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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daring spirits on the spot, such as Norton, Swinbourne,
Markenfield and Leonard Dacre, the men whose crafty
brains and strong wills had organised and inspired the
movement, were ever at hand to point out the dangers of
submission. At the same time the Popish emissaries, by
whom the two Earls were surrounded, employed their
eloquence in glorifying the merit of resistance to a
heretic and excommunicated Sovereign. The Holy
Father himself pronounced the formal sanction of the
Church, and assured them that " if in assisting the
Catholic faith and the authority of the Holy See, death
should happen to you, and your blood be poured out, it
is much more honourable to obtain eternal life for the
confession of God, and having a glorious death, than to
live ignominiously, and to the detriment of your soul,
in obedience to the caprice of a weak woman." z

The Countess of Northumberland has been represented
as enacting the part of a Lady Macbeth, and by counsel
and example overcoming the scruples of her irresolute
lord who, according to Lord Hunsdon, had "meant
tvvyce or thryce to submit himselfe, but that his wyfe
being the stouter of the two, doth hasten hym and
yncorage hym to persever ; and rydeth up and down
with the army, so as the grey mare is the better horse" 2

1 Pope Pius V. to the Earl of Northumberland. Lansdoivne MSS.
1229. This letter (which is quoted in full in Sharpe's Memo?ials of the
Rebellion) concludes with an exhortation to the Earl and his allies to
emulate the example of Thomas a. Becket, and with promises of material
support from Rome. There is reason to believe, however, that it did not
reach its destination until after the suppression of the rebellion.

2 Lord Hunsdon to Cecil, Nov. 1569, State Papers. After dili-
gent inquiry I have been unable to trace the origin of the concluding



Upon no better evidence than such gossip have grave A.rwy.Q
historians attributed the Earl's ruin to the influence
of his wife. 1 The old soldier subsequently repeated it
as his opinion, that the rebellion had been " earnestlye
followed by the two wyves, the Countessys." The
charo-e is certainly established against Lady Westmore-
land, who had moreover a personal interest in the
success of the enterprise, 2 and who used persuasions,
tears, prayers, and even curses, to cut off the hope of
reconciliation between the two Earls and Elizabeth. 3

There is, however, nothing on record to justify the
assertion that Lady Northumberland used her ascendency
over her lord — the natural ascendency of a strong mind
and earnest purpose over an irresolute nature — to drive
him into armed rebellion.

Her zealous attachment to the Catholic religion must,
it is true, have enlisted her sympathy in the cause ; but
she was too sagacious a woman to have deluded herself
with hopes in the result of an immature outbreak under
inexperienced leaders ; and her devotion to her husband
—of which she gave so many touching proofs in after
life— would hardly have allowed of her urging him to
risk the ruin of himself and his house in a desperate
conflict with the Crown of England.

adage to any older source than that quoted in Lord Macaulay's History
of England, where the familiar proverb is ascribed to the notorious
superiority of the grey mares of Flanders, which in the early part _ of
Elizabeth's reign were largely imported into England, over our native
draught horses.— See Notes and Queries, 6th series, vol. v. p. 96.

1 Thus Mr. Froude says : " But for his wife, who never lett his side,
he would more than once have thrown himself upon Elizabeth's
clemency." — History of England. .

a Inasmuch as the failure of the rebellion could hardly fail to pre-
cipitate the fate of her brother, the then captive Duke of Norfolk.

3 Sir George Bowes in describing the meeting of the conspirators at
Brancepeth on 15th November, states that when some of these deprecated
armed resistance and threatened to withdraw " My Lady \\ estmoreland
braste owt agavnst them with great curses" {Memorials) ; and Northum-
berland, who, in his so-called"" Confession," endeavoured to exonerate

vol. 11. 33 D

a.d. In the charming old ballad beginning :


" Earle Percy is into his garden gone,
And after him walkes his faire ladie ;
I heare a Birde sing in mine eare,
That I must either fight or flee" — x

the Countess is represented as endeavouring to dissuade
her Lord from his rebellious intentions, and we may
assume that the course attributed to her was in accord-
ance with the popular belief of the time.

