296 Rising of the North


The saga of the life and times of Mary Queen of Scots continues, but in 1568 something stirs in the north of England…

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Last time, I left you with an explosion in Scotland, at Kirk O’Field. Does everyone know this? It must surely be up there as one of the most famous assassinations ever, but then who am I to assume that everyone has an interest in Scottish and British history, that would be the height of presumption. Anyway, here’s what happened. There’s a bit of backstory, which occurs in Craigmillar castle. Just before the baptism of Mary’s son James in December 1566, Mary stopped and stayed at Craigmillar castle, for a conference with many of her lords. Preparations for the baptism were discussed, which is you know, normal. But discussions also seem to have been carried on about what to do about Darnley. What seems to have happened was that Moray and Argyll fell to talking about the Darnley problem, and then popped along to Argyll’s room to continue chewing of the cud, and possibly raid those little packets of Custard creams or Hot Chocolate, as you do. Then they sent for Huntly and discussed the cut of his jib, and finally went to have a chat with the Flashman of the piece, Bothwell. Off they all then went to see Mary. Their first plan was for Mary to get a divorce, but Mary would not hear of it, because she wanted to do nothing that might affect the legitimacy of her son. They probably went further and suggested some ways of coercing Darnley, and forcing him to behave himself; Moray was not there, incidentally, sensibly standing aside, but the lords were confident that Moray would ‘look through his fingers’ – or turn a blind eye you might say. Still, Mary refused to hear of it. At this, Maitland, pulled the lords away to continue the discussion elsewhere, promising they’d plan nothing ‘that was not good and approved by parliament’.

But Maitland was not known as Mr Machiavelli for nowt – and a further conversation did indeed take place, with Moray joining them this time. Legend has it that a bond was signed…but no copy has been found, and it could be baloney. But the agreement was to solve the Darnley problem by ridding Mary permanently of this turbulent consort. You know, permanently. [knife across the throat noise]. What, murder an anointed monarch on purpose? I hear you gasp. Yup. Unprecedented since the days of Alba. No…I mean there was James III, but he, as the phrase goes, ‘just happened to be killed’ and James IV wore an iron belt in penance he was so aggrieved. Well folks, I hear your pain. Did Mary know about these plans 2.0? Almost certainly not.

So, Darnley in February was a very poorly pigwiggin, covered in boils and stuff. Which was probably advanced stages of syphilis. So when he returned from Dad’s house in the Clyde, he stayed in a house in, you guessed it, at kirk o’field in Edinburgh, to recuperate so as not to infect everyone at Holyrood. On the night of the 9th, there was a bit of a shin dig round at his place, but Mary and the others left before midnight because Mary had promised to go to a servant’s wedding the following day. In the early hours of the 10th, a whopping explosion woke her up – and she sent Bothwell and others to investigate.

They found that Darnley’s house had been completely mullahed, blown to smithereens. And then, they found Darnley’s body outside along with a servant – with no marks on their bodies, curiously. They had probably been asphyxiated.

Scottish society went potty, mucho mistrust does not start to cover it. Initially at least suspicion did not fall on Mary, but instead much sympathy; the name Bothwell was what the moving finger wrote and having writ moved on; nor any piety nor wit could cancel half a line, hard as Bothwell tried. What was really crucial now was how Mary reacted – the ball lay firmly but gently in her hands, to be held firmly and diplomatically, and in her first years of reign Mary had shown herself well able to act with statesmanlike skill. The world watched; Elizabeth wrote a horrified letter

I will not conceal from you that people are for the most part are saying that you will look through your fingers at the deed instead of avenging it…I beg you to take this thing so far to heart that you will not fear to touch even whom you have nearest to you if he was involved

He here means, of course, Bothwell. Elizabeth was not alone in her horror and concern; in France and Spain equal horror and hope was expressed.

Mary took said ball and conclusively, comprehensively and decisively fumbled it. She went to the servant’s wedding as planned, which looked toweringly hard hearted and unconcerned at the idea of your husband and monarch’s murder. Efforts to chase down a culprit were feeble, despite everyone pointing at the figure of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell and shouting at Mary ‘he’s behind you’. Placards accusing Bothwell started appearing in Edinburgh. So what did Mary do? She went on holiday to Seton for a couple of weeks.

