Robin of Holderness Rebellion

   Occurring in Yorkshire in May 1569, in the same county and at about the same time as the ROBIN OF REDESDALE REBELLION, the Robin of Holderness uprising contributed to the disorder that allowed Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, to launch his first coup against EDWARD IV.
   According to Polydore Vergil’s ANGLICA HISTORIA, the Robin of Holderness Rebellion was an armed protest against a tax levied on the landholders of northern England by the Hospital of St. Leonard in York. The hospital claimed a thrave (i.e., twenty-four sheaves of grain) each year. By 1469, the tax was nearly a century old, and it had been causing discontent among the taxpayers for almost as long. Following the lead of Sir William Conyers, who had just raised a rebellion under the name of Robin of Redesdale, and perhaps timing his uprising to coincide with the Redesdale movement, Robert Hillyard, a tenant of the Lancastrian Percy family, took the name Robin of Holderness and led the tax protesters toward York. Before reaching their destination, the Holderness rebels were dispersed by John NEVILLE, earl of Northumberland, who seized Robin and executed him before the gates of York. Thus, although some Holderness rebels may have later joined the Redesdale rebellion, the former was apparently unrelated to the latter and not, like the Redesdale rebellion, part of Warwick’s plan to seize control of the government. The only contemporary account of the Holderness uprising does not mention the tax but claims instead that the rebels sought to restore Henry PERCY, then in the TOWER OF LONDON, to his family’s earldom of Northumberland This goal explains why John Neville, who currently held the Percy earldom, so effectively suppressed the rebellion. What is confusing about the episode is the appearance of a living Robert Hillyard in documents dating to the decade after his apparent execution in 1469. Although there may have been two Hillyards, a modern historian (see Haigh, p. 192) suggests a more likely explanation. The entire Robin of Holderness Rebellion was fabricated by Warwick or his brother Northumberland to convince Edward IV that the latter was a loyal subject even while the former was engaged in treason. Robert Hillyard is recorded as submitting himself to the king at York in March 1470 after the failure of Warwick’s second rebellion. Four days later, Edward granted Percy the earldom of Northumberland and created John Neville marquis of Montagu, a technically higher title that carried far less land. Hillyard’s appearance at York in 1470 may have revealed the truth about the Holderness uprising of the previous year, and the consequences of those revelations may have led in part to Montagu’s abandonment of Edward IV in the autumn of 1470, when Warwick finally succeeded in overthrowing the house of YORK.
   Further Reading: Haigh, Philip A., The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1995); Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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