Edward Barrington De Fonblanque.

Annals of the house of Percy, from the conquest to the opening of the nineteenth century (Volume v.2 pt.1) online

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I52 _Z! 572 before her arrival at Carlisle, where their short interview
was witnessed by Lowther and others ; and Lady North-
umberland, a woman of a high and imperious spirit,
would not have been likely to become one of the
Scottish Queen's most devoted adherents, if she had had
cause for believing her to be a rival in her affections
for her husband.

Without, then, attributing to the Earl any sentimental
feeling z in the matter, it is quite intelligible that the
mistrust evinced towards him by Elizabeth and her
agents, and the triumph which the rebuff administered
to him at Carlisle afforded to his enemies in the North,
tended to expose him more readily to the Popish influences
by which he was surrounded, and to drive him into a
closer alliance with Queen Mary's party. Another cir-
cumstance had at this time occurred to embitter his
relations with the Eno-lish Court.

Cecil, apart from political considerations, had no love
for the proud old nobility of England. He was am-
bitious, and, reduced as their power was, their social
influence was still sufficiently strong occasionally to
thwart or impede his projects. He was vain, and his
vanity was wounded by the arrogance, or the yet more
galling condescension, of the peers who declined to
recognize an equal in Elizabeth's powerful Minister.

1 " I heard a mermaid, on a dolphin's back,
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath,
That the rude sea grew civil at her song,
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
To hear the sea-maid's music."

These lines have been applied, by Sir Walter Scott among others, to the
two Earls, as leaders of the Rising in the North. It is far more probable,
however, that when, in 1594, Shakespeare wrote his Midsummer Nz'ghfs
Dream he had in his mind the revelations relating to the then compara-
tively recent Throckmorton Plot, and the avowed devotion for "the
mermaid " of such shooting stars as Henry Percy, Paget, and Arundel.



Never was there a statesman more devoted to the scr- a.d. 150S
vice of his Sovereign ; never one who had more deeply
at heart the honour and the greatness of his country,
according to the then prevailing ideas of honour and
greatness ; rarely one whose commanding genius could
so readily stoop to petty devices for the attainment of
his ends.

The Earl of Northumberland possessed neither the
intellect nor the ambition which might make a subject
of high rank dangerous to a great statesman ; but the
local influence of the chief of the Percies, who, among
his own people, towered high above the Queen's most
trusted agents, offended the Lord Treasurer. By a
series of unworthy annoyances he had induced him to
resign his public employments in the North ; he now
seized an opportunity of impairing his private fortune.
The Earl had discovered a rich copper mine on one of
his properties near Newland, in Cumberland ; and Cecil,
whose success in life was, in a great measure, due to his
careful study of the character of his royal mistress, and
to the skill with which he played upon her foibles, now
represented to Elizabeth, probably in exaggerated terms,
the value of the revenue to be derived from the mine, and
the expediency of her claiming it by right of the royal
prerogative. The Queen's cupidity was easily aroused,
and she lost no time in despatching commissioners to the
spot, who, without questioning the legality of her claim,
still recommended, as a matter of equity, that the Earl
should be indemnified by a monetary grant or an exchange
cf land. 1 This concession was opposed by Cecil, and in
October, 1567, the Queen peremptorily commands North-
umberland " to cease all further obstruction," which he was
evidently not disposed to do, for a lengthy correspondence

1 J. Newburn to Privy Council, May, 1567, S/a/d Papers.



a.d. ensued, and as late as towards the end of 1568 he tells
1528-157 2 Cec}^ i n an angry tone, that he must insist upon being
plainly informed whether or not he should be granted a
reasonable compensation for the seizure of his property,
as otherwise he should feel compelled to assert his rights
against what he conceived to be an unjust encroachment
on the part of the Crown. 1 It was while thus irritated
against the Queen, and smarting under the sense of
Cecil's unjust treatment, that the Earl of Northum-
berland gradually became the unconscious leader of
a relieious agitation, and the centre towards which the
hopes and aspirations of the papal party converged.

Receding before the advance of religious reform,
Roman Catholicism had made the northern counties its
refuge and stronghold. Most of the leading families in
those provinces had continued, more or less openly, to
profess the ancient faith, 2 and the traditional position and
local influence of the Percies and Nevilles, now, in the
natural course of events, made their representatives,
with no effort on their part, the champions and the
mouthpiece of aggressive Romanism.

