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Pilgrimage of Grace
The Pilgrimage of Grace was the worst uprising of Henry VIII’s reign. It was a direct result of the dissolution of the monasteries, a policy which confused and angered most Englishmen. The original rebellion began at Louth in Lincolnshire in early October 1536. The presence of a royal commission was the spark the local clergy encouraged it to flame . The Lincolnshire rebellion lasted but a fortnight, but Yorkshire – led by the lawyer Robert Aske – was next. With the charismatic Aske as their leader, the rebellion spread quickly. Dissatisfaction with the king’s religious and fiscal policies was deep and widespread. An army of perhaps 30,000 men gathered in the north. The king ordered the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk and the earl of………. ………….(continue reading)
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The Pilgrimage of Grace
First October – Thomas Kendall, priest of Louth, Lincolnshire, preaches an inflammatory sermon. This leads his parishioners to fear for their parish church, the spire of which had only been completed twenty years before, and in which the local people are heavily emotionally invested.
2 nd October – Start of the Lincolnshire Rising, at Louth, Lincolnshire, when villagers seize the Bishop of Lincoln's Registrar who was carrying out an Inspection of the Clergy to ensure they were conforming to the Act of Ten Articles and the Injunctions that followed it.
3 rd October – Commissioner for Subsidy (tax inspectors) due to convene in Caistor, Lincolnshire. Faced with 3,000 rebels, the majority of the Commissioners flee.
4 th October – John Raynes, the Bishop of Lincoln's Chancellor is lynched at Horncastle. Robert Aske, a Yorkshire lawyer is captured and constrained to swear rebel oath.
6 th October – Rebels converge on Lincoln, having gathered support en route. Henry VIII requires his daughter Mary to write to her cousin the Emperor, confirming that she accepted the annulment of her parents' marriage, and Henry's supremacy over the Church.
7 th October – Duke of Suffolk is sent to Stamford, and Henry raises men at Ampthill, Bedfordshire. Lord Hussey flees Lincolnshire, although he later joins the rebels.
8 th October – Rising spreads to Beverley, Yorkshire.
10 th October – Aske takes leadership role and gives the uprising its religious flavour with the term Pilgrimage, and a new rebel oath.
11 th October – Lincolnshire rising collapses. Men at Ampthill dismissed.
13 th October – Rising begins in East Riding.
13 th October – Darcy writes from Pontefract of a new rising in East Riding, similar to Lincolnshire.
14 th October – Katherine Clifford, Lady Scrope, writes to her father, the Earl of Cumberland, saying that the rebels are forcing gentlemen to join them.
16 th October – Rebels enter York. The Mayor believes the city to be too divided to resist. Aske calls the parallel rising in Richmondshire (North Yorkshire) to join them. The suppressed religious houses are restored. Clifford is besieged at Carlisle, and other risings begin in Durham, Northumberland and Cumberland.
16 th October – Muster at Kirkby Stephen, Westmoreland. Robert Brough appointed as Chaplain.
17th October - General panic at Court. King says that he does not trust Lord Darcy.
19 th October – Hull capitulates to rebels.
19 th October – In Cumberland, the Commons march under Captains named Charity, Faith, Poverty and Pity.
21 st October – Thomas, Lord Darcy of Templehurst, surrenders Pontefract Castle to Robert Aske.
21 st October – Lancaster Herald (Sir Thomas Miller) arrives at Pontefract with a Proclamation from the King. Aske refuses to let him read it.
21 st October – The Earl of Shrewsbury is ordered to march towards Doncaster.
25 th October – Norfolk writes to the King that he will make any promise he needs to the rebels to persuade them to disperse, not considering he will be bound by them.
27 th October – Pilgrim army of some 27,000 men confronts the Royal army of some 8,000 troops at Doncaster. The Duke of Norfolk meets the leaders and gives a safe-conduct to two delegates, Sir Ralph Ellerker and Robert Bowes, to take a petition to the King.
27 th October – Henry accepts he has to give discretion to Norfolk, Suffolk and Shrewsbury.
2 nd November – The Pilgrims' delegates arrive at Windsor and receive short shrift from Henry. He points out that he knows more about religion than the Commons, and that the money previously diverted to the monasteries would be better used for defence of the realm. They will be pardoned if they hand over ten ringleaders and behave in future.
6th November – Norfolk writes to Darcy saying he had pleaded for Darcy to the King, and begging him to take Aske alive or dead. Darcy refuses.
18 th November – Darcy writes to Aske, suggesting a meeting at his house at Templehurst to discuss their next actions.
21 st November – The delegates return and report to the Pilgrims' Council that the King had found their petition "dark and obscure", but that they were certain of the King's goodness and mercy.
2 nd December – Archbishop Lee of York preaches on the virtues of passive obedience. Subjects should not rise up against their King, no matter what their grievances.
2 nd December – Final orders to Norfolk to grant a general pardon and promise a Parliament.
4 th December – The Pilgrims issue more detailed demands (see here).
6 th December – Norfolk receives the instructions of 2 nd December, meets the rebel leaders and offers a Pardon, promises a Parliament will be held in York to address grievances and agrees that the re-established monasteries will remain untouched pending the Parliament.
7 th December - Robert Aske informs the Pilgrims that the Pardon issued at Doncaster was to be extended, that a Parliament would be held in the North, and that the Queen would be crowned there. Whilst some of his listeners are delighted with the results, others mistrusted the King and Government. Aske persuades them that the King could be trusted, and the army is disbanded.