There appears to be no doubt that to the last
Northumberland, " letting I dare not wait upon 1
would," could not bring himself to resolve upon either
submission or defiance. 2 As the story goes he retired
to rest on the night of the 14th of November, worn out
with conflicting doubts, but more than half resolved to
retrace his steps on the morrow and to throw himself
upon the mercy of his Sovereign. Before the dawn of
day, however, his wife aroused him from his sleep with
tidings of imminent danger : the castle was being sur-
rounded by troops despatched by Sussex, with orders for
his apprehension.

There was barely time to escape. Hastily arming
himself he mounted his horse and, passing through the
park by a bridle path with only a few followers,
galloped to Brancepeth, where the Earl of Westmoreland

his colleague, declares that the insurgents had " never gote any howM t '■
Westmoreland tyll the last hovver, and that by the procurement of his
[Westmoreland's] wyfe."

1 The Rising in the North, Percy Reliques. By a curious coincidem :e
[for he could not have seen the official document] the ballad writer
uses the precise expression employed by Sussex in a letter address
to the Queen on 15th November, 1569 : "The Earls had no intention
to rebel, but having been induced by evilL counsel to enter dealing*
with some matters obnoxious to you, but, as they are persuaded, n> '
perilous to themselves, they have been gradually drawn on, and now bj
fear they mean either fight or fly." — State Papers.

2 M Ancipiti cura rluctuabat, an Reginam adiret, an fuga sibi consults.:.
an in rebellium prorumperet." — Camden, A?maks.



received him at the head of a larg^ body, of armed a.d. 15C9
retainers. 1 1 * 1? 75x*i

A few hours later Sussex writes to the Queen : —

" Those simple Earls are in open rebellion."
* *

Before proceeding further it may be well shortly to
review the situation, and to consider the character of the
disturbing influences at work, in the north of England.

The principal elements upon which the disaffected
rested their cause were —

i. Religious enthusiasm in favour of the Church of

ii. Sympathy with the Scottish Queen and the hope
of bringing about her recognition as heir to the English

iii. The promised support and co-operation of the Duke
of Norfolk and other powerful nobles throughout the king-
dom, as well as of the Courts of Rome, Spain, and France.

These forces undoubtedly existed, but their weight
and practical value, for the purpose of open resistance or
aggression, had been greatly over-estimated.

i. From the first the conflict between Catholic and
Protestant in England had never assumed the formid-
able character of a religious war. The Reformation
had been a political and theological rather than a na-
tional movement, and its most dangerous opponents had
not been Englishmen, but the subjects or agents of Rome
and Spain. The intolerance of Mary, and the retaliatory
severity of Elizabeth, had aroused a certain degree of

1 The night alarm was by some writers described as a ruse on the part
of Lady Northumberland to prevent the possibility of submission ; but
the danger was evidently real, for the Queen subsequently reproached
Sussex with his failure in carrying out her command for the Earl's arrest
at Topcliffe (see Haynes, p. 552). Drake in his History of Yorkshire
says that " the Queen's messengers had nearly surprised Northumberland
in his bed, when he escaped by a stratagem."

35 D 2


a.d. fanaticism ; but this never rose to the height of such
1528-1572 devotional fervour as had inspired and embittered the
religious struggle in Germany, and more recently in
Scotland. That a form of worship rooted in the
traditions and habits of centuries, should at once give
way to Acts of Parliament or penal laws could not
have been contemplated ; but it may safely be affirmed
that under Henry VIII., and even during the earlier
years of Elizabeth's reign, animosity to papal pretensions
was a more powerful sentiment among the great mass of
the English people, than attachment to the rites and
doctrines of the ancient faith.

The equanimity with which, even within the Church, 1
the reformed religion was accepted, sufficiently indicates
the absence, in the national mind, of any strong religious

The grievances of the malcontents were of a practical
rather than a sentimental character, and traceable less to
the suppression of certain beliefs and ceremonials, than
to a failure to substitute adequate provision for the
spiritual wants of the people under the new system.
Popish altars were overthrown ; the celebration of mass
was rendered a penal offence ; non-compliant priests
were imprisoned or banished, and the inmates of monastic
houses driven forth by thousands ; but the celebration
of lawful church services was very scanty and precarious.
The State confiscated, but the people starved. This was
more especially the case in the north of England. In
1560 Pilkington, the first Protestant Bishop of Durham/'

1 According to Camden not more than 2cc, out of a total of above
9,000 of the parochial priesthood in England, resigned their benefices
for conscience' sake. It would appear to have been his longevity,
rather than an exceptional decree of theological flexibility, which served
to immortalise the Vicar of Bray.

