Thomas Flamank

Thomas Flamank

Thomas Flamank was a lawyer from Bodmin, Cornwall who was a co-leader (with Michael An Gof ) of the Cornish Rebellion against taxes in 1497.

The cause of the trouble was that Henry VII was fighting a war in Scotland, and needed money to pay for that war. He proposed to raise the necessary amount by imposing a tax across England. The Cornish believed that a Scots war was nothing to do with them, and some refused to pay. There was great poverty among labourers of Cornwall.

Thomas Flamank was the son of Sir Richard Flamank, a Royal Tax Collector for the area, a gentleman and estate owner. As a tax collector, he was not therefore a popular man

It is not clear why Thomas Flamank spoke at public meetings against the tax, after all his father was a tax collector, and he had a comfortable income as a lawyer. But speak he did. Thomas Flamank urged the people of Bodmin to protest, and to march peacefully with him and take their grievances to the King.

As resentment increased Michael Joseph An Gof, a St Keverne Blacksmith, roused St Keverne to rebellion. Michael Joseph led disaffected Cornishmen from the West of Cornwall to Bodmin, where he joined up with Thomas Flamank. Michael Joseph and Thomas Flamank were now at the head of an "army" . There is some doubt as to the exact number but the evidence shows that the combination of the powerful Blacksmith, a natural leader of men, and a plausible Lawyer made an effective leadership.

They then started their march to London, to try to convince the King not to levy his Scots War Tax. It gathered supporters along the way. They marched from Cornwall, through Devon, Somerset, to Salisbury, and Winchester, where they were joined by James Touchet, the seventh Baron Audley and his followers. During the march Thomas Flamank drafted a"declaration of their grievances" that the Cornish had with English Rule. They reached Blackheath in the South of London on the 16th of June, 1497.

After fighting a minor battle near Guildford, Surrey, they were hopeful of gaining further support from people in Kent (the focus of Jack Cade's rebellion of 1450), but nothing substantial materialised.

Probably around 15,000 Cornishmen and others that had joined them on the march, camped at Blackheath at one of the southern gates to London. From the hills on Blackheath so that they could look down on London and the Thames. But the king's army was massing against them. During that night many sneaked away leaving around 9,000 to 10,000 men to face Henry's Army. They were only equipped with crude weapons like bows & arrows, billhooks, scythes, axes & staves.

Henry VII had no intention of "negotiating" with them. And he apparently believed that Saturdays were his lucky days. His army attacked the Cornish on the early morning of Saturday, June 17th, 1497. The result of the so called Battle of Deptford Bridge, was that a force of 10,000 well-armed men under Lord Daubeney which had been assembled to march on the Scots, overcame the Cornish without difficulty. Much of the battle took place on the eastern side of the Ravensbourne, on the hillside up to the plateau of Blackheath. Figures from the battle vary though they generally place the losses of Daubeney's forces within single figures next to anything from 200 to 1000 Cornishmen killed .

An Gof fled the scene, hid in a church but was captured. Thomas Flamank & Lord Audley were captured in the battle. They were brought to London in chains, arraigned on the 26th of June at Westminster, summarily convicted and sentenced to death on June 27th, 1497.

On Tuesday June 27th 1497, Flamank and Joseph were dragged on hurdles from the Tower to Tyburn where they were Hanged, disembowelled and hacked into quarters as was the custom of the age. Their heads were stuck on posts on London Bridge and their quartered bodies were placed on display.

An Gof before his execution is recorded to have said that he should have "a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal".

On Wednesday June 28th 1497, Lord Audley as a peer, was treated more "leniently" being taken from gaol in Newgate to Tower Hill where he was be-headed and excused the drawing and quartering.

After the defeat at Deptford Bridge, Perkin Warbeck - claiming to be Richard, Duke of York, landed in Cornwall on 12th September 1497, proclaiming himself to be King Richard IV. He landed near Land's End with just 120 men in two ships. He hoped to to capitalise on the resentment stirred by the Cornish Rebellion only three months earlier.

His force had grown to 3,000 by the time it reached Exeter. They were unarmed, and when Exeter resisted, the rebels were forced to move on. When Henry's army reached them, the pretender realised that there was no hope and fled for the coast. He took refuge in Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire, where he surrendered. Warbeck was arrested, and eventually executed in 1499.

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