7 th December – Archbishop Lee writes to the King, thanking him for the Pardon, and glad he has agreed to address rebel grievances.
8 th December – Rebels disband.
Christmas – Aske is summoned to Court where he meets the King and is well received.
16 th January – Doubting the Government's plans, Sir Francis Bigod and John Hallam rise up in Cumberland. Together with George Lumley, they march on Scarborough and Hull, but fail to capture them.
20 th January – George Lumley gives himself up.
23 rd January – Sir Ralph Sadler reports that whilst most of the Commons wanted to be left in peace, there was an underground movement to provoke sedition, and a rumour was spreading that Norfolk would be sent north with a great host to execute them.
End January – Norfolk sent north. Martial law declared by the raising of the King's banner in Westmoreland. Norfolk has orders to repress rebellion harshly.
1 st February – 74 rebels hanged in Cumberland.
2 nd February – Norfolk write to Cromwell, with some pity for the rebels.
10 th February – March led by Sir Thomas Clifford on Carlisle crushed.
29 th March – Matthew Mackarall, Abbot of Barlings hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
5 th May – Initial trials of Robert Aske of Aughton, Lord Darcy of Templehurst, Sir Robert Constable of Flamborough, Sir Francis Bigod of Settrington, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir John Bulmer of Wilton and his wife, Margaret Cheney, Sir Stephen Hamerton of Wigglesworth, George Lumley of Thwing, James Cockerell, Prior of Guisborough, Sir Nicholas Tempest of Bashall, John Pickering, Prior of Bridlington, the Abbots Sedburgh of Jervaulx and Thirsk of Fountains. True bills were found and all were sent for trial in London.
25 th May – Hanging, drawing and quartering at Tyburn of Bulmer, Hamerton, Tempest, Cockerell, Thirsk and Pickering. Margaret Cheney, Lady Bulmer burned at Smithfield. "She was a very fair creature, and a beautiful."
27 th May – George Lumley attainted and found guilty of high treason.
2 nd June – George Lumley hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, buried at Crutched Friars.
30 th June – Thomas, Lord Darcy executed.
6 th July – Sir Robert Constable hanged in chains from the walls of Hull.
12 th July – Robert Aske executed at York by hanging in chains from the walls of York Castle.
16 th September – Henry arrived at Fulford Cross, outside York, where he was met by citizens of York, led by Sir Robert Bowes and Archbishop Lee. They submitted themselves to him and gave him £600.
Pilgrimage of Grace Timeline - History
PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE, a name assumed by religious insurgents in the north of England, who opposed the dissolution of the monasteries. The movement, which commenced in Lincolnshire in Sept. 1536, was suppressed in Oct., but soon after revived in Yorkshire and an expedition bearing the foregoing name, having banners on which were depicted the five wounds of Christ, was headed by Robert Aske and other gentlemen [cf. Lord Darcy and Robert Constable], and joined by priests and 40,000 men of York, Durham, Lancaster, and other counties. They took Hull and York, with smaller towns. The Duke of Norfolk marched against them, and by making terms dispersed them [see 24 Articles]. Early in 1537 they again took arms, but were promptly suppressed, and the leaders, several abbots, and many others were executed.
Haydn's Dictionary of Dates. 17th Ed. Benjamin Vincent, ed.
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1883. 530.
PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE
By J. Franck Bright
With the death of Catherine some of the dangers which threatened insurrection in England disappeared. It was no longer impossible that Charles should be reconciled to his uncle [Henry VIII]. As the year therefore passed, the chances of an insurrection in England became less, and the real opportunity for successful action on the part of the reactionary party was gone. But, perhaps because they felt that time was thus passing away, or because accidental circumstances led the way to an outbreak, the discontented party, before the year was out, were in arms throughout the whole North of England. Nor did this party consist of one class alone. For one reason or another, nearly every nobleman of distinction, and nearly every Northern peasant, alike joined in the movement.
The causes which touched the interests of so many different classes were of course various. There was indeed one tie which united them all. All, gentle and simple, were alike deeply attached to the Roman Church, and saw with detestation the beginning of the Reformation in the late Ten Articles, and the havoc which Cromwell and his agents were making among the monasteries. In fact, the coarseness with which the reforms were carried out were very revolting. Stories were current of how the visitors' followers had ridden from abbey to abbey clad in the sacred vestments of the priesthood, how the church plate had been hammered into dagger hilts. The Church had been always more powerful in the North, and the dislike to the reforms was proportionately violent. But, apart from this general conservative feeling, each class had a special grievance of its own. The clergy, it is needless to mention—they were exasperated to the last degree.
The nobles—always a wilder and more independent race than those of the South—saw with disgust the upstart Cromwell the chief adviser of the Crown. They had borne the tyranny of Wolsey, but in Wolsey they could at least reverence the Prince of the Church. They had even triumphed over Wolsey, and had probably believed that the older nobility would have regained some of their ancient influence. They had been disappointed. Cromwell, a man of absolutely unknown origin, and with something at least of the downright roughness of a self-made man, was carrying all before him.
The gentry, besides that they were largely connected with the superior clergy, and suffered with their suffering, were at the present smarting under a change in the law, which deprived them of the power of providing for their younger children. By the common law it was not allowed to leave landed property otherwise than to the eldest son or representative. To evade this it had been customary to employ what are called uses:—that is, property was left to the eldest son, saddled with the duty of paying a portion, or sometimes the whole, of the rent to the use of the younger son. A long continuance of this practice had produced inextricable confusion. There were frequently uses on uses, till at length it was often difficult to say to whom the property really belonged. This difficulty had been met by the "Statute of Uses" in the preceding year, by which the holder of the use was declared to be the owner of the property, and for his benefit a Parliamentary title was created. At the same time, to prevent a repetition of the difficulty, uses were forbidden. Till, therefore, the law was altered a few years afterwards, the old common law held good, and, uses being impossible, gentry with much land and little money were deprived of all power of helping their younger children.