The trouble was that Mary was now heavily reliant on Bothwell for her security, or she at least thought she was – Bothwell controlled much of the military forces, and seemed to be loyal, and was a man of action, all swagger and trousers. Eventually after continued outrage and placards, in April Mary and her Council declared that Bothwell would stand trial; everyone feared it would be a sham, and so it was, Bothwell was cleared. Suspicions spread that Bothwell and Mary were planning to marry and that Bothwell would rule. Mary would later explain her actions, writing that her realm

Being divided in factions as it is cannot be contained in order unless our authority be assisted and set forth by the fortification of a man

What happened next is a matter for fierce debate. In April 1567, Bothwell and Mary went together to Dunbar Castle. Within a few months, Bothwell was divorced from his wife, Mary and Bothwell entered Edinburgh and were married.

James Melville, an author very sympathetic to Mary, wrote that Bothwell

had ravished her and laid with her against her will

Others and many historians are not so sure, finding it impossible to believe that anyone could conceive of such a thing against a queen; some back up this view by pointing out that Mary did not later try to escape or fight back when she had the chance, and so conclude that Mary had fallen for Bothwell and they were indeed in cahoots. Now, there can be little doubt that Mary did not love Darnley – you’d have to be his mother or father to love that lad by the sounds of things. And indeed, poor Darnley’s mother, Margaret Douglas the Countess of Lennox, who was still living in England, was inconsolable; Cecil wrote that she could

Not be by any means kept from such passions of mind as the horribleness of the fact did require

Mary had been comprehensively and constantly betrayed and let down by Darnley. However there is much more doubt that Mary behaved with Bothwell in the way traditionally ascribed to her – the old dichotomy of the cold calculating Elizabeth and the emotional impulsive Mary, helplessly and foolishly in love. There are other explanations; the realpolitic explanation – faction and instability were so rife that Mary had to rely on Bothwell as her only genuine leader capable of keeping a viable faction together. And then there’s Kate Williams’ most recent book that says look, Mary had been comprehensively betrayed by her leading men, and now had been brutally raped – surely we should expect that to affect her judgement, and anyway, how many options did she have once she had been raped?

Cecil and Elizabeth’s reaction to all of this is interesting. We’ve seen that Elizabeth urged Mary to be firm, and was disappointed therefore at what transpired; she wrote to Mary

To be plain with you, our grief has not been small; for how could a worse choice be made for your honour than in such a haste to marry a subject who, besides other notorious lacks, public fame has charged with the murder of you late husband

but her sympathy was still firmly for Mary despite that; Cecil complained

How earnestly she is bent in the favour of the Queen of Scots.

Cecil was not so sure. For Cecil, the Spanish repression now starting in the Netherlands started a new round of egg laying about the threat to all protestants, Dutch, English or Scottish, whatever. For him Mary was a Catholic threat, and he wanted at very least for her to be controlled. Possibly worse; we need to go back to 1559 and the Memorial, probably written by Cecil which recommended that if Mary was not prepared to be subject to the Scottish parliament and council, she should be deposed.

Opposition in Scotland to Mary’s marriage to Bothwell was immediate. A group of lords – the earls of Morton, Argyll, Atholl and Mar among them took the lead in creating a new bond of Confederate lords, they seized Prince James and defied the queen and Bothwell and their supporters. At Carberry Hill, the two armies met – and Mary’s support leaked away. Bothwell was allowed to flee to end his life some years later in a Danish prison. Mary was taken back to Edinburgh, and then imprisoned at Lochleven, where the true extent of the confederate Lords’ plans became clear; Mary was forced to abdicate, James was crowned King of Scots at the age of one, and the Earl of Moray was made Regent. Elizabeth was livid, ‘full offended’ at Mary’s treatment.

Mary could swash her buckle with the best of them, as she had shown on numerous occasions. Now she showed it again, escaping from Lochleven and once more building an army – in Edinburgh 10,000 enthusiastically flocked to her banners, and together with the Earl of Huntly and the Hamiltons she declared ‘by battle lets us try it’ and marched to take on the Regent Moray with his poxy 4,000 men. She should have won with those numbers. But her general was out generalled, and within 45 minutes Moray was victorious at the battle of Langside, May 1568. Mary took a momentus decision – she would flee to England and her cousin Elizabeth would put her back on the Scottish throne. She arrived at Workington in Cumbria, and eggs were laid all over the English political nation. What on earth would they do with her?

