On 28th May 1405, Henry IV arrived at Derby after dashing from Hereford and informed his council of a revolt in the name of Edmund Mortimer against his rule, being called a usurper. By the previous day, 8000-9000 people had gathered on Shipton Moor outside York under the incitement of Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, and Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Norfolk, intending to link up with Henry Percy’s, Earl of Northumberland rebellious forces against the king. Henry IV asked for a rendezvous at Pontefract. The Earl of Westmorland and Henry’s son Prince John, arrived in Yorkshire from the North with their Border forces and Henry reached Pontefract on 3rd June.
On 21st November 1485, the attainder on Henry VI was reversed by Henry VII as part of the legitimisation process for his family. The Parliament that had opened twenty-four years earlier on 4th November 1461 had been an assembly designed to set a seal on a change of dynasty (from Lancaster to York) and deny the rights to the Crown of the three Lancastrian monarchs, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI and the consequent invalidation of their acts. This earlier Parliament had also sanctioned the transfer of Henry IV’s patrimony, the Duchy of Lancaster (of which Pontefract Castle had been a key element since the death of Henry de Lacy in 1311), on Edward IV and his successors. An extract from Henry VII’s Parliamentary Roll of 1485 declared: ‘…all acts of atteynder, forfeture and disablement made or hadde in the said parliament or in any parliament of the said late Kynge Edwarde, ayenst the said moste blessed prince Kynge Herry……….voyde, adnulled, repelled and of no force ne effecte.’
On 21st September 1474, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), opened a commission of oyer and terminer (judges of assize inquiring into all treasons, felonies and misdemeanours in specified counties) at Pontefract Castle. The commission, lasting until the 25th of the month, was intended to resolve peacefully a bitter dispute between two of the North’s most powerful lords, Sir John Savile and Sir John Pilkington but, unfortunately, clashes continued until Pilkington’s death in 1479. Richard’s unsuccessful intervention in this case was, nevertheless, indicative of his overall ‘calming’ influence during his tenure as ‘Lord of the North’ which improved the prospects of peace and prosperity in the region.
On 30th May 1472, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford, Countess Rivers, died. She was the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen Consort of Edward IV, and Anthony Woodville executed at Pontefract Castle in 1483 by Richard III. Having previously been wife to the Duke of Bedford, brother of Henry V, she had been allied to both the Lancastrian and Yorkist dynasties. Her second husband, Sir Richard Woodville had been executed by the Earl of Warwick in 1469 and her eventful life saw her accused of witchcraft shortly afterwards albeit she was exonerated in January 1470. After her death, Richard III, without proof, revived this claim in the Act of Titulus Regius stating she had procured her daughter’s marriage to Edward IV through witchcraft.
On 5th January 1400, Henry IV sent Edward of York, reputedly a co-conspirator in a plot to reinstate former king Richard II (held prisoner at Pontefract Castle) who had now sided with Henry, to tell his erstwhile colleagues that all was now discovered and that they must flee the king’s large army; which many did to Oxford.
On 28th August 1483, Richard III, whilst at Pontefract Castle with his wife, appointed the Duke of Buckingham to take part, together with the Duke of Norfolk and others, in commissions of oyer and terminer (inquiries into all treasons, felonies and misdemeanours in the specified counties) in London and the counties of Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Middlesex, Oxford, Berkshire, Essex and Hertford.
On 27th August 1483, Richard III, whilst at Pontefract Castle with his wife, issued a signed warrant conferring on the Duke of Buckingham his share of the Bohun inheritance (lands resulting from the marriage of Eleanor de Bohun and Thomas of Woodstock, youngest son of Edward III, in 1376).
Having spent three weeks over Easter at Pontefract, Henry IV left the castle on 30th April 1408 arriving at Windsor by 21st May and the Tower of London 29th-31st May. Henry had headed for Yorkshire to supervise the arrests and executions of fugitives from the Battle of Bramham Moor, south of Wetherby, in February in which Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, was killed and his invading army from Scotland routed. Percy’s ‘treacherous’ body was hanged, drawn and quartered, his head placed on London Bridge and other parts of his anatomy displayed in various locations.
On 13th December 1419 (St Lucy’s Day), according to Walter Bower’s ‘Scotichronicon’, Richard II died at Stirling Castle. Although supposedly dying at Pontefract Castle nearly twenty years earlier, a self-called Richard II appeared in Scotland in 1402 having been liberated from there, he claimed, and a body-double buried in his place. Some sources claim that he was found in the Western Isles, serving in the kitchen of the Lord of the Isles and recognised by Donald of the Isles’ fool who had served at the English court and/or Margery Bisset who had seen Richard on his Irish campaigns. ‘Richard’ (The ‘Mammet’/puppet) was sent with Montgomery of Ardrossan to King Robert III who placed him in the care of Sir David Fleming of Cumbernauld and then the Duke of Albany, King Robert’s younger brother and effective ruler of Scotland. He was given a small allowance, housed in Stirling Castle and word spread that he would soon invade England to regain his throne. The mastermind behind the so-called Richard II, William Serle, a chamber varlet from Richard II’s court, who had led the murder of the Duke of Gloucester on the king’s orders in 1397, was executed at Tyburn in 1404. He confessed to forging letters with Richard’s personal seal from Scotland to make the ‘Mammet’ seem a more plausible pretender. Acutely conscious of ‘Richard’ being a focus for rebellion and/or invasion, particularly by the Scots, against him, Henry IV named the pretender as Thomas Warde of Trumpington.
On 29th February 1484, Katherine Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of Richard III (or Duke of Gloucester at the child’s conception) and half-sister of Richard’s other known illegitimate child, John of Pountfreit (Pontefract) was covenanted by William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, ‘to take to wife Dame Katherine Plantagenet, daughter to the King, before Michaelmas of that year’. It is surmised that Richard III’s mistress, and Katherine’s mother, was Katherine Haute, wife of James Haute whose own mother Joan Woodville was cousin to ex-queen Elizabeth Woodville. On the orders of Henry VII, Katharine was, some sources suggest, arrested at Raglan Castle immediately after the Battle of Stoke Field in June 1487 and apparently died prior to her cousin Elizabeth of York’s coronation on 25 November 1487.