The Northern Rebellion

200px-Thomas_Percy_Earl_of_Northumberland_15661558.   Queen Mary I lost Calais as a result of becoming involved in Philip II’s policy against the French. She  died on the 17 November the same year. Her half-sister, Elizabeth, sitting beneath an oak tree at Hatfield became queen.  On the borders between England and Scotland, life continued as usual – that is to say raiding and cross-border forays.  I might dress it up as Scottish loyalty to their French allies and English obedience to Phillip II’s foreign policy but in reality it had nothing to do with continental Europe.

In 1558 on the East March the 7th Earl of Northumberland set out on a cattle raid with the Berwick garrison and was heading for home when the Scots turned up in what can only be described as high dudgeon. There was an English victory of sorts at Swinton.  John Knox having done a stint on the French galleys (which perhaps accounts for his hostility to the nation) had sought refuge in Edward VI’s protestant realm before fleeing to Geneva.  During the summer of 1558he published The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.  He did not mean that they were deeply unpleasant merely that a reigning queen was an unnatural phenomenon.  He was referencing Mary Tudor in England and the regent of Scotland Mary of Guise who ruled on behalf of her daughter Mary Queen of Scots.  It was perhaps unfortunate for him that in November the monstrous regiment of Catholic queens was joined by Protestant Elizabeth.

I am not going to recount the next decade’s history.  Suffice it to say there was the novel sight in 1560 of an English fleet joining with the Protestant Scots against the Catholics and the French besieged in Leith.  The following year the recently widowed dowager queen of France, Mary Queen of Scots, arrived back in her homeland at the very same location.  Initially guided by her half-brother, James Stewart (Earl of Moray), all went smoothly but then in 1567 having made an ill advised marriage to Lord Darnley swiftly followed by murder at Kirk O Field she lost her throne and on 16 May 1568 found herself seeking sanctuary in Workington.  She was to remain in England for the next nineteen years before being executed.

mary queen of scots aged 18Mary’s arrival was not good news so far as her cousin Elizabeth was concerned.  Mary spelled trouble.  For a start she was Catholic and Mary’s father-in-law, Henri II, had quartered the French arms with those of England on hearing the news that Mary Tudor had died.  His logic was very simple. Elizabeth was illegitimate and therefore the next claimant to the English throne was the grand daughter of Margaret Tudor, the eldest daughter of Henry VII of England.  Mary did not help matters by refusing to recognise the Treaty of Edinburgh which identified Elizabeth as the rightful queen of England.  The treaty, negotiated by Cecil, should have been ratified in July 1560 and it accounted for Mary’s long sea voyage  to Scotland rather than a land journey through England. The arrival of Mary in England undoubtedly signposted rebellion and plotting to come – not to mention some light cousinly jealousy.

Elizabeth did not know what to do with her cousin and although she moved her south into the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury it swiftly became clear that she was not as keen to meet Mary as Mary was to meet her. Mary’s trial at York was a device to ensure that Elizabeth should never meet her cousin and that Moray could produce the so-called “Casket Letters” that would keep his half-sister in England. Meanwhile various Catholic nobles (and non-Catholic nobles for that matter) bent their minds to the problem of what to do with Mary.  The Percy family were Papists and it is perhaps not surprising that Thomas Percy the 7th Earl of Northumberland was sympathetic to the young Scottish queen’s cause.  He even tried to have her turned over into his custody.  Unsurprisingly “Simple Tom”  pictured at the start of this post was not given her guardianship.  He was, however, encouraged in his increasingly illegal actions by his wife Ann.  His conspiracy was joined by Charles Neville the Earl of Westmorland.  The two earls shared their plans with their wider families and the northern affinity of gentry including Leonard Dacre.  The plotters met at Topcliffe and agreed that they wanted Catholicism restored and Elizabeth’s bad advisors to be disposed of – so the usual rubric.  They did intend to free Mary Queen of Scots from Tutbury but they claimed that they wished to return her to Scotland rather than unseat Elizabeth.

