Understanding the Pilgrimage of Grace: A Religious Rebellion in Tudor England
This article explores the Pilgrimage of Grace, a massive religious rebellion in Tudor England that challenged the Royal Supremacy and called for the restoration of Catholic practices. We analyze the social, economic, and political motivations behind the rebellion and its impact on Tudor politics and society.
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About Understanding the Pilgrimage of Grace: A Religious Rebellion in Tudor England
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1. RELIGION & RELIGIOUS CHANGE IN ENGLAND, C.1470-1558 INTERPRETING THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE
2. REBELLION: WHY BOTHER? Historical interest in rebellion because: ordinary Evidence of ordinary people Revealing of social/economic/political attitudes Seen as part of the political system (rather than anomalous) authority Attitudes towards authority & monarchy. IT IS INTERESTING IT SELLS LOTS & LOTS OF BOOKS
3. THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE Royal Supremacy only 3 years old a profound challenge: Attacked RS as heresy & called for Mary to be made legitimate; upheld monasticism Parliament could not speak on these issues without the Kings permission. Memory: Wars of the Roses; Tudors a new dynasty with little legitimacy Serious HVIII had to negotiate: Promised that Parliament would meet at York to discuss RS; that dissolved monasteries would stand. Wide geographical scope: Yorks/Lincs/Lancs/Westmorland Crossed the social spectrum: 30-60,000 (largest popular revolt in English history) Nobles/gentry/commons/clerics unified (on some points) Nature of the Tudor State: No standing army/police Rise of the State part of the problem?
4. THE NORTH A PROBLEM: Mighty feudal overlords (Percys) Periodic lawlessness 1489 a significant rebellion (Yorkshire) Hostility/resistance to taxation endemic instability CHALLENGE TO MONARCHICAL POWERS PREVALENT & PERSISTANT. Was this an opportunity for Henry to expand the Tudor state?
5. THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE CONTEXT: Context in HVIIIs reign: Royal Supremacy new Dissolution novel & heretical New taxation Novelty = illegitimacy in early modern minds. Novelty = illegitimacy in early modern minds. It was rarely the RATE of taxation, but its basis in custom which was significant in causing instability. Court factions surrounding Aragon; Seymour; Boleyn spanned out into the localities. Some historians see PofG as a court conspiracy .
6. ARE REVOLTS REVOLTING?
7. AGAINST PARADOX A REBELLION WHICH WAS ACTIVELY AGAINST DESTRUCTION
9. THE LINCOLNSHIRE RISING, 1536: Based on 3 towns: Louth, Caitor, Horncastle Lasted 2 weeks in October 1536. Royal commissions 1536: Dissolve smaller monasteries/ Collect Subsidies/ Assess the clergy. Arrival in Louth trigger seized by men guarding Church treasures. Rumour (fear, anger, not understand crown intentions): Plate/jewel to be taken from parish Churches/ tax on cattle/ all gold to be confiscated. Churches to be pulled down No one allowed to eat white bread/ goose without paying a tribute to HVIII Gentry involvement often contradictory: Assumed leadership after 2 days Muster troops through normal State methods But in negotiations with Duke of Suffolk (claiming that they were attempting to contain the rebellion from proceeding further South). Traditional mechanisms of containment failed: Lords Hussey, Clinton and Burgh fled So many gentry/JPs involved legitimacy Filtered out when Duke of Suffolks army within 40 miles gentry fearful of prosecution for treason & sued for peace.
10. THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE: Series of different risings under the (loose) leadership of Robert Aske (lawyer): West & East Ridings (Yorks)/ Westmorland / Richmondshire Proclamation at York October 1536: This pilgrimage we have undertaken it for the preservation of Christs church of this realm of England, the king our sovereign lord, the nobility and commons the same, and to the intent to make petition to the kings highness for the reformation of that which is amiss within this realm and for the punishment of heretics and subverters of the laws. Defence of Church/realm/king/community one and the same.
11. ELITES AND COMMONS: Involvement of the Norths leading families. Henry Percy, 6 th Earl of Northumberland (most powerful man in the North): Suspected in London (too powerful). Not active, but passive acceptance of rebellion. Surrendered Wressle Castle to Aske & acknowledged him as captain of the baronage. Other family members had prominent roles: Sir Thomas Percy (marched with 5000 to York); Sir Ingram Percy (swore people to the Pilgrims cause); gentry leaders Percy tenants. Tension/mistrust of gentry by commons But insist on gentry leadership: why? Note leadership is loose, not militaristic Parish by parish organisation far more significant in an active sense than the gentry
12. ELITES & COMMONS Commons All nine rebel groups tried to secure gentry leadership: Symbolic: Lord Neville (13) Society of Orders a natural concept: SHOULD lead them An obligation Clergy not permitted active fighting roles. Gentry Bush: aristocratic conspiracy of inaction. Had contained agrarian unrests of 1535 Stood aside here (tacit approval?) Fall of Pontefract Castle (hiding place) forced them to become involved. Damage limitation We were only trying to maintain order Fearful of lives/property if refused.
13. CAUSES: OVERVIEW Whose rebellion? Popular people vs regime? Genuine access to ordinary sentiment? Feudal High politics (Elton) a conspiracy led by ostracised courtiers; utilising power-bases in the locality to achieve a political victory at Court. Motivations? Religion? (Moral) Economic/Social? (Banal) Dodds Sisters (1915) Aske unable to halt popular movement; two movements (religious gentry led social/economic anti-gentry). Documentation did Cromwell distort issues to detract from religious motivations (thus safeguarding Crown policy)?