The lower orders were suffering principally from a change in the condition of agriculture in England, for which the Government could not be held responsible. There was a strong tendency to convert arable land into pasture. Complaints on this head are constant. Mercantile men also had begun to find that possession of land gave them influence irrespective of birth. Bringing the mercantile spirit with them to the country, they had worked their properties to the best advantage, regardless of the feelings of their tenants and labourers. The consequence was, that where in the old days there had been thriving villages, there were now in many instances barren sheep-walks, supporting only two or three men. The rest of the old inhabitants, uprooted from their connection with the soil, thronged the towns, or of necessity became dependent upon charity. They were suffering very deeply, and as usual attributed their sufferings to their governors.
The insurrection broke out in Lincolnshire, at Louth. Thither Heneage, one of the clerical commissioners, and the Bishop of Lincoln's chancellor were going on their business on the 1st of October. It was rumoured that they intended to rob the treasury of the church. A crowd collected under the leading of a man who called himself Captain Cobler. The church was locked and guarded, the great cross fetched out by way of standard, and the whole township marched to raise the neighbouring towns and villages. The insurrection in Lincoln was essentially a popular one. It was on compulsion that the gentry joined it. There was a strong party for murdering them. They were in fact besieged by the populace in the Close at Lincoln, and quickly threw their weight upon the side of the Government.
At Lincoln, during this quarrel between gentry and people, was a young lawyer, Robert Aske, who had been stopped by the insurgents, as he said, returning to his work in London. However this may be, he at once imbibed the spirit of the insurrection, and hurried off into Yorkshire, where he had interest, and where a rebellion of quite a different sort from that in Lincoln was quickly organized. The Lincolnshire rebels never came to open fighting. They sent a petition to the King from Horncastle, begging that religious houses should be restored, the late subsidy remitted, the "Statute of Uses" be repealed, the villein blood  removed from the Privy Council, and the heretic bishops  deprived.
The arrival of troops under Sir John Russell and the Duke of Suffolk was sufficient to cool the rebels' ardour, and though they watched his progress sulkily, they did not absolutely oppose him. The ringleaders were given up and the insurrection dissolved. Suffolk had brought with him the King's very firm answer to their petition: "How presumptuous," he says, "are ye, the rude commons of one shire, and that one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm and of least experience, to take upon you, contrary to God's law and man's law, to rule your Prince, whom ye are bound to obey and serve." He refused every request.
It was the duty of the great nobles in each county, under such circumstances, to call out the military force of the county to repress the insurrection. Lord Hussey, in Lincolnshire, had timorously held aloof and left the country. Lord Shrewsbury had gallantly taken his position at Nottingham. In Yorkshire this duty would have devolved on Lord Darcy of Templehurst, an old and tried soldier of both the late and the present King. His sympathies were, however, wholly with the movement, and, though Henry wrote to him to urge him to instant action, he threw himself with only twelve followers into Pontefract Castle, and there awaited the arrival of the rebels. These had rendezvoused on Weighton Common, and having elected Aske general, and having despatched a force to Hull, moved towards York. On the way they were joined by the Percies, with the exception of the Earl of Northumberland himself.
York surrendered to them. They then advanced to Pontefract, which was unable to hold out against them, and Lord Darcy and the Archbishop of York speedily took the oath which was exacted of all whom the rebels met in their march. Lord Darcy henceforward became the leader of the movement, second only to Aske. Of opposition in the North there was scarcely any. Hull was taken, and the army of insurgents, kept under rigid discipline, moved onwards till they reached the river Don. Their army consisted of 30,000 men, "as tall men, well-horsed and well-appointed, as any men could be" and they had with them all the nobility and gentry of the North.
At Doncaster they found themselves face to face with Shrewsbury and Norfolk, well chosen agents for the purpose the Government had in view for the rebels, claiming to uphold the rights of the old nobility and the old Church, here found themselves opposed by two nobles of the oldest blood and the strongest Catholic convictions in England. The rebels determined to treat, principally on the recommendation of Aske, who seems to have been really patriotic, and to have wished to avoid civil war. It was agreed that a conference should be held upon the bridge of Doncaster, and there a petition was intrusted to Sir Robert Bowes and Sir Ralph Elleskar to carry to the King, Norfolk agreeing to accompany them. Meanwhile, the rebel forces were disbanded.
The King contrived to win over these emissaries to his party, but Aske continued his organizations and when no satisfactory answer had been given by the close of November, he recalled his army to his standards, and again advanced to the Don. At Norfolk's earnest intercession the King at last agreed, against his own judgment, to grant a general pardon, and to call a Parliament, to be held almost immediately, at York. A conference between Norfolk and Aske was held at Doncaster, and Aske on his knees accepted the conditions, and threw aside the badge of the five wounds of Christ which had been assumed by the rebels.
It seems certain that the rebels at the time believed that the whole of their petitions had been granted [see 24 Articles]. It is possible that Norfolk, who had much sympathy with them, held out larger promises than Henry intended. The King's views at all events were not what the rebels supposed. He at once proceeded to organize the North, to establish fortified posts, and secure the ordnance stores. Norfolk was sent to Pontefract to make preparations for the coming Parliament. All this looked very unlike a favourable answer to the insurgents' petition. Still more were they disappointed when they found that, instead of a general amnesty, each individual had to petition for his own pardon, and received it only in exchange for the oath of allegiance.