■ Surtees's Durliam. Pilkington had, in 1560, succeeded Bishop
Tunstall, who, though he had conformed under Henry, refused to take
the oath of supremacy under Elizabeth, and was deprived accordingly.



deprecated "quarrelling for ordinances of mere form and a.u. 1569
circumstance in a dark and superstitious province, almost
destitute of Protestant preachers ; " and eight years later
the Council of the North represent to the Queen that :
" In many churches ther hath ben no sermons in many
yeares past, and in moste parts or almost generally, the
pastors be unhable to teach ther flock .... the back- '
vvardnesse in cawses of religion in these parts procedeth
rather from ignorance, or lack of convenient instructynge
of the people, than of any stubbornes or willful dis-
obedience " '

Indeed, the ordinances against the popish doctrines
were not then enforced with much stringency, and the
Catholics in the North would appear to have been little
interfered with, unless guilty of open defiance of the law.
Their churches were closed against the priesthood, but
the great families continued to maintain their staff of
friars, chaplains and confessors ; service was performed
in their houses, and even well-known popish emissaries
were seldom molested in their work unless they obtruded
themselves on official notice.

Thus we read : —

" Friar Black, who disputed against the Protestants in
the abbey and was banished the country, is now with the
old Lady Percy, where he said mass at Easter and
ministered to as many as came. I desire no notice to
Sir Henry Percy ; but that his mother might have
warning to take heed to her maids, for that friar is
sycker knave." 2

Although, then, the accession of Elizabeth had been a
great blow to the Catholic party, whose smouldering dis-
content " lay like lees at the bottom of men's hearts and

1 State Papers, Add a (1566-79), p. 64, No. 42, i.

2 Randolph to Cecil, 3rd June, 1563. Origl. State Papers, Scotland,
Record Office. The lady referred to is the widow of the attainted Sir
Thomas Percy, who died in 1567.



a.d. if the vessel were ever so little stirred came to the top ; " •
i5 2 8-i57 2 a^ m t h e north of England, the great majority of the
population remained attached to the ancient form of
worship and was ready to make great sacrifices in its
defence, yet the feeling throughout England in favour of
the Church of Rome would not appear to have been
either so widely prevalent, or so intense, as to justify
the hope of its forming the base of a successful resistance
to constituted authority.

ii. In proclaiming Mary Stuart as heir presumptive
to the English throne, the Catholics put forward a
candidate whose legal right on the score of blood-
relationship it was impossible to question. Yet no act
could have been more calculated to arouse the jealousy
and anger of Elizabeth, who already displayed that
morbid aversion to recognise a successor which became
so marked a weakness in her strong character later in
life ; while the Scottish Queen's ostentatious attachment
to the Roman Church could not fail to alarm the Protestant
party. But putting aside these considerations, North-
umberland and his allies would appear to have exaggerated
the influence of Mary's name in England. 2

In later days, when distance had lent its enchantment
to the story of the Queen of Scots, when poetry and
romance had clothed her in their rosiest tints, the con-
templation of her persecution and suffering, of weary
years of captivity and a shameful death bravely borne,
aroused universal pity and sympathy en her behalf. At
the time of which we are now treating, however, she

1 Bacon.

2 The absence at this time of anything approaching to enthusiasm
in Mary's cause, is evidenced by the report of Richard Lowther to Cecil,
where it is stated that although he had "warned the country by beacon "
(of her arrival at Carlisle), " the gentlemen and sheriffs of Cumberland
and Westmoreland had been very remiss in their duty to wait upon Her
Majesty" ; arid tins in the very stronghold of English Catholicism I



had not attained the honour of martyrdom. To the ad. 1569
masses south of the Tweed, little was probably known of
Mary Stuart, beyond the fact that she was nearest of kin
to their sovereign, a papist by religion, an alien by birth
and habits, and a fugitive from her kingdom. Rumours
may have reached them of her personal charms, her
strange adventures ; of the mysterious death of Darnley,
and the wild Bothwell's rough wooing. Such tales, how-
ever, were hardly calculated to enlist the sympathy of
the sober English, still less to incite them to take up
arms in her cause against their own Oueen.

