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The Richard III Society

Promoting research into the life and times of Richard III since 1924

Patron: HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO

The Wars of the Roses

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Rebellions and uprisings

Lancastrian Resistance 1461-1464

Based on 'Edward IV' by Charles Ross

Following his successful usurpation, Edward IV began a policy of conciliation with the old regime but areas of the country remained loyal to the Lancastrian cause, particularly Northumberland and Wales. This is hardly surprising in view of over sixty years of rule by the house of Lancaster. Northumberland was the territory of the Percy family and the situation was to be exploited by the Scots who had given refuge to the former king and queen. Wales was home to Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke and half-uncle to the deposed Henry VI, and therefore staunchly Lancastrian.

Carlisle Castle
Carlisle Castle
A raid on Carlisle in June 1461 by a force of Scots and Lancastrians was easily repelled by John Neville, Marquess of Montagu, the brother of Richard, Earl of Warwick. Later in the month the Lords Roos, Dacre and Rougemont-Grey raised the Lancastrian standard at Brancepath but were similarly repelled by the bishop of Durham. In July the earl of Warwick was appointed warden of the East and West Marches and he gained control of Alnwick castle but it was re-captured by William Tailboys during the winter. The way forward for the new Yorkist king was to establish a truce with the Scots thus depriving the rebels of support from over the border. This was negotiated and arranged to run from June to August 1462 and during this period Warwick used the time to strengthen and consolidate his position in Northumberland.

The west of Wales remained loyal to the Lancastrians. The king's lieutenants in the country were William Herbert and Sir Walter Devereux and they began a campaign in the late summer of 1461 when they defeated Jasper Tudor and Henry, Duke of Exeter, but it was not until May 1462 that the penultimate Lancastrian stronghold fell. The formidable castle at Harlech remained in rebel hands.

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle
Meanwhile, Margaret of Anjou sailed to France to seek support, leaving her husband in Scotland. Her success was limited but she returned to Scotland to collect her husband before sailing for England. The former king and queen landed near Bamburgh castle on 25 October where they were welcomed and the garrisons of Alnwick and Dunstanborough soon followed suit.

King Edward's speedy preparations to move north sufficiently frightened the royal pair to flee the country leaving the fortresses in the hands of their garrisons. Warwick, deputising for a measles-ridden king, based himself at Warkworth and proceeded to starve out the defenders of the Northumbrian castles. Dunstanborough and Bamborough surrendered on Christmas Eve 1462 and the duke of Somerset, one of the leading rebels, swore fealty to the king. The loyalist forces now focussed their efforts on Alnwick but on 5 June a force led by Margaret of Anjou's general, Pierre de Brézé, and the earl of Angus appeared and surprisingly Warwick withdrew. Lord Hungerford led his men out of Alnwick and together with de Brézé and Angus they withdrew to Scotland unhindered.

The peace was short-lived. Sir Ralph Percy, now turned traitor for a third time, together with Sir Ralph Grey, allowed a Scottish-Lancastrian force to occupy the three Northumbrian fortresses yet again and these would be held by the rebels until 1464. In response, a royalist force led by Warwick and Sir Thomas Stanley left London on 3 June but by the end of the month the Scots led by the queen mother, Mary of Guelders, the youthful King James III, Henry VI and his wife invaded England and laid siege to Naworth castle.Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle

Edward immediately prepared to leave for the north and quickly raised about £10,000 to finance his forces. Meanwhile Warwick and Montagu, with the support of the archbishop of York, who had raised the northern levies, drove the invaders back over the border. Edward failed to follow up on the success with a full-scale attack on Scotland, possibly due to lack of sufficient resources. The populace, however, were disillusioned by the king's apparent lethargy in the prosecution of the Scots and the initial unrest soon turned to riots in fifteen counties. Such was the commotion in Gloucestershire that the king went in person to take action. Possibly at the instigation of the duke of Somerset, more serious Lancastrian-led disturbances occurred in Cheshire, Lancashire and Wales. John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, was sent to north Wales whilst John Donne, the brother-in-law of the king's great friend William Hastings, with Roger Vaughan dealt with the rebels in south Wales who were defeated at Dryslwyn on 4 March 1464. In the north of England, meanwhile, the rebels led raids from Bamborough and took Norham Castle. In the Yorkshire Dales the Cliffords declared for Henry VI.

