Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland
QUEEN ELIZABETH I
NORTHERN REBELLION (1569)
Alarmed at the way events were getting out of control, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, fiercely loyal to Elizabeth, told her everything in the September of 1569. Norfolk now feared for his life, as plotting to marry
an heir to the throne was treason, and left court without permission. Elizabeth called him back, but he ignored her summons. Elizabeth,
and her chief minister, William Cecil (who had never been part of the plot) feared he had gone north to
raise a rebellion. Norfolk lacked the nerve, however, and in October decided to return to London and throw himself on the Queen's mercy. This he
did but he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Norfolk's surrender could have been the end of the matter, but Elizabeth still feared an uprising from her powerful northern earls, Westmoreland and Northumberland. She knew they were Catholic, sympathisers of the Queen of Scots, supporters of Norfolk, and unhappy with their lack of influence at court. She also knew there was a lot of discontent in the north that could easily lend itself to rebellion. So, at the beginning of October, the Queen had the two Earls summoned before The Council of the North and questioned. Thomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex, was satisfied of their loyalty, but the Queen was not. She wanted them brought before the Privy Council to explain themselves further. This summons terrified the two Earls, who saw themselves joining Norfolk in the Tower, and caused them to do exactly what Elizabeth feared: rebel.
The two Earls raised forces in their localities and marched south, raising more men on their way. They wanted change at the Queen's court. They wanted William Cecil, who they largely blamed for their troubles, sacked, and they wanted the Religious Settlement of 1559 overturned so the Catholic religion could be restored. They also wanted Mary, Queen of Scots, recognised as the Queen's heir. By the end of November they had captured Durham Cathedral, re-establishing the mass there, and had raised over 6,000 men.
Elizabeth was quick to act, however, raising forces against them and moving Mary, Queen of Scots, further south to keep her out of the
rebels reach. The Earl of Sussex quickly took control of the rebellion and forced the Earls to retreat. The Earls had not gained the support of as
many influential Catholics in the north as they'd hoped, and neither Mary, Queen of Scots, or the King of Spain openly supported their
cause. They were left to fight alone and, by mid-December, their rebellion collapsed. As their men scattered the two Earls
fled to Scotland.
The Queen had successfully quashed the rebellion but uprisings (even protests) of this kind were illegal in Tudor times and those partaking in them were considered traitors. Treason was punishable by death and Queen Elizabeth made sure that the rebels suffered to the full extent of the law. Consequently hundreds of men were sentenced to death. Some escaped, others bought a pardon, but at least 400 men were hanged. The message was powerful: dare to rebel and this will be your fate! The message also hit home as there was no major rebellion in England for another thirty years. The next, and last of the Queen's reign, was the Essex Rebellion of 1601.
The Earl of Northumberland was executed for treason in 1572, after being handed over to the English by the Scots, but the Earl of Westmoreland lived out the rest of his life in exile.