries fought hard, but they suffered heavy losses from the Earl of Oxford’s archers.

During the battle the Earl of Lincoln, Sir Thomas FitzGerald of Laccagh, and Martin Schwartz had been killed. The Yorkists broke and started to flee down a ravine towards the River Trent. Many of the Yorkists had become cornered and cut down. Lord Lovell and Sir Thomas Broughton had fled the battlefield.

It thought that as few as 100 men under the Earl of Oxford were killed, whereas as many as 4,000 Yorkists killed.


The 10 year old Lambert Simnel had been captured after the battle. Henry VII had thought he had become merely used as a puppet for the avenging Yorkists. Henry VII gave a full pardon, then gave Lambert a job in the royal kitchen.

It is thought Lord Lovell escaped to Scotland, never to be seen again. In later years a document came about showing that James IV of Scotland had issued a safe conduct to him on 19th June 1488.

Henry VII raised his standard on Burham Furlong to mark his victory. Today, a stone memorial can been seen which reads “Here stood the Burrand Bush planted on the spot where Henry VII placed his standard after the Battle of Stoke 16th June 1487

The Battle of Stoke Field had brought an end to the War of the Roses.