Tudor Rebellions

The causes of Tudor Rebellions from 1485-1601

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Lovel rebellion 1486

Faction Yorkist/Lancs Francis Lovell, a former Lord Chamberlain, and his Yorkist associates Humphrey and Thomas Stafford, plotted to raise troops in 1486 to kill the King as he progressed to the North of England.

Lovel a councillor for Richard III sought to overthrow Henry VIII. Henry VII used spies to follow Lovel and the Stafford brothers following their defeat at Bosworth. Lovel took sanctuary in Colchester Abbey and then escaped before raising troops at Middleham (Yorkshire) in a bid to overthrow Henry VII. Henry’s agents who continued to follow them tracked down the Staffords in Culham Church in Oxfordshire where they were arrested. Sir Richard Edgecombe and Sir William Tyler were specifically appointed by the King to apprehend Lovel. He escaped but was forced to leave the country after an abortive rising in Yorkshire.

Not dangerous; He failed and fled to Flanders. Part of the reason they failed was that they lacked support from their retainers.

Sir John Conyers, who was suspected of being involved in the Lovel revolt and was a major office holder in Yorkshire lost his stewardship of Middleham and had a £2000 bond imposed. The Abbot Abingdon, who had secured sanctuary for the Stafford brothers, faced a 3000 mark bond allegiance. The use of sanctuary for future traitors and rebels was denied by Henry and the Pope made no objection.

Lambert Simnel 1486-87

Two years after the Battle of Bosworth many Yorkist nobles had lost their positions and patronage and so plotted to remove Henry VII and replace him with a Yorkist king. Lambert Simnel was the 12 year old son of an Oxford joiner who was trained to impersonate the Earl of Warwick, a Yorkist claimant to the throne. He was probably the front for the real Yorkist claimant John de la Pole.Dynastic/Factions/Irish issues.

When Henry VII seized the throne in 1485 he had a very weak claim to the throne. He was the leader of the Lancastrian faction and had defeated the Yorkist King Richard III. He attempted to heal the rift between the two factions by marrying Elizabeth of York. He also pardoned many Yorkist supporters. He hoped this would give him more security. However many Yorkist supporters lost their lands and positions as a result of their support for Richard III.
Richard III had allowed Ireland to virtually rule themselves. There was great concern that Henry would change this and take away their freedom.

Lambert Simnel was the 12 year old son of an Oxford joiner. He was trained up to impersonate the Earl of Warwick, a Yorkist claimant to the throne, who was actually in the tower. He was probably the front for the real Yorkist claimant John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln.
In 1486 Simnel was taken over to Dublin where Irish chiefs believed he was genuine and proclaimed him King.
Margaret Duchess of Burgundy and head of the Yorkists abroad sent 2000 mercenaries to Dublin.
Henry VII paraded the real Earl of Warwick in London.
In 1487, the rebels landed in England, but few joined their ranks. They were defeated by Henry’s forces at Stoke, a hard, bloody battle. The Earl of Lincoln was killed, Simnel was made Henry’s kitchen boy.

Dangerous: Henry was new and insecure on the throne. The throne had changed hands 3 times in 3 years – people would not have been surprised if it changed again.
Stoke was a close battle. It could have been lost especially as some troops waited on the battlefield to see who was winning before joining in.

Not dangerous: The English did not support it-They hated and feared the Irish. Simnel was a gentle youth. Warwick was alive and could be shown to be alive.

It was a dangerous rebellion because Henry was new and insecure to the throne. Simnel was proclaimed King and Margeret of Burgundy sent 2000 merceneries to Dublin. With this force they crossed to England. They had hoped more would join their ranks as they marched towards London but few did. The King met them at Stoke where a serious battle saw the defeat of the Yorkist plotters. Simnel a young gentle lad was made Henry's kitchen boy.

Many of the rebels were killed at Stoke. 28 others had acts of attainder passed. Henry married Elizabeth of York. Henry initially pardoned the Irish. He later sent Poyning to crack down on Ireland. This resulted in a loss of their castles and a restriction of the meeting of parliament only when they had the authority of the King. English laws were made valid in Ireland and a heavier taxation was placed on them.
The Earl of Kildare was made deputy in Ireland. Henry knew he was too powerful to alienate completely.