Meanwhile Robert Dudley supported the idea of Mary being returned to Scotland with a new and reliable husband to keep an eye on her.  William Maitland of Lethington,  Mary’s ambassador had suggested that the Duke of Norfolk was just the chap in 1560 despite the fact that the first Duchess of Norfolk was very much alive at the time.  Thomas Howard had been appointed Lieutenant General of the North in 1569 by Elizabeth.  She was, if you like, extending the hand of friendship to her Howard cousins who had connived at the downfall of her mother Anne Boleyn and ultimately been associated with Catholicism rather than reform. She was also getting him as far away from court as possible not least because his grandmother was Anne of York one of Edward IV’s daughters making him Plantagenet and a possible claimant to the throne.  By now Howard had been widowed twice over and as such was a suitable spouse for the captive queen.  He was rather taken with the idea but quite horrified to find himself carted off to the Tower when Dudley confessed to the queen what was planned in terms of an English-Scottish marriage.

 

Inevitably things are not so straight forward and ultimately Norfolk and the Northern Lords would be betrayed by Leonard Dacre who was narked by the fact that Howard who had been married to Elizabeth Leyburne (the widow of the 4th Lord Dacre) had become guardian to the 5th lord and the 5th lord’s three sisters.  In 1569 little George Dacre had an accident on a vaulting horse and died.  Howard now took the opportunity to marry the Dacre girls off to sons from his previous two marriages and  claim that his three daughters-in-law were co-heiresses and that the whole estate was now Howard property.

Leonard Dacre was not a happy man.  A judgement of Edward IV had entailed the title and estates to male heirs so by rights he should have had the title and the loot.  Even worse the case was heard by the Earl Marshal’s court – and yes, the Dukes of Norfolk are hereditary earl marshals of England.  Let’s just say Leonard was a man with a grudge and the borderers were rather good at holding grudges for a very long time. He betrayed the northern earls and of course the Duke of Norfolk in the hope that he would see the estates that were rightfully his returned.

Dacre would encourage the northern lords in their plan to free Mary and overturn Protestant England but at the same time, when he judged the time was ripe, spill the beans to Elizabeth.  Elizabeth would later describe him as a “cankred suttl traitor.” However, I am jumping the gun.  Elizabeth ordered Northumberland and Westmorland to London to explain themselves.  The two hapless peers panicked and rebelled. On the 10th November 1569 the Earl of Sussex wrote to say that Northumberland had fled from Topcliffe. Three thousand or so men gathered in Durham on the 14th November where a Mass was heard and Protestant texts destroyed.  Men set off for Hartlepool where the Duke of Alva was supposed to land troops and to Barnard Castle to besiege troops loyal to Elizabeth.  The castle held out for a week before it surrendered. The Earl of Sussex would come under suspicion for not gaining the upper hand quickly enough. From Barnard Castle the plan was to march on York.  The earls were declared traitors on the 26th of November and the hunt began.

Steven_van_Herwijck_Henry_Carey_1st_Baron_HunsdonOn the West March a plan was now unfurling which would have seen the Bishop of Carlisle murdered and the castle in rebel hands.  Lord Scrope, Warden of the West March, who had set out from Carlisle to confront the rebels heard news of the plot and scurried back to the castle correctly judging that Elizabeth’s famous temper would not have been placated by excuses regarding the loss of a key border fortress. Meanwhile the queen’s cousin, some would say brother, Henry Carey Lord Hunsdon, was sent north to deal with the crisis. He had been made the Captain of Berwick the previous year.

The Warden of the Middle March Sir John Forster, a notable rogue in his own right, now rode agains the rebels accompanied by the Earl of Northumberland’s younger brother Henry. Together they occupied Newcastle and Alnwick and began to move south.  The earls fled in the direction of Hexham together with Lady Anne Percy and about forty or fifty retainers when it became clear that they were out manoeuvred by Forster from the North and Carey from the South. For reasons best known to themselves, despite the fact that Leonard Dacre had not joined the rebellion the fleeing party made for North Castle.  Leonard was not pleased to see them as he as no doubt thinking of the Dacre estates and Elizabeth’s goodwill. His brother Edward on the other hand provided assistance to the stricken earls. The party had to escape into Scotland or face Elizabeth’s wrath. With that in mind the Armstrongs of Liddesdale seemed like a good idea at the time.  The Debateable Lands of Liddesdale belonged neither to Scotland or England and whilst the Armstrongs were notionally Scottish they were Armstrong more than anything else. The hapless earls fell in to the hands of Black Ormiston and Jock of the Side.  Jock was a notorious reiver.

