Simnel, Lambert (d. p.1534), pretender, was probably the son of Thomas Simnel of Oxford, a carpenter. He was trained by an Oxford priest, Richard or William Simon (Symonds), to impersonate Edward, earl of Warwick, a nephew of Edward IV and son and heir of George, duke of Clarence, the only surviving male of the house of York. The impersonation, a Yorkist plot to dethrone Henry VII, was probably instigated by Edward IV's sister Margaret of Burgundy. Described by the contemporary historian Polydore Vergil as ‘a comely youth, and well favoured, not without some extraordinary dignity and grace of aspect’ (DNB), Simnel was brought to Ireland in the winter of 1486/7 and presented as earl of Warwick, recently escaped from the Tower of London. His claims to be Warwick were generally accepted within the Anglo-Irish community, led by Thomas FitzGerald (qv) (d. 1487) of Lackagh, chancellor of Ireland and brother of the 8th earl of Kildare (qv), lord deputy. The latter convened a meeting of the nobility of the English lordship at which the pretender's claim was endorsed, though Kildare himself did not commit himself immediately. The archbishop of Dublin, Walter FitzSimons (qv), and the bishop of Meath, John Payne (qv), both accepted and supported the Yorkist plot, but other senior clergy proved sceptical, including Octavian de Palatio (qv), archbishop of Armagh, the archbishops of Tuam and Cashel, and the bishop of Ossory. The readiness of many of the Anglo-Irish to accept the pretender was not diminished by Henry VII's having the real earl of Warwick paraded in London in February, and it was further strengthened by the arrival of another of Edward IV's nephews, John de la Pole, earl of Lincoln, and some 2,000 German mercenaries (raised by Margaret of Burgundy with assistance from the emperor, Maximilian) led by Martin Schwartz, on 5 May 1487. Simnel was crowned by the archbishop of Dublin at Christ Church on 24 May, a new government for Ireland was established, with Kildare appointed as lieutenant of Ireland for the new ‘Edward VI’ and coins were struck in Waterford (which suggests that the city's initial opposition to the Yorkist coup had collapsed). Kildare summoned a parliament which confirmed Edward VI's title and attainted Thomas Butler (qv), 7th earl of Ormond, for adhering to Henry VII. On 4 June a sizeable army sailed for England, consisting of the German mercenaries, 4,000 Irish kerne recruited and led by Kildare's brother Thomas, who had resigned as chancellor to take command, and a smaller party of English Yorkists. Landing in Lancashire (11 June), they marched across the Pennines, gathered support in Yorkshire and then marched southwards. They were soundly defeated by Henry VII at Stoke (16 June), the casualties including Thomas FitzGerald and most of the inadequately equipped kerne. Simnel and his tutor, Richard (or William) Simon, were captured, and while Simon was imprisoned for life, Henry VII realised that Simnel was no threat and pardoned him. He was put to work in the king's kitchen. According to the Book of Howth, Henry presented his new servant to Anglo-Irish lords later in 1487. Simnel was later transferred to the service of Sir Thomas Lovell, whose funeral he attended in 1525. Polydore Vergil, writing in 1534, stated that he was still alive. Nothing is known of his death.
AU; Rot. parl.; Bk Howth; Cal. Ormond deeds, 1413–1509; L & P Rich. III & Hen. VII; DNB; M. T. Hayden, ‘Lambert Simnel in Ireland’, Studies, iv (1915), 622–38; Bryan, Great earl of Kildare; Otway-Ruthven, Med. Ire.; S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII (1972); Steven Ellis, Tudor Ireland (1985); NHI, ii, 612–13; ODNB