Now, Mary’s decision to leg it to England has been widely reported as a bloody awful decision, whh-wahh oops, nule point Norway. And you know, there’s some supporting evidence for that. What follows in Scotland is 5 years of civil war, including the assassination of Moray; and while the civil war might not have been avoided, Mary cut the legs off her supporters by going to England, whereas had she known it, she still had significant support. And so her supporters eventually gave up hobbled by her absence. And with hindsight we know of course – and sorry for the plot spoiler, that it doesn’t end entirely well for Mary. But in 1568, Mary’s options must have looked very limited. And, interestingly, over the next few years Elizabeth does indeed try several times to get Mary re-instated in Scotland. What she did not bargain for was Mary’s nemesis – William Cecil.

What occurs is a trial of strength, a secret battle of wills, between Elizabeth and Cecil, which will only end in 1587, but which the Pope probably won for Cecil in 1570. The kick off, though, was an investigation into what had happened as regards Darnley – a tribunal was to sit in York. Now, Mary was clear as was Elizabeth – this was not going to be a trial. After all, Mary had been given no lawful trial, and anyway no one could judge her – except God, she was a queen, and not subject to English authority. It was going to be an investigation into what her opponents alleged against her, and for Mary’s commissioners to defend her – she would of course not be there, to avoid the impression of a trial. Desperately Mary tried to persuade Elizabeth to meet her – Elizabeth would not. Why was that? Afterall, the lack of a meeting between the pair of them has tortured writers, filmmakers and romantics through the ages…oh why o why. Sensibly, the likes of Schiller and various Directors simply ignore a fact which is horribly inconvenient, and a terrible dramatic error on Elizabeth’s part, curse her. Elizabeth probably did not want to publicly intervene and appear to make the investigation a stitch up; it’s also been advanced that maybe Elizabeth was jealous of the charismatic queen, and feared comparison.

Either way, Cecil was well aware that stitch up was what Elizabeth wanted – in the form of, a clean bill of health for her fellow queen. Moray was requested to make good his accusations, and produce some solid evidence. He provided what have become known as the Casket Letters, a group of letters that supposedly implicated Mary in Darnley’s death, and of an adulterous relationship with Bothwell, which had – oh – spookily turned up at just the right time. Cecil came to know the originals very well. He must have seen the clumsy changes that had been made to them, and yet he said nothing. Modern opinion is rather against the casket letters being genuine – though since the originals were destroyed, probably by James, it’s not possible to be conclusive. The tribunal at York, led by the Duke of Norfolk were unimpressed; Norfolk told the queen that the letters were horrible, and if genuine might prove her guilt – but the word was if and he was unconvinced; and all Mary really had to do was deny they were hers and that would effectively be that.

Faced with an inconveniently independent tribunal, Cecil had the enquiry brought down to London, and stacked it as much as he could; the Duke of Norfolk for example, was packed off on some idiot errand to the north of England while the London tribunal did it’s work. Elizabeth was no idiot, and did some counter stacking; but critically, Cecil was on the commission this time. In the background Cecil tried to make sure that whatever the result it would be a win for Cecil; guilty and Mary would be kept under guard in some backwater in England; innocent and she’d be allowed to go back to Scotland, but at best be a co-monarch with her son, and shorn of real power, which would instead be vested with the Scottish lords. Heads I win, tails you lose.

The result of all the stacking and counter stacking and politicking was stalemate; Elizabeth was simply not prepared to let the tribunal rule against Mary. Another outcome of the tribunal was some bad feeling for Cecil; Norfolk deeply resented his interference, Dudley felt Cecil was standing in the way of true love to boot. For Mary it was a disaster; here she was stuck in prison, no way forward. It was a gilded prison for sure; Mary had a substantial household, a substantial budget from her pension as Queen Dowager of France, and even diplomatic representation. But prison none the less it was. She made her displeasure clear to Elizabeth.

You say you are counselled by persons of highest rank to be guarded in this affair. God forbid I should be the cause of dishonour to you when it was my intention to seek the contrary

Mary was not passive; Cecil was in the end quite right that Mary was a threat. Interestingly, although Philip II had been supportive towards England, by October 1565 he had finally come round to the conclusion that there was something about Mary, and

‘that she is the gate by which religion must enter the realm of England’.[1]

Mary meanwhile was in the market for any schemes that would advance her interest, on the scrounge for any friends and allies she could find. You can hardly blame her, but it illustrates also just what a bomb she’d landed in English politics by coming here. She now began to re-invent herself as a Catholic hero and martyr, and as a Catholic hero and martyr she turned to another Catholic hero with clout, Phillip II of Spain, telling him how she was closely guarded and describing herself as