iiL There is no doubt but that the two northern
Earls had been encouraged by promises of active
support from many influential quarters. Although
Northumberland had been opposed to the project of
Mary's alliance with Norfolk, because of his religion, 1
Westmoreland felt in honour bound to stand by his
brother-in-law, who had declared his readiness to risk

liberty, life, and estate in the cause of Mary Stuart. 2


1 In his " Confession " (see footnote, p. 44), the Earl of Northum-
berland states that he had warned the Queen of Scots against marrying
a Protestant, and represented to her that " if she ever looked to
recover her estate it must be by the advauncing and mayntayning of
the Catholicke fayth ; for there ought to be no haulting in those matters ;
and if the Duke [of Norfolk] were a sound Catholick I would as much
rejoyce, and be as glad of that match, as any other." — Memorials of
the Rebellion, p. 192.

3 Fe'nelon, in a despatch dated September 5th, 1570, reports a
conversation with the Duke of Norfolk, and quotes his words with
reference to the Scottish queen : "pour la restitution de laquelle il veult
mettre sa personne, sa vie et ses biens." — Recueil des Dcpecius. Norfolk,
however, wiser than the Earls, foresaw the result of an immature rising,
and according to Francis Norton, had urged Westmoreland not to take up
arms, even although the Earl of Northumberland should do so ; for that he
felt sure that the first act of rebellion would be the signal for his execution.

This is confirmed by the evidence of Captain Shirley, a spy employed
by Cecil, who states that the Earl of Westmoreland had confided to him,
that " if this Dewke had not sent that message [to Lord Westmoreland]
they had done well enowghe, but he had shewed himself feynte indede ;
• . . he. was the undoinge of them, for by that message and crede of that
day, their frendes fell from them and gave them over." — Original State

vol. 11. 39


a.d. The Earls of Derby, Arundel, Cumberland, Pembroke,

i5 2 8-i57 2 Southampton, and others, were not only notoriously
favourable to the Catholics, but had, if the French
and Spanish ambassadors are to be believed, expressed
their determination to support any movement calculated
to promote their interests. That these nobles had been
in secret correspondence with the conspirators is evident ;
but however ready they may have been to profit by the
turn of events, it is far from clear that they had at
any time pledged themselves to join in armed opposi-
tion to the State. Even if they had gone to these
lengths, however, concerted action must have been
a condition of whatever understanding there had existed
between them, and they were undoubtedly within their
right in dissociating themselves from the rash out-
break of their allies in the North. 1 That, in their
conduct, which it is not possible to justify, is the
complacency with which they at first watched the
struggle as ready to side with the rebels, if success-
ful, as to repudiate and desert them if they failed ; and
their subsequent duplicity in solemnly disclaiming all
participation in the aims and objects of their fallen

The foreign aid promised to the cause proved equally
fallacious. The support of Rome was moral rather fhan
material from the first. Anathema was its weapon, and
the papal benison the reward of service. Spain had
made ample promises, and, during the early part of the
rising, Alva had despatched a special messenger to en-
courage the Earls in their action, and to hold out hope?:
of succour in men and money ; but as the tide turned he

1 On being informed cf the contemplated rising the Spanish ambas-
sador in London advised the Earls '" to put no matter in execution," but
to escape to a place of safety, for which purpose he offered them pass-
ports to the Low Countries. See Oswald Wilkinson's Deposition,
Murdin, p. 225.



lent a deaf ear to their appeals. 1 Fenelon admits that a.d. 1569
he had played with the insurgent chiefs, and that when
Northumberland represented that his funds were nearly
exhausted, and prayed for an advance of money, he had
put him off with fair promises, though he thought that
it might be as well if the King would keep him in good
humour by a small remittance. 2

