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Cornish Rebellion

Cornish Rebellion

The Cornish Rebellion of 1497 was not a significant rebellion. Still, it put pressure on King Henry VII to fight a war on two fronts and even threatened the city of London itself when a force of 15,000 rebels surrounded it. It also became part of the plot of the pretender Perkin Warbeck, who had his eye on the English throne.What was the trigger for this rebellion, who were the key figures and how significant was the threat to Henry VII? We will find out all this before assessing the significance of the rebellion and its memory.

Cornish Rebellion 1497 summary

The Cornwall Rebellion was an economic rebellion in 1497 during the reign of Henry VII. Led by two men named Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank, the rebellion demanded the abolition of a tax imposed by Parliament to fund Henry VII’s campaign against Perkin Warbeck in northern England. The rebels set out from Bodmin, Cornwall, in May 1497 and reached London on 16 June 1497, and Henry VII’s army defeated them at the Battle of Deptford Bridge on 17 June 1497.

Cornish Rebellion timeline

Below is a timeline of the events of the Cornish Rebellion.



January 1497

Parliament votes on a tax to fund Henry VII’s campaign against Perkin Warbeck and James IV in the North.

14 May 1497

The rebels, organised in a group of about 5,000, set out from Bodmin in Cornwall to march on London.

June 1497

Henry VII recalls his army from Scotland to put down the rebellion.

16 June 1497

Now about 15,000 strong, the rebels reach London and camp on Blackheath.

17 June 1497

The Battle of Deptford Bridge takes place. The rebels were defeated.

27 June 1497

Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank are executed.

28 June 1497

Baron Audley is executed.

7 September 1497

Perkin Warbeck lands in Cornwall and tries to take advantage of the recent unrest but does not succeed.

Reasons behind the Cornish Rebellion

The Cornish Rebellion arose as a reaction to a tax imposed by Parliament, which the people of Cornwall considered unjust. The tax was to be used by Henry VII to finance his campaign against Perkin Warbeck in the north of England. The people of Cornwall thought it was unreasonable that they should pay for something that took place so far away and had nothing to do with them.

Who was Perkin Warbeck?

Perkin Warbeck was a pretender to the English throne. Yorkist supporters convinced him that he should be Richard, Duke of York, one of the nephews of Richard III, who was an heir to the throne.Before Henry VII founded the Tudor dynasty in 1485, the War of the Roses had raged for thirty years between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. Henry’s distant Lancastrian heritage and his accession enraged Yorkist supporters, and he faced fierce Yorkist opposition during his reign, including the Warbeck Rebellion.

However, it could be argued that this tax was the catalyst for the rebellion and built on pre-existing grievances. Tensions between Cornwall and the Crown had been steadily increasing since the beginning of Henry VII’s reign.

Cornish Rebellion: Henry VII and Cornwall

Initially, Henry VII showed much appreciation for Cornwall, as the county had supported Henry VII during his rebellion against Richard III.When his first son was born in 1486, Henry named him Arthur. It is believed that one of the reasons was to show his attachment to Cornwall, as the legend of King Arthur was particularly strong there.Also, since 1328, it had been traditional for the eldest son of the King of England to be called the Duke of Cornwall as a sign of respect for the county. So what went wrong?

Cornish Rebellion: Tin mining

The tax, however, was not the first time Henry VII had angered Cornwalls. In 1496, he suspended the privileges of the Stannaries.

Tin mining was an important part of the Cornish economy, and the areas where it was practised were called stannaries. They were governed by stannary law and had their parliaments. As such, Cornish tin miners enjoyed privileges and a degree of independence.

Therefore, when Henry VII suspended the Stannaries in 1496 for not accepting the new regulations for the tin industry, the Cornwallers felt betrayed by Henry VII. The 1497 tax felt like the last straw.

Cornwall has always valued its independence. They have their language, culture and folklore – unfortunately, much of this has been lost over time. Since the end of the Saxon heptarchy and the founding of England as a nation (before 1000 AD!), Cornwalls have tried to maintain some degree of independence from the rest of the country and preserve their heritage.

