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The Rising of the North
















































Map based on Fletcher, A. and MacCullogh, D.(Fourth Ed., 1997).Tudor Rebellion. Seminar Studies in History. New York: Longman. (1st Ed. 1968).

The 'Rising of the North' of 1569, also called the 'Revolt of the Northern Earls or Northern Rebellion', was an unsuccessful attempt by catholic nobles from Northern England to depose Queen Elizabeth I.


When Elizabeth the First succeeded her half-sister Mary as Queen of England in 1558, her accession was challenged due to claims that she was illegitimate because the legality of the marriage of her parents' - Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn - was previously disputed.


There were many catholic opponents of Elizabeth in England and they turned to the catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, as the descendant of Henry Vll’s sister Margaret Tudor, to become Queen of England. The claims were initially put forward by Mary's then father-in-law, King Henry II of France, who hoped to rule England, as well as France, through Mary. He died in 1559 and Mary and her husband Francis became rulers of France. Their rule was short lived as Francis died in 1560.

Subsequently, Mary's position was strengthened by the birth of her son, James, in 1566, but weakened again when she was deposed in July 1567, after the violent death of her second husband Lord Darnley and her subsequent marriage to The Earl of Bothwell.

Many English catholics, then a significant portion of the population particularly in the North of England, supported Mary's claim as a means of relief from religious persecution. Her cause was also supported by several powerful catholic nobles, especially Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland, Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland and Thomas Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex.

The situation was further aggravated by the new Bishop of Durham, the strongly protestant James Pilkington, who was aggressive in his assault on religious imagery and church furniture, and determined to regain full legal control over church lands.

There were also political reasons for the uprising among the wealthier classes. Henry VIII and his adviser Thomas Cromwell had been gradually shifting power from regional institutions to royal control. This was encouraged and continued by Elizabeth and her counsellors such as William Cecil. This policy of centralisation, particularly as it related to the northern border region, greatly annoyed the northern earls. Thus there were both religious and political reasons for dissatisfaction among the northern nobility.

The rebellion led by Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland, and Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland took place in November 1569. They and their followers occupied the city of Durham and celebrated a catholic mass in Durham Cathedral. They tore up the English bible and prayer book and marched south to free Mary Queen of Scots and the Duke of Norfolk, and hoped to restore catholicism to England. Public catholic worship had been prohibited by the protestant Queen Elizabeth. Westmorland's wife, Jane Howard, played an active part in the rebellion, possibly hoping to arrange a marriage between her brother Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk and the prospective Queen Mary.

From Durham, the rebels marched south to Bramham Moor, while Elizabeth in the south struggled to raise forces sufficient to confront them. But when the rebels heard of a large force being raised by the Earl of Sussex, they abandoned their plans to besiege York, and captured Barnard Castle instead. They then proceeded to Clifford Moor, but found little popular support. Sussex marched out from York on 13 December 1569 with 7,000 men against the rebels' 4,600, and was followed by 12,000 men under Baron Clinton. The rebel earls retreated northward and finally dispersed their forces, fleeing into Scotland. Elizabeth ordered severe punishments for the rebels. The number of those executed is disputed, but is felt to have been between 450 and 800.

The puritan Earl of Huntingdon became the new president of the Council of the North, and he systematically broke down the feudal links that had kept the northern earls so powerful, and imposed much more centralised rule. England’s bonds with Scotland were strengthened due to Regent Moray backing the English and handing over Northumberland. Mary was weakened, and there were calls from the 1570 parliament for Mary to be executed, and calls for Elizabeth to get married and have an heir. Her moves towards marriage and an alliance with Henri Duke of Anjou were an indirect result.

The connection to Rylstone was through Sir Richard Norton of Norton Conyers, who was Lord of the Manor of Rylstone at the time of the Uprising. He was a strongly disaffected catholic, and had a central role in the rebellion, along with several of his sons, his brother Thomas and other relations. Richard Norton was a personage of note in the country, being descended from the ancient family of Conyers. He was a member of the Council for the North during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, Governor of Norham Castle and High Sheriff of Yorkshire at the time of the rebellion. He was married to Susan Neville, fifth daughter of Richard Neville, Lord Latimer. (see the paper on the Rylstone Project website for more information on the Norton family). The rising was a catastrophic failure. Several Nortons were executed or imprisoned, and some fled abroad. Richard died in Spanish Flanders (or possibly en route back to England from here) in 1585 or 1588.

           Portrait of Richard Norton in

           Markenfield Hall chapel.

For taking part in the 'Rising', four of Richard Norton's ordinary servants from Rylstone were hanged near the village. His butler, Richard Kitchen, who rose in the rebellion with his master, was hanged in Ripon. The Norton lands were seized by the Crown, Rylstone manor was gradually sold off and the hall fell into dilapidation, never being lived in again.


For more on the Rising of the North see the following websites:  This site cannot be linked but there is a great deal of information on the effects on Craven.

Rylstone Project (2016). The Norton Family. Rylstone Project website. Link on button below.

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