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Micklegate Bar - An Ancient Entrance to the City of York


Micklegate Bar is, by tradition, one of the most important, ceremonial entrances to York, through which Kings and Queens enter the city.
Micklegate Bar

Mickelgate Bar was once the most important toll gate through York's City Walls. It is the traditional entry for kings and queens. In a ceremony dating back to Richard II in 1389, monarchs touch the state sword when crossing Micklegate Bar.

In York, "bars" are gates through the city walls and "gates" are streets. It's a bit confusing but you quickly get used to it. The terminology dates from the days when the entrances to York were barred by toll collectors.

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.
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