For this reason, the English monarchs went to such lengths to pay their respects to Cornwall and people of Cornwall felt so betrayed by the actions of Henry VII in 1496–1497.

Cornish Rebellion: Key figures

Let us look at the people who played an important role in the Cornish rebellion.

Cornish Rebellion: Michael An Gof

Michael An Gof (also known as Michael Joseph) was one of the leaders of the Cornish Rebellion. Very little is known about him. We know he was a blacksmith in the village of St Keverne and led the rebellion, but everything else about his life remains a mystery. He led the rebellion together with Thomas Flamank. After the Battle of Deptford Bridge, he was captured and executed on 27 June 1497.

Cornish Rebellion: Thomas Flamank

We know much more about Thomas Flamank than about Michael An Gof. Thomas Flamank was the son of Sir Richard Flamank, a tax collector and gentleman. One might think it strange the son of a tax collector would lead a rebellion against the tax.

Indeed, it is a mystery why Thomas Flamank spoke out against the tax and played such a large role in the rebellion; besides his father’s profession, he also earned a good income as a lawyer. He was executed together with Michael An Gof on 27 June 1497.

Baron Audley was the only member of the nobility to join the Cornish Rebellion fully. He led the rebels on their march to the outskirts of London. He probably joined the rebellion because he was a Yorkist sympathiser; his father had also prospered under Richard III. After the rebellion failed, his lands were confiscated, and he was eventually executed on 28 June 1497.

The Cornish Rebellion’s threat to Henry VII

To what extent was the rebellion a threat to Henry VII? Let us assess this in the table below.

Significant threat

Insignificant threat

When the rebels camped outside the gates of London, they numbered about 15,000 men – it was a very significant and threatening force.

The minor noble support for the rebellion came from Baron Audley, who was only a minor noble. The rebellion did not have the money, power, or influence it needed to achieve its goals.

The fact that the rebels reached London was quite threatening; it was the centre of the government and the country. Had they taken the city, it would have been a disaster for Henry VII.

The rebellion also received no foreign support, which was not essential for a successful rebellion, but it meant there was a lack of money and resources. In addition, there was no place of refuge for the rebels to flee to if things went wrong.

The Cornish Rebellion required Henry VII to recall his army from the Scottish border to put down the rebellion, leaving the northern border vulnerable to invasion by the pretender Perkin Warbeck.

The Cornish Rebellion was not an attempt to overthrow Henry VII. It was a petition rebellion attempting to force change through a popular movement. Therefore, neither Henry VII nor his dynasty was directly threatened.

There was little sympathy for the rebels outside the Southwest. Many of the rebels spoke a different language and their grievances were not shared by much of the rest of the country.

The rebels were poorly equipped – they had no high-quality weapons or armour, so they stood little chance against the royal army.

Overall, the rebellion posed some threat to Henry VII because the rebellion was limited in numbers and location. However, the rebellion did not have the power and influence to be successful. Nor could the rebellion be considered a threat since the goal was not to overthrow Henry VII but rather to bring about change.

Significant outcomes of the Cornish Rebellion

The rebellion did not have many significant outcomes. The rebels were unable to achieve their goal of stopping the tax, even though Henry VII did not raise nearly the amount he wanted.Henry had planned to send the bodies of Flamank and An Gof back to Cornwall but felt compelled not to do so for fear that it would cause more resentment.His importance lies in his relationship with Perkin Warbeck. To put down the rebellion in Cornwall, Henry VII had to advance his army from the northern border against Perkin Warbeck, making Warbeck a greater threat. Later in 1497, Warbeck arrived in Cornwall to use the recent unrest to his advantage, and thousands of Cornish people joined his cause.

Historiography of the Cornish Rebellion

At the time of the rebellion, it was written about with a degree of contempt. Polydore Vergil, who wrote his History of England in 1513, referred to the rebels as a ‘mob’ and the leaders, An Gof and Flamank, as ‘scoundrels’, which was to be expected, for Vergil was anxious to have Henry VII on his side.

Thomas Flamank, a lawyer, and Michael Joseph, a blacksmith, both daring scoundrels, put themselves at the head of the rebellion. When these two saw that the mob was aroused, they continually proclaimed it to be an infamous crime that the King should, for the purpose of making such a small expedition against the Scots, so grievously oppress with taxes the wretched Cornish.