An obedient, submissive and devoted daughter of the holy Catholic and Roman Church

The Duke of Norfolk, meanwhile was curious, and the wiley Maitland of Lethington in Scotland floated an interesting little concept. Why not make a match between Mary and England’s premier peer, the Duke of Norfolk? Norfolk had already sneakily been to see Mary at Bolton Castle to take a peek and the two appear to have got on. The idea appealed to Norfolk because it might put him line to the throne if he could get away with it, it would be a lever to push Elizabeth close to Spain and Rome which policy Norfolk fancied being a religious traditionalist – and it’d be one in the eye for Cecil; Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester liked the idea because maybe it’d push Elizabeth into re-considering him as a hub – though it seems likely that by now Elizabeth had finally and regretfully decided that the Leicester ship had finally sailed. Off down the river Soar presumably. Maitland and his confederate colleagues liked it because it might neutralise Mary, once married and legally a femme couvert in law, subject to Norfolk’s control.

Into the story comes a go between, a Florentine. Not a biscuit in this case, which is a shame although a Florentine is a little fancy for my tastes, but a florentine banker, called Roberto Ridolfi. Roberto was secretly channelling funds from the Pope to English catholics. Ridolfi was in fact hunting with the hounds and running with the hare, working both for Spain and for a gent called Francis Walsingham. Of course you’ll be hearing a lot more of that name over the next few decades, but for now Walsingham is young in his career, but working with Cecil to build and deploy a network of agents, and Ridolfi offered to get the Spanish governor in the Netherlands the Duke of Alba to negotiate with Elizabeth to end the trade war now going on. He also conspired with the French Ambassador to bring the Catholic religion back to England, and then contacted Mary herself.

Meanwhile, Mary and Norfolk were conducting a romance by correspondence – Mary had leapt at the idea of marrying Norfolk, a much better catch than Dudley had been.

I will live and die with you ‘

She wrote

Neither prison one way nor liberty the other, nor all such accidents good or bad shall persuade me to depart from that faith and obedience I have promised you

Norfolk demonstrated he was his girl’s best friend by sending a sparkly diamond, saying he had always held it very dear.

This went on for 12 months. As a plan goes it was thoroughly exciting – and had absolutely zero chance of success. It would of course need Elizabeth’s agreement, and it would be a long cold day in hell before she agreed to any such thing, which would clearly set Mary up as a rival.  Unless it was accompanied by rebellion of course that forced Elizabeth to agree. And as far as Ridolfi was concerned, rebellion was on the cards; in May 1569 he prepared a paper called ‘The Enterprise of England’ and hawked it around to the Spanish embassy. Meanwhile he continued to meet with Walsingham to sell information. Really, there’s no trusting some people. We’ll come back to old Roberto some time in the future.

Anyway, meanwhile Moray had also done the dirty. He also had been keen on the plan, but realised that Mary might use it to regain her position, so he sent some letters of Norfolk on to Elizabeth. Elizabeth had been crouched on the ground with her ear pressed against the floor for a while and had heard rumours; she’d asked Norfolk difficult questions which he’d blandly batted away. Now Leicester was getting nervous – because the batting away was increasingly looking suspicious and treasonous – so he also spilled the beans. Now Elizabeth hit the roof, and Norfolk was forced to ‘fess up. He then fled the summer progress to go home to Kenninghall, and shivered in a cold sweat. He wasn’t entirely cautious, suggesting he was ready for rebellion by saying that he ‘would have friends enough to assist him’. He wrote to his friends in the North, the Earls of Westmoreland and Northumberland and told them not to stir yet. Now that was suspicious – why would they be stirring?

Although many on the PC tried to re-assure the Queen that Norfolk wasn’t treacherous, Elizabeth was in something of a panic by all accounts, memories of being trapped by her big sister in the tower, and she actually fainted before pulling herself together. Norfolk was summoned twice to come to court; first time he gave some lame excuse, second time he realised that it was fight or flight time, and off to court he went…except he was diverted on the way into the Tower. And nobody bothered to give him a key. He wasn’t the only one to be carpeted for the dalliance with Mary – the others who had argued for the idea with the Duke were also carpeted. Earls of Arundel and Pembroke were questioned and ordered into house arrest, the queen confessed herself ‘grievously offended’ by Leicester but since he’d spilt the beans and grassed everyone up, he was allowed to stay as teacher’s pet. Cecil saw a chance to catch Mary plotting, but a search of her papers revealed nothing incriminating. This time.