1 The Queen even claimed the ore that had been dug up for some
years past, whereas the owner of the mine denied all right on her part
to any share in the property, and declared that the workers employed
by her authority were trespassers on his lands. — See a letter from
Northumberland to Cecil, 14th March, 1568, State Papers.

2 The Earl of Northumberland is stated to have been " converted to
Rome "in 156S, from which it might be inferred that he had professed,
or at any rate conformed to, Protestantism in early life. It cannot,
however, be believed that he would have been the recipient of Queen
Mary's favours had he not been a good Catholic during her reign.
The probability is that he had remained a member of the Catholic
Church without openly practising its rites when these had been pro-
scribed as illegal. In his " Confession " he stated that he had become
" reconciled to the Church " nearly two years before the Rising, but thi>
probably meant that he had then made a formal renunciation ui the
Protestant heresy.


The Earl of Sussex, a zealous Protestant, 1 had been a.d. 1569
appointed President of the Council of the North with a
view to watching and counteracting the Catholic faction.
He was not, however, a man to display suspicion against
his own order at Cecil's bidding ; and he continued to
maintain familiar relations with the two Earls, even after
their attitude had become subject to animadversion on
other grounds than " unsoundness of religion." In April,
1 569, he was, " with other good fellows " as he expresses
it, a cruestat Topcliffe ; on the 15 th of September he writes
to Cecil from Cawood. that " my Lord of Northumberland
and my lady, my Lord of Westmoreland, my Lord Talbot
and my lady, .... and all the principall gentlemen, and
their wyfes of this countrie, were here with me a hunting
all the last week ; " and as late as in October he reports
having met the Earls in council, and that they had as-
sured him that they could not account for " the bruits
of insurrection," and that " they would be the first to
venture their lives for the suppression of those that
would rise." 2

These assurances he accepted, nor is there any reason
to doubt their sincerity, the Earls having then been only
the passive centres around which gathered the scattered
ao-ents of agitation in favour of the Catholic Church, and
of the claims of the Scottish Queen. The position,
although unsought, probably served to gratify their
vanity, and in making a display of their influence, they
did not, as would appear at that time, apprehend that
they compromised their allegiance to the Sovereign. 3


1 On 15th November, 1569, he wrote to the Queen: " Besides my dutie
to your Majestie I would for my conscience sake spende all my Iyves
if I had a thousande, agaynste all the worlde that shall drawe sworde
agaynste our religion/' — State Papers.
' 2 Bid.

3 There is no doubt that the two northern Earls had been encouraged
in this attitude by other powerful nobles who prudently kept in the



i5 28_I 57 2 They had yet to learn at a bitter cost how much more
easy it is to gather the elements of sedition than to con-
trol its action ; and that in raising the sluices of popular
discontent they ran the risk of being carried away by the
torrent. Wise men would have foreseen the danger of
such intrigues, and strong men might have directed the
result ; but Northumberland and Westmoreland were
neither wise nor strong, and thus, surrounded by crafty
or reckless counsellors, they drifted helplessly from secret
negotiation into conspiracy, and from conspiracy into
open rebellion.

Throughout the autumn of 1569 the parade of armed
bodies of men in which Westmoreland was fond of
indulging had given rise to various rumours ; but
even the vigilant and suspicious Cecil dismissed these
as groundless fears. 1 " It may be," he w T rites to Lord
Shrewsbury on 6th October, " you have or shall heer
of a fond rumor styrred up in the North Ryding and
the Bishoprick, of a rising shoulde be ; but it was
a vaine smoke without any sparke of accompt," 2 and
three weeks after Sussex informs Cecil that " all
resteth in good quiet and I see no lykelyhood to the

As late as on the 30th October, Sussex, though he
speaks of a conspiracy (the actuating motives of which
are accurately described as " adhesion to Norfolk, attach-

background, however, pending the result of the agitation. The Duke
of Norfolk, the Marquess of Winchester, the Earls of Arundel, North-
umberland, Westmoreland, Pembroke, and Leicester, jealous of Cecil's
growing influence, and angered at the succour which by his advice
Elizabeth afforded to the Protestants of France, had combined to over-
throw his authority. — See Camden's Annates, vol. i. p. 178.