There was much natural disappointment and smouldering discontent. A man of little influence, called Sir Francis Bigod, contrived a disorderly rising in opposition to the old chiefs. This afforded opportunity for Norfolk to establish martial law, and seventy-four persons were hanged. Perhaps some new treasonable correspondence was discovered, and perhaps the opportunity for vengeance had now arrived, but without any very clear renewal of their offences, the three leaders of the old insurrection—Aske, Darcy, and Constable—were arrested (March). Discontented words could no doubt be proved against them, and on this the charges against them were chiefly based. They were all condemned and executed, as were also many others of the prominent gentry of the North. Nineteen of the Lincolnshire rebels were executed (July 1537).
Of the three leaders, by far the most interesting is Aske. His popularity and influence were enormous, his power of organization seems to have been great, and there is visible in his whole career a genuine desire for the objects of the insurrection, apart from his own aggrandizement, which, coupled with his marked moderation and uprightness, renders him a very remarkable character.
[1. Low-born (i.e., Cromwell, et al.). Villein: 'one of the class of serfs in the feudal system' —OED.]
[2. Cranmer and his fellow reformers.]
Bright, J. Franck. English History for the Use of Public Schools.
London: Rivingtons, 1876. 404-8.
History of York
To justify closing the monasteries and seizing their assets, Henry VIII sent out church commissioners to seek out &lsquomanifest sin, vicious carnal and abominable living&rsquo. They reached York in 1536.
Soon afterwards the commissioners published a damning report allowing Parliament to pass an Act to dissolve religious houses worth less than £200 a year. Both Clementhorpe Nunnery and Holy Trinity Priory in Micklegate fell victim in summer 1536.
Monks expelled from religious houses led a revolt from the Yorkshire town of Beverley in October 1536 which became known as the Pilgrimage Of Grace. Yorkshire lawyer and landowner Robert Aske gave it that title, and led around 5,000 horsemen through York to the Minster, where he posted an order restoring banished monks and nuns to their religious houses.
Soon after Aske left York, Sir Thomas Percy and the Abbot of St Mary&rsquos rode through York with 10,000 men on their way south to join him at Pontefract. Here, negotiations averted a battle between these forces and a royal army.
In December York sent a delegation to the Pontefract conference between the pilgrims and the Duke of Norfolk, who represented the king. A royal pardon brought the rebellion to an end.
But fresh uprisings in the new year broke the fragile peace. Aske was arrested on new charges of treason and he was sent back to York for execution. He was hanged from Clifford&rsquos Tower on July 12 1537.
The king came to York four years later, and the city did all it could to make amends for its association with the rebels. On September 15 the Mayor, aldermen and councillors gathered alongside a crowd of commoners at Fulford Cross to meet Henry and his new bride Katherine Howard.
The crowd knelt before their king as the Recorder confessed to the most heinous offence of traitorous rebellion. They &ldquofrom the bottoms of their stomach repentant&rdquo, promised to spend their all in the royal service.
After this fulsome speech, the king was presented with of cups of &ldquosilver double gilt&rdquo, that contained £100 in gold for the king and £40 for the queen.
The Reformation: The People's View
The Reformation changed almost everything about community life - from the decor of parish churches, to care for the sick, the old and the poor.
The reaction of ordinary people to the Reformation is perhaps one of the most difficult to gauge. Despite the popular protest in 1536, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, there was a general acceptance of the Dissolution. Indeed, the way in which society embraced Protestant doctrine suggests that there was a majority who thought the Church was ripe for change.
'New parish churches built after the Civil War embraced some of the radical ideas that had found expression in the Commonwealth . '
The way in which reform was expressed can be seen today, in churches stripped of ornamentation, imagery, colour and decoration. The absence of these items reflects the impact of liturgical practice on the way people worshipped, and how the architectural barriers were brought down.
Once the Catholic mystery of the sacrament had been removed, the way interior space was used inside churches altered forever. New parish churches built after the Civil War embraced some of the radical ideas that had found expression in the Commonwealth, whilst a growing number of 'secular' religions abandoned churches altogether in favour of meeting houses.
However, the Reformation had another far-reaching consequence, which was to shift the burden of pastoral care from monastic institutions onto the parishes. The seeds for the secular takeover of the ‘journey of life’ were sown in this period, when care for the poor, sick and needy were embraced by the parish, and records noting births, marriages and deaths were kept locally.
(1) Eustace Chapuys was King Charles V of Spain's ambassador in England. In 1537 Chapuys sent a report to Charles V on the Pilgrimage of Grace.
It is feared that he (Henry) will not grant as he ought the demands of the northern people. The rebels. are sufficiently numerous to defend themselves, and there is every expectation that. the number will increase, especially if they get some assistance in money from abroad.
(2) Robert Aske made a speech about the Pilgrimage of Grace in York in October 1536.
We have taken (this pilgrimage) for the preservation of Christ's church, of this realm of England, the King our sovereign lord, the nobility and commons of the same. the monasteries. in the north parts (they) gave great alms to poor men and laudably served God. and by occasion of the said suppression the divine service of Almighty God is much diminished.
