The Cornish Rebellion of 1497

The Cornish Rebellion of 1497

Like the uprising in Yorkshire in 1489, the 1497 rebellion in Cornwall was based around a tax demand. In January 1497, Parliament voted for a tax to finance the campaign against James IV and Perkin Warbeck. The Cornish refused to contribute to a tax that was to pay for a campaign in the north and which, to them, had no impact on Cornwall. Led by Joseph and Flammock, the rebels set out from Bodmin in May 1497. They marched east and gained their recognised leader, the impoverished Lord Audley, at Wells. On June 16th, the rebels reached the outskirts of London and 15,000 of them camped on Blackheath. Henry VII had sent an army north for the anticipated clash with James IV. However, he recalled it back to London.

 

The king’s army, led by Lord Daubeney, had little trouble beating the rebels who though large in number were effectively leaderless. It is thought that about 1,000 of the rebels were killed at the so-called Battle of Blackheath. Some were taken prisoner but many of the rebels simply fled. The leaders were put to death including the blacksmith Joseph and Lord Audley.

 

However, while the rebels were easily beaten, their rebellion did show up one very disturbing fact to Henry VII. They had marched from Bodmin in Cornwall to Blackheath, which was then just outside of London, without anyone challenging them. Though the writer Holinshed claimed that Londoners manned every part of the city walls and that the rebels would have found it difficult to get within the city, there was no guarantee of this. The so-called Cornish Rebellion hardly threatened Henry’s position on the throne but it did show the fragility of the whole political and social structure of England at that time.






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