Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Cornish Rebellion

Henry VII was determined to fill the treasury to its limits and he succeeded. But in doing so he had to raise taxes which led to a rebellion in Cornwall in 1497. It was Michael Joseph (An Gof) and Thomas Flamank - who was a blacksmith and a lawyer respectively - who eventually took the lead. In May they led a 15.000 man army towards Devon and when they reached Wells they had gained an influential ally: the Baron Audley.

But the militia had not expected to meet no resistance whatsoever from the King's side and they began to realize that they could not push the King aside with the relatively small army. So, Thomas Flamank suggested that they sought support in Kent since several rebellions had started here. But the people of Kent was unwilling to aid the rebels and even enlisted in their Earl's armed forces against him. And that was not the only misunderstanding made in the rebel camp. Henry VII had not sat quietly with his hands in his lap (did he ever?) but had called back 8000 soldiers back from his war with Scotland. Meanwhile the royal family had moved to the security of the Tower of London. The citizens armed themselves and prepared to defend their King.
Simple drawing of the Battle of Blackheath

Henry VII sent out 500 men armed with spears on June 14 which seems to have been too much for the Cornish rebels to handle at once. They retreated to Blackheath where they would set up their last camp. Despite good leadership from Michael Joseph, some of the rebels were terrified as they lay up on a hill, looking down towards the Thames and some choose to desert. This would reduce the army to 9-10000.
The final battle was to be at Blackheath itself (though the battle is also referred to as the Battle of Deptford Bridge) and took place on June 17, 1497. By then Henry VII had gathered 25.000 men including cavalry - the elite soldiers of the day. Lords Oxford, Surrey and Essex led the three battalions and the rebels surrendered that same day.One of the great mistakes of the rebels was to fail sending support to the archers positioned at the crossing of the river Deptford Strand and another was to simply release Lord Dauberny when they actually managed to catch him. It is estimated that between 200-2000 rebels died.

The King's Wrath
Michael Joseph (An Gof) gave the final word to surrender and then fled to Greenwich but was caught. Both Baron Audley and Thomas Flamank were caught on the battlefield itself. Now the time had come to face Henry VII's vengance. Some prisoners were sold into slavery while Michael Joseph and Thomas Flamank was sentenced to death - at first they were to be hanged, drawn and quartered but some sources claims that they were "merely" hanged and then their bodies were dismembered. Their executions took place on June 27, 1497 at Tyburn while Lord Audley (being a part of the nobility) was beheaded within the Tower the next day.

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