Archbishop of York Beheaded
No period of English politics better fits comparison with gangsterism than the reign of Henry IV . The shifting loyalties, ambitions, family feuds and grabs for power from the end of Richard II ’s reign to the later years of his usurper’s are complex, confusing, and deeply amoral. The rebellion that led to the execution of Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, is an excellent example: ostensibly in defence of Richard II’s line, in reality about family matters and money (Henry after church funds).
Henry seized the throne while Richard II was in Ireland. One of the men left in charge during his absence was William Scrope, summarily executed for treason by the then Henry Bolingbroke before he became Henry IV. William’s kinsman Richard, made Archbishop of York by Richard II, thus had a vendetta with Henry IV.
Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Norfolk , was Scrope’s co-conspirator. Mowbray’s father had died in exile imposed because of a quarrel arising from a conspiracy with Bolingbroke, also exiled, and young Thomas was denied his hereditary title of Duke of Norfolk by Henry IV. The third conspirator – or gang member - Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland , abandoned them when they were betrayed by an informant.
When his force was confronted by the King’s army Scrope naively accepted promises of good treatment, and disbanded his followers. He and Mowbray were promptly imprisoned in Pontefract Castle , then moved to York where Henry oversaw their fate. On June 8 one judge asked to condemn the Archbishop refused given his right to a religious court, but another had no such scruples. Scrope and Mowbray were beheaded outside the city walls and the Archbishop buried in York Minster .
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