1486: The Stafford/Lovell Rebellion

Duration

One month

Location

York + Worcestershire

Main cause

Dynastic – wanted restoration of House of York

Subsidiary causes

None of any significance – hence lack of support

Leadership

Viscount Lovell, Sir Thomas and Sir Humphrey Stafford

Main aims/causes

Overthrow of Henry VII & his replacement with unspecified Yorkist claimant

Outcome

Attracts little support. Lovell escapes, Staffords both captured and Humphrey is executed

Level of threat

Very low – rebel numbers derisory

Success or failure? 

Entirely unsuccessful. Henry’s concerns had more to do with the general instability of his rule in these early days than any significant threat from the rebels

Narrative

Lovell was one of Richard III’s councillors and a close ally of the king. After Bosworth he fled, with the brothers Humphrey and Thomas Stafford, to sanctuary in Colchester abbey. Eight months later (April 1486), the three left to try to raise a rebellion. Lovell travelled to Richard’s old stronghold of Yorkshire to raise troops while the Staffords did the same in Worcestershire.

The rebellions gained little traction because there was no Yorkist pretender to rally around. Henry VII, who was in Lincoln when word of the rebellion reached him, hurried to York and sent his uncle Jasper Tudor into the countryside with a pardon for every rebel but Lovell himself, which drained all support. Support for the Staffords collapsed when word reached them that the king was on his way south with an army.

Lovell escaped, rallied to support Lambert Simnel, and after Simnel’s defeat escaped to Flanders. The Staffords fled to sanctuary again but were dragged out and tried – Humphrey was executed, Thomas imprisoned.

Reasons for failure

  1. Lack of credible alternative candidate as king – very few of the commons were willing to rise in support of the noble leaders
  2. Lovell and Staffords were only minor nobles – had no great wealth and no large group of followers/servants on which to base a rising
  3. Henry already had an efficient intelligence operation – successfully tracked the rebels when they fled and did not give them time to become a threat
  4. No backing from overseas

Key stats, quotes and views

  • Total support raised was in dozens, not even hundreds
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