During this month I have posted the various chapters of my short eBook Ralph Wilford: Henry VII’s Forgotten Pretender. The first chapter provided a contextual overview of the reign of Henry VII up to the year of 1499. Chapter 2 was an overview of the “rebellion” itself, whilst Chapter 3 delved into the issue as to how much of a threat this rebellion actually was. The last chapter – Chapter 4– gave an overview of the execution of the Earl of Warwick in 1499. This post in the final one; what is Ralph Wilford’s overall legacy?


Chapter 5: Ralph Wilford’s Legacy

The final question then centres on whether or not the Wilford affair is important to the historian and the student. As noted above, the actual scale of the threat to the Tudor regime was negligible: Wilford and his mentor had no hope of raising the needed support in order to take the English crown. For this reason, it is understandable why many textbooks – for the need of space – have extinguished the whole incident from the record. However, analysis of the rebellion itself fails to consider its overall impact on Henry VII and his thinking, thereby completely undermining its importance during this period of history.

The Wilford rebellion gave Henry the resolution to act in a brutal manner: he would ensure that both Warwick and Warbeck would become involved in a conspiracy that would allow him to justify a judicial execution of both. Even though the Wilford threat itself was of minimal importance, its timing is important: it confirmed that Henry would need to act viciously and brutally, and therefore it set in motion other events. It also possibly indicates a clear change in Henry’s reign; from a younger, novice ruler, to escalate into the ‘Winter King’ as described by Thomas Penn. The Henry of the final years was more brutal, more rapacious and more paranoid than the king in his earlier years, thereby colouring his portrayal to contemporaries and generations of future historians.

The fact that the Wilford rebellion is ignored by historians does not do Henry VII or this period of history any justice. Despite it being seen as ‘rash and hopeless’, it is an important milestone.[i] For as the historians quoted above have highlighted (such as Weir, Gairdner, Speed) it demonstrated that Henry could never be safe for as long as Warwick lived. Therefore, he would need to become vicious in order to establish his Tudor dynasty. For this reason the rebellion should be provided more space in history textbooks and Wilford should not be a forgotten pretender but rather should take his place alongside Simnel and Warbeck.


[i] Gairdner, 1899.

Bibliography

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Bacon, F., The History of the Reign of King Henry VII, Jordan, Hesperus Press, 2007.

Burnet, T., Some Farther Proofs Whereby It Appears That the Pretender is Truly James the Third, 1745 edition. Available at: http://booksdownload.energiagratis.com.mx/33465690/268580-download-ebook-some-farther-proofs-whereby-it-appears-that-the-pretender-is-truly-james-the-third-the.html (Accessed: 18 June 2019).

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Vergil, P., Anglica Historia, 1555 edition.  Available at: http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/polverg/26eng.html (Accessed: 2 July 2019).

Weir, A., Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen, Croydon, Vintage, 2014.