The Yorkshire rebellion 1489

In 1489 Yorkshire objected to having to pay for a war which did not concern them. People in Yorkshire believed that it was unfair for people in Yorkshire to be forced to pay for Henry's war with France. Traditionally , people in the south funded the wars with France while the northern countries funded the conflicts with the Scots. In addition the counties of Northumberland, Westmoreland and Cumberland had been made exempt on the grounds of poverty Yorshire saw this as unfair. The Earl of Northumberland was chosen to lead the commission was also an unpopular choice and it was his murder that sparked the revolt.

Taxation: Unwilling to pay taxes to fund the war against France. People in Yorkshire felt that this war did not concern them as they were so geographically removed from it. Parliament had voted Henry VII £100,000 to meet the costs of the campaign in France but the prevailing view was that the tax was unfair. Traditionally, people in the south funded wars against France while people in the North funded wars against Scotland. Moreover the counties of Northumberland, Westmoreland and Cumberland had been exempted by the King on account of poverty; and took exception to the news the Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland would lead the tax commission.
Social: The protestors had also been effected by bad harvests of 1488

Rebels led by Sir John Egremont killed the Earl of Northumberland before royal troops dispersed them. It has been suggested that the murder of Percy, which had sparked off the revolt, was orchestrated by the King to take over Percy’s lands and gain control of the North but there is no extant evidence to support this theory. The Earl was very unpopular but so was the prospect of paying taxation. Some rebels were executed. Sir John Egremont escaped to France.

Dangerous; required a royal force to put the rebellion down. Henry VII did not collect the tax for fear of another rebellion. Killed a member of the nobility.
Not dangerous: Far from London. Put down easily.

Most of the ring leaders of the Yorkshire and Cornish tax revolts were rounded up, tired and executed but the rank and file members were allowed to return home and await the Kings judgement. Some 1500 men were pardoned and only 6 were executed including John Chamber the leader of the revolt. The tax was not collected. The Yorkshire rebellion discouraged Henry VII from making any further novel demands on the county.
In the aftermath of the Yorkshire rebellion Surrey was appointed Lieutenant of the Council of the North, a royal council begun by Edward IV but which lapsed in 1485, and lands which had belonged to the Earl of Northumberland were transferred to the crown.

Perkin Warbeck 1491-7

Warbeck was a young Frenchman who was persuaded to impersonate first the Earl of Warwick and then Richard Duke of York [one of the princes in the tower]. Warbeck was first supported by the Desmonds in Ireland and then by Charles VIII of France, who wanted to stop Henry VII supporting Brittany, which he was trying to take over. Warbeck was also supported by Margaret of Burgundy [the sister of the Yorkist Edward IV], by Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of the Netherlands, over the cloth trade in Flanders and by James IV of Scotland who was insecure and wanted to get Berwick back from England.


Dynastic/Factions: see Lambert Simnel profile
Foreign Policy: Warbeck was a young Frenchman persuaded to impersonate first the Earl of Warwick and then Richard Duke of York [one of the princes of in the tower], as front to their attempt to re-establish Yorkist dominance. Warbeck was first supported by the Desmonds in Ireland, and then by Charles VIII of France, who wanted to stop Henry VII supporting Brittany, which Charles was trying to take. Warbeck was also supported by Margaret of Burgundy [the sister of Yorkist Edward IV], by Maximilian, the holy Roman Emperor and ruler of the Netherlands, over cloth trade rivalry in Flanders, and by James IV of Scotland, who was insecure and wanted to get Berwick back from England.

In 1491, Warbeck first spotted in Cork and trained as a pretender. Gained little support, so went to France – sent away by Charles VIII after the treaty of Etaples (1492) - went to Burgundy, 1492. 1494, with Maximilian in Netherlands. 1495, English parliament rounds up Yorkist plotters; Warbeck’s landing in Deal in Kent is a fiasco. Warbeck flees to Ireland, where Waterford is besieged. Warbeck flees to Scotland. Warbeck and Scots invade England – no support from the English- another fiasco. James makes a deal with Henry (Ayton 1497). 1497 Warbeck flees to Cornwall via Ireland. West Country gives almost no support to Warbeck, Warbeck surrenders, confesses and is pardoned. [Executed in 1499 with Warwick]

Dangerous: in that Warbeck had support at various times from all of Henry’s powerful neighbours. The real Richard of York could not be shown as he had been murdered in the tower [?].
Not dangerous: in that none of the foreign countries gave Warbeck adequate support, and he gained almost no support each of the three times he got into England. Warbeck himself was not very determined. Henry’s navy disrupted his efforts. Overall very little real danger of Warbeck taking Henry’s throne.