The king had dealt effectively with the problems in the south and he returned to London. However, rebel activity in the north, led by the turncoat duke of Somerset, Lord Roos and Sir Ralph Percy, demanded his attention as they threatened his negotiations with the Scots for a treaty which was effectively the strategy to cut off rebel support. Montagu was sent to escort the Scottish embassy south but was attacked at Hedgeley Moor where he defeated the rebels and Sir Ralph Percy was finally eliminated.

Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle
As the king made leisurely preparations to move north finally to rid himself of the rebels in his country, the self-same rebels tried to gain a quick success before the might of the royalist army reached them. They moved south from Alnwick to the Tyne Valley and camped close to Hexham. The ever-vigilant Montagu sped to Hexham where he confronted and defeated the rebels on 15 May. There followed a series of executions, including that of the duke of Somerset, which left the Lancastrian party leaderless except for the exiled king and queen. Montagu's success led to the capitulation of the great Northumbrian castles of Dunstanborough and Alnwick. Bamborough's defenders, Sir Ralph Grey and Sir Humphrey Neville were obdurate and a full siege ensued. Grey was wounded and Neville then surrendered.

'The surrender of Bamborough at the end of June 1464 marks the end of the decisive phase in the Yorkist effort to master a stubborn and determined Lancastrian resistance. Henceforth, the cause of Henry VI could be of significance only when allied with powerful Yorkist dissidents.' (Charles Ross)

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The Yorkshire Rebellions, 1469

Undercroft of St Leonards Hospital, York
Undercroft of St Leonards Hospital, York
Towards the end of the 1460s King Edward again faced opposition to his rule. After the defeat of the Lancastrians a few years of peace ensued but the king's relationship with his champion and mentor, Warwick, began to deteriorate. The causes were the king's marriage to a Lancastrian widow, Elizabeth Woodville, the subsequent rise of her prodigious family and the marriage of the king's sister to the duke of Burgundy whilst Warwick had favoured a French match. The earl then began to draw the king's younger brother, George Duke of Clarence, to share his discontent. Meanwhile civil unrest began in the north, possibly as early as April 1469 by 'Robin of Redesdale' which was aborted, but followed by a rising in May led by 'Robin of Holderness' and finally a major rebellion by 'Redesdale' in June and July. The cause of the May disturbance was the levying of a tax by St Leonard's Hospital, York, which affected four northern counties (Yorkshire, Lancashire, Westmorland and Cumberland) and may also have been linked to support for Henry Percy being restored to his lands and earldom of Northumberland. Ironically, the title had been bestowed in 1464 on Warwick's brother - John Neville - who now contained the rebels as they approached the city of York and executed their captain, Robert Hulderne, who may have been Robin of Holderness himself.

The rebellion under 'Robin of Redesdale', probably Sir John Conyers who was married to a cousin of Warwick, began in Richmondshire which was Neville territory. A manifesto of their grievances survives but interestingly it was issued from Calais on 12 July, where Warwick and Clarence were then based. The day before, Clarence had married Warwick's daughter Isabel. The rebels complained of taxation, lawlessness and misuse of power and by early July their army began to march south to Doncaster and then to Derby. Meanwhile the king was in East Anglia on a pilgrimage when news reached him of the rebellion. It appears he failed to make any connection between the news and any treachery by Warwick and he made leisurely preparations to go north. He reached Newark in early July but he retreated back to Nottingham when he learned of the magnitude of the rebel force. A week or so later Warwick and Clarence crossed the channel and landed in Kent on 16 July and made for London where they were reluctantly received by the authorities before marching north, possibly to Coventry with the intention of joining forces with 'Redesdale' and his army.Duke of Clarence
George, Duke of Clarence
based on the Rous Roll.
© Geoffrey Wheeler

The northern rebels ignored the king at Nottingham and continued south. Near Banbury they crossed the path of royalist reinforcements from Wales under the command of the earl of Pembroke who was supported by a contingent from the west country, led by the earl of Devon, who were heading for Northampton. On 26 July the armies met near Edgecote and the royalist army was defeated.