(3) Robert Aske, Pilgrimage of Grace Oath (October, 1536)
Ye shall not enter into this our Pilgrimage of Grace for the Commonwealth, but only for the love that ye do bear unto Almighty God, his faith, and to Holy Church militant and the maintenance thereof, to the preservation of the King's person and his issue, to the purifying of the nobility, and to expulse all villein blood and evil councillors against the commonwealth from his Grace and his Privy Council of the same. And ye shall not enter into our said Pilgrimage for no particular profit to your self, nor to do any displeasure to any private person, but by counsel of the commonwealth, nor slay nor murder for no envy, but in your hearts put away all fear and dread, and take afore you the Cross of Christ, and in your hearts His faith, the Restitution of the Church, the suppression of these Heretics and their opinions, by all the holy contents of this book.
(4) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1985)
While an uneasy calm was settling on Lincolnshire a far more serious revolt broke out in Yorkshire, where the initiative was taken by Robert Aske, a minor gentleman and lawyer. Aske was an idealist, who gave to the rebellion most of its spiritual quality. His loyalty to the King was genuine, and he and Henry probably shared many of the same assumptions about religion.
(5) Edward Hall, History of England (1548)
They called this. a holy and blessed pilgrimage they also had banners whereon was painted Christ hanging on the cross. With false signs of holiness. they tried to deceive the ignorant people.
(6) Derek Wilson, A Tudor Tapestry: Men, Women & Society in Reformation England (1972)
It would be incorrect to view the rebellion in Yorkshire, the so-called Pilgrimage of Grace, as purely and simply an upsurge of militant piety on behalf of the old religion. Unpopular taxes, local and regional grievances, poor harvests as well as the attack on the monasteries and the Reformation legislation all contributed to the creation of a tense atmosphere in many parts of the country.
(7) A. L. Morton, A People's History of England (1938)
The Pilgrimage of Grace. was a reactionary, Catholic movement of the North, led by the still half-feudal nobility of that area and aimed against the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries. But if the leaders were nobles the mass character of the rising indicated a deep discontent and the rank and file were drawn in large measure from the dispossessed and from the threatened peasantry.
(8) Anthony Fletcher, Tudor Rebellions (1974)
Aske's intention throughout the campaign he directed was to overawe the government into granting the demands of the north, by presenting a show of force. Only one man was killed during the Pilgrimage. He did not want to advance south unless Henry refused the Pilgrims' petition and he had no plan to form an alternative government or remove the king. Aske merely wanted to give the north a say in the affairs of the nation, to remove Cromwell and reverse certain policies of the Henrician Reformation.
(9) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012)
On Friday 15 December the king sent a message to Robert Aske by means of one of the gentlemen of the privy chamber. He wrote that he had a great desire to meet Aske, to whom he had just offered a free pardon, and to speak frankly about the cause and the course of the rebellion. Aske welcomed the opportunity of exonerating himself. As soon as Aske entered the royal presence the king rose up and threw his arms around him. "Be you welcome, my good Aske it is my wish that here, before my council, you ask what you desire and I will grant it."
Aske replied: "Sir, your majesty allows yourself to be governed by a tyrant named Cromwell. Everyone knows that if it had not been for him the 7,000 poor priests I have in my company would not be ruined wanderers as they are now."
The king then gave the rebel a jacket of crimson satin and asked him to prepare a history of the previous few months. It must have seemed to Aske that the king was in implicit agreement with him on the important matters of religion. But Henry was deceiving him. He had no intention of halting or reversing the suppression of the monasteries he had no intention of repealing any of the religious statutes in force.
(10) Jasper Ridley, Henry VIII (1984)
Aske spent Christmas at Greenwich as Henry's guest. Henry was very friendly, and Aske was flattered, charmed and completely fooled. Within a few days, a revolt broke out in the East Riding. It was led by Sir Francis Bigod, which was a little surprising, for Bigod had been an active anti-Papist, and had hitherto played no part in the Pilgrimage of Grace. He tried to capture Hull, but was repulsed by the citizens. The rising was immediately condemned by Aske, Darcy and Constable, who did all they could to prevent it from spreading, for they feared that it would result in the withdrawal of the concessions which they had obtained from Henry. They also played an active part in suppressing the rising.
(11) Henry VIII, orders given to the Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk about what should happen to those who took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace (January, 1537)
Cause such dreadful executions upon a good number of the inhabitants hanging them on trees, quartering them, and setting the quarters in every town, as shall be a fearful warning.
(12) Sentence of death passed on Robert Aske (July, 1537)
You are to be drawn upon a hurdle to the place of execution, and there you are to be hanged by the neck, and being alive cut down, and your privy-members to be cut off, and your bowels to be taken out of your belly and there burned, you being alive and your head to be cut off, and your body to be divided into four quarters, and that your head and quarters to be disposed of where his majesty shall think fit.
(13) Geoffrey Moorhouse, The Pilgrimage of Grace (2002)
When Aske was brought out his cell that Thursday morning at York, before he was tied to the hurdle that would take him to the scaffold, he confessed that he had offended God, the King and the world. He was then dragged through the centre of the city, "desiring the people ever as he passed by to pray for him." When he was taken from the hurdle he was led up the mound and into Clifford's Tower for a little while, until the Duke of Norfolk arrived. On being brought out again he was given the opportunity, like all condemned men, to make a final statement to the watching crowd. And in this he said that there were two things which had aggrieved him. One was that Cromwell had sworn that all northern men were traitors, "wherewithal he was somewhat offended". The other was that the Lord Privy Seal "sundry times promised him a pardon of his life, and at one time he had a token from the King's Majesty of pardon for confessing the truth". In reporting this, Coren added, "These two things he showed to no man in these North parts, as he said, but to me only which I have and will ever keep secret." As soon as Norfolk was ready for the spectacle, Aske climbed to the gallows on top of the tower, asked for forgiveness again. When they had finished butchering his body, it was hung there in chains and John Aske, summoned with others of the Yorkshire gentry to be present, was one of those who watched all the things they did to his youngest brother.
