The Invasion of Cumbria - Background

Piel Island from Roa Island

Piel island was the scene of a failed invasion on 5 June 1487, when Lambert Simnel, claiming to be "King Edward VI" landed there

Little is known about Lambert Simnel's background.  He was born in Oxford around 1477, but around 1486 his school-master, Richard Simon, spotted his resemblance to the Princes in the Tower, and decided to try to pass him off as the missing Earl of Warwick, son of Edward IV - and hence a claimant to the throne usurped first by Richard III and then by Henry VII.

Simon took Lambert to Ireland, where Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, decided to use him as an excuse to invade England.  On 24 May 1487, Lambert was crowned King Edward VI in Dublin Cathedral.  Kidare raised an Irish army, which was supplemented by 2000 Flemish mercenaries, paid for by Margaret of York, aunt of the real Earl of Warwick, and led by Martin Schwatrz. The army landed at Piel Island, known as the Piel of Foudray, on 5 June 1487.  They advanced as far south as Nottinghamshire, where they were defeated at the battle of Stoke Field, on the Trent - said to be the last battle of the Wars of the Roses

Schwartz died in the battle, some of the other leaders were executed, Simon was imprisoned for life, but Lambert was pardonned, and employed in Henry VII's kitchens.  There is unfortunately no truth in the story that there he invented the Simnel Cake.

It is sometimes said that Swarthmoor, near Ulverston, is named after Martin Schwartz, who mustered his army there.  It is more likely that the name comes from Old English sweart (black) and (moor) 

Text and photo by Bill Shannon