On 29 July the king finally left Nottingham for Northampton, unaware that his western army was destroyed. As he approached the city, the news reached Edward that his remaining army had deserted him and he was taken prisoner by Warwick's brother George, the Archbishop of York. Edward's father-in-law and brother-in-law, Earl Rivers and Sir John Woodville, were captured by Warwick and executed. For the time being Warwick was triumphant and the northern rebels returned home. King Edward's captivity was short-lived and he was released from Middleham Castle in August and was in York by 10 September. In the same month, two Neville brothers, Sir Humphrey Neville of Brancepath and Charles Neville, raised the standard for Henry VI along the northern border. The king and Warwick co-operated in raising troops and the latter easily put down the revolt.

Further Reading

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Lincolnshire Rebellion of March 1470

A private feud sparked off the Lincolnshire rebellion. It was between Sir Thomas Burgh of Gainsborough and Richard, Lord Welles and Willoughby. Welles, with his son, Sir Robert, Sir Thomas Dymmock and others, destroyed Burgh's manor house, stole his goods and drove him from the county. Contrary to the king's dilatory attitude the previous June, he decided to attend personally to the matter and on 4 March he wrote to Coventry asking for troops to meet him at Grantham eight days later. The king's intentions were viewed with alarm as rumours spread that he would not honour the pardons issued to the rebels the previous year but was intent on 'utterly destroying those that late made commotion there'. Welles, who was in London following a summons from the King, responded with a proclamation encouraging the men of Lincolnshire to assemble at Ranby Hawe to resist the king. Meanwhile Clarence wrote to the king that he and Warwick would join him and King Edward asked them to raise troops in Warwickshire and Worcestershire. The situation quickly escalated and news reached the king that the rebels were moving towards Stamford and would be joined by a force from Yorkshire. Welles and Dymmock were both sent to the king and the former was forced to write to his son telling him to submit to the king otherwise he and Dymmock would be executed.Fotheringhay Castle
Fotheringhay Castle by Julian Rowe.
reproduced by kind permission of Peter Hammond

On 11 March Edward reached Fotheringhay where he received news that the rebels were heading for Leicester and that Warwick had finally shown his hand – he was to lead a force to join the rebels. Meanwhile Sir Robert Welles took the king's threat seriously and turned back towards Stamford and King Edward followed, arriving in the town on 12 March. When he learnt that the rebels were at Empingham he summarily executed Lord Welles and Dymmock and took to the field. The ensuing battle was virtually a rout and because the fleeing rebels threw away their jackets, the encounter became known as Lose-Cote field. On 14 March King Edward and his army reached Grantham. Sir Robert Welles and other rebel leaders were brought before him and they implicated Warwick and Clarence in their rebellion. The same day Edward learned of an insurrection in Yorkshire, and another in the west country probably instigated by Clarence. The king demanded that Warwick and Clarence appear before him and he confidently rode north to Doncaster, where on the 19th he executed Sir Robert Welles and his captain, Richard Wauren, in front of the entire army. The king continued on the road north with his army that now included the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and their men, in pursuit of Warwick and Clarence, but lack of supplies led him to abandon the chase and retire to York. Warwick and Clarence escaped to France and the remarkable reconciliation with Queen Margaret was made. The Lincolnshire rebellion had set in motion a roller-coaster of events that would exile the king but ultimately lead to the demise of Warwick and the Lancastrian dynasty.

Contemporary Sources

  • 'Chronicle of the Rebellion in Lincolnshire 1470', edited by JG Nichols, Camden Miscellany, vol 1, 1847, pp 5-18. Transcript of the Chronicle which was written by a Yorkist supporter, with introduction and notes.
  • Three Chronicles of Edward IV, Sutton Publishing, 1988 (includes the above chronicle).

Further Reading

  • 'The Lincolnshire Rebellion of March 1470' by P Holland from English Historical Review, vol 103 no 409, October 1988. Detailed account, using contemporary sources.
  • 'The Lincolnshire Rebellion and Its Part in the Downfall of the Earl of Warwick' by Juanita L Knapp. The Ricardian, September 1978.

