Since 1389, in a tradition established by King Richard II, monarchs visiting York have entered through Micklegate, touching the state sword as they cross.
Traitors heads were once displayed on spikes above Micklegate Bar to discourage rebellions. The heads sometimes remained on the spikes over the Bar for years. Among the traitors accorded this gruesome honor were:
- Sir Henry Percy, known as Harry Hotspur, who led a rebellion against Henry IV in 1403
- Lord Scrope, who conspired to assassinate Henry V in 1415
- Richard, Duke of York, a pretender to the English throne during the Wars of the Roses, he was killed in battle in 1460 and his head displayed in 1461, with a paper crown. His son, however, eventually secured the throne as Edward IV.
- Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, a Catholic nobleman during the Protestant Reformation in the reign of Elizabeth I, who joined the northern rising of the earls, was captured in Durham and beheaded in York in 1572.