8 June 1405 – Archbishop Richard Le Scrope

Archbishop Richard Le Scrope An archbishop lost his head at the beginning of the 15th-century for batting for the opposition, so to speak.

Evidence of his lack of loyalty was apparent. He was the Archbishop of York so you’d have expected him to stand in the way when a rival from the upstart House of Lancaster swiped the throne from Yorkist Richard II. But no, Le Scrope barely batted an ecclesiastical eyelid.

Scrope for change

Instead, when Richard II was flung in jail, he was actually there at the deposition and among the party who actually took the beleaguered ex-king’s crown away. Not that it did Le Scrope any good, as he was to find out.

All this rivalry and dissension was as a fore-runner to the War of the Roses but that was to take place roughly 50 years later. However, we’re talking about the turn of the 15th century, and in 1399, the imprisoned Richard II died. Some say he was starved to death, while others reckoned on a more sinister ending – that he was bumped off by his Lancastrian cousin Henry IV.

Either way, Henry did indeed take on the throne and everything was just peachy for a very short while.

Bullseye

However, Henry VI turned out to be a bit of a tyrant and it wasn’t long before his would-be loyal subjects were not so loyal any more. An uprising in 1403, led by Sir Henry Percy, failed and Percy (aka Harry Hotspur) was killed on the battlefield after he lifted his visor to take a breather and got skewered in the face with an arrow1 instead.

So what’s this got to do with Le Scrope? Well he supported Percy and when Henry got wind of the treason, his retribution was swift and extremely sharp.

Trying the man

Le Scrope was found guilty of treason, but what sets him apart from religious counterparts, such as Thomas More etc, was that he was actually tried in a lay court and not by a church committee.

He was whisked off to a field just by the now demolished Skeldergate Postern, in York. There, faced with certain death, he turned to his executioner and apparently asked him to cut him five times to emulate Christ’s five wounds on the cross. And with that, Le Scrope was parted with his head aged roughly 55, but that was not the end of him. He became somewhat of a miracle maker in death and pilgrimages were made to his tomb at York Minster.

He was executed alongside a co-conspirator in the shape of Thomas de Mowbray, who was the 4th Earl of Norfolk and 2nd Earl of Nottingham. Their story formed the backdrop of the second part of Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

1 Henry is said to have cried when presented with Percy’s body and ordered him to be buried, despite the treason. However, when rumours spread that the plotter was alive, the corpse was exhumed – the head was stuck on a spike in York and the rest was quartered and sent round the country to be displayed for all the doubters to behold.

Also on this day

8 June 2004 – William G Zuern Jnr

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