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Yorkshire Risings of May and July 1470

The first rising, like that of June the previous year, centred on Richmondshire and Holderness and was led by Sir John Conyers and John, Lord Scrope of Bolton. They were probably sympathetic to the Lincolnshire rebels but when the king heard of the disorder he commissioned Montagu to array men from Cumberland and Westmorland to deal with it, but news of the king's victory at Empingham dispersed the rebels.

News of a rising in Yorkshire by the earl of Warwick's brother-in-law, Henry Lord Fitzhugh of Ravensworth, reached King Edward in late July 1470 and there is some evidence that the troubles had spread to Carlisle in Cumberland. The king responded swiftly and set out for the north and reached Ripon on 14 August. Fitzhugh fled to Scotland and his men returned to their homes. On 10 September pardons were issued to those involved. There appears to have been no military engagement. The significance of the uprising and the king's reaction to it are two-fold. The first is that the king moved north during a critical period. The return of the earl of Warwick, probably in the south of England, was imminent and the king may have left his country exposed by moving north. Why? The pardons issued initially indicated that the uprising was localised to the area around Ravensworth, in other words it had been by the affinity of Fitzhugh. However, a more detailed examination by Professor Pollard of the names of those pardoned has shown that the participants were more likely to have come from a much wider locality and were in fact the affinity of the earl of Warwick. If Edward was aware of this he could hardly be blamed for reacting so positively. In the event the earl landed in the west country on 13 September. The king marched south but halted his march to rendezvous with troops being raised by Warwick's brother Montagu who now declared for his brother. King Edward had seemingly fallen into a trap laid by the wily Warwick and he fled to King's Lynn where he took ship for the Low Countries and exile.

Further Reading

  • 'Lord Fitzhugh's Rising in 1470' by AJ Pollard from British Institute of Historical Research, vol 52 no 126, 1979. Shows that the rising was potentially more dangerous than is usually thought, because those involved were Warwick's northern affinity.

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Kentish Rising May 1471

This uprising was a postscript to the rebellion by the earl of Warwick against King Edward and his subsequent alliance with Queen Margaret of Anjou. It was led by Thomas Neville, an illegitimate nephew of Warwick, who was known as the Bastard of Fauconberg. He claimed to have been given a naval command by King Henry and in early May he landed in Kent with about 300 men from the Calais garrison where he received a warm welcome and support came, not only from the men of Kent, but from those in Essex and Surrey. The small army grew to around 2,000 or 3,000 men as it marched towards London. From Sittingbourne, Fauconberg wrote to the Mayor and aldermen of the city asking permission to pass through it so as to shorten the route to engage with 'the usurper', King Edward. On 9 May permission was denied and the response included details of Edward's success at Tewkesbury and the virtual annihilation of the Lancastrian cause. Whether this was news to Fauconberg is not known but he was not deterred.

The situation in London was sensitive as King Henry was held prisoner in the Tower. Whether Fauconberg's aim had really been to join up with Queen Margaret's army or to rescue her husband from prison is not clear but when he reached London on 12 May he attacked the south end of London Bridge and sent troops across the river. Other than burning a gate in Southwark and some beer-houses near St Katherine's there was no major damage. The city authorities had made good use of the past few days to prepare for the rebels so Fauconberg moved his army west to Kingston in an attempt to make an easier crossing over the Thames. He was thwarted when Earl Rivers sent a force by barge to intercept him.

Fauconberg returned to Southwark and he now launched a major assault on the city. He lined his guns along the south bank of the Thames and began a bombardment to provide some cover for a large force who were preparing to cross the river. Another force attacked London Bridge, setting fire to the small buildings on it, in order to clear an entry-point into the city without having to breach a gate. Meanwhile, the rebels who had now reached the north bank attacked Aldgate and Bishopsgate. A contingent of rebels from Essex arrived and helped with the Aldgate assault. The citizens retreated through the gate and the portcullis was dropped, killing some rebels and trapping a small number within, who were immediately killed by the populace. The citizens of London fought hard and, supported by the authorities with whatever reinforcements could be spared, raised the portcullis and charged out of the city. Earl Rivers led a small force from the postern gate of the Tower and the earl of Essex mounted a successful counter-attack at Bishopsgate. Eventually the rebels were repelled. Some fled to Mile End and on to Stratford and others to Blackwall chased by Sir Ralph Josselyn. The remainder of the rebel army on the south bank, who had been out-gunned by the citizens and had made little progress on London Bridge, withdrew to Blackheath where they stayed until 19 May before returning for their homes. The previous day, Fauconberg had deserted them and with his Calais troops made for Sandwich. The troops returned to their garrison and Fauconberg remained in Sandwich, probably negotiating his pardon.The Arrival by Graham Turner.
The Arrival by Graham Turner.

