Richard Le Scrope, born around 1450, was the third son of his parents, Baron Scrope of Masham and his wife Joan, and from a relatively early age, was destined for the Church. Following a rise up the ecclesiastical ladder, beginning with a small position as rector near Northallerton in 1368, Scrope was given subsequent positions as a warden at Tickhill Castle, deacon to Thomas Arundel, Bishop of Ely before eventually gaining a Papal consecration as Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield in 1386.
As Scrope had taken time out to study both Canon and civil law at Cambridge graduating with doctorates in 1383, he was often called upon to attend secular disputes, particularly with his attendance in Scotland on diplomatic missions for King Richard II, and again to Rome, to further the Kings proposed canonisation of Edward II with the Pope. In 1398, his position was translated to Archbishop of York.
Scrope was in attendance in 1399, when Richard abdicated his throne to Henry Bolingbroke at the Tower of London, and again the following day was one of the personal escorts, alongside Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, when the new King Henry IV to his throne.
In 1403, The Percys rose up against the new King, allying themselves with Owain Glyndwr, self-proclaimed Prince of Wales, in retribution for what they saw as a failure of Henry to provide them with suitable rewards for their support in helping him overthrow King Richard and take the throne. Raising an army, Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, the Earl of Northumberland’s son and the Earl of Worcester, the Earl’s brother met with the Kings forces at the Battle of Shrewsbury on July 21st. Hotspur was killed in the battle, and the Kings army were victorious on the day.
Worcester was beheaded two days later. Northumberland had been absent from the field, not having reached it in time. He retreated back to the North followed by the Earl of Westmoreland, under orders from the King to keep Northumberland in the North. Percy subsequently re-pledged his allegiance to the King, but just two years later, re-allied himself with Glyndwr, and other unhappy nobles, and once again rose against the King.
Ralph Neville, had been in attendance alongside Percy at the abdication of Richard II, and subsequent coronation of Henry IV and for his services received the title Earl of Westmoreland. Despite being placed in the North, Westmoreland was unable to secure much of the wardenship of the Marches, due to the monopoly of the Percys, which led to growing friction between the two families. Following the Battle of Shrewsbury and the defeat of Northumberland, Neville was granted the West Marches.
When Northumberland subsequently rose again in 1405, it was his intention to capture Westmoreland, from the outset, attacking his castle at Witton-le-Wear. Westmoreland however had already escaped and marched south with his army alongside the Duke of Bedford, Henry’s son, put down a force of Percy’s men at Topcliffe and continued onwards to confront the gathering rebels at their congregation at Shipton Moor, outside of York.
Due to his familial relationship with the Percys through his younger brother John’s marriage to the young widow of Northumberland’s second son Thomas Percy, and his sister’s marriage to their tenant, William Plumpton, Richard Scrope was undoubtedly in support of the Percys for this uprising although his loyalty to either faction was never tested. It has since been a matter of debate, in what capacity Scrope attended the Shipton Moor gathering. Some saying his presence was merely a requirement of his office, to perform religious rites both before and after the impending battle. Other theories suggest Scrope had provided forces of his own raising and was openly declaring himself for the Percys. The most obvious answer is that Scrope was merely looking for an opportunity to raise his unhappiness at Henry’s plans to appropriate the church’s land wealth, albeit temporarily.
Alongside him were his brother in law, Plumpton, and the young Thomas de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, who was allegedly supporting Northumberland in retaliation for the harsh treatment he felt the King had awarded him following his father’s involvement in the Duke of Gloucester affair in Calais, and the older Norfolk and Henry’s subsequent banishment by Richard II following which Norfolk died of plague in 1399 whilst Henry returned to England to rise against Richard.
When Westmoreland arrived at Shipton on the 27th May, 1405, he was slightly alarmed to see Northumberland’s forces under Scrope numbering around 8000 men, significantly larger than his own numbers. Rather than risk engaging the rebel force, Westmoreland took advantage of Scrope’s intention to talk rather than fight, to trick him into a form of surrender, by agreeing to hear and settle the rebel’s malcontent, in return for the disbandment of their forces.
Scrope agreed to the plan, although Mowbray remained nervous, and the army were sent home on the 29th without a drop of bloodshed. However as soon as their forces were removed, Westmoreland placed his hand on Scrope’s shoulder and formally placed the three men under arrest by power of the King and had them removed to Pontefract Castle, whilst hastily trying to convene a council with which to try them for their ‘treason’. Scrope continued to protest his innocence, declaring his interests were merely of voicing concerns on behalf of the Church, and requesting an audience with the King, which he was denied.
The King arrived on June 3rd, and after refusing the three their right to a trial by their Peers, convened instead a commission headed by Thomas Arundel and Sir Thomas Beaufort. Arundel raced to York to plead for clemency, Henry refused and convened Sir William Gascoigne as Chief Justice, and lawyer William Fulthorpe to sit in judgement, as the kangaroo court took place in Scrope’s own hall at his home in Bishopthorpe. Gascoigne refused to participate in the illegitimate proceedings or to pronounce sentence on a Bishop, leaving it to Fulthorpe to deliver the guilty verdict.
On the 8th June 1405, Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Norfolk, and William Plumpton were taken to a field, outside the walls of York and in front of a large crowd, executed. Scrope allowed the others to go first, particularly young Mowbray who was aged just 19 and terrified of his imminent execution. Mowbray’s head was summarily spiked on Bootham Bar for a period of roughly two months. Scrope requested that the executioner deliver five blows to his neck representative of the five wounds of Christ. His body was subsequently by permission of the King, interred in the Lady Chapel of York Minster as was his right as a Bishop.
Westmoreland did not hang around to see the fruits of his labours, having being rewarded for his efforts in quelling the uprising without bloodshed was granted a large portion of the Northumberland estates, he made his way north the day after the King arrived in York. Henry Percy never made his way to Shipton to join his rebel comrades, instead he fled to Scotland and on to Holland. He returned in 1407 to Scotland and raised a new force, taking on Henry’s forces in the Battle of Bramham Moor in February 1408. During the course of this battle, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland was killed.