The King of Dublin and the Earl of Warwick

In 2004 John Ashdown-Hill traced the mtDNA sequence of Richard III to Joy Brown Ibsen in Canada. This research was published in the Last Days of Richard III; the book which prompted the search for the King in the Car-park. New book tries to move focus to Bisham Abbey and a search for the remains of the Earl of Warwick, presumed son of the Duke of Clarence.

No more than a year after the death of Richard III at Bosworth 1485, a Yorkist prince appeared in Flanders at the court of the sister of the late king. The boy, no more than 12 years old – but perhaps smallish like his father – must have come with letters documenting his identity as the young Earl of Warwick, son of the late Duke of Clarence, brother to both Edward IV and Richard III. At least his aunt took him for the real thing as did other Yorkist supporters and he was fitted out with an army and returned to Ireland and crowned in the Cathedral of Dublin. As Edward VI. Later he suffered a defeat at the Battle of Stokes, was taken prisoner and according to Tudor propaganda defrocked as Lambert Simnel, the son of a commoner from Oxford. The rest of his life was spent as kitchen boy and servant at the court of Henry VII and Henry VIII. It is probable that the boy was identical with the yeoman mentioned in 1524 and to whom livery cloth was issued that year. His later whereabouts have not surfaced.

However, as with other Plantagenet pretenders to the English Crown in the aftermath of Bosworth, everything is not as it seems to be. In a brand new book the historian John Ashdown-Hill has traced the history of this “Dublin King” and uncovered a host of fascinating details about his background and probable ancestry.

alleged remains of Duke of Clarence
Alleged remains of Duke of Clarence, the father of the Earl of Warwick, in Tewkesbury Abbey

Facts are that his father, the Duke of Clarence, on the eve of his imprisonment in 1478 planned to have his very young son – age 2 – shipped to Ireland, leaving a substitute back in England. One reason was that the George might have felt he had a better claim to the throne of England than his brother Edward IV, who was generally believed to be a bastard. Another reason was that George simply feared for the life of his son. He believed that his wife had died in childbed as the consequence of poisoning by the queen. The official story – upheld by both Edward the IV and Richard III – was that the substitution had never taken place. Accordingly another Earl of Warwick was brought up at the court of his uncles. This Earl of Warwick was later taken into custody by Henry VII and placed in the Tower, until he was executed in 1499.

Later history has tried to square the facts that both prominent Yorkists and his aunt were convinced by the bona-fide claims of the young King of Dublin and backed him with a considerable army. Hence historians have tried to identify him with either of the princes in the Tower, the presumably murdered sons of Edward IV. In this new book Ashdown-hill does not unequivocally as the son of the Duke of Clarence; but he does indeed argue convincingly that this was what his supporters must have believed. On the way we are generously treated to a very fruitful shifting of old sources, which does read much like a fascinating story of crime and suspense.

In the end the young boy – if he was indeed captured at Stokes – ended his life as a humble yeoman at the royal court, while the “real” Earl of Warwick, captured after Bosworth, spent his entire life in the Tower growing more and more deranged. At his death he was characterised by the chronicler Edward Hall as having been so “out of all company of men, and sight of beasts, in so much that he could not discern a Goose from a Capon.”

Nevertheless his execution was deemed necessary in 1499, when Henry VII was negotiating the wedding between Catherine of Aragon and Arthur (the elder brother to Henry VIII). It is believed that it was a downright demand that there should not remain “a doubtful drop of royal blood in the kingdom” if the Spanish King should agree to send his daughter to England.

As history shows both the presumed pretender to be the younger prince in the tower, Richard of Shrewsbury later called Perkin Warbeck and the Earl of Warwick were dutifully gotten rid of.

The Abbey at Bisham

Afterwards the official Earl of Warwick together with his head was laid in a coffin and kept at the Tower. Next day “it was conveyed by water to Bisham in Berkshire and there interred with his ancestors” (The great Chronicle of London). Bisham Abbey was where his sister; Margaret de la Pole, lived. Later Bisham Abbey was

This is of course where the plot thickens and the quest for (more) Plantagenet DNA is launched.

