History’s Pretenders: Lambert Simnel

A new history series! I find the concept of royal pretenders fascinating so I hope you readers enjoy them as much as I do. I think today we have a hard time conceptualizing the idea of a pretender. After all, with the invention of tv, the internet, and cell phone cameras it would be pretty hard, if not impossible, for someone to convince others that he was a long-lost prince. Lambert Simnel is one of the most famous pretenders in history so I thought I would start there, especially since he ties into the stories of King Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville, Richard III and that mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the Princes in the Tower. Because no one was certain of the fate of the two boys, throughout the following years children would show up declaring they were either Edward or Richard. At first, Lambert was claimed to be the younger son, Richard. Supposedly he resembled the York boys with their golden looks. Again keep in mind that the boy had been about 10 years old when he was taken to the Tower and the average citizen would have had little opportunity to have seen the child in his short lifetime. However, soon Lambert was presented as the son of George, Duke of Clarence, who was the executed brother to King Edward IV and Richard III. In actuality, the real son of George was still very much alive, having been imprisoned by the new King Henry VII in the Tower since he was ten years old. Talk about a sad royal childhood. Lambert was becoming extremely popular in Ireland thanks to the Yorkists who used him for their possible gain (most notably the Earl of Lincoln and Francis Lovell, an old friend of Richard III). “Lambert’s Army” was defeated by King Henry VII’s men in 1487.

I think that perhaps the most surprising thing about Lambert’s story is how it ended. After punishing the living Yorkists who made Lambert their figurehead, Henry VII gave Lambert a job in one of the royal kitchens! Let me repeat that: the King gave the Pretender who threatened his thronea job working for him. A tame end to a storied life. Considering the typical treatment for traitors, I think Lambert got off quite easy. He’d find that other Pretenders were not so lucky…To be continued!



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