The Council of the North

The remains of the motte and barbican at Sandal Castle.
The remains of the motte and barbican at Sandal Castle.
© Wikimedia commons (attribution: Abcdef123456)

Associated places

Associated institutions

Building Activity


1472 - 1641


The Council of the North was created in 1472 by Edward IV as a base for royal authority to be communicated in the north, with permission to issue letters in the king’s name. From 1472 until his accession to the throne, Richard was the first Lord President of the Council of the North.

It was possibly later intended by Richard to be the council of Edward of Middleham, as Richard’s heir, but with the death of Edward in April 1484, Richard institutionalised it as a formal branch of the royal council proper under the presidency of John de la Pole, earl of Lincoln (nephew and probably new heir).

The council was based at Sandal in Yorkshire. In June 1484 Richard visited Sandal and authorised the building of a new tower in the castle, and in October a new bakery and brewhouse. The council was in residence by 20th July 1484 and sessions were held at York. Regulations for the castle were issued in July 1484. It was to meet at least quarterly at York, preferably with every member present.

The main responsibilities were to keep the peace and punish lawbreakers. The council’s budget was 2,000 marks per annum and issued regulations which meant that councillors had to act impartially and declare any vested interests, and also meet every three months at least. It was essentially an autonomous branch of the king's council.

The Council of the North was perhaps Richard's most enduring monument, for its jurisdiction and procedure remained largely intact until 1641.


July 1484 regulations of the Council of the North

"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 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... "

K. Dockray, Richard III: A Sourcebook (Stroud, 1997), p. 108.