The Epiphany Rising of January 1400 was an attempt to unthrone Henry IV and replace him with the deposed Richard II. The prime instigators of the revolt were four peers;

all of whom had been prime beneficiaries of the wealth handed out by Richard II during the years 1397-1399 and had suffered with the regime change of 1399 with three out of the four being demoted from their previously held titles.

Their plan was to suprise Henry at Oxford where a tournament was being held to celebrate the new year, kill Henry and his family and restore Richard II to the throne. On the 5th January they went to Oxford only to discover that Henry had absented himself from the tournament. However all was not lost as they were told that Henry was at Windsor. But on arriving at Windsor they established that Henry, forewarned of their intentions had long ago left for London and was now returning with an army to quash their rebellion.

As was so often the case with conspiracies of this nature; they were betrayed by an informer. In this case the conspirators had sought to involve Edward of Norwich, the Earl of Rutland in their plans. Quite understandably in the case as both Edward and his father Edmund of Langley, Duke of York had been amongst the most faithful of king Richard's supporters and Edward had similarly been demoted from his position as Duke of Albemarle along with the others in 1399.

Unfortunately for the plotters, Edward spilled the beans to Henry and thus frustrated their attempted coup. (And indeed it is somehat ironic that both Edmund of Langley and Edward of Norwich were to play such key roles in ensuring the survival of the Lancastian dynasty that their Yorkist successors later spent much effort in supplanting.

Once they realised that they had been betrayed, the Epiphany plotters fell back on plan B and made a run for it, but unfortunately they didn't get very far. Three of them fled to the west; John Montague and Thomas Holland were both captured at Cirencester in Gloucestershire where they were executed on the 5th and 8th January respectively. Thomas Despenser, was captured and executed at Bristol on the 13th January 1400. None of these gentlemen received anything approaching a trial, they were all basically lynched by local Lancastrian supporters in what are often rather cryptically referred to as 'semi-popular risings'.

John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon formerly the Duke of Essex managed to stay on the run a little longer and was not captured until February when he was found at Pleshey Castle in Essex and fell into the hands of Joan Fitzalan, Countess of Hereford. This was unfortunate from John's point of view as the countess was a very committed Lancastrian. In the first place her brother Richard Fitzalan, 4th Earl of Arundel had been one of the Lords Appellant and executed for treason by Richard II in 1397, and secondly Henry IV was her son-in-law. Joan Fitzalan acted with a certain amount of vigour in the matter, called for a few witnesses and then had the unfortunate John Holland summarily executed.

Thus the four main Epiphany conspirators met their end and the executions were not limited to these four. Other, more minor figures such as Ralph Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley also met their end in a similar fashion.

The inevitable consequence of the Epiphany Rising and the attempt to reinstate Richard II was that Henry IV came to the conclusion that it was simply too dangerous to allow the former king to remain alive. Sometime later during the month of February Richard was quietly removed from the scene as he was chained to the wall in a prison cell at Pontefract Castle and simply allowed to die.


  • Alexander Rose Kings in the North (Phoenix, 2003)
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)

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