At this point the Earl of Moray entered the equation and politely suggested that the Armstrongs hand over their “guests.”  He sent a party of Elliots, another family of border hard-men to have a little chat.  Elliot explained that he was under pledge to Moray and that he would be sorry to enter a state of feud with Ormiston if the two English earls weren’t booted out of Scotland and back into England within the next twenty-four hours.  Somehow the earls’ horses had gone “missing” – which is what you get for stabling them with notorious horse thieves- and Lady Anne, heavily pregnant, was exhausted beyond the point where she could travel with her husband. She was robbed and perhaps worse by Ormiston before she was rescued by a party of Ferniehurst Kerrs (the ancestor of Robert Carr, King James I’s favourite).  It says something that Kerr was at feud with the Percys but felt that it was beneath his honour to see Lady Anne suffer at the hands of Ormiston – though having said that he was also a loyal subject of Mary Queen of Scots demonstrating that border history is nothing if not complex in its workings.

On Christmas Eve 1569 the Armstrongs managed to separate the two earls and Northumberland found himself in the clutches of Moray’s men.  The Earl of Westmorland did attempt a rescue with the few men he had but it was unsuccessful. Percy would be returned to England  for a cash payment in  June 1572 and executed for treason in York that August.  Sussex, having got his act together, along with Sir John Forster and Henry Hunsden set the border alight in the greatest raid that Liddesdale had ever seen.  MacDonald Fraser states that Forster took £4000 in loot.  Let’s just say that rather a lot of homes were burned and livestock pilfered.

Ultimately Dacre who thought he had played a clever game found himself at the end of one of Hunsdon’s cavalry lances but only after the border which had only just settled down after the Earls’ rising was set loose again by the assassination of James Stewart Earl of Moray on January 23 1570.   A mighty raid gathered pace as Scots began to cross the border in the name of their queen. Dacre who had not benefitted from tattle taling on the earls now came out in supports of the Scots. He  managed to put together a band of 3000 men.  Henry Carey was not so foolish as to take this band on without support, especially as Naworth was defended by artillery and there was a large party of Scots en route to Naworth.  And had Dacre stayed put then my story might have had another chapter but he was spoiling for a fight and he took on Hunsdon at Gelt Wood.  If Dacre had won the skirmish then Carlisle might have been in difficulties but as it was Hunsdon who was a tough man led a cavalry charge against the revolting baron and  Dacre fled into Scotland with approximately 2000 more rebels according to Lord Scrope.  The majority of them remained in the borders joining with the Scottish Marian party against the lords who held the infant James VI. Dacre left the British Isles and travelled to Flanders where he exhorted anyone who would listen to invade England.

The rebellion was over.  It just left the  mopping up operation.  Norfolk was released from the Tower but became involved in the Ridolfi Plot so was executed in 1572. The Earl of Westmorland escaped to Flanders dying in 1601 having eked out his existence living on a pension from Philip II. Dacre died in 1573.  For Elizabeth it was the start of a series of plots and rebellions revolving around Mary Queen of Scots.

MacDonald Fraser  The Steel Bonnets

Cloisters, carrels, dorters, reredorters and nightstairs – or, how not to get lost in a monastery.

IMG_4438 - Version 2Monasteries tended to be built to largely similar plans. The cloisters of a monastery are usually on the south side of the church. Cloisters are built in a square shape and the middle is open to the elements – lovely on a sunny day not so great for the rest of the year. Each of the four sides of the cloister was called a walk and usually covered by some kind of roofing to protect the monks from wind and rain. Cloisters in modern cathedrals tend to be completely covered but this would not have been the case in medieval monasteries they would have been open to the elements.  Monks would have studied here, dried their laundry and had their tonsures cut.  The novice master would have taught the novices here as well.  The tranquil ruins we see today do not give us a picture of the day-to-day business of the cloisters – albeit largely silent business. Benedictine monasteries and Cistercians used different layouts. This post is principally about Benedictine monasteries.

The north walk usually lies with its back to the church wall. This was the most important walk because it was south facing. It is on this wall that visitors to medieval ruins can often find stone benches or the remains of individual study areas called carrels. Gloucester Cathedral has some lovely stone built carrels rather than wooden enclosures. Light came through the upper part of the carrel.

There’s usually an entrance to the church at the top end of the east walk. There would usually also be a door leading in the direction of the infirmary. All along the rest of the east walk there were rooms for monks who held office within the monastery to go about their business such as the treasury. It was on this side of the cloister that most conversation occurred. The south walk led in the direction of the kitchens whilst the west range led to the areas of the monastery where the lay brothers and members of the public who had cause to be there might be found.