1 Bowes, in reporting these military displays to Sussex, says, "Soo^
that I gather they ryde the nyghte Southwards, and cometh agayne ot
the daye Northward, to make sheaves, for what intent I knowe not." —

• Sharpe's Memorials of the Rebellion.

2 Stats Papers.



mcnt to the Scottish Queen, and the Catholic faith," and A - D -
of which he names Northumberland and Westmoreland as
the ostensible leaders, and " my Lord Talbot and other
nobles " as cognizant), states that he sees no reason to
apprehend any overt act of disturbance. Had the two
Earls been as designing and crafty as they were simple,
their conduct could not have been better calculated to
disarm suspicion. Conspirators ever shroud themselves
in secrecy ; what danger was to be apprehended from
men whose foolish acts were open as the day, and who,
instead of concealing, appeared anxious to invite
attention to, their insignificant demonstrations of armed
force ? x

Yet these displays, however feeble in themselves, served
to encourage the hopes of the disaffected classes, and to
prepare men's minds for more daring deeds. The local
influence of these two noblemen was so great, and they
had come to be so generally recognized as the represen-
tatives of the Catholic cause, that Sussex, under the
responsibility for the maintenance of order in the North,
began to recognize the danger of their example, and ad-
vised the Queen to invite them to Court, and to keep them
in London for a while ; an invitation, under the circum-
stances, equivalent to a more or less protracted sojourn
in the Tower. Elizabeth accordingly directed him to
convey by word of mouth her command to this effect,
and on the 9th November Sussex reports to the Council
that he had requested the Earls to attend upon him
for the purpose of receiving a message from Her

1 " This day the Erie of Northumberland in a previe cote under a
Spanish jerkyn, being open soe tiiat the cote might be seen, and a state
cap covered with green velvet, is returned to Brancepeth with VIII men
with him all armed with previe cotes and dagges ; but I am yet of
opynyon that the Erles and their confederates are not determined of any
open action, but makith these assemblies either for their owne gude or
in -reete feare to be apprehendid.'' — Bowes to Sussex, 10th Nov., 1569.

2 5


a.d. Majesty ; that " Northumberland promiseth to come,
1 528-1 572 but he wrytet h not w hen ; the Erie of Westmoreland
refuseth to come for fear of his enemys, except he
should come in grete force, which would be cause of
offence, and therefore I intende to write the Otieene's
commaundments to them for their repayre to Her
Majestie presentlie. My Lady Northumberland sayeth
there will be no troubell ; but I wyll no more trust any
wordes, therefore I pray you give me good spyalls,
for within six dayes we will see the sequel of these

matters." '

On the following day Bowes communicates to
Sussex a number of rumours, and among others that
the Earls had "swept up all manner of weepons
that can be gotten for money, for this day they boght
all the bowes and arrows in Barnard Castel, and as
I heere in Durham " ; that in a few days " they meant to
make open call for men for alteration of religion, and to
spoyle such as wyll not follow their dyrections" ; but that
it was more probable that " without doing of drill they
will go into Northumberland and lye at Alnwycke."

On the refusal of the two Earls to trust themselves
into the power of the President, he had no option but to
convey to them by letter, and in these peremptory terms,
the commands of the Queen : —

" I am driven to write that which I should have de-
livered to you by mouth, that as Her Majesty means
to confer with you, her pleasure is that you repair
to Court, which I, in her name, command you to do
without delay. This was all I had to say if you
had come hither. Let not vaine delusions abuse
you with feare of your owne shadow ; but submit

« Memorials, A good guess; the rebellion broke out on the

" 2 Ibid. Bowes to Sussex, 10th Nov., 1569.



rather with humilitie to her clemency that never a.d. 1569
sought to use extremyte, than put in clanger the
destruction of your house, and force her to give you
a sharpe taste of that which in her hearte she never
meant to say."