King Edward IVs entry into Bishopsgate 11 April 1471, just a few days before Fauconburg's attack. Bishopsgate was the scene of the counter attack by the earl of Essex. Meanwhile, King Edward and his army, triumphant after victory at Tewkesbury, entered London on 21 May. That night King Henry VI died at the Tower, undoubtedly killed on the orders of King Edward. The next day the king's younger brother, Richard of Gloucester, led part of the army out of the city and three days later went to Sandwich to receive Fauconberg's surrender. The king, who had followed his brother with the remainder of the army, now began the pacification of Kent and throughout the county men were punished, executed or fined. The Great Chronicle commented that the rich were hung by their purses and the commons by their necks.

Fauconberg accompanied his cousin of Gloucester to the north but his loyalty to the Yorkist regime was short-lived and by 28 September 1471 he had been executed for unspecified new offences.

Contemporary Sources

  • Part 5 of the Anonymous History of the Arrival of Edward IV in England and the Final Recovery of his Kingdom from Henry VI. The Aftermath of Tewkesbury through the Surrender of the Bastard of Fauconberg (courtesy of the US Branch of the Society).

Further Reading

  • 'Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the Death of Thomas Fauconberg' by Richard Britnell. The Ricardian, March 1995. The article concentrates on the fate of Fauconberg after the rising.
  • 'Fauconberg's Kentish Rising of May 1471' by CF Richmond from English Historical Review, vol 85 1970. On the causes and eventual defeat of the uprising.
  • The Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury by PW Hammond, Gloucester 1990.

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The Buckingham Rebellion

by Kenneth Hillier

On 29th April 1483, Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, pledged his support to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, at Northampton. Within a week the latter was Protector; within two months he was king. At each stage Buckingham was at Richard's right hand. His retainers had lent strength to Richard's position; he had led the investigations into the activities of Bishop Morton, Archbishop Rotherham and Lord Hastings; and, as Great Chamberlain, had played a central part in Richard's subsequent coronation on 6th July.

Political influence and landed wealth accrued to him: in May he was appointed chamberlain and justiciar of south and north Wales; he was made constable of all the royal castles in the Principality and in five English counties and receiver-general of the duchy of Cornwall. His portfolio increased with the grant of Bohun lands and, succeeding Richard himself, the constableship of England. With the swift demise of the Woodvilles and Lord Hastings, Buckingham had become the second most powerful man in the kingdom.

On 19th July, Richard set out for Windsor on the first stage of his royal progress. He made his way through the Midlands and had reached Pontefract by 27th August. Here, Buckingham left him, travelling via Stafford for his castle at Brecon. On the 28th, Richard appointed 'his dearest kinsman' as head of a commission of oyer et terminer to enquire into treasons and felonies in London and eight southern counties. The following day the king entered York.

Exactly a fortnight later, Richard, still at York, wrote to his Chancellor in London for the Great Seal. A postscript, in the king's own hand, included these shocking lines: 'Here, loved be God, all is well and truly determined for to resist the malice of him that had best cause to be true, the duke of Buckingham, the most untrue creature living; whom, with God's grace, we shall not be long till that we will be in that parts and subdue his malice. We assure you there never was falser traitor purveyed for …' Richard's postscript, written in his own hand 'the most untrue creature living'
Richard's postscript, written in his own hand
'the most untrue creature living'
© Geoffrey Wheeler

The duke of Buckingham, apparently, was the ringleader of a serious rebellion to overthrow his erstwhile partner. However, foiled by a lack of support, thwarted by unusually bad weather, the duke fled - only to be betrayed by one of his servants. Taken to the king, now at Salisbury, but denied an audience, he was executed by the town's market-place on Sunday, 2nd November. His Icarus-like dominance had lasted barely seven months. Moreover, 'paradoxically, Richard's betrayal by his leading ally may have rescued the king from the full consequences of the rebellion'. (Horrox 1989)

