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.

The Pilgrimage of Grace 1536

The Pilgrimage of Grace is the name given to a number of northern risings which happened in 1536. There is no doubt that the Pilgrimage of Grace had a religious undercurrent. The revolt began in Yorkshire where people were alarmed by the arrival of two ecclesiastical commissioners who were investigating the quality of parish clergy and closing small monasteries. They were concerned that there parish churches would be closed and their pride and joy- the 295 foot spire at Louth would be dismantled. Similar fears emerged in Yorkshire where over 100 monasteries were being threatened with closure. The rebels argued that a range of social and economic services would have be affected, the poor and children's education would decline, and spiritual teaching provided by monks. Monks joined the rebels often encouraging further to support the uprisings. Rebels were also concerned by the reduction of holy days and the recent assault on pilgrimage and saints. As a result the carrying of the banner of the 5 wounds of Christ is demonstrative of this pilgrimage these rebels felt they had began. Many of the changes that rebels resented had been introduced some time prior to the rebellion however, the appearance of the commissioners brought the reality of these new reforms to the door of clergy and peasant alike.

Some historians have identified economic causes for the Pilgrimage of Grace not least the rumour of additional taxation. In reality the subsidy was relatively small and affected few people however many rebels argued that they could not afford it.

In addition the Pontefract articles produced by the rebels identified the concern over illegal enclosures. There had been rioting in 1535. Over 300 people in Giggleswick in Yorkshire pulled down hedges and dykes.

There were also a number of social concerns that are expressed in the rebels articles including rack-renting, excessive rents, restriction of rights. Several of these changes impacted on the wealthy and they found in 1536 they were fighting on the same side as the lower orders to highlight their concerns to the King.

Nobles were also concerned by the pre-eminence of Cranmer and felt that they were being marginalised at court.

Controversial: Elton writes that it was feudal – ‘the effort of a defeated court faction to create a power base in the country for the purpose of achieving a political victory at court.’ Margaret and Ruth Dodds see a religious movement directed by gentlemen and a social movement directed by the poor against gentlemen. Fletcher and McCulloch list economic causes as resentment over taxation [1534 subsidy act], economic hardship [two years of bad harvests and bad weather], enclosures [ less serious], entry fines [more serious – payment on taking up an inheritance or tenancy] and tithes [more an attack on bad landlords]. Fletcher rejects Elton’s theory. M.L.Bush argues that the poor insisted on the gentry and nobles taking leading roles, and that the aristocracy tried not to get involved in a ‘conspiracy of inaction’.

It was preceded by a smaller rosining in Lincolnshire, where the common people of Louth thought that their church’s treasure was to be seized along with their weapons. The rising spread, and was led by gentry. 10,000 men marched on Lincoln. The aristocracy fled. The people of Horncastle produced the first banner with the five wounds of Christ. The people were persuaded to go home by a Lancaster herald.
Robert Aske was one of those who started the Pilgrimage in the East Riding of Yorkshire in October 1536. 10,000 Pilgrims forced the city to yield peacefully. Other areas of the North rose: Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland, Westmoreland [but less in Lancashire, where the gentry opposed it]. There was little resistance – Barnard castle then Lord Darcy in Pontefract Castle surrendered. Government response was slow and confused. The Dukes of Norfolk and Shrewsbury were sent North to treat with the rebels. The Royal Army had 8,000 men, the rebels had 30,000 at Doncaster Bridge. Aske argued that they should trust Norfolk. A truce was signed [27th Oct] the rebels demands were sent to Henry VIII at Windsor. Henry’s first response was to reject the demands, but Norfolk persuaded him to delay rejection and to keep negotiating. After more negotiations, the rebels thought they had won and agreed to disperse, with all gaining full pardons. Henry never intended to keep his promises.
Bigod’s pathetic rising in the east of Riding in Jan 1537 gave him an excuse to crack down and take revenge. Martial law was declared, the leading pilgrims were rounded up and 178 were executed, including Aske, Hussey and Darcy.

