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Yorkshire Rebellion

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Yorkshire Rebellion

The Yorkshire Rebellion was a minor rebellion that took place in 1489 during the reign of Henry VII. Popular dissatisfaction with a tax intended to raise revenue for the crown for military expenditures sparked the rebellion. Although it was a relatively insignificant and completely unsuccessful rebellion, it does have some significance in Tudor history, mainly because of the murder of the Earl of Northumberland and because it was the first tax rebellion Henry VII faced during his reign. Let us learn more about the causes, events and outcomes of this rebellion.

Yorkshire Rebellion 1489 timeline

Here is a brief outline of the events of the Yorkshire Rebellion.

Date

Event

20 April 1489

The rebellion began when the people of Yorkshire voiced their displeasure with the new taxation.

28 April 1489

After Henry VII refused to refrain from taxing Yorkshire, the Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy, was assassinated by a group of rebels Robert Chamber led.

13 May 1489

The rebellion, now numbering about 5000, marched south toward Doncaster under the leadership of Sir John Egremont.

15 May 1489

The rebels retreated and captured the city of York.

20 May 1489

The Earl of Surrey, sent with force, reached York and put down the rebellion with ease.

24 May 1489

Henry VII arrives in York.

Period of the Yorkshire Rebellion

The Yorkshire Rebellion took place during an unstable period in Tudor history. Henry VII had been King for less than four years at the time of the rebellion, and his position on the throne was still precarious, primarily because of the numerous rebellions he faced. His reputation in Yorkshire was particularly bad – why is that?

Yorkshire Rebellion: The War of the Roses

In 1485 Henry VII won the Battle of Bosworth against Richard III, ending the 30-year conflict known as the War of the Roses. Richard III was a Yorkist king, and Henry VII claimed the throne through his distant Lancastrian heritage.

In the early years of Henry VII’s reign, tensions were high in Yorkshire and the North in general, as there was a high level of Yorkist opposition to Henry VII. One of the main concerns of Henry VII, as he had not been king for long and was therefore worried about unrest in the north.

Yorkshire Rebellion The roses representing the House of Lancaster on the left and the House of York on the right StudySmarterThe roses representing the House of Lancaster on the left and the House of York on the right, Wikimedia Commons

Yorkshire Rebellion: Concerns about Scotland

In addition to the great resentment against Henry VII, Yorkshire was also worrisome because of its proximity to Scotland. If unrest broke out in Yorkshire and the North, there was always the possibility that Scotland would ally with the North and help overthrow Henry VII. Therefore, it was important to stop any sign of rebellion in the North before it could become too dangerous.

Causes of the Yorkshire Rebellion

Now that we know the background of the rebellion and why it was a problem for Henry VII, we should look at the causes.

The Yorkshire rebellion was an economic rebellion. It was sparked by popular anger over a new tax to fund foreign policy in Brittany. Exacerbated by poor harvests in 1488, the people of Yorkshire felt this tax was unjust and did not want to pay it. When the royal tax collectors came to collect the tax, they were met with hostility, especially in Yorkshire.

Yorkshire Rebellion: What was the tax for?

In 1489, Henry VII decided to support Brittany in its quest to remain independent of France. He believed Brittany could be a useful ally for England. To accomplish this, Henry needed to raise 100,000 pounds, so he asked Parliament to grant him extraordinary revenues to be raised through taxes. The tax that was levied was an early form of income tax.

Yorkshire Rebellion: Ordinary and extraordinary revenue

What were extraordinary revenues, and how did they differ from ordinary revenues?

Ordinary revenues were the basic income received by the Crown each year. They came from the profits of the Crown lands, customs duties, judicial profits and feudal taxes. They were collected annually and were considered a right of the king.

Extraordinary revenues were revenues that the ing could request in times of need – for example, to finance a war. He had to ask Parliament for them, which then voted on whether or not to grant them. If granted, extraordinary revenues were usually raised through taxes or loans.

Henry VII ended up taking in only about £30,000 through taxation.

Yorkshire Rebellion: Conditions in Yorkshire

In Yorkshire, this new tax was compounded because the harvest the year before had not been good. Therefore, even before the tax was introduced, the people of Yorkshire were struggling more than usual. Imposing a tax on them at this difficult time was considered a step too far.In addition, other counties in the North were exempt from the tax because it was agreed they needed funds to defend the country if Scotland invaded. Yorkshire was unhappy that other Northern counties were exempt from the tax, but they were not.

Key figures of the Yorkshire Rebellion

The following table lists the key figures of this rebellion – both on the side of the rebels and the side of the King.

FigureAllegianceExplanation
Henry Percy, Earl of NorthumberlandHenry VIISympathetic to the rebels

Henry Percy, who sympathised with the rebels, was the 4th Earl of Northumberland and a significant figure in controlling the North of England. Although he had previously served Richard III during the Wars of the Roses, he won the favour of Henry VII.

He sympathised with the people of Yorkshire when they complained about the new tax and sent a message to Henry VII to share their feelings and ask for a postponement of the tax.

However, Henry VII disagreed, and the Earl of Northumberland had to return empty-handed. In a shocking turn of events, he was killed on 28 April 1489 by a group of rebels led by Robert Chamber.

