07 November 2019, The Tablet

A people’s tragedy: the northern rebellion of 1569 was brutally punished

A people’s tragedy: the northern rebellion of 1569 was brutally punished

Thomas Percy: executed without trial


It is 450 years since a rebel army briefly threatened to depose Queen Elizabeth I of England and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. The rising revealed a nostalgia for Catholicism in the North, but the awful retribution afterwards highlighted the cost of resistance to the new Protestant regime

At four o’clock in the afternoon of 14 November 1569 a party of 60 or so armoured horsemen carrying spears and arquebuses rode the five miles from the Earl of Westmorland’s castle at Brancepeth into Durham, trooped up the Bailey to Palace Green, and entered the ­cathedral. They were led by the two premier noblemen of the North of England, Charles Neville, Earl of Westmorland, and Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and included some of the leading gentry of Durham and North Yorkshire.

Inside the cathedral, they ripped into pieces and burned the English service books and Bibles, and “defaced … and broke in pieces” the Communion table. They then assembled the citizens on Palace Green, in the name of the Queen forbade the celebration of any Protestant services in the cathedral or city churches, and set up a watch committee of 24 local men to enforce this order. By nightfall the earls were gone, on their way towards Richmond, via Darlington, to raise Yorkshire against the Elizabethan religious settlement.

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