The result of the rebellion might have been very
different, however, but for the incapacity of the leaders
and the prompt and resolute action of Elizabeth, 3 for
the influence of the Earls within the range of their
territorial jurisdiction was still very great, and they
had a large body of zealous and active allies in the
dispersed members of monastic houses, who, homeless
and destitute, brooding over their wrongs, and dream-
ing of a restored Church, were busily fomenting
discontent and agitation amono; an ignorant, credulous
and warlike population. The sons of the men who had
suffered and died for participation in the Pilgrimage of
Grace, nay, some of the actors in those scenes them-
selves, were on the spot, ready, at the command of their
chiefs, once more to unfurl the banner which a quarter
of a century before had been borne by Aske and
Norton, Percy and Dacre ; while success would have
ensured the adherence of other powerful and influential
nobles, already, for different reasons, unfriendly to
Elizabeth. Under able and vigorous commanders, such
forces, backed by the avowed sympathy and the secret
aid of foreign States, might, although inadequate in the

1 Refusing even to become security for a proposed loan of 8,000
crowns. "Alva se monstre asse's froid sur tout le reste du secours
promis." — Fenelon to the King, 27th December, 1569, Recueil des

3 Ibid.

3 Speed thus characterises the Queen's promptitude : " The nest was
broken before the birds could the."



a.d. end to withstand the military power of the empire, have
r 5 2 _2*57 2 resu lted in a compromise, under which some of the conces-
sions demanded would doubtless have been granted. But
of the many qualities required for the exercise of efficient
control and command over undisciplined masses, the two
Earls, whom the accident of birth, rather than merit
or ambition, had forced to the front, possessed only that
instinct of personal courage inherent in the blood of the
Percies and Nevilles. Up to the hour of actual rebellion,
they had wavered feebly between conflicting doubts and
now, that induced to overcome their scruples they had
drawn the sword, they stood appalled at the thought of
treason and the horrors of civil war. Still proclaiming
their loyalty while heading armed insurgents, and in
the name of the Queen levying forces to subvert her
authority : rash in the face of danger, but irresolute to
seize advantages, their inconsistency and want of purpose
soon disheartened their followers, alienated their allies,
and finally gave their enemies an easy triumph.

# #

When on the 14th November the two Earls summoned

a council of their principal supporters for the purpose of

deciding upon their course of action, the complete

divergence of their views and objects became at once

apparent. Leonard Dacre, 1 Markynfield, Richard Norton'

and Swinbourne were in favour of an immediate attack

1 The uncle of the last Lord Dacre of Gillesland, with whom the
title became extinct.

2 Richard Norton of Norton Conyers, the patriarch of the rebellion.—

" But come thou hither, my little foot page,
Come thou hither unto mee ;
To maister Norton thou must goe
In all the haste that ever may bee ;
Commend me to that gentleman,
And beere this letter here fro mee ;
And say that earnestlie I praye,
He will ryde in my companie.



upon the Queen's forces, but this was opposed by a .d. 1569
Northumberland, 1 who advocated a dash with a body
of horse upon Tutbury for the liberation of the Scottish
Queen, a project which was then feasible, and might
have been attended with important results. 2 For some
unexplained reason, however, it was overruled, while
to a counter proposition to commence operations by
proclaiming the Roman faith, Westmoreland demurred,
because " those that took the pretext of religion in other
countries are accounted as rebels, and therefore I will
never blot my house, which thus long hath been preserved
without stayning."

The defenceless state of York invited attack, and
the capture of Sussex with the small force under his
command, would then have been practicable ; " but

Then rose the reverend gentleman,
And with him came a goodlye band
To join with the brave Earl Percy,
And all the flower o' Northumberland." —

The Rising in the North, Percy Reliques.

Richard Norton was not — as the ballad has it — executed, but made
his escape to the Continent, where he died in penury some years later.
His eldest son, subject to a heavy fine, recovered some of the property,
on the ground, it is said, that he had only joined the rebels unarmed for
the protection of his old father. Two, if not three, of the younger sons

Sdied on the scaffold, and the others were attainted and fled.
1 " Most thought that we should go to arms, save the Earl of North-
umberland, who however agreed to do as the most would." — Francis
Norton to the Eari of Leicester and Lord Burghley, 2nd April, 1572.
— State Papers, Add a . (1566-79), p. 390.

2 Hunsdon had warned Cecil of this scheme. " Their meaning is to
take the Scottish Queene and thcrfor, for God's sake, let her not remain
where she is, for their greatest force is horsemen." — Border MSS. In a
letter to Cecil of 21st November (State Papers), Lord Shrewsbury, still in
fear of the project being carried out, urges the removal of the Queen, " as

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 4 of 31)