This Day in History: 1484-07-21

By 21st July 1484, Richard III was establishing the Council of the North with places of residence at Sandal Castle and Sheriff Hutton. The Council was now institutionalised as a formal branch of the royal council proper under the presidency of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, Richard’s nephew and heir. Its main objectives were to give justice and promote peace throughout the northern shires of Yorkshire, Durham, Cumberland, Westmorland and Northumberland. Edward IV had given his brother, Richard, pre-eminence beyond the Trent in 1472 as ‘Lord of the North’ and the Council possessed both civil and criminal jurisdiction, the power of investigating, commanding the presence of witnesses by subpoena, ordering by decree, giving verdicts and setting penalties. Only some of its members are known: Clarence’s son, the Earl of Warwick; Lord Morley and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland; Lord Scrope of Bolton; Baron Greystoke; Sir Francis Lovell; Sir James Harrington and Sir William Parre. The Council’s budget was 2,000 marks per annum (£1.72 million in today’s money) and was to meet every three months at least at York. The Council remained operational in various forms until 1641. Its regulations included:

“These articles following be ordained and established by the king’s grace to be used and executed by my Lord of Lincoln and the lords and others of his council in the North parts for his surety and the well-being of the inhabitants of the same. First, the king wills that no lord nor other person appointed to be of his council, for favour, affection, hate, malice or bribery, shall speak in the otherwise than the king’s laws and good conscience shall require, but be indifferent and in no way partial, as far as his wit and reason will allow him, in all manner of matters that shall be administered before them… [The] council shall meet, wholly if it may be, once in the quarter of the year at least, at York, to hear, examine and order all bills of complaints and others shown there before them, and oftener if the case require. [The] council shall have authority and power to order and direct [in respect of] all riots, forcible entries, disputes and other misbehaviours against our laws and peace…in these parts… [Our] council, for great riots…committed in the great lordships or otherwise by any person, shall commit that person to ward in one of our castles near where the riot is committed… [The] council, as soon as they have knowledge of any assemblies or gatherings made contrary to our laws and peace, [shall arrange] to resist, withstand and punish the same… [We] will and straitly charge all and each of our officers, true liegemen and subjects in these north parts to be at all times obedient to the commandments of our council in our name, and duly to execute the same, as they and each of them will eschew our great displeasure and indignation… “