Henry, anxious to make friends abroad and to cut of Yorkist support, made several treaties: 1492, Treaty of Etaples with France had a clause denying help to each other’s enemies. Henry strengthened the 1489 Treaty of medina Del Campo with Spain. He made the Magnus Intercursus treaty with Maximilian, resuming cloth trade with Flanders. He married his daughter Margaret to James IV of Scotland. In 1506 a treaty with Philip of Burgundy/Netherlands caused Philip to give up Edmund de la Pole [the leading Yorkist] into captivity in England, where he was executed in 1513.
In England, although parliament passed the De Facto Act of 1495 to reassure ex-Yorkists, saying service to the Yorkist Kings had not been treason, others [e.g Stanley} were executed. Sir James Tyrell allegedly confessed to the murder of the princes of the tower [on orders of Richard III] before he was executed, thus clearing Henry of suspicion. Overall, no big changes in government cause by rebellion.

The Cornish Rebellion 1497

The Cornish rebellion began in January 1497 when parliament voted £60,000 to fund a war against the Scots. This grant was in fact an innovation as it would only be collected if war broke out and as it happened war did not break out. However the Cornish felt that the events of the northern boarder should not impact on them. Perhaps they remembered the events in Yorkshire where they rebelled against a tax for war.


Henry VII needed money to deal with the threat of Perkin Warbeck and Scotland, so parliament granted him a subsidy of £120,00 – far more than any other year [only once had more than £31,000 been collected!] The people of Cornwall did not see events in the North as being a threat to them, and did not want to pay for a war that was none of their business. Many Cornishmen thought that a scutage or land tax on knight’s fees raised in the north was a fairer way of raising the money. They persuaded by a lawyer, Thomas Flamank, to direct their resentment at Henry’s ‘evil advisers’ Cardinal Morton and Sir Reginald Bray.

Led by Flanmank and a blacksmith called Michael Joseph An Gof, the rebels marched through Devon to wells, where they acclaimed an impoverish nobleman Lord Audley as their leader. They marched to London, 15,000 strong, brushing aside Daubeny’s royal force of 500 men at Guilford. Henry had been caught unawares, as he had been concentrating on Scotland. The rebels camped at Blackheath outside London, but began to lose heart when men of Kent did not rise with them, and when the King did not negotiate with them. Some rebels wanted to surrender to the King, but the leaders did not let this happen. Desertions left the rebels 10,000 men to the King’s 25,000. The battle was a rout, and Audley was executed, Flanmark and Gof were hung, drawn and quartered, while most of the rebels were heavily fined-£15,000 was raised from them, and more from those who helped them along their route. ‘The less blood he drew, the more he took of treasure’ Bacon

Not dangerous. The rebels gained sympathy but almost no support outside Cornwall, and did not gain the vital credible aristocratic leadership. They had no plans to remove Henry from the throne, so when Henry decided not to negotiate with them, but to attack them, they had little hope or resolution left. Henry was able to use the mercenary army raised to fight the Scots against the rebels.

Henry never again asked for so much money, but he never really needed to. In fact, the crown only received about £30,000 in subsidy in 1497. His strategy of heavy fines worked well- Cornwall was no trouble for Tudors again until 1548, and gained Henry useful cash. There was no obvious effect on Tudor government, which continued to raise taxation through Parliamentary taxation when needed, although it may have been the 1497 events that persuaded Henry to abandon his plans in 1504 to raise additional money in a time of peace – in the end he raised the 1504 subsidy in the same way as the 1497 one and received £30,000 again.

The Amicable Grant 1525

The Amicable Grant was a non-parliamentary tax which commissioners were ordered to collect in the Spring of 1525. Objections to paying was widespread but they included:

  • Wolsey had already taken £260,00 in forced loans and had not paid these back.
  • The Church had already been taxed excessively.
  • Since 1513 Wolsey had intorduced tax assessments based on land, income and personal assets and collected whichever yielded the highest tax.
  • The rate was too high and many coudl not afford to pay

This rebellion was one of the few rebellions which could be argued to be successful.


Taxation. Mono-Causal rebellion. Unwilling and allegedly unable to pay taxes to fund a war against France, protesters in several counties, but mainly in Suffolk. In 1522 Wolsey had raised £260,000 in forced loans which despite promising to pay back never had been. The Amicable grant made excessive demands on laity and clergy alike. Since 1415 Wolsey had introduced tax assessments on land, income and personal assets and collected based on whichever yielded the highest tax. There was rising unemployment in the area of the rebellion which added to the resentment. As they explained to the Duke of Norfolk ‘since you ask who is our captain, for sooth his name is poverty, for he and his cousin Necessity, have brought us to this doing’. Any suggestions that the grant being unconstitutional- a view put forward by some historians – did not figure in the rebels complaints.