Sussex informs the Queen that this letter had been
delivered to Northumberland in person by his secretary,
and that " when his lordship had redde it through, and
seen the effect was for his repayre to your Majesty, he
showed some discontentment, and said he was not well
used ; but in the ende said he wolde consent to goo to

Your Majestye My lady excuses her husband's

feere upon intelligence from London, or the Cort, and
she assureth, upon her lyfe, her lord will never seke to
stirr the peple on to show any rebellion ; and in the ende
she sente me worde he wolde goo to your Majestye, but
he wolde firste write to your Majesty. What answer my
Lord of Westmoreland will make I knowe not ; but
suerly, seeing the daily delayes and excuses, I doubt
moch they be led by ill counsel, and therefore I dare not
put your majesty in hope that they mean to come ; but
by all likelihood they will in the ende either stirre open
rebellion, if they may (which I trust they will not be
able to do in Yorkshire), or retire themselves to some
stren^thes (stronghold), or seke to flee; and therefore the
sooner your plesure is knowen what should be done in
every of them, seeing the matter is now openlie dis-
covered, the speedier execution it shall have, and, I trust,
a shorter end." T

The Queen, however, knowing that she could not
better suppress the threatened outbreak than by securing
the persons of the two leaders, reiterated her command
for their attendance upon her : " We are the rather

1 Sussex to the Queen, uth Nov., 1569, Staie Papers.



a.d. moved not to be without some hope of a better
J5 2 _-*57 2 consideration in them, when they shall perceave that
your sending for them is upon our commandment,
to come to us." x Sussex 2 accordingly writes again : —
" The Queen has sent for you on your allegiance ;
if you come your friends will stand by you, and you need
feer no enemies. If you have slipped, your friends will
be suitors for you to the Queen, who never shows herself
extreme, and has always borne you affection. If you
refuse, you make enemies of your friends and seal the
subversion of your house. Perform your duty, and do
not take council of the wicked, who would make you
like themselves. If you forsake this my offer, and now
my last counsel, whatsoever false parasites shall flatter
and tattel in your eares, loke not to escape the plague in
this worlde that God hath appointed to disobedience,
and in the worlde to come the punishment that he hath
promised to be dew for it. And so my lord I take my
leave, and pray to God he may put into your heart the
spirit of dew obedience."

The appeal, though calculated to shake the weak
resolves of Northumberland as to his future action,
was not powerful enough to inspire confidence in
Elizabeth's clemency. He accordingly wrote to her
disclaiming all intention of rebellion, professing his
readiness to spend life and lands in her service, but
declining to obey the order to appear before her in
person. His letter is the reflection of an irresolute
and illogical mind, stimulated by religious impulse, but
not untroubled by qualms of conscience.

"If your Highness mislike it that I have not made

1 Elizabeth to Sussex, ioth Nov., 1569, Haynes's Burghlcy Stale
Papers, p. 552.

2 Sussex to the Earls ot Northumberland and Westmoreland, 12th
1569, Shite Papers.



speedy repair to you, according to your command given a.d. 1569

by the Lord President, let this my excuse serve me. My

loyalty and devotion towards your majesty have been

well known and tried ; and what bond of assurance I have

made to you, you best know ; having done nothing that

I thought might offend you, but as willing to serve and

as fearful to offend, as your meanest vassal.

" Yet notwithstanding, untrue rumours and surmises
have been blown abroad and instilled in your ears, to
carry you from me and to stain my fidelity ; which, albeit
they have been, through your great goodness and deep
consideration, tried and proved void and frivolous, yet
have, I fear, left in your noble heart some suspicion of
me ; whereby my adversaries have renewed their hatred ;
and in this time especially, wherein some of your nobles
have incurred your grievous displeasure, they have dis-
persed bruits touching the breach of my loyalty, never done
or intended, and have blown the same abroad, not only by-
talk but by acts, under a feigned pretence of fear ; drawing
to strengths and holds, where indeed they had no shadow
given them of doubt ; but it was their device to bring
me and others to be odious to your majesty.

" God and my conscience know that I never intended

any disloyal act towards you, but shall be found ready,

whilst I live, to spend life and lands and all that I have,

' against all persons whatsoever ; nor have I done anything

offensive to law, as all the country can testify. Yet as the

Smaintainers thereof are in these parts in some credit with
some of your private counsellors, who — as experience has
taught me — have been willing to hear matters to my
discredit, I durst not adventure to your presence till I
had craved your pardon if I have, through lack of skill,
liked that which may not content your majesty, and till
time had shown how untrue those slanders are.

