Richard le Scrope

For the bishop of Carlisle, see Richard Scroope.
Richard le Scrope
Archbishop of York

York Minster, burial place of Archbishop Richard Scrope
Appointed between 27 February 1398 and 15 March 1398
Installed unknown
Term ended 8 June 1405
Predecessor Robert Waldby
Successor Thomas Langley
Other posts Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield
Consecration 19 August 1386
Personal details
Born c. 1350
Died 8 June 1405
Buried York Minster
Denomination Roman Catholic

Richard le Scrope (c. 1350 – 8 June 1405), Bishop of Lichfield and Archbishop of York, was executed in 1405 for his participation in the Northern Rising against King Henry IV.


Richard Scrope, born about 1350, was the third son of Henry Scrope, 1st Baron Scrope of Masham, and his wife, Joan, whose surname is unknown. He had four brothers and two sisters:[1]


His father had had a distinguished career as a soldier and administrator, and according to McNiven, Richard's Scrope's first preferments in the church probably owed a great deal to family influence.[5] Scrope was rector of Ainderby Steeple near Northallerton in 1368, warden of the free chapel of Tickhill Castle, and in 1375 official to Thomas Arundel, Bishop of Ely. He was ordained deacon on 20 September 1376, and priest on 14 March 1377. During this time he studied arts at Oxford, and by 1375 became licentiate in civil law. By 1383 he had earned doctorates of canon and civil law at Cambridge, and in 1378 was Chancellor of the University.[6]

From 1382 to 1386 Scrope was at Rome, serving as a papal chaplain and an auditor of the Curia. In 1382 he was instituted Dean of Chichester. Although his election as Bishop of Chichester in September 1385 was blocked by King Richard II, Scrope was made Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield on 18 August 1386, and consecrated by Pope Urban VI at Genoa on the following day.[7] Scrope made a profession of obedience to the Archbishop of Canterbury on 27 March 1387, and was enthroned in his cathedral on 29 June 1387.[8]

Scrope combined his ecclesiastical duties with involvement in secular matters. In 1378 and 1392 he was sent on diplomatic missions to Scotland, and went to Rome in 1397 to further Richard II's proposal for the canonisation of King Edward II.[9] While in Rome he was translated to York between 27 February 1398 and 15 March 1398, and granted the temporalities on 23 June 1398.[10]

Although he did not participate in the factional strife which led up to King Richard II's deposition, on 29 September 1399 Scrope and John Trefnant (d.1404), Bishop of Hereford, headed the commission which received the King's ‘voluntary’ abdication at the Tower. Scrope announced the abdication to a quasi-parliamentary assembly on the following day, and together with Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, escorted Henry Bolingbroke to the vacant throne.[11]

Rebellion and death

As McNiven notes, the dominance of the Percys, Earls of Northumberland, in the north of England, and the family's pivotal role in putting Henry IV on the throne, as well as family alliances (Richard Scrope's elder brother, John Scrope, had married the widow of the Earl of Northumberland's second son, Thomas Percy,[12] and his sister, Isabel Scrope, had married Sir Robert Plumpton,[13] a tenant of the Percys), meant that Richard Scrope, as Archbishop of York, was bound to become involved with the Percys. However his loyalty was untested until the Percys revolted in the summer of 1403. Even then, although the chronicler John Hardyng, a Percy retainer, claimed that Scrope encouraged the Percys to rebel, there is no other evidence that he did so.[14]

The Percys suffered defeat at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, at which Northumberland's son and heir, Henry 'Hotspur' Percy, was slain. Two years later Northumberland, joined by Lord Bardolf, again took up arms against the King. The rising was doomed from the start due to Northumberland's failure to capture Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland. Scrope, together with Thomas de Mowbray, 4th Earl of Norfolk, and Scrope's nephew, Sir William Plumpton, had assembled a force of some 8000 men on Shipton Moor on 27 May, but instead of giving battle Scrope parleyed with Westmorland, and was tricked[15] into believing that his demands would be accepted and his personal safety guaranteed. Once their army had disbanded on 29 May, Scrope and Mowbray were arrested and taken to Pontefract Castle to await the King, who arrived at York on 3 June. The King denied them trial by their peers, and a commission headed by the Earl of Arundel and Sir Thomas Beaufort sat in judgment on Scrope, Mowbray and Plumpton in Scrope's own hall at his manor of Bishopthorpe, some three miles south of York. The Chief Justice, Sir William Gascoigne, refused to participate in such irregular proceedings and to pronounce judgment on a prelate, and it was thus left to the lawyer Sir William Fulthorpe to condemn Scrope to death for treason. Scrope, Mowbray and Plumpton were taken to a field belonging to the nunnery of Clementhorpe which lay just under the walls of York, and before a great crowd were beheaded on 8 June 1405, Scrope requesting the headsman to deal him five blows in remembrance of the five wounds of Christ. Scrope was buried in York Minster.[16]

Although Scrope's participation in the Percy rebellion of 1405 is usually attributed to his opposition to the King's proposal to temporarily confiscate the clergy's landed wealth, his motive for taking an active military role in the rising continues to puzzle historians.[17]

Pope Innocent VII excommunicated all those involved in Scrope's execution. However Archbishop Arundel failed to publish the Pope's decree in England, and in 1407 Henry IV was pardoned by Pope Gregory XII.[18]

Shakespeare and Scrope

Scrope's parley with Westmorland at Shipton Moor, Westmorland's treachery, and Scrope's arrest after the dispersal of his army are depicted in Act IV of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2.


  1. Richardson IV 2011, pp. 7–8.
  2. Cokayne 1949, p. 563.
  3. Richardson I 2011, p. 67.
  4. Richardson III 2011, p. 367.
  5. McNiven 2004.
  6. Tait 1897, p. 144; McNiven 2004; Richardson IV 2011, p. 8.
  7. Tait 1897, p. 144; McNiven 2004; Fryde 1996, p. 253.
  8. Jones 1964, pp. 1–3
  9. Tait 1897, p. 144; McNiven 2004.
  10. Fryde 1996, p. 282; McNiven 2004.
  11. Tait 1897, p. 144; McNiven 2004.
  12. Richardson I 2011, p. 67.
  13. Richardson III 2011, p. 367.
  14. Tait 1897, p. 145; McNiven 2004.
  15. Contemporary writers state that Scrope and his allies were tricked into surrendering by Westmorland; however the later Otterbourne chronicler claimed that they had surrendered voluntarily (see Tait, 1894, p. 277).
  16. Tait 1897, pp. 145–6; Pugh 1988, pp. 18–20; McNiven 2004.
  17. Pugh 1988, p. 19; McNiven 2004.
  18. McNiven 2004.


Further reading

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Walter Skirlaw
Bishop of Lichfield
Succeeded by
John Burghill
Preceded by
Robert Waldby
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
Thomas Langley
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