So that’s all fine then, everyone can go back to their Voltas and galliards. Except not. There was more to come.

One of the truths whispered around the corridors of England’s enemies was that the north of England was the Achilles’ heel of the realm, the bit missed when Thetis dipped the nation in the River Styx. The north, it was said, was a hot bed of Catholicism, full of angry Catholics ready to rise in support of any invasion or rebellion and throw off the yoke of the evil protestant bastard and return in glory to Rome. And there was a kernel of truth in this, in that traditional religion was still strongest in the north.

Also, I should remind you of the economic background; you know the gig. Rising population, meaning rising prices, along with inflation that ate away at real income for wage labourers. So if you were a yeoman farmer with a bit of land, this was party time – costs of your labourers rising slowly, income from your produce rising faster. If you were a wage labourer this was a bit of a ‘mare – more competition for work, so more unemployment or under employment, real cost of living rising ahead of wage growth. The result was hardship and a growth of crime and vagrancy that had the well-heeled in a panic about the many headed hydra of the poor, while the poor simply tried hard to keep body and soul together.

We’ve talked in this podcast at various times about the great Tudor rebellions, the last time being 1549 and Kett’s Rebellion; through the Tudor years, what with the Prayer book rebellion and the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, Wyatt’s rebellion, it had almost become part of the scenery; also in episode 282, back in October when life was still free and easy, I talked about the forms of protest and their resolution. I think you might remember from that was that riot was in some ways part of the conversation in society, a safety valve. When a riot occurred, JPs, the lords lieutenant and local landowners all rushed in, and unlike those big ticket events the villages were not decorated with gallows – maybe some pillories but essentially things got sorted out, usually the grievance was addressed or partly addressed, and everyone went back to things. Without doubt economic distress was part of the picture in the frequency of riot in the Tudor century.

In 1569 then, before Norfolk was locked up, there had already been three popular uprisings or riots. In Derbyshire a camp had grown around a man peddling political prophecies; In Cumberland there were up to 1000 destroying local enclosures; in Suffolk, trouble in the cloth trade led to an uprising against foreign cloth workers and a march on London. None of these went very far. There were many general reasons why uprisings and riot usually did not spread; negotiation as I have said; and the growth of social control in the parish as the mechanism of the poor Law spread – essentially if you were caught in riot, you might not get that monetary support from the parish you were hoping for. There was another more fundamental reason though, and that lay in the social changes brought about by the economic good times for landowners. Once upon a time, the yeomanry had been critical in leading popular revolts – think of Robert Kett, himself a yeoman accused of enclosure at one point, but leader of the revolting commons. Now the gap between yeoman and wage labourer was growing; less and less did the yeomanry identify with villagers, more and more they identified with Gentry, and were inclined to supress riot rather than lead it. Thus, the poor found themselves abandoned by their natural leaders, and by the 17th century, the nature of protest will change.

However, none of this occurred to the Earls of Westmoreland and Northumberland in 1569. By the way, quick quiz question for you; Westmoreland no longer exits as a county. So, what was its county town when it existed? First right answer will get a round of applause. Anyway, Norfolk’s nose had been put out of joint by Cecil and Dudley’s pre-eminence, and thus he’d been susceptible to the lure of a hook up with Mary. Westmoreland and Northumberland were also feeling all out of love. You might remember, if it wasn’t too dull, that one of the reasons for the success of Elizabethan government was the intersection of the matrix of government and social hierarchy – i.e. members of the court and privy council were often also local JPs, landholders and office holders? Were you listening when I said that or had you drifted off? If you were listening you might have noticed I said this wasn’t really the case with the north of England; the traditional peers in the north – Northumberland, Westmoreland, Cumberland, Dacre et al were rarely at court and not on the PC, and so there was a greater disconnect between central and local government. So in an attempt to retain some sort of central control, the traditional lords were booted out of offices, and southern softies brought in from outside by the PC. The northern peers were also miffed by religious changes; they remained often a friend to traditional practice, and the growth of protestantism not only offended them, but also removed them from the opportunity to fulfil part of their traditional role – after 1563, Catholics outwardly recusing could no longer be appointed to the PC, or acts as JPs. That’s reasonably disastrous for local prestige, but also it’s a negation of the raison d’etre for the nobility; to serve the monarch. As we’ll talk of in some future episode, for the Catholic nobility, it is an exclusion that strikes deep.

