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The Battle of Bramham Moor was the final battle in the Percy Rebellion of 1402 – 1408, which pitted the Earl of Northumberland, leader of the wealthy and influential Percy family, against the usurper King of England, King Henry IV. The Percys had previously aided Henry IV in his coup d'etat of his cousin King Richard II in 1399.

The Percy Rebellion

King Henry and Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland had fallen out in the aftermath of the Battle of Homildon Hill in 1402, a victory over an invading Scottish army by an English force led by Northumberland which succeeded in capturing a large number of Scottish nobles. As was the tradition of the day, a captured noble could buy his freedom though a ransom, and Percy stood to make a large sum of money from his success. However, King Henry was suffering a financial crisis due to the chaotic state of affairs following the coup, wars in Wales as well as Scotland, and the disobedience of several parts of the country still loyal to the deposed (and murdered) Richard II.

Seeking to aid his ailing Treasury as well as impose his authority on Northumberland, which was ruled as almost a private fief by the Percys, he demanded the handover of the hostages, offering a token reimbursement in their place. The infuriated Percy declared his support for a different pretender to the throne, Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, and marched against Henry until he was defeated and his son Henry 'Hotspur' Percy killed at the Battle of Shrewsburymarker in 1403. Retreating to Scotland, Percy emerged again in 1405 to further defeat before attempting one final time to seize the throne, gathering together an army of lowland Scots and loyal Northumbrians and marching south once more toward Yorkmarker.

Bramham Moor

At Bramham Moormarker, south of Wetherbymarker, his army was met by a force of local Yorkshiremarker levies and noble retinues which had been hastily assembled to meet the force, led by the High Sheriff of Yorkshire Sir Thomas Rokeby. The exact sizes and compositions of the contending armies are not known, but the armies were far smaller than the thousands who had gathered at Shrewsbury, the rebels failing to gain widespread support or receive aid from other rebellious factions, such as Wales, where Owain Glyndŵr's rebellion was collapsing.

The course of the battle itself is not well documented either. The action seemingly followed the course of many medieval battles where armies and generals were evenly matched: A violent melee in the centre of the field with little tactical direction. Percy is said to have positioned his men carefully and awaited Rokeby's arrival at 2.00pm when battle was instantly joined. It is likely that as with other battles of the era between primarily English and Scottish forces, the outcome was largely decided by English use of the longbow to thin the enemy ranks before charging with their main body.

Aftermath

Percy was defeated, his ally Thomas Bardolf, 5th Lord Bardolf was mortally wounded early in the action and later died, and the Earl himself died fighting a furious rearguard action as his army was routed. Very few of his soldiers escaped the pursuit and returned to Scotland. The Bardolf estates were forfeited, and the power of the Percy family was shattered. The north of England became the domain of their political rivals, the Neville family, whose leader Ralph had become a preferred royal ally and was strengthened as the Earl of Westmoreland. The Percys would later make a comeback and regain their previous standing through a different branch of the family during the Wars of the Roses. A cross was erected on the supposed spot where the Earl fell, the base of which was removed to the entrance of a wood lying close to Toulston Lane. A memorial stone and an information board were erected on Paradise Way, Bramham by Bramham Parish Council and formally opened by the 12th Duke of Northumberland in 2008 to commemorate the 600th anniversary.

References

  • Rayner, Michael, English battlefields : an illustrated encyclopaedia, Stroud : Tempus, 2004, ISBN 0-7524-2978-7
  • Lomas, Richard, A Power in the Land: The Percys, East Linton : Tuckwell Press, 1999, ISBN 1-8623-2067-5



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