Explain why the Pilgrimage of Grace failed
The Pilgrimage of Grace was a rebellion whereby several different areas of the country were covered by different rebel groups, so it is difficult to establish one single reason why all of the risings failed. It failed for a combination of reasons: the actions of the king such as success in battle, those of the rebels including poor decisions, and other contributing factors.
In the Lincolnshire rising, Henry knew he was outnumbered and the King instructed Norfolk to play for time and agree to the demands of the rebels on a temporary basis. Faced with the stark choice of being charged with treason and defeated by the large royal army on its way the rebels choice to accept the king’s terms, namely that he would consider their demands if they went home peacefully. So, it is debatable as to whether the failure of the Lincolnshire rising can be blamed on the naivety of the rebels’ actions and their loyalty or the careful tactics of the king.
The significant reason for the failure of the risings in the north was the well planned and operated moves of the king and his forces. In early December 1536, the rebels began to negotiate with the Duke of Norfolk who promised a general pardon, to stop the dissolution of the monasteries until further notice and discussion and all issues raised by the revels would be dealt with in a Parliament that was to be called in the north in 1537. Aske believed Henry and convinced leaders to accept the term offered rebels began to drift home and poor weather set in. In many ways Aske failed due to his loyalty to the king because if Aske had have not believed the king he may have been more successful in this particular rising.
Henry did not have the means to force the rebels to disperse if they refused to do so voluntarily. Having dispersed, it is unlikely the rebels could have assembled in such numbers again if they changed their mind. For the most part, it was the successful, merciless actions of the king that prevented the rebels triumph in this respect.
With the rebels dispersed it was easy for Henry to destroy the leaders and seek vengeance on some of the rebels. The rebels gave Henry the time to roll out an enormous propaganda campaign to build up his forces. Also, Cromwell wrote to the English ambassadors in France in order to dampen down any thoughts of invasion and the gentry started to seek forgiveness from Henry.
As part of the Cumberland risings, the rebels were defeated in an attack at Carlisle the reason for their failure here was simply a lack of success in battle. Henry was decisive, sent out a clear message and expected loyalty and obedience and because of this around one hundred gentry lost their lives. The outbreak of unrelated revolts in Westmorland and elsewhere in early 1537 gave Henry the excuse he needed to carry out earlier promises during the Lincolnshire rising Henry threatened ‘the utter destruction of them, their wives and their children’. Ring leaders were arrested and taken to London for interrogation and consequently execution, preventing and discouraging anyone from continuing the rebellion to its success.
In conclusion, the Pilgrimage of Grace was unsuccessful due to an unfortunate sequence of naïve decisions on the rebels’ part and the manipulative actions of their trusted king. Through his actions and a fortunate addition of unrelated revolts, Henry managed to overcome an army of around 42000 men. However, it could be argued that it was not a complete failure. While the rebels were physically defeated, some of their demands actually came true – some smaller monasteries stayed open.
The Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
The 'Pilgrimage of Grace' is the name given to a widespread revolt against the rule of Henry VIII because of his attacks on the monasteries and the church. The Pilgrimage of Grace started in late 1536 and finished in early 1537. Much is known about this revolt as it was well documented at the time. Between late 1536 and 1537 a number of revolts against the king took place in Northern England. These were collectively known as the &lsquoPilgrimage of Grace&rsquo. However, strictly, the Pilgrimage of Grace only refers to the revolt that occurred in Yorkshire between October and December 1536.
The first of the uprisings occurred in Lincolnshire in October 1536 and lasted about two weeks &ndash from the 2nd to the 18th. While it did not last long, the revolt did represent a major threat to the government. This was because those in the rebellion were not just the &lsquocommon&rsquo people. Nobles were also involved in the Lincolnshire Uprising &ndash a group of people whom the government had usually been able to rely on to support it. There is some evidence that some nobles may even have orchestrated the uprising &ndash but others were forced to join it on pain of death. The king could not use local militia to quell the uprising because it was feared that they would join the rebels. Therefore, troops had to be brought in from other areas of the kingdom.
By about October 5th, it is thought that 40,000 men were involved in the uprising. They marched to Lincoln. Contemporary documents show that they were well disciplined and orderly and certainly not a rabble. They received a decent welcome from the people of Lincoln. But once it the city, things started to go wrong. Those nobles in the uprising realised &ndash rather late &ndash that they had much to lose. The Duke of Suffolk was heading towards Lincoln with an army and the chances of defeating it were slim at best. They took the first opportunity they were given to withdraw themselves from the rebels. Suffolk, as was almost a tradition, gave all the rebels the opportunity to return home without bloodshed and gave a promise that Henry would look into some of the policies that had angered them. The nobles seized their chance, as did many of the commoners. Those who wanted to take on Suffolk remained in Lincoln but the numbers of the rebels had been severely reduced. Henry had previously ordered that no mercy was to be shown to those who had dared to show disloyalty to the king. There seems to be little doubt that those who remained in Lincoln would have paid with their lives. But almost immediately Henry was faced with a far more serious rebellion in Yorkshire, which postponed any immediate punishment of the Lincolnshire rebels.