When Norfolk was put in the Tower and after he’d written to them the two earls Westmoreland and Northumberland frankly panicked a little; had they also been rumbled – as indeed they had. They consulted priests and wrote to the Pope; interestingly, they told the pope that only if he excommunicated Elizabeth did they believe Catholic support would rise against Elizabeth, and indeed only this, the authorisation of the Pope, would justify their rebellion. In London, Thomas Radcliffe, the earl of Sussex advised Elizabeth to offer the pair pardons for their plotting; but the queen’s blood was up and she insisted on their arrest. It pushed the pair over the edge – they saw no alternative to rebellion.

On 13th November 1569 the northern earls and 300 of their supporters stormed into Durham cathedral, overturned the communion table and with it symbolically the protestant religion, and mass was once more celebrated. Their appeal to potential fellow rebels was specifically one of religion; they declared their aim to remove those ‘disordered and evil disposed persons’ around the queen who subverted the true religion, the ancient nobility and the true succession. Within days, contemporaries claimed 5-6,000 had gathered. Sending poorly armed volunteers home, the earls marched to Ripon where another mass was held at the collegiate church. The rebels carried banners that reflected the Pilgrimage of Grace, even ones showing the five Wounds of Christ. On 28th November, they issued another call to arms; and by mid December there were some successes – Hartlepool had fallen to one contingent, Barnard Castle to another.

But there was a problem. The rebellion simply failed to draw enough support. Really only Lord Dacre joined the rebels of the major nobility of the north – others like the Earl of Cumberland set their faces firmly against rebellion. And the ordinary people of the north, even most of those well disposed towards Catholicism and the aims of the rebels, favoured loyalty to the queen above loyalty to the church. This rebellion, often referred to as the ‘northern rising’ by the way, is often presented as the last of the feudal rebellions – of great lords flexing their muscles against the crown, drawing on their tenants and satrapies. If so, then the feudal rebellions went with a whimper rather than a bang. Very few even of the Earls’ tenants came to join them. Maybe it would have had a chance of success if Mary had managed to join them, or they’d managed to release her – though who knows.

So there they were, the northern lords and their rebels, as the Queen’s army approached from the south, and did the 16th century equivalent of ‘my name is inigo de Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’ And a bit like the film, the earls turned and legged it for Scotland, leaving the ordinary folk to receive the fury of a threatened queen. They decided that following the leader was a great song to sing, and also legged it.

The way that Elizabeth dealt with the aftermath tells us a couple of things. Firstly, she was a good traditional Tudor. While the percentage of rebels she had killed doesn’t come up to that of Mary and Wyatt’s rebellion, the absolute number far exceeds it – 900 in total when the dealing’s done. Everyone gets very exciting about how horrid Henry VIII was, but he had only around 200 rebels executed after the massive pilgrimage of Grace. So you know, just’ saying’. The earl of Northumberland was sold back to the English for £2,000 by the Scots. Since many a mickle maks a muckle, and then executed in 1572; Westmoreland fled to the continent and died in penury in 1601.

The aftermath also shows that Elizabeth was pretty canny, if cold-hearted – she made sure that anyone with money or land was arrested and then attainted before being executed; which meant all their lands came to the crown. The failure of the rebellion owed much to the changing face of society as discussed, but it also owed much to Elizabeth’s political skill; the 2 earls found themselves largely alone, and most Catholics stayed loyal. Elizabeth also managed the propaganda afterwards – a new homily joined those regularly read to church goers, called the Homily against disobedience and Wilful rebellion. Meanwhile, when the confiscated wealth came to be re-distributed, loyal members of the gentry were sought out and rewarded. A new president was appointed to the Council of the North, and was not from the local peerage – the Earl of Huntingdon relied on the PC for his power, not on this local connections. And he pursued court policy, rigorously prosecuting recusants and appointing proven protestants as preachers.

Although a miserable failure, the northern rising set a precedent damaging to Catholicism, because it associated the religion with rebellion and treachery against the state. A blizzard of ballads, sermons and pamphlets appeared from southern protestants, often using the terms papist and traitor as synonymous. It is the start of a sad trend, but maybe it needn’t have been. But sadly into this muddy puddle in 1570 was firmly, messily and disastrously stomped the embroidered slipper of the Pope.