Today Bisham Abbey church no longer stands. The abbey was dissolved and none of the monuments or tombs were spared. However, the place is a National Sports Centre and positively overflowing with greens, ready to be archaeologically excavated.

And DNA-analysis would of course help to unravel at least some of the mysteries still surrounding the curious story of Henry VII and all the Plantagenet pretenders. Presumably not hat many beheaded people were interred in the Abbey, and it is not at all unlikely that the remains of the official Earl might be recovered…

This is an interesting read, both careful and well-argued. Unfortunately it is also a bit repetitious and perhaps slightly rambling. Nevertheless it is without doubt safe to claim that readers are treated to what may very well be the next installment in the never-ending saga of the King in the Car-park. That is, at least until the Dean and Chapter in Westminster agrees to open the urn with the remains of the children found under the staircase in the Tower.) Another option, which we may perhaps presume John Ashdown-Hill is already pursuing is of course to track down living individuals sporting the surname Simnell. Somewhere, there might be a needle in a haystack, an ancestor…

Have Fun!

Karen Schousboe 


dublin king coverThe Dublin King: The true story of Lambert Simnel and the princes in the Tower
By John Ashdown-Hill
The History Press 2015
ISBN: 9780750960342
ISBN: 9780750963169


A year after Richard III’s death, a boy claiming to be a Yorkist prince appeared as if from nowhere, claiming to be Richard III’s heir and the rightful King of England. In 1487, in a unique ceremony, this boy was crowned in Dublin Cathedral, despite the Tudor government insisting that his real name was Lambert Simnel and that he was a mere pretender to the throne. Now, in The Dublin King, author and historian John Ashdown-Hill questions that official view. Using new discoveries, little-known evidence and insight, he seeks the truth behind the 500-year-old story of the boy-king crowned in Dublin. He also presents a link between Lambert Simnel’s story and that of George, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Richard III. On the way, the book sheds new light on the fate of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, before raising the possibility of using DNA to clarify the identity of key characters in the story and their relationships.


The Third Plantagenet coverThe Third Plantagenet: Duke of Clarence, Richard III’s Brother
By John Ashdown-Hill
The History Press 2014
ISBN-10: 0752499491
ISBN-13: 978-0752499499


Less well-known than his brothers, Edward IV and Richard III, little has been written about George, Duke of Clarence and we are faced with a series of questions. Where was he born? What was he really like? Was it his unpredictable behaviour that set him against his brother Edward IV? George played a central role in the Wars of the Roses played out by his brothers. But was he for York or Lancaster? Who was really responsible for his execution? Is the story of his drowning in a barrel of wine really true? And was ‘false, fleeting, perjur’d Clarence’ in some ways the role model behind the sixteenth-century defamation of Richard III? Finally, where was he buried and what became of his body? Can the DNA used recently to test the remains of his younger brother, Richard III, also reveal the truth about the supposed ‘Clarence bones’ in Tewkesbury? John Ashdown-Hill exposes the myths surrounding this pivotal and central Plantagenet, with remarkable results.

the last days of Richard IIIThe Last Days of Richard III and the fate of his DNA. The Book that Inspired the Dig
By John Ashdown-Hill
The History Press 2013 (New Edition)
ISBN: 9780752462509
ISBN: 9780752459608


The Last Days of Richard III contains a new and uniquely detailed exploration of Richard’s last days. By deliberately avoiding the hindsight knowledge that he will lose the Battle of Bosworth Field, we discover a new Richard: no passive victim, awaiting defeat and death, but a king actively pursuing his own agenda. It also re-examines the aftermath of Bosworth: the treatment of Richard’s body; his burial; and the construction of his tomb. And there is the fascinating story of why, and how, Richard III’s family tree was traced until a relative was found, alive and well, in Canada. Now, with the discovery of Richard’s skeleton at the Greyfriars Priory in Leicester, England, John Ashdown-Hill explains how his book inspired the dig and completes Richard III’s fascinating story, giving details of how Richard died, and how the DNA link to a living relative to the king allowed the royal body to be identified.


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