The Yorkshire Uprising &ndash the Pilgrimage of Grace &ndash was very similar to the one in Lincolnshire. &lsquoCommoners&rsquo made up the bulk of the numbers while nobles were also in its ranks. However, one major difference was that the Yorkshire rebels were well led. Robert Aske, an able lawyer from an important Yorkshire family, became the accepted leader of the Yorkshire rebels. A skilled orator, Aske was also a very competent organiser. He wanted the rebellion to maintain the highest of standards so that no one could call the men he led a rabble. He did not want to frighten away more nobles from joining the rebellion. It was Aske who coined the phrase &lsquoPilgrimage of Grace&rsquo to describe their actions. This term, it is thought, was deliberately chosen. Pilgrims came from the word pilgrimage and this was the holy slant that Aske wanted to put on the rebellion. He wanted Henry to stop his attacks on the Church and the monasteries and return the country to following the Pope. Aske believed that Henry himself was not at fault as he was thought to be a decent and well-meaning king. Aske lay the blame on &lsquoevil&rsquo advisors, especially Thomas Cromwell, whom he believed were polluting the king&rsquos mind. Aske believed that once Henry saw the rebellion for what it was &ndash a spiritual pilgrimage &ndash he would revert to old policies and remove from power those who had mislead the king. However, to reinforce that the rebels had the means to gain what they wanted, the &lsquopilgrims&rsquo had a well-organised armed force at their disposal.
All those who took part in the rebellion had to take an oath regarding their behaviour and overall demeanour. For those who took this oath, it was binding and any failure to maintain it would lead to eternal damnation.
The support for Aske was widespread in Yorkshire. Men also joined from Durham, Northumberland and some from Lancashire. With a few exceptions, most of the rebels behaved very well. They gathered at York and then at Pontefract. There was a royal castle at Pontefract, which garrisoned 300 royal troops. It fell without firing a shot. In fact, the castle was in a poor state of repair and it is very likely that it could not have held out for a day let alone anymore time. Henry suspected the castle&rsquos leader, Lord Thomas Danby, of being sympathetic to the rebels and that the 300 men in the garrison, likewise, were far from loyal. But the fact that it was a royal castle gave the rebels in Yorkshire a major boost in terms of confidence. Pontefract Castle surrendered on October 21st. At this stage, the so-called Pilgrims numbered 35,000 men. They were well armed and well equipped.
Henry ordered the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Shrewsbury north to confront the rebels. However, both men could only raise about 8,000 men so they would have been heavily outnumbered in battle. The one advantage they had was the fact that Aske did not want conflict. He still wanted a negotiated settlement and as a result Norfolk met Aske at Doncaster Bridge on October 27th. Norfolk came across as a sympathiser of the rebel demands and he persuaded them to disband while a deputation of them would be escorted to London by Norfolk himself. What they may not have known was that Norfolk was a political rival of Thomas Cromwell and used whatever opportunity he had to undermine Cromwell&rsquos position &ndash and the rebels gave Norfolk a perfect opportunity to continue his campaign against Cromwell.
The deputation of rebel envoys did not include any major leader. Aske remained in Yorkshire to ensure that the rebels organisation maintained itself if the king failed to deliver. However, Henry was a clever politician. He received the rebel demands &ndash but failed to give a reply to them for several weeks. In this time he hoped that the rebel organisation would start to show weaknesses. It would be a tall order for Aske to keep all 35,000 men organised. Henry bought more time by asking the pilgrim envoys to clarify certain points that he failed to fully understand. He suggested that the leaders should meet up to construct a clearly written and detailed set of demands. At the same time Norfolk was ordered to end the rebellion in whatever way he thought necessary.
The rebel leaders duly met in Pontefract in early December to construct what became known as the &rsquo24 Articles&rsquo. The nobles among the pilgrims produced these and they did not represent the majority in the rebellion &ndash the poor commoners who were not invited to attend the meeting. Nine of the demands were specifically religious while six were specifically political. The rest were a combination of social, political, economic and religious issues.
The &rsquo24 Articles&rsquo were presented to Norfolk at Doncaster on December 6th. It was agreed that if the rebels disbanded:
1) The king would receive the demands.
2) A freely elected Parliament would discuss them.
3) All pilgrims would be pardoned for their part in the rebellion.
Aske and the 300 other rebel leaders at Doncaster believed that they had won a great victory. He travelled to London at the king&rsquos request to meet Henry who had asked to be briefed about the feelings of the people so that any future problems could be avoided. Aske saw this as a sign that the king was a decent person and that it was advisors who were failing the country. In fact, Henry was simply buying time. He had already determined that the north had to be taught a military lesson. However, he wanted from Aske as many names as was possible so that individuals could be brought to account.
In late January 1537, Aske returned to Yorkshire where he became a vocal supporter of Henry. Others were suspicious that the promised pardon had yet to arrive. At the same time it had become apparent to Norfolk that Henry would judge him by the way he put down the rebellion. Norfolk had feared that Henry had believed that he was sympathetic to the rebel demands and that now he needed to show above all else his loyalty to the king. Norfolk used a rebellion in Cumberland (February 1537) as the reason for his campaign even though the pilgrims had condemned what had happened in Cumberland.