The dorter – the monks’ sleeping quarters are usually on the upper floor of the eastern range. There would usually be a parlour beneath the dorter as well as a common room or warming room with a fire and offices such as the treasury. The chapter house also lay in the east range but more of that in another post as they come in all shapes and sizes.

IMG_4462There were usually two sets of stairs leading to and from the dorter. There would be a day stairs- usually to be found near the chapter house in Benedictine monasteries but in Cistercian monasteries, especially the later ones they exit at the juncture with the south range of buildings. The night stairs led straight from the dorter into the transept of the church. My favourite examples of night stairs are those in Hexham (black and white photo to the right of this paragraph) and Wells Cathedral (picture at the start of this paragraph).IMG_2034

The dorter started off as a large room but later on was partitioned into cubicles with wooden wainscoting. The monasteries built later in the medieval period provided a small window for each cubicle.

It should be added that not every monastery was designed on the principle of the four ranges. In Durham the dorter is above the west range of buildings.

The reredorter lay beyond the dorter. Another name for the reredorter was the necessarium. The size of the reredorter depends on the wealth of the monastery in question and the water supply. The monks availed themselves of the facilities on the first floor, the drainage and engineering required to carry the waster off is usually an impressively deep ditch to modern eyes but in medieval times the covered in drain began its journey away from the monastery by running parallel to the undercroft.

Rebellion in the North

Clifford's TowerWilliam faced a rebellion each year for the first five years after his conquest of England in 1066.  The problem for the Saxons was that their uprisings from the West Country to Northumbria via Herefordshire were localised.  There was no one central figure to unify and organise resistance.

Earls Morcar of Northumbria and Edwin of Mercia were powerful and politically dangerous men.  In part their failure to march south to support King Harold in 1066 had led to his defeat. They’d submitted to William along with Edgar the Atheling in late 1066 at Berkhamstead but they swiftly became dissatisfied with their new lord and rebelled against him in 1068.  It couldn’t have come as much of a surprise to William given that he’d taken them with him to Normandy in 1067 amongst the hostages he demanded. Perhaps it was his suspicions about the northern earls that led to him not promoting a marriage between Edwin and one of his daughters and perhaps (that’s many perhaps’s) it was for this reason that Edwin and Morcar decided to revolt, although it could have been William’s new taxes that did the trick.

In any event, William marched north via Warwick and Nottingham.  Resistance crumbled and the two earls submitted again. There is no evidence that the two men took part in any further uprising in the north.  Edwin managed to get himself killed by his own men in 1071 when he left William’s court once more and headed off towards Scotland.  Morcar took part in the uprising in Ely and ended his days a prisoner of the Normans.

The inhabitants of York seeing which way the wind was blowing in 1068 sent hostages and the keys to the city before William could arrive to express his irritation.  William  did what he always did when he wanted to stamp his authority on an area.  He built a motte and bailey castle in York and left a garrison of five hundred men to guard it.

The north did not remain at peace for long.  In January 1069 William’s man Robert de Commines  was burned to death in the Bishop of Durham’s house by an angry mob who had already slaughtered his men according to the Orderic Vitalis.  The people of York were not slow in getting in on the act.   The garrison withstood the attack. The Victoria County History for York records,  “Edgar and his supporters began an attack on the castle, whence the sheriff William Malet reported to the king that in default of assistance he would be driven to surrender.”

If one castle is good then two must be better!  William had a second castle built (Bailes Hill) which he gave into the care of William Fitz Osbern (the Earl of Hereford) before heading back south to Winchester.

There was a brief third uprising that was swiftly suppressed by Fitz Osbern.

At this point you’d think that the citizens of York would have had enough but in August 1069 King Sweyn of Denmark,  who had formed an alliance with Earl Waltheof of Northumbria, anchored his  fleet of 240 vessels on the Humber. This was a much more sustained and serious attack upon William’s rule.

The Normans facing the combined forces of the Danes and the northerners took refuge in their two new castles.  They attempted to clear a field around the castles by burning the nearby houses.  It has to be said that it doesn’t seem wildly clever to believe that in a city of wood and straw that fire can be controlled.  It certainly wasn’t in this case.  Even the Minster found itself being scorched.  According to Florence of Worcester the town was still burning two days after the initial conflagration.

 

But then again the Normans knew that they were fighting for their lives.  One of the castles sheltered the sheriff’s wife and children.  The slaughter was terrible.  Waltheof  was remembered by later generations in song for slaying Normans one after another with his battle-axe. William of Malmesbury’s account is according to the Cambridge History of English Literature taken from a ‘ballad’ or rather from a professionally worked song written by a Scandinavian scald or storyteller. William’s nice new castles were both destroyed.

