1489: Yorkshire Rebellion


Under one month



Main aims/causes

Protests at collection of subsidy for foreign policy purposes.

  • Yorkshiremen felt Brittany was not their concern
  • New sort of tax was an additional burden in a poor area

Subsidiary causes

Poor harvest of 1488 increased degree of poverty

Yorkist sympathy of region – this was certainly Henry’s fear


  • First: Robert Chamber, a yeoman (gentleman) of York
  • Later: Sir John Egremont, bastard member of the Percy family


  • No more efforts to collect the tax in Yorkshire
  • Some salutary executions, but Egremont made his peace with Henry and later received several manors from him
  • Henry recognises north remains Yorkist in sentiment – spends more of his time there
  • Establishment of Tudor’s Council of the North

Level of threat

Low – limited support, no influential leadership, and no march south

Success or failure?

Quite successful. Attempts to collect the tax were abandoned and there was no widespread retribution. The north came under firmer government control as a result, but this did not prevent further trouble flaring in the same region during the Pilgrimage of Grace.


Henry VII had sheltered at the court of the Duke of Brittany during the reign of Richard III. In 1489, when Brittany was threatened by France, he decided to send aid and parliament voted a £100,000 subsidy to fund an expedition.

A subsidy was a form of income tax and there was widespread resistance to it, especially in the north, which was required to fund defences against the Scots and saw Henry’s desire to help Brittany as his own business. When previous exceptional taxes had been raised, the north had generally been excused the need to pay. Northumberland, Westmoreland and Cumberland were all made exempt from the tax because of their poverty.

Henry called on his lords to help enforce the subsidy, but the scale of opposition to the tax nationally can be gauged by the fact that only £27,000 was raised. This increased pressure to collect from areas that had yet to contribute

The Earl of Northumberland, who supported the tax, was placed in charge of leading a commission to decide on its collection in the north. He was confronted at Cock Lodge in north Yorkshire by a group of rebels led by Robert Chamber. There was a scuffle and Northumberland was killed – the only person to die in the course of the rebellion.

The rebels wrote asking for a royal pardon but this was denied. Instead, Henry VII sent an army of 8,000, led by the Earl of Surrey. The rebels dispersed as it approached.

Chamber was tried and hanged, but there was no general retribution against those who had protested.

Reasons for success

  • Recognition that the subsidy was both unpopular and difficult to collect
  • Concern that the north, with its traditionally Yorkist sympathies, needed to be handled carefully to prevent further trouble
  • Lack of a prominent leader was probably both a pro and con for the rebels. It limited any chance that the rebellion would become more widespread, but made it easier for the king to treat the rebels leniently

Key stats, quotes, and views

‘The first Tudor, his formative years spent in Brittany and France, was unfamiliar with the careful compromises and structures of consent on which English government rested.’

  • Fletcher & McCulloch

Northumberland’s death is best seen as the result of a row or a riot rather than the planned outcome of a rebellion

The Yorkshire rebels were not organised. No manifesto or demands were issued


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