The Amicable grant was a non-parliamentary tax which commissioners were ordered to gather in 1525. Wolsey received reports in the first weeks of April 1525 that a small number of people were refusing to pay the Amicable Grant. Protestors planned to march 50 miles from Lavenham to London to confront Wolsey with their complaints and appear to have been stopped by someone removing the clapper from the church bell, which would have been the signal to start the march. At the start the King’s minister took an uncompromising stance towards reluctant taxpayers and sympathetic commissioners. By 25th April 1525 it was clear that Wolsey’s bullying tactics were not working. Henry may have seen himself the growing discontent in London and informed the Lord Mayor and Aldermen that the Amicable Grant would be halved. However, none of the commissioners outside London were informed and soon there were reports of gatherings in Essex, Kent, Warwickshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. The King sent the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk to disperse the 4000 rebels who had gathered at Lavenham. They had a problem as Suffolk’s army of retainers was smaller than the rebel force and he was unsure of the reliability of his own men. While he waited for Norfolk to join him with more troops, he tried to contain the rebellion by destroying bridges. The rising was led by husbandmen, urban artisans, weavers and rural peasants, owed its success to its size[4000 rebels] and to the sympathy it received from members of the King’s council e.g. royal councillors and the Archbishop of Canterbury and that there were other similar anti-tax protests in other parts of the country.

Dangerous: Widespread, larger than a royal force, resistance in the capital

Only one rebellion that involved the commons achieved its objective-the withdrawal of the Amicable Grant- and this was precisely because several councillors alerted the King to the likely circumstances if he did not comply. Henry VIII had a neat let out of being able to blame Wolsey for the problems that precipitated the revolt and so the government emerged with credit and the king enhanced his undeserved reputation. Wolsey wanted revenged and brought the 16 ringleaders to trial in London and found them guilty of treason although to the surprise of everyone then released them [some historians argue under pressure from the King]. They were even paid compensation by the prison keeper on Wolsey’s instructions.
Wolsey’s relationship worsened as a consequence of the Amicable Grant but he did manage to remain in office for a further 4 years.
The tax was reassessed to avoid reigniting the rebellion. However, this did have an impact on Henry’s plans for war against France. When Henry collected benevolences in the 1540s, he targeted the wealthier groups rather than the poor.

Kildare 1534 ('Silken' Thomas)

Factional; From 1532 Cromwell began to favour Kildare’s rivals for government offices and the Earl began to resent his declining influence in court circles in both London and Dublin. In September 1533 Henry ordered Kildare to visit him as he doubted he could enforce the reformation acts. The Earl replied by sending his wife and in the meantime began to transfer weapons and gunpowder from Dublin castle to his own estates. A further demand from the King finally brought Kildare to London and once lodged in the tower he never left. ‘Silken’ Thomas began a revolt having heard of the arrest and imprisonment of his father, the Earl of Kildare, in the Tower of London.

His son ‘Silken’ Thomas not surprisingly ignored requests to visit London and he and his 5 uncles raised 1000 men in Munster and invaded the Pale. Although rebels called on the catholic church for support and condemned Henry’s religious reforms, the uprising was primarily political in cause and intent. Thomas’s objectives were to expel the English administration and become sole ruler of Ireland. However, with no imperial aid coming Thomas surrendered on promise of his life. He was sent to London where he was executed with his five uncles.

Potentially dangerous as Ireland was becoming a hot bed of rebellion and was a useful landing stage for Spanish or French invasion fleets/armies.

The rebellion had cost £25,000 to suppresses remarkable leniency was shown with only 75 executions. With Kildare lands confiscated and the large Geraldine affinity leaderless, the crown embarked on radical administrative reform. Henry ended generations of Irish Aristocratic rule and seriously destabilised relations between English governments and Irish subjects and Gaelic clans. For the first time English-born officials were appointed to key administrative posts as lord deputies, lieutenants, treasurers and chancellors. The crown no longer had an Irish family, such as the Kildares, to safeguard its interest, and rival clans, like the Butlers, O’Neills, O’Mores, O’Connors and O’Donnells, felt less intimidated and more willing to break the law.