In fact, the very title – Buckingham's Rebellion – is a misnomer. His role was peripheral, both in geographic and in military terms. Few of the known rebels had close ties with him, many had been in arms well before he was involved and the local gentry in the Marches failed to support him. Just who were the rebels and why did they rebel? From the first Richard had aimed at continuity with his brother's reign. What changes there were at local level were minor; the power base Edward IV had constructed in the counties was consolidated not broken up. Only a small number of 'new men' were given royal office within an existing power structure. But continuity did not mean security. As early as 29th July, the king had ordered a commission to try unnamed persons who ominously included two royal servants. The plaque in Salisbury commemorating Buckingham's execution
The plaque in Salisbury commemorating Buckingham's execution.
© Geoffrey Wheeler
In early August he sent for 2,000 Welsh bills 'in all haste'. Then, on 11th October, having moved south from York to Lincoln, he ordered a general mobilisation of forces.

The traditional version of events and of those involved was based on successive proclamations and the Act of Attainder of January 1484. Here we have an integrated collection of risings across southern England, with four main centres – Exeter, Salisbury, Newbury and a south-eastern grouping based at Gravesend, Rochester, Maidstone and Guildford. This organised rebellion erupted in or around 18th October (the purported date on which Henry Tudor sailed from Brittany).

However, it is clear that unrest in Kent started much earlier in October, whilst the far south-west was not involved until November. The rebellion lasted nearly a month and involved other areas such as Sussex and, possibly, East Anglia. The Act's list of rebels also underplays the numbers involved. Above all, the idea that the disaffected were mainly outsiders or dispossessed is profoundly wrong: the majority were from within the Yorkist establishment. The Woodvilles and Hautes (and their immediate followers) were clearly losers under Richard, but they were the exception. Nor was it a simple case of 'Lancastrians' rising up against long-time opponents. Twenty-three years of Yorkist government had led to considerable reconciliation; only Tudor lay outside the pale. Rather the rebels were motivated by personal grievances – such as Walter Hungerford, whose hopes of a return of family lands were dashed when Richard gave them to his ally John Howard – or sheer opportunism, such as Giles Daubenay, who looked to be rewarded by a new regime with a share of the disputed inheritance of Anne Tyrell, his sister-in-law. These, in turn, drew in friends and relations, although other kinsmen remained loyal to Richard. There was also an element of reaction to Edward IV's rule that was reinforced, in some eyes, by the seizure of the throne by Richard. Moreover, for the first time since the early 1470s, there was, in Tudor, an alternative claimant to the throne. Margaret Beaufort's efforts on behalf of her son gave a shape, if not logistical support, to the rebellion.

The revolt may have failed in the short term, but it had highlighted Richard's failure to manage the power structure built up by his brother. It also forced him into an over reliance on a much more limited power base. Inevitably, a shaken king turned to those he felt he could trust; in particular, it led to northerners being imported into the southern counties. And here lay the Catch 22. Long term security lay in reconciling those and their circle who had rebelled in 1483 – this meant returning land and position. In order to do this, Richard would have to relieve his own supporters of their recent acquisitions. He could not square this circle, certainly not in the twenty months or so remaining to him.

Further Reading

  • 'The Proclamation of Henry Tudor as King of England 3 November 1483' by Ian Arthurson and Nicholas Kingwell from Historical Research 1990. Commissioners' returns of investigation into the forfeited estates of Cornish rebels give details of the Cornish uprising in support of Buckingham and Henry Tudor.
  • Richard III and Buckingham's Rebellion by Louise Gill. Stroud 1999. Reviewed in The Ricardian March 2000.
  • Richard III by Michael Hicks, Stroud (Tempus) 2000
  • 'The Maidstone Sector of Buckingham's Rebellion October 18 1483' by Agnes Ethel Conway from Archaeologia Cantiana Vol 37 1925. Brief account of eastern section of the rebellion, and biographical details of the rebels.
  • 'The Rebellion of 1483: A Study of Sources and Opinions' (Part 1) by Kenneth Hillier. The Ricardian, September 1982.
  • 'The Rebellion of 1483: A Study of Sources and Opinions' (Part 2) by Kenneth Hillier. The Ricardian, March 1983.

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