14. A COURT CONSPIRACY? James/Elton: national politics more important than local social/economic factors. 1530-35 Darcy/Hussey & Aragonese faction at Court: Support KofA/Mary & oppose Boleyn marriage. Side-lined at Court affront to noble honour. Rumours that contemplated revolt in 1534. 1536 potential return to royal favour: Aragon dead; Boleyn executed BUT: Hussey wanted Mary reinstated as legitimate Cromwell prevented; ensured Hussey lost position in Marys household. Husseys wife imprisoned (allegations of encouraging resistance to the RS). Elton: PofG borne of frustration, manipulate popular discontent to their own ends.
15. A COURT CONSPIRACY? Some articles could be read as interpreting Eltons view: Attack on Cromwell/Audley/Rich (& Cromwells key policies Treason Act/Royal Supremacy/ Heresy) Second Succession Act (key to Aragonese party) Attack Henrys Scottish claims fearful of HVIII perusing heir through his sister Margaret (not want a foreign ruler). Gunn remove Hussey, undercut Elton: Hussey = old, politically marginalised (local & national) At no point a significant leader of the PofG (actually indecisive).
16. A FEUDAL REVOLT? Historiographical context English medieval history littered with baronial revolts: Brought their tenants with them because they were bound to their lords. Here pilgrims volunteered took an oath; not feudal loyalty. PofG noble involvement came from minor figures: Barons: Conyers; Latimer; Lumley; Scope. Powerful men not really take part: Earl of Derby (support HVIII); Lord Dacre (besieged); Earls of Cumberland (deserted by gentry clients son married HVIIIs niece) & Westmorland (captured) Landed elites not stand together: Darcys sons not support him; Askes brother defended Skipton Castle. IF NOT A FEUDAL REVOLT, WAS IT A POPULAR ONE?
17. A POPULAR REBELLION? Question of all early modern rebellions: do the articles reflect the views of the rebels themselves? Aske not use materials from some petitions (re: landlords/gentry) Unpopular recent taxation: New subsidy issued in peace time (unique) 1534 Subsidy Act (sold as a benefit to society) But, rebellion conservative: Not taxation per se; but novel taxes which breached custom Lincolnshire articles demanded that the King claim no money unless in defence of the realm. Attack tithe barns not Church itself that the target, but unpopular landlords in general Context two years of poor harvests + new taxes make living hard. Pontefract manifesto two articles relating to economic issues: Enclosure (fencing-off the common land) Much more significant in later rebellions. Entry fines (payment upon taking upon a tenancy) More prevalent concern.
18. CAUSES RELIGION: Against: Not spiritual: Religious objects/taxation/practices, but not spirit/doctrine. A cloak/ banner/ slogan / justification for other motivations: Functional approach to religion (remember Gregory) Real motivation material greedy king. Mendacious clerics: Propaganda to dupe people into rebelling Confused: Continental & English reformers tied together in demands. For: Dissolution: Co-incidental moral Visible & a moral issue. BUT too easy (not reactionary) Fear/uncertainty: Rumour what did the Reformation mean for them? What of parishes run through impropriation? Material fabric of late- medieval Catholicism: Purgatory; prayers for the dead; saints all dependent on material aspects of LMC.
19. RELIGION: EXAMPLES Traditional patterns of sanctity : East Riding (Yorks) St. Wilfrids day Banning of prayers to the Pope Benefits of monasteries: Praised ghostly living as a part of being Christian speritual informacion, and preching. Also soc/ec roles food/gifts/charity/travellers. Help tenants: store documents/look after unmarried daughters & elderly. Commonwealth united social/economic/religious. Re-establish dissolved houses: Cartmel/ Conishead/ Sawley/ St. Clements (York) Popular initiative; clerical lead elsewhere . Oaths to join: 'Ye shall not enter into this our Pilgrimage of Grace for the common wealth but only for the love ye bear to God's faith and church militant and the maintenance thereof, the preservation of the king's person, his issue, and the purifying of the nobility and to expulse all villein blood and evil counsellors against the common wealth of the same. And that ye shall not enter into our said pilgrimage for no peculiar private profit to no private person but by counsel of the common wealth nor slay nor murder for no envy but in your hearts to put away all fear for the common wealth. And to take before you the cross of Christ and your heart's faith to the restitution of the church and to the suppression of heretics' opinions by the holy content of this book
20. Banner of the Five Wounds of Christ Crusades - Christs cause - Made traditional offerings of pilgrims Ritual procession to York. How do we interpret behaviour as historians? WHAT DID THEY ACTUALLY DO?
21. THE CROWNS REACTION: Divide & rule (gentry & commons); propaganda on sinfulness of rebellion. Renewed rebellion in 1537 a mandate to display State power: Francis Bigod Francis Bigod & followers believe Aske had been fooled by HVIIIs promises. HVIIIs reaction: martial law Duke of Norfolk declared martial law . Proceed without pity of circumstance to such dreadful execution a good number.as shall be a fearful warning . 144 executions (known): public/ confession showing breach of Royal authority. Vindictive legally could only prosecute for actions after the Doncaster pardon (evidence convicting Darcy/Aske largely invented).
22. CONSEQUENCES: Long-term: The solidification of the Tudor regime in the North . Council of the North: Curb endemic violence Resolve local feuds Control Scottish border Increased the power of loyal families 1537 Northumberland signed over all lands to HVIII: Percy interest now destroyed. Short-term: Henry convinced of the need for obedience. Persuaded that the monasteries were now a problem: Resistance to the RS Disobedience/pro-Pope Superstition/Error Irony Irony if the pilgrims intended to preserve LMC, their actions ultimately persuaded the king to proceed against it with greater vigour .
23. GODS OWN COUNTRY.