— Polydore Vergil's account of the Cornish Rebellion, from his work 'History of England', published in 1513.

In contrast, the Cornish Rebellion is celebrated in Cornwall today. A statue of Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank stands in St Keverne to celebrate their leadership of the rebellion and the cause they fought for.

Cornish Rebellion Statues in St Keverne StudySmarterStatue of Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank in St Keverne, Cornwall, Wikipedia

Cornish Rebellion - Key takeaways

  • The reason for the rebellion in Cornwall in 1497 was a tax imposed on the Cornish people by Henry VII to fund his campaign against the pretender Perkin Warbeck.
  • The King’s suspension of tax collection the year before also angered the Cornish residents.
  • About 15,000 rebels made it to London in June 1497, forcing the King to withdraw his troops from the north against Warbeck to put down the Cornish rebellion.
  • Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank led the rebellion and had the support of Baron Audley of the nobility.
  • The rebellion was put down by the King’s army and had few significant consequences, but it did allow Warbeck to gain support.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cornish Rebellion

The Cornish Rebellion was an economic rebellion that took place in 1497 during the reign of Henry VII. Led by two men named Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank, the rebellion called for the end of a tax that had been implemented by parliament to finance Henry VII’s campaign against Perkin Warbeck in the North of England. The rebels set out from Bodmin, Cornwall, in May 1497, reaching London on 16 June 1497. They were defeated on 17 June 1497 by Henry VII’s army at the Battle of Deptford Bridge.

Although it did not present much of a threat, the Cornish Rebellion was significant because it diverted the royal army from the north of England to London, leaving England vulnerable to invasion by Perkin Warbeck. In addition, the rebellion is significant in the history of Cornwall as it marks an attempt to preserve Cornish independence.

Thomas Flamank, Michael An Gof, and Baron Audley were all executed for their part in the rebellion. Flamank and An Gof were hung, drawn and quartered, while Baron Audley was beheaded.

The Cornish rebellion was a threat to Henry due to its size and location. The rebels numbered around 15,000, and they managed to reach London. In addition, the rebellion forced Henry to divert his army from the north of England to London, leaving him vulnerable to attack from Perkin Warbeck, who was trying to seize the throne.

The Cornish rebellion did not achieve its aims. Henry did not raise the amount he wanted from the tax. In September 1497, Perkin Warbeck attempted to use the unrest to try a third time to invade England and take the throne, but he failed.

Final Cornish Rebellion Quiz


When did the Cornish Rebellion take place?

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Who were the leaders of the rebellion?

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Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank

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When did the rebels arrive outside London?

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16th June 1497

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Where did the rebels camp outside London?

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What was the name of the battle that ended the rebellion?

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The Battle of Deptford Bridge

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What was the main cause of the rebellion?

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What were Stannaries?

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Administrative bodies that controlled the collection of tin coinage - the profits from the production of tin, which was a major part of the Cornish economy 

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Apart from taxation, why were the Cornish people angry at Henry VII?

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They felt like Henry had betrayed them and neglected them

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What was the taxation for?

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For financing Henry VII's campaign against Perkin Warbeck in the North of England

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Why did the Cornish resent the taxation?

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They didn't feel they should be paying for a war that was happening so far away and did not impact them, especially since they'd had bad harvests the year before.

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Why did the Cornish value their independence?

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They had their own language, culture and folklore that they wanted to preserve

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Why could the rebellion be considered a threat to Henry VII?

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The rebels numbered 15,000

They reached London

Made Henry move his army from Scotland, leaving England vulnerable to invasion

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Why was the Cornish rebellion NOT a threat to Henry VII?

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Did not aim to overthrow Henry VII

Little noble support

No foreign support

Little sympathy for the rebels in the rest of the country

Rebels were poorly equipped

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How successful was the rebellion?

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Not at all successful - the rebels failed to achieve any of their aims.

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Who tried to use the unrest caused by the rebellion to his own advantage later in the year?

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Perkin Warbeck

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