Marshall, Peter. Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation (Kindle Locations 10946-10947). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

15 thoughts on “296 Rising of the North

  1. Appleby (now Appleby-in-Westmorland) was Westmorland’s county town, while Kendal was the actual administrative centre.

    1. Ah! Not only have you got the answer right, but also taught me something in the process. A double whammy.

  2. Great stuff as always!

    I do find that the importance of the events of the late 1560’s-early 1570’s in Britain (Mary’s downfall, the Rising of the North, the Ridolfi Plot, Elizabeth’s excomuniation) is often underestimated, not just because they were, as you noted, the last round of old style feudal uprisings but also because they marked, IMO at least, the end of the great tug of war between Catholics and Protestants.

    The Catholic Queen of Scotland and wannaba heiress to England had been deposed and her supporters defeated, leading to the rise of the strongly Protestant regency in her former kingdom. South of the border the power of the great northern magnates had been broken, the northern nobility and gentry often found their political importance diminished, Norfolk and his political allies had been removed from the scene one way or another and Elizabeth’s excomunication had backfired in the most disastrous way for English Catholicism.

    To be sure, a Catholic power bloc will remain in Scotland around the Gordons of Huntly and the English Catholics would continue to make their presence felt on the political stage for a long time but any realistic plan for a Catholic restoration in England and Scotland now had to rest on a foreign invasion. The time when British Catholicism could hope to prevail by its own mean was over. In my opinion this is really the moment were we can start to call England and Scotland Protestant countries.

  3. Am I the only one who was slightly discombobulated by having THoE and THoS covering the same events in the same week? Not in a bad way, but I keep forgetting which history I’m listening to, so I forget who I’m rooting for.

    1. I planned it badly – it is most discombobulating. Scotland should overtake England now though, so hopefully it’s temporary

      1. Hey, personally I do like seeing the same events through two different perspectives at once, gives you a good overview 🙂

      2. I imagine planning wasn’t the problem; it was bound to happen as Scotland is moving faster and would probably anyways have overtaken England. It was just a question of when that would occur. So no blame should be cast upon you, sir.
        Really, it’s pretty amusing, as I often find my confusion is. And I’ve often felt that kids should at some point be taught (or made to read) histories or biographies of opposite sides to hammer home the importance of perspective on history.

        1. Yes that’s true actually – it was bound to happen – still confusing. Also it IS an interesting lesson in unconscious bias. When writing the Scottish series I am mildly outraged by Cecil. When writing for England, I am cheering him to protect his queen from teh threat of assassination. Odd.

  4. A spectacularly good episode, both clear and thrilling, many thanks.
    I’m glad Elizabeth got some credit for supporting a fellow member of the tiny community of queens regnant. Throckmorton felt that Elizabeth’s anger was all that stood between Mary and murder while she was at Lochleven, and Elizabeth did try several times to get the Scots to take her back. Not her fault that they wouldn’t have a Mary back with a pound of tea.
    And thanks for the reference to the removal of Mary’s “turbulent” husband. The murder of Darnley resembles that of Becket, except that Mary made one direct contribution. Like Henry II, she loudly announced that somebody needed to help her get rid of her enemy. And then carefully didn’t notice people carrying out her wishes. But she made a direct contribution (in addition to pardoning the Rizzio murderers). After a huge public bust up with Mary, Darnley had retreated to the Lennox lands to sulk (and be really ill). Knocking him off required winkling him out into the open, and that’s what Mary did: she went to him, staged a big reconciliation and took him to Edinburgh, so Bothwell et al. could take their shot unimpeded. As they did. With actions like that, who needs the Casket Letters? Although the letters do see traditional gender roles at work in one way: they recast a political plot as the kind of adultery drama that people would expect from a Wicked Woman (TM).
    Thanks again for another excellent episode. These really are high points of my fortnights in COVID time.

    1. Thank you! I did not mention the fact that Mary goes to get Darnley – of course there’s a limit to how much I include; but as you suggest, I amybe shopuld have done – I had not interpreted that as delivering Darnley to her enemies, but it could just be….

      1. No problem. I’m amazed at how much detail you pack into every podcast. I think Mary knew what she was doing, and that only a complete idiot would have given Darnley a third chance to sell her out. Also the very rapid switch from “natural and loving wife” to indifferent/relieved widow is striking. But at least one historian ascribed her behavior to a “womanly zeal for nursing” (!).

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