Quite what the alliance of Danes and Saxons expected William to do next is unclear.  The Danes took themselves back to their boats with their booty and then set about a spot of ‘viking’ – William found one party of them plundering Lindsey but sent them scuttling back across the Humber.

What followed next wasn’t particularly pleasant if the chroniclers are to be believed and although William kept Christmas on 1069 in York there was little cause for celebration amongst the locals.  However, the North had been put in its place.

Not that their problems were over, far from it.  Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, took the opportunity to do a spot of his own harrying in the summer of 1070 and would return several times more before his death at the Battle of Alnwick.

For a chronology, which remains ongoing – I add dates as I come across them- double click on the picture.

 

 

Simple Tom

200px-Thomas_Percy_Earl_of_Northumberland_1566Thomas Percy 7th Earl of Northumberland gained the rather unflattering nickname Simple Tom.  He was a key figure in the Northern Rising of 1569.  He’d met Mary Queen of Scots on her journey to Carlisle in May 1568 and it was to Northumberland that Mary, during her journey from Bolton Castle to Tutbury, sent a gold ring with a reminder that he’d promised to help her.

 

Northumberland was not only in contact with Mary.  He also had links to the papacy in Rome and to the Duke of Alva in the Low Countries.  His forceful wife Ann was an ardent Catholic.  Percy had other reasons for resenting the English establishment.  He’d lost the lucrative wardenship of the East marches that he regarded as his birthright and in addition the revenue from copper mines found on lands he owned near Keswick had been commandeered on behalf of the State by Cecil.

He found himself drawn into a scheme later described as incoherent and aimless along with the Earl of Westmoreland and Leonard Dacre.  The aim was to raise the north, march south and free Mary Queen of Scots from captivity.  She was then to marry the Duke of Norfolk.  The earls would then rid Elizabeth of her poor advisors (Cecil).   

The rising  began before the rebels were ready.  Panic caused by the arrest of the Duke of Norfolk, led to the church bells in Topcliffe being rung backwards on the 9th November 1569.  It was the middle of winter – exactly the wrong time for a rebellion.  Before long the rebels found themselves sandwiched between a force from the south led by the Earl of Warwick and a combined force from the north led by Sir John Forster and Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon.  Mass was said in Durham.  Hartlepool was captured so that the Duke of Alva could land but the earls did not receive the support that they’d relied upon.  It wasn’t long before they found themselves turning  north towards home.  

 

The rebels and the forces loyal to the queen, including Percy’s brother Henry, fought briefly at Chester Dean near Hexham.  Percy and his fellow conspirator the Earl of Westmoreland fled the field along with Percy’s wife.

 

They rode as fast as they could to Naworth Castle, home of the Dacre family.  Leonard Dacre had been a conspirator but had changed sides.  Now he kept his doors firmly shut against the desperate earls.  His brother Edward led them into Liddesdale and left them in the hands of the Armstrongs who were notorious border reivers.  It was said of Jock of the Side’s home that it wasn’t fit for a dog kennel.

 Ann was left with Jock of the Side and Black Ormiston.  One or the other of these borderers relieved the countess of her jewels and her horses.  She was eventually rescued by the Kerrs of Ferniehurst who traditionally feuded with the Percy family but who were loyal to Mary Queen of Scots (sounds like a complicated game of chess).  

 Henry Percy’s ill luck continued.  He found himself separated from the Earl of Westmoreland and was betrayed by Hector Armstrong of Harelaw into the hands of Martin Elliott who promptly handed the unhappy earl into the clutches of Moray.  Moray sent his prize to Lochleven Castle where he remained for the next two years while the English and the Scots negotiated with one another over the best price for Simple Tom. 

 

During this time Ann, Countess of Northumberland escaped abroad to raise the money to ransom her husband from the Scots.  It did little good.  Percy was escorted into England in 1572.  He believed that he was going to make his peace with Elizabeth.

 

Upon his arrival in York on the 22nd August 1572 he was executed somewhere near Low Pavement and buried in St Crux Church near the Shambles.  The church was demolished and the site of his burial lost during the Victorian period.  However, the nineteenth century also saw his beatification – so Simple Tom became the Blessed Thomas Percy, Seventh Earl of Northumberland.