The 1569 Rebellion



In 1569, Elizabeth was worried that some of the Catholic lords were plotting to rebel and put Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne.

In November, she ordered the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland to come to London, to explain some rumours of treason that she had heard.

A series of letters kept the Queen informed about what happened next:



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The 1569 Rebellion:

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Quizlet flashcards - basic facts

Brief narrative account

S-Cool notes about the Rebellion.

Detailed narrative account

The ultimate: Cuthbert Sharp's 1840 book, Memorials of the rebellion of 1569


The 1569 Rebellion: the Rebellion Begins

1  Letter from the Council of the North to Queen Elizabeth, 15 November 1569.

The Earles doo not intende to obey your comandment they have beene at Durham with ther forces in armor, to perswade the people to take ther side; and some of ther men have throwen downe the comunion table, and torne the bible in pieces.


2  The Earls had rebelled.  The next day they explained why in their Proclamation at Darlington (16 November 1569).

Thomas, Earl of Northumberland, and Charles, Earl of Westmorland, the Queen's most trewe and lawful subjects, sendeth greeting:-

Whereas certain newe lords, near to the Quene, have set upp a new found religion and heresie.

Wherefore we are now forced to go aboute and put it right ourselves, which if we shold not do, foreigners will invade this land.

We therefore require you, being above the age of 16 years and not 60, to come unto us with all spede.

God Save The Quene!


3  Sir George Bowes was the commander of the royal garrison at Barnard Castle.  He kept Queen Elizabeth informed of what was happening.  This is his letter to the Earl of Sussex, commander of the royal army, 17 November 1569.

They held Masse yesterday at Darlington; and John Swinburn, with a staffe, drove before him the poor folks, to hasten them to hear the same.


4  Mary Queen of Scots was at Tutbury Castle, near Derby; the Earls hoped to join her, and proclaim her Queen, and they set off marching south.  It would be some time before the royal army, commanded by the Earl of Sussex, could get north to defeat the rebellion.  Until then, Bowes would have to try to delay the rebels as well as he could; he kept the Earl of Sussex informed of what was happening in this letter of 15 November 1569.

There came yesterdaye, 22 rebels, northwards, verye well horsed, but had noo weapons...  They ryde of the nyghte southwards, and cometh agayne of the daye northwards, to make a show, so yt ys thought there cometh ever small numbers of unknown faces and horses.


5  In the meantime, Sir George Bowes found himself greatly outnumbered; this is his letter to the Earl of Sussex, 16 November 1569.

Thys nyght, in the evenyng, bothe th earles, with a great bande of horsmen, dyd ryde forthe, and was sene to pass sothwardes, towardes Darlington, and, as the brutte goethe, meanethe to pass to Richmond. 

Our assembly ys not great, and utterly unfurnyshed eyther of horses, armour, or good weapon.


6  And this is from a letter from the Council of the North to Queen Elizabeth, 26 November 1569.

There be assembled for us at York 2500 footmen about 500 horsemen the rebels be thought to be at least 1000 horsemen well appointed and about 6000 footmen.



The 1569 Rebellion: the Military Campaign

7  The rebels marched south to release Mary, Queen of Scots.  At Tadcaster (near York), however, they heard that she had been taken south to Coventry; the effectively defeated the rebellion.  The rebels turned back and went to capture Barnard Castle. 

This is what Bowes wrote to the Earl of Sussex, 1 December 1569:

Evene nowe, the rebells, with the two ErIles, hath camped here ....

We loke for help to your Lordship ....

I have, and shall serve dewtyfully: and so long as I shall live, I shall keep my faythe and truthe to our good Quene Elizabeth unspotted.


8  Then, on 14 December 1569, Bowes wrote this letter to Queen Elizabeth:

I was beseged by the rebells . ... wythe very hard diet and great want of bread, drynck and water . .

I fownde the people of the Castle in confinuall mutinyes...  In one daye and nyght 226 men leapyd over the walles, and opened the gaytes, and went to the enemy; of which nomber 35 broke their necks, legges or armes in the leaping.

Upon which especyall extremytyes, and that day our water being taken away, I was forced to surrender.


9  Although Barnard Castle had surrendered to the rebels, the royal armies were closing in.  The Earl of Sussex had an army of 7,000 men, and the Earl of Warwick was following with a larger army of 12,000. 

By 19 December 1569, the two royal armies had reached Darlington, and Sir Thomas Gargrave, the High Sherriff of Yorkshire, was able to write to Queen Elizabeth:

Yt may please you to know that, upon Fryday, the rebelles, hearynge of the commynge of my Lord Sussex towardes Darlington, dyd that nyght leave theyr footmen to theyr owene adventures; and they, with theyr horsmen, fled over the moors to Scotland...

My Lord of Sussex, with the horsmen and shott, ys gone after them. I do wyshe they should be mett with all, lest they make a longer troble of yt; for as I hear there ys mutyney and grudge again in Scotland; and yt ys thought that they mynd to joyn with the Scottish Quenes frendes.


10  The Earl of Westmorland escaped to Spain.  The Earl of Northumberland was captured and executed.  As for the ordinary people who had joined the rebellion, the Earl of Sussex wrote this to Queen Elizabeth, on 28 December 1569.

I meane specially to exequut the constables and other officers that have perswaded the people to rebel; and also not under 6 or 7 hundred of the comon sorte, besides prisoners taken in battle.


11  Sir George Bowes was still clearing up the after-effects of the rebellion when he wrote this letter to Queen Elizabeth, on 8 January 1570:

The executions ar done, or wyll this daye, except in Darlington, where they be wholye fledd. But I hope that upon my goynge from Darlington they will draw home, then I will send my horsemen sodenly; and hopeth, by that means, to get them.

I have made an order with the officers that they showld deale favorably with the wyfes and children...  For in all Darlington, I took from the wyfes but 8, and from those that hathe many children I take nothinge at all.