By now the pilgrims were in disarray while the army of Norfolk was poised to strike when it chose to do so. With no chance of successfully fighting Norfolk&rsquos army, the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace agreed to Henry&rsquos order that they should come to London to answer questions. By early May, 15 of the main leaders were under arrest despite the promise of a pardon. Two juries were established in Yorkshire to decide whether the men should stand trial in London. The juries were made up of the friends of those arrested. This process was known as indictment. It was a heartless procedure as those who best knew the likes of Aske and Danby were now asked to essentially sign their death warrants as no trial in London would spare them. All the accused unsurprisingly were found guilty of treason. Most were executed in London but Aske was taken back to Yorkshire where he was executed. This was meant to be a gesture of how much in control of the events Henry was.
How much of a threat was the Pilgrimage of Grace to Henry? The king tried to play it off as a minor rebellion in one of the more outlying areas of his kingdom. Few, if anyone, in the royal court would have dared to contradict the king, especially as Henry had crushed the rebellion. However, many historians now consider the rebellion to have been the greatest internal threat that Henry had to face in his reign. They base their judgement on the basis that it would have been very difficult for Henry to have gathered together an army that was big enough to fight against the 35,000 men in the rebellion. There is also no evidence that Henry had anyone capable of handling such a large military force even if he had been able to raise so many men. It is also accepted that anger was not just a preserve of the north. If the rebels had marched south it is almost certain that others would have joined them. Therefore, as the rebels marched south, their numbers may well have grown greatly. There was also the real fear that a foreign nation would use the disruption that the rebels would have caused to attack England in the south. With Henry&rsquos army engaged against the rebels, there would have been little to stop a landing on the Kent/Sussex coast. If the Pope denounced Henry and urged all Catholics to assist the rebels, Henry&rsquos position would have been even weaker.
None of the above did happen as the rebels accepted the peace plan put forward by the king. Credit also needs to be given to Henry for the way he handled the representatives of the rebels while they were in London. His delaying tactic worked. Ironically, from a position of great potential weakness, Henry emerged from the Pilgrimage of Grace in a stronger position. The rebels were defeated and anyone else thinking about getting involved in something similar would have known about the consequences. The defeat of the rebels simply showed the populace who held real power and it is no coincidence that the major impact of the Reformation against the monasteries occurred after the Pilgrimage of Grace &ndash in 1538. It was almost as if victory against Aske and his followers spurred Henry to push ahead with his changes which is what he did. While the rebel army was in existence, they presented Henry with a major problem. The defeat of that same army gave Henry the freedom to move ahead with what he wanted to achieve. Historians have written about &lsquowhat might have happened&rsquo with regards to the Pilgrimage of Grace. It wanted Henry to change his religious policies for a start. Ironically, his victory over the rebels gave him the freedom to implement these changes regardless.
Richard Norton, Lord of the manor of Rylstone, together with some other members of his family and servants were heavily involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and as part of this, Richard laid seige to the Clifford's Skipton Castle. He was, however, pardoned by King Henry for this lapse of allegiance to the crown.
Much of the above article is taken from:
History Learning Site. (2014 onwards). The Pilgrimage of Grace . History Learning Site.co.uk. Web. 857130.
There is a detailed account of the The Pilgrimage of Grace as it effected Craven at:
Unfortunately i t is not possible to link this site but it has a great deal of information about the effect on Craven.
More specific information of Rylstone's involvement in the Uprising of the North and Richard Norton's involvement is given in:
Rylstone Project (2016). The Norton Family . Rylstone Project website. Button below.
Pilgrimage of Grace Timeline - History
Topic 1: What was the Middle Ages & Key events overview
Topic 2: Why was England invaded and who were the invaders?
Topic 3: Why was 1066 such a dramatic year?
Topic 4: How useful is the Bayeux Tapestry to historians learning about 1066?
Topic 5: What were King Harold's options and did he choose wisely?
Topic 6: How different were the Norman and English armies?
Topic 7: What happened on 14th October 1066 at Hastings?
History Skills / Concepts progress ladder
Topic 8: How did William really take control of England?
Topic 9: How important were castles for William's control?
Unit 1.1: Conquest and Control
Unit 1.2: Life in Medieval England
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Topic 1: What was life like in William's England (Domesday Book & Peasant life)
Topic 2: Importance of Religion in the Middle Ages (Doom Paintings)
Topic 3: Why was Archbiship of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, murdered in 1170?
The Pilgrimage of Grace
The Pilgrimage of Grace was the most substantial uprising that ever confronted the Tudor throne. It had the support of tens of thousands of the common people and a significant number of gentry and lesser nobles of the area of England north of the River Trent, an area always talked of as the "North".
In black and white terms, and its place in sound-bite history, the Pilgrimage of Grace was a mass movement that wished to restore the Pope and the monasteries to England. But further consideration suggests that it was far more complex than that. It was a struggle between the conservative North, and a rapidly changing South between the old agriculture of arable and common land, and the new methods of sheep and enclosures between a rigidly hierarchical concept of society and a more fluid, meritocratic one.
Banner of the Five Wounds of Christ, under which the Pilgrims marched
Perhaps most of all it was a struggle between the centralising, all-powerful Tudor monarchy and the last remnants of feudalism.
Strictly speaking, there were three separate uprisings in the period from October 1536 to Spring 1537. The first in Lincolnshire, termed the Lincolnshire Rising, the second in Yorkshire, termed the Pilgrimage of Grace, and a third in Westmoreland, referred to as Bigod's Rebellion. Although they were separate events, with different triggers and outcomes, they are generally considered as a whole, and that is how they are considered here.
Academics are divided on the fundamental causes of unrest, citing religion, economics, politics and court conspiracies. It seems reasonable to suppose that a combination of these factors influenced individuals and localities differently.
The unfolding of events is rather complex, so we have included a timeline here, to complement the narrative below.