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Thursday, September 24, 2009

LAMBERT SIMMEL

I don’t know who Lambert Simmel was. I know he wasn’t who he said he was. The question is, was he who Henry Tudor said he was? As Gordon Smith has pointed out, his very name has a pantomime sound to it, “and a pantomime context.” I have my doubts. Lambert Simmel claimed to be the Earl of Warwick and there is a possibility that, in fact, he was the Earl of Warwick. And if that was true, then who the devil was Lambert Simmel? At the core of that mystery is King Richard III, a bundle of mysteries all by himself.Richard was the last of the legendary Plantagenent Kings of England. Legend says his ancestor Geoffrey often stuck the yellow flower of the ‘common broom’ in his helmet for identification; the Latin name for the plant being “planta genesta”. The dynasty produced Richard The Lion Heart and John who signed the Magna Carta. They commanded England and large parts of France for 300 years. But the Plantagenents came to an end on August 22, 1485 when Richard III was killed at Bosworth. He was the last English King who died fighting in battle, a death which puts the lie to William Shakespeare’s claim that he was a deformed limping hunchback. In fairness it must also be noted that Richard was probably responsible for the death of Edward V, the rightful king of England at the time.Edward V, the Prince of Wales, was only 12 years old when his father died on April 9, 1483. But, of course, a twelve year old cannot rule a country, and the usual system was for the boy’s adult supporters to divide up the kingdom and run it into the ground until the boy was strong enough to throw them out. That was what had happened with the Prince’s father, Edward IV. So Edward the Fifth’s adult guardians sought to reach a deal with the boy’s uncle, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. Richard invited them to dinner to talk over a deal. While they were still hung over the next morning he had them arrested and later executed. Prince Edward was never crowned King. Instead the Duke of Gloucester had him locked up in the Tower of London, to be joined within weeks by his eleven year old brother, Richard, the Earl of Warwick. The two boys were seen playing together in the courtyard of the Tower during June and July of 1483 and then they simply faded away. Shortly there after Richard the Duke had himself crowned King, Richard III. The assumption has always been that the Princes were murdered on Richard’s orders. And that would have been the smart thing for Richard to have done.Bones were found buried under a Tower staircase in 1674. But were those the remains of the two princes? When the bones were last examined in 1933, they were identified as a mixture of human and chicken bones. So the mystery of what became of the princes has kept an army of scribes and historians busy ever since, in the hope of explaining how, in God’s name, Henry Tudor ever got to be the a king of England. Unlike Richard, Henry Tudor was no warrior. Nor was he a lover. The only passion he ever displayed was for money and power. He was a voracious, avaricious, bloodless money grubber. In fact, his personality is not far from the lead character in the play "Rirchard III", just without the limp. He was the only child born to 13 year old Margaret Beaufort Tudor, two months after the boy’s father, Edmund Tudor, had died. Edmund had been the King’s half brother. Margaret was the granddaughter of the third son of King Edward III with his third wife; in short Henry Tudor’s royal blood was so watered down that it resembled lemon aid, and he kept it at about the same temperature. But because Richard III had been so ruthless in eliminating his competitors for the throne, his only competition left was his bloodless, passionless distant relative Henry Tudor; unless, of course, one of the princes still lived. Having defeated and killed Richard III at Boswell in August of 1485, the newly crowned Henry VII was given no time to rest on his purple cushions. He had to face down a rebellion in the spring of 1486. And then again, in March of 1487, yet another group of nobles crowned a rival King in Ireland, a 16 year old boy who claimed he was the Earl of Warwick, the younger of the two princes from the Tower. But was he? Most of the noble men who would have known Warwick from 1483, had long since been executed by either Richard III or Henry VII. And it would have made sense that Warwick, as the younger of the princes, would have been less closely guarded than the direct heir to the throne. So it might have been possible to sneak Warwick out of the tower and spirit him to Ireland; maybe, possibly. And it has been pointed out by historian A.F. Pollard amongst others, that, “Immediately Henry gained the throne he accused Richard of cruelty and tyranny but strangely did not mention the murder of the little princes. Henry did not announce that the boys had been murdered until July 1486, nearly a year after Richard’s death. Did Henry have them murdered?” The Richard III Society, dedicated to resurrecting the reputation so beautifully smeared by William Shakespeare, believes quite strongly that if anybody killed the princes it was Henry Tudor, and not Richard. Maybe, possibly. On June 16th , 1487 20,000 men met to decide the fate of England, yet again. (Henry Tudor was, of course, not on the field of battle.) When it ended, all the rebellions leaders were dead and half their troops. And Henry was able to announce that Warwick had been captured. And he was not Warwick, but an imposter by the name of Lambert Simmel, who was graciously granted a full pardon by Henry because the boy had been a mere tool of the real conspirators. The noble conspirators were all executed, and Henry siezed their wealth and land. But Lambert Simmel was retained as a spit turner in the palace kitchen, and later a falconer. Henry VII now had living proof always close at hand that the princes were dead. And all he required was that you believe that Lambert Simmel was the boy who had impersonated the Earl of Warwick. And that Warwick had been murdered by Richard. But could he have been anyone else? “Lambert” is ancient German for “Bright land”. And “Simmel” seems to come from the Hebrew "Shim’on" meaning ‘listening’. But neither name was common in England at the time and have become even less common since. However, Gordon Smith, in his essay “Lambert Simmel and the King from Dublin” has pointed out that “the maiden name of Edward IV's mistress...was Elizabeth Lambert." So it could be that Lambert Simmel was a code name for the illegitimate child of Henry VII's and his mistress. If so that would make the boy an imposter of an imposter, used by Henry to discredit the belief that he and not Richard had murdered a rightful King of England. Maybe. It could be. If you read enough history you come the realization that the past is like a hallway in the Tower of London. It leads past cell after cell. There may be scratches on the wall in each room, or personal belongings left behind. But the only way to know what really happened is to have been there at the time. History is what we suspect happened. It is always part fact, part opinion and part imagination. It is a story. It could be. It was possible. It might have happened that way. Or it might not have. In short, reading history is not for the faint of heart. Lambert Simmel was clearly an imposter. But whose imposter was he? He died around 1525, and left no record of his own. And everything else is just a fascinating conjecture called "his story".
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1 comment:

  1. Edward IV didn't come to the throne as a child, and there was no regency. He defeated the Lancastrians in battle when he was just shy of 19. Perhaps you are thinking of Henry VI?

    Henry VII announced in 1486 that the Princes had been murdered? I thought he waited until 1502 and the Tyrell "confession." In the 1490s, he was worried about the identity of Perkin Warbeck.

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