" I beseech you, as I shall live and die your faithful



a.d. subject, you will not give ear to reports touching my
I52 _l! 5/2 fidelity, before I have clone one thing- material, whereby
the same may be justly drawn in suspicion. Doubtful of
your favour, which of all earthly things I most wish for,
I pray that I may be re-comforted and safely repair to
your majesty's presence.'' x

Elizabeth was not disposed to afford the "re-comfort"
demanded. The pretensions put forth by the disaffected
party in the North on behalf of Mary Stuart, together with
the projected Norfolk marriage, had aroused all the bitter-
ness of her jealous and vindictive nature. She now writes
directly to the two Earls commanding their immediate
attendance at her Court, leaving them no time for remon-
strance, no loophole for evasion, no alternative between
unconditional surrender and open defiance : " We do
command yow upon the duety of your allegeance, furth-
with to make your speedy repayre hither unto us without
any delaye or excuse whatever the same be. And this
do we trust yow will not forbeare upon any synister and
unloyall perswasions, or any other matter to induce yow
to any mistrust without just cause or grownd : for so yow
shuld varye from the dutyfulnes, which as yow many
tymes pryvatly with grete Assurance professid to us, so
have we ever made good accompt of the same, and shall
do the lyke, untyll yow shall give cause of the contrary." '

This letter does not appear to have reached the Earls
until after the Durham outbreak, and there was now
indeed small encouragement for them to trust themselves
to Elizabeth's mercy. Pembroke and Arundel had but
recently been consigned to the Tower on the mere
suspicion of indirect complicity in the Scottish marriage

1 Earl of Northumberland to the Queen. Topcliff, 13th Nov., 1569.
State Papers. Addenda, vol. x\\, 23, 1.

2 Queen Elizabeth to Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland,
19th Nov., 1569, Haynes, p. 552.



scheme; and Norfolk himself had followed them there a.d. 1569
as soon as he had placed himself within the Queen's
power, with a confidence which the French ambassador
humorously accounts for on the theory that he could
not escape his fate, being of a race predestined to have
their heads cut off. 1 The Houses of Percy and Neville
could not claim immunity from this fatal experience, and
with Cecil their declared enemy, and Leicester at best a
doubtful friend, the reluctance of the Earls to obey the
Queen's commands is quite intelligible. They dreaded,
it is true, the shame of open treason, but the Tower and
the scaffold had equal terrors for them. Whatever their
scruples, however, they did not doubt in the abstract
justice of their cause, and might not, even now, a powerful
demonstration of armed force extort the concessions they
demanded without the risk of bloodshed ? At the w T orst,
might they not retire to their strongholds and from
thence make terms for themselves and their adherents ? 2

1 " Je ne scay si e'est pour se confyer trop a leur cause, . . . ou pour
esperer trop de la faveur et de l'appuy qu'ils se sentent avoir en ce
royaulme, que ces Seigneurs se sont ainsy facilement venus commetre
os mains de la dicte dame ; ou bien qu'ils soient subject a avoir la teste
tranchee, et n'en puyssent rciter le mat, parceqiiils sont de race." — La
Ah the Fenelon a la Reine Je France, 7 eme Oct bre 1569. Recueil des
JJtpeches des Ambassadeurs de France.

3 It appears to be clearly established that at this time, nothing more
was contemplated than the liberation of the Scottish Queen, with a
demand for some not immoderate concessions to the Catholics. A
witness, unfriendly to Northumberland, stated that, in October, 1569,
the Earl had asked him to represent to the Spanish Ambassador in
London, that owing to the weakness of the Duke of Norfolk, who had
" in a manner wyllingly yielded himselfe into Pryson, the matter which
was expected to be done was not put in execution in tyme ; " that the

i party had now neither men nor money, and that as Queen Elizabeth was

so greatly incensed against him that " I knowe we shall not be able to
beare nor aunswer yt ; " he therefore thought it would be the wisest course
for the agitators to disperse, and that for himself, he would seek refuge
M the Low Countries, if he could have an assurance that •' I, and such
as shall come with me, may be receyved and enterteyned in that country
according to our degrees and callinges." — Deposition of Oswald WUkin-
s-'n, Murdin, p. 225.


a.d. As the breach with the Court widened, those evil
x 5 2 j2 572 influences which ultimately drove the simple-minded
Northumberland to his ruin, became more powerful.
The secret instigators of the rebellion continued from a
safe distance to urge their dupes to action, and the more

Online LibraryEdward Barrington De FonblanqueAnnals of the house of Percy, from the conquest to the opening of the nineteenth century (Volume v.2 pt.1) → online text (page 3 of 31)