Thomas Howard, Earl of SurreyHenry VII

Thomas Howard was loyal to Henry VII and commanded the troops sent to put down the York rebellion. After the murder of the Earl of Northumberland, the Earl of Surrey became Henry VII’s lieutenant in northern England, as the new Earl of Northumberland was not old enough to run the county himself.

Robert ChamberRebel

Robert Chamber was a yeoman from Ayton, Yorkshire. He was the first leader of the rebellion and led the group of rebels who assassinated the Earl of Northumberland. He left the leadership of the rebellion to Sir John Egremont. At the end of the rebellion, he was one of the few who were rounded up, convicted of treason and sentenced to death.

Sir John EgremontRebel

Sir John Egremont Rebel Sir John Egremont was a nobleman and cousin of the Earl of Northumberland. He led the Yorkshire Rebellion after the death of the Earl of Northumberland.

Since Egremont’s father, Thomas Percy, was not known to have married, it is assumed that John Egremont was illegitimate. Some historians have interpreted Egremont’s role in leading the rebellion as more personal – the Earl of Northumberland had denied Egremont his father’s lands after his death.

Significant events of the Yorkshire Tax Rebellion

The Yorkshire Rebellion was small and unsuccessful, but two particular events of this rebellion stand out:

  • The murder of the Earl of Northumberland
  • The capture of the city of York

These two events initially led to a localised anger over taxes turning into a full-blown rebellion that so preoccupied Henry VII that after the rebellion, he travelled to Yorkshire to pardon some of the rebels and help quell the unrest.

Analysis and impact of the Yorkshire Rebellion

The Yorkshire Rebellion can be considered a significant event because it illustrates Henry VII’s difficulties in the early years of his reign.

In addition, it also stands out for the type of challenge it posed to Henry VII. Unlike the other rebellions of his reign up to this point, this rebellion was economically motivated and not due to problems with the Tudor dynasty. In this respect, it was a more ‘normal’ challenge for Henry VII, as it was a rebellion against taxes that every monarch had to deal with to test their ability to govern.

Henry VII’s response to the rebellion and his pardon of many of the rebels is a hallmark of the early years of his reign. Following rebellions, Henry often severely punished only a few rebels, usually the leaders, and pardoned all others.Henry did this because he did not want to be seen as a cruel king, especially not while his place on the throne was not yet completely secure because he knew further rebellions against him could ensue. It was part of his strategy to consolidate his power and establish the Tudor dynasty.

Yorkshire Rebellion - Key takeaways

  • The Yorkshire Rebellion was an economic rebellion in 1489 against a tax to fund Henry VIIs military campaigns.
  • Henry VII was concerned about this rebellion because his position on the throne was still uncertain, and he feared that Scotland would join the rebellion to overthrow him.
  • The people of York were especially upset about the tax, as they had just had a bad harvest and were already in trouble, while other places in the north had been offered a tax exemption.
  • The revolt was unsuccessful, but there were two significant events: the rebels with whom the Duke of Northumberland had been sympathetic murdered him and succeeded in taking York.
  • The Yorkshire Rebellion was the first tax rebellion Henry VII faced, unlike the rebellions against his position on the throne, making it an important event in his reign.

Frequently Asked Questions about Yorkshire Rebellion

In 1489, a new tax was introduced to finance Henry VII’s foreign policy in Brittany. The people of Yorkshire were not happy with this, and so a group of them started a rebellion to try and stop the tax. The Earl of Northumberland was killed and the city of York was captured before the rebellion was eventually defeated by an army led by the Earl of Surrey.

The Yorkshire Rebellion was a tax rebellion. A tax was implemented in 1489 to fund the King’s campaign in Brittany, which angered the people of Yorkshire as they felt it was unjust.

The Yorkshire Rebellion was eventually defeated by a force led by the Earl of Surrey.

The Earl of Northumberland was murdered by a small group of rebels on 28 April 1489.

It is estimated that around 5,000 people were part of the rebellion at its height.

Final Yorkshire Rebellion Quiz

Question

When did the Yorkshire Rebellion take place?

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Answer

1497

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Question

How long did the rebellion last?

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Answer

One month

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Question

What type of rebellion was the Yorkshire Rebellion?

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Answer

An economic rebellion

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Question

Who was murdered during the Yorkshire Rebellion?

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Answer

The Earl of Northumberland

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Question

Why didn't Henry give Yorkshire an exemption from the tax?

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Answer

He didn't want to be seen as weak

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Question

How much did Henry VII want to raise in extraordinary revenue?

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Answer

£100,000

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How much did Henry VII end up raising from the tax?

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Answer

Around £30,000

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Question

Who was the main leader of the Yorkshire Rebellion?

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Answer

Sir John Egremont

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Question

Which city did the rebels capture?

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Answer

York

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What did ordinary revenue encompass?

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Answer

Customs duties, feudal duties, profits from crown lands

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Who led the force that defeated the rebels?

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Answer

The Earl of Surrey

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Question

The tax that caused the rebellion was part of what type of income?

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Answer

Extraordinary revenue

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Question

Why were some Northern counties exempt from the tax?

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Answer

They were expected to use their resources to defend England in the case of a Scottish invasion

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Question

What had happened the year before the rebellion that had made the tax particularly unwelcome in Yorkshire?

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Answer

A poor harvest

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Question

What particular danger was there with a rebellion rising in the North of England?

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Answer

The danger that Scotland would use it to invade

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