Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Who Remained after the Battle of Stoke?

The Battle of Stoke is widely considered the end of the Wars of the Roses. Most who had battled for supremacy in England had died by the time this battle took place on June 16, 1487, and one that had the most potential for the future, John de la Pole, fell on the field at Stoke. Henry Tudor cemented his place on England's throne on this day by proving that Bosworth was no fluke. He was prepared to defend his right to call himself King of England.

John de la Pole, an organizer of rebels and leader of troops at Stoke had good reason to believe that he had a better claim to the crown than Henry VII. At one time named the heir of Richard III, de la Pole was son of Elizabeth, duchess of Suffolk and sister to Edward IV and Richard III. When he was killed, it was believed that the hope of the Plantagenets died with him.

However, a few remained.

At the time of John de la Pole's death, he had two younger brothers, Edmund and Richard. Both were forced into exile by Henry's wrath. Edmund would later be imprisoned and executed, but Henry's assassins failed to rid him of Richard.

Richard de la Pole
Sometimes referred to as the White Rose, Richard successfully raised troops and gained support in Europe. Circumstances were never quite in his favor though, and his army failed to reach English shores. Instead, Richard outlived many of his family members but never made a serious move for Henry's throne. He died in 1525 at the Battle of Pavia, where he led troops for Francis I of France.

When Richard de la Pole died, there still remained a Plantagenet remnant. The three de la Pole boys had not managed to leave behind a living male heir, but other families lived on with more than a drop of royal blood in their veins.

George of Clarence, the brother of Edward IV and Richard III who had been executed for treason in 1478, left behind two living children, Edward and Margaret. Edward was executed by Henry VII in 1499 for the crime of having a better claim to the throne than the king and to clear the way for Prince Arthur's marriage to the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon. Margaret, however, had been married to a loyal follower of the Tudors, Richard Pole, with whom she had several sons. When the Battle of Stoke occurred in 1487, they were little more than children but they too would eventually be persecuted for their royal blood.

The eldest of Margaret's children was Henry Pole, Lord Montegu. As the greatest threat to Henry VIII's crown and a staunch Catholic, Henry was executed in 1539 along with Edward Neville and Henry Courtenay, two more men with potential power to give Henry VIII trouble. (Courtenay, as the son of Catherine of York, was the last of the male offspring of Edward IV's children, besides Henry VIII.) Henry Pole's young son, another Henry, was also kept in the Tower until his death.

The youngest of Margaret's sons, Geoffrey, was not a threat to Henry VIII, but was his own worst enemy, giving evidence against his brother in order to save his own skin. Feelings of guilt plagued him and sent him to Reginald, begging for forgiveness. He would continue to ride on Reginald's coattails until his death in 1558.

Cardinal Reginald Pole
It was Margaret's son Reginald that gave Henry VIII the most grief. Reginald Pole was a Catholic cardinal and had fled to the continent to evade Henry's form of justice. It is widely believed that the persecution of the Pole family, including Margaret's execution in 1541 at age 67, was formulated to force Reginald to return to England and face Henry. This ploy was unsuccessful, and Reginald managed to outlive the violent king. Rumors abounded that Reginald would be married to Princess Mary, the two of them forming the perfect union to bring England back to the church. These plans never came to fruition, but Reginald remained close to his cousin Mary, returning to England upon her ascension to the throne and dying on the same day as her in 1558.

Did the Wars of the Roses end on a bloody battlefield near Stoke? Maybe, but there were a few Plantagenets remaining who would be the bane of the Tudor dynasty for years to come.

For more on the fate of the Plantagenet remnant within the Tudor era, read Desmond Seward's The Last White Rose.


  1. I can't really blame Henry VII for being concerned about the de la Pole's after Lincoln rebelled against him. He had just months before had a place of honor at Arthur's christening. It demonstrated to him that he really couldn't trust any "friendships" with those on the York side. Lincoln's father actually hosted Henry and Elizabeth for a month in 1490, prob trying to make nice. His mother's visit to Margaret of Burgundy after her husband's death is interesting....

    Edmund was executed under Henry VIII as I believe Henry VII agreed not to under the terms of his release. Although some say that Henry VII told him to do so, I am skeptical as Henry VIII showed no regard for the prior wishes of his father once he became King.

    I believe that Warwick's execution was a difficult decision for Henry. His son seemed much more ruthless than he was.

    Due to Lincoln's superior claim to the throne than that of Henry, and also considering that he was likely to have been Richard's heir, I can also understand his having trouble taking the new reign sitting down. He also most likely felt that Elizabeth of York was illegitimate so I'm sure he was having issues with being a courtier at a court of a king and queen whom he felt had no right to the throne.

    Anyway, just some thoughts. Great page! I will be reading your book when it comes out.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I agree that Henry VII had plenty of reasons to keep an eye on the de la Poles, but their story also makes me sad. If Henry thought he was frustrated with the York families, I can only imagine how Elizabeth must have felt, hoping that they would be content with her on the throne.

      I also think you are correct in saying that Henry VIII's excuse for executing Edmund was just that. He certainly was fine with ignoring his father's wishes when it suited him.

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my book! I am getting so excited about the upcoming release!

    2. Thank you, Samantha. I had never heard of the Battle of Stoke and its impact on English history. I had always believed that the Wars of the Roses had ended with Bosworth.

      I was familiar with the Poles and their threat to Henry's throne. Yet, you have a lot information in this post that I didn't know.

      Thanks for sharing this!! I learned tons and that's why I love historical fiction and history so much. :)

    3. Your encouragement is appreciated, Sarah! I love learning through historical fiction as well.

  2. Interesting, that some Plantagenets kept on putting up a fight for so long after Bosworth and Stoke. Thanks for this post, it actually makes me sort of respect de la Poles, I mean they tried. I never really thought a lot about them before.

    1. Some of them weren't even fighting but were seen as enemies of the Tudors anyway. The story of the Plantagenet remnant after Stoke is an interesting piece of history. Thanks for visiting my blog!