Henry VII had to face other Yorkists threats than just the Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck rebellions. While it is safe to believe that Henry VII did not face any other major threats in his reign, there were other minor ones that occupied his mind and skills up to 1506 – 21 years after the Battle of Bosworth.
In 1499, the Earl of Warwick was executed – the last of the major York claimants to the throne. After his execution, the next claimant was Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk. He was the brother of the Earl of Lincoln who had been killed in the attempted Simnel Rebellion. Therefore, his family did have a reputation of betrayal to live with. Suffolk gave an outward appearance of loyalty to Henry VII but he had been angered by Henry’s refusal to elevate him to a dukedom as his father had held.
In July 1499, Suffolk suddenly disappeared only to reappear at Guisnes near Calais. Henry feared that he would lead a foreign-backed invasion. At the very least, what Suffolk had done was an irritation to Henry as there was always the chance that the French might have used him to de-stabilise Henry’s position in England. Suffolk was persuaded by Henry to return to England and he remained outwardly loyal until 1501.
In 1501, Suffolk, along with his brother Richard, fled to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian. Supporters of the York family gathered around the Earl of Suffolk in Flanders in the knowledge that they were safe under the protection of Maximilian. Henry had no choice but to act decisively. Not only was there an obvious threat to him developing in Flanders, he had lost his eldest son, Arthur, to illness. Prince Henry was also a far from a strong boy then and his third son, Edmund, was already dead. Henry had to demonstrate that he was a strong and well-established king.
Suffolk’s relations who had remained in England were all arrested and imprisoned. In January 1504, 51 men were attainted – the largest number in one single action in Henry’s reign. Sir James Tyrell, a former Constable of the Tower, was executed. He had been Governor of Guisnes when Suffolk had fled there and this was enough to seal his fate.
Henry had developed a very good spy system and he had an informer in the Suffolk camp. One report back to Henry made it clear to the king that there was a very real campaign to replace him – hence his desire to crush the Suffolk family. An informer infiltrated a secret meeting at Calais and reported back to Henry:
“Some of them (the plotters) spake of my Lord of Buckingham, saying that he was a noble man and would be a royal ruler. Others there were that spake in likewise of yon traitor, Edmund de la Pole, but none of them spake of my Lord Prince.”
Faced with a large group gathering in northern Europe whose sole purpose seemed to be to topple Henry, the king needed a piece of luck to exploit. This he got in 1506.
In 1506, Philip of Burgundy and his wife had to take refuge in the port of Weymouth as a result of a storm. He was an unexpected and highly useful bargaining tool. Burgundy was in the Holy Roman Empire and the duke would have been seen as a senior figure within the imperial hierarchy. Henry persuaded Burgundy to accept a deal in return for his release – surrender the Earl of Suffolk. This Philip agreed to do on the condition that his life would be spared. Henry gave his word and kept it. Suffolk was imprisoned in the Tower of London but Henry VII did not have him executed. He was executed, however, in 1513 when Henry VIII was king. Suffolk’s brother, Richard, remained in western Europe trying in vain to persuade people that he had a valid claim to the throne. Richard was killed at the Battle of Pavia in 1525.
By the end of 1506 Henry probably finally felt safe from a York threat. Many had been physically eliminated but those who remained in England and showed their loyalty to Henry were safe.
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