Queen Elizabeth I sought to bring about a religious settlement with the objective of establishing in England a protestant Anglican Church with herself as the Supreme Governor.
History records that her task was accomplished with the "minimum of persecution" (just the right amount of persecution perhaps?). Things however began to fray around the edges when Mary Queen of Scots fled to England, seemingly because the Scots got fed up with her mismanagement of Scottish affairs. The problem for QEI was that Mary was a catholic claimant to the English throne and therefore more than a bit of an embarrassment.
So Liz locked Mary away in various castles (including the local Castle Bolton in Wensleydale). Mary amused herself by becoming the centre of numerous conspiracies to overthrow the "upstarts" who had displaced the ancient aristocracy.
The basic idea was to marry Mary to Norfolk, England's only Duke. This combination represented a serious threat to Liz but Norfolk seemed undecided and continued to delay until Liz invited him to London whereupon she locked him in the Tower.
Liz had correctly suspected that the Earls of Northumberland, Westmorland and Cumberland (Percies, Nevilles and Cliffords) were involved in the conspiracy and accordingly invited them to London. The Earls guessed their accommodation would be the Tower and opted instead for a rebellion which began at about midnight on the 9 November 1569.
There was some popular support. The Catholic faith had survived in the North and there was real resentment against the extension of Tudor domination and Liz's new men. In general though there was little enthusiasm. The Earl's had to bully and cajole to raise any semblance of an army. As Sir George Bowes, the defender (against the rebels) of Barnard Castle complained: "Yorkshire never goeth to war but for wages.......".
Sir George doubted the allegiance of Richmond:
"the inhabytants of the Towne of Rychmond were the onlye people to be dowted of in these parts."
The Earl of Northumberland did indeed muster his troops in Richmond on the 16 November offering great wages to all who came forth and burning for those who did not (not much of a choice really!). It seems that most people told the Earl what to do with himself. Whether motivated by loyalty to Liz, (they did supply her with stockings after all), great courage, lack of conviction or just the knowledge that they outnumbered the Earl, is not known.
Sir George Bowes remained unconvinced about Richmond but perhaps he misjudged. On 28 November the annoyed Earl of Northumberland returned with 1000 horsemen and a few foot soldiers and "spoiled" the town. Around the 23 November a few wealthy inhabitants willingly joined the rebellion (just as it neared collapse). This defection did not go unnoticed and this time the other side led by Lord Willoughby ransacked the surrounding countryside.
Sir George was appointed provost marshal and martial law was declared (except of course for the wealthy who were exempt). Liz ordered that 700 of the rif-raf be executed (the wealthy would forfeit their estates to help fund the Crown's costs), 200 of these were to be from or around Richmond. On the 8 January the provost marshal arrived. Questioning of the prisoners began and on the 10 January the executions were carried out. How many were actually executed is not known but seemingly it was a smaller number, perhaps around 57, 12 of whom were from Richmond.
The decade after the Rebellion was a difficult period for Catholics who faced constant persecution. Religious meetings were held in secret away from the eyes of unfriendly informants. It seems however that the few gentry who were accused in court of holding Catholic beliefs were the "mere tip of a great pyramid" which represented a hidden underground movement.
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Source: A History of Richmond & Swaledale
R. Fieldhouse & B. Jennings