The rebels had the men to defeat the royal army, and had gentry and aristocracy in the leadership. 1536 was a difficult time for Henry VIII, with the reformation still new and uncertain, and no male heir produced yet. But the rebels never sought to unseat Henry, and he had no intention to give in to them, so their efforts were doomed from the outset

It broke the dangerous Dukes of Northumberland – Percy made his lands over to the crow. The Council of the North was reorganised, made permanent, and strengthened- it crushed a plot in Wakefield in 1541. But Henry took care not to push the North too far. He made a lavish progress there in summer 1541, and no college chantries were dissolved in the north as they were in the south. But Henry had to rely on paid mercenaries to defend his northern border, as the North remained a pressing military and administrative problem.

The Year of the Many Headed Monster 1549

Sometimes known as the year of commotion, 1549 was a year of unprecedented unrest. Areas throughout the country witnesses pesant revolts oftens as a result of the increased level of enclosure. This occurred in more low lying areas where land was more valuable as sheep land. The pesantry despite promises from the Good Duke Somerset felt that they were increasingly unable to achieve justice lawfully and so resorted to more aggresive measures.

Of these rebellions the two largest were:
  • The Western Rebellion
  • The Kett's Rebellion

The Western Rebellion 1549

Otherwise known as The Prayer Book rebellion this was undoubtedly a religiously motivated revolt. The people of Cornwall and Devon reacted strongly against the Edwardian reformation. The majority of the rebels demands suggest that the rebels wished for restoration rather than reformation and they like those during the Pilgrimage of Garce marched under the banner of the 5 wounds of Christ. There was no demand for a return of Papal authority however, everything that was new was heavily criticised including the new prayer book.

It could also be argued that the introduction of a new sheep tax only two weeks after the new prayer book added to the rebels growing grievances. The new tax in practice hit the peasant farmers as the wealthy were able to raise their prices to cover their costs.

Religious/Local issues: ‘The first insurrections of Cornishmen against Edwardian Reformation, in 1547 and 1548, sprang from fear of the loss of church goods and intense unpopularity of the government’s agent William Body’ [Fletcher] The Edwardian Reformation was introduced by protector Somerset and was a more extreme Protestant for than that of Henry VIII. Changes included the destruction of religious images, the closing of all chantries [places where prayers were said for dead men’s souls]. The people thought that the church and chantry goods were going to be confiscated. They suspected that Body ‘ an unscrupulous and avaricious careerist’ was trying to make himself risch by confiscating Cornish church property. Cornish men such as John Ressigh said that only a King could introduce new religious laws. ‘It was the announcement of the new liturgy in the prayer book to be uniformly used on Whitsunday 1547 that turned the opposition into a full scale rebellion’ [ Fletcher]. Demands in the rebels manifesto include: wanting to keep the Latin [or their own Cornish language and wafers instead of communion bread in services, wanting their children to be confirmed younger, complaints against inadequate clergy who withheld burials and baptisms to get higher fees.
Economic issues: Devon JPs had asked for a delay on the new poll tax on sheep – sheep counting had stated in May 1549, and there were rumours that geese and pigs would be taxed too. There were grievances about inflation.
Individual issues: Arundell was a known troublemaker and letters write of ‘riff-raff’ in the rebel ranks. The Samford Courtenay gentry families had a specific feud. Joyce Youings wrote ‘The motives of most of those that took part are still very unclear’.

In 1547 there was hostile demonstration against Body and the commissioners, dealt with mildly by the government. In 1548, Body was murdered by a mob in Helston. 10 of the ringleaders were hanged. In 1549, the commons persuaded a gentleman, Humphrey Arundell to lead them. They set up camp at Bodmin, drew up articles of grievance, and marched into Devon, where another rising started spontaneously in Samford Courtenay and joined the Cornish at Crediton. The leading JPs were powerless, but the opposition to the rebels was led by Sir Peter Carew, who started negotiations, but only provoked the rebels to block the roads to Exeter. Carew escaped to London to get help. Protector Somerset, faced with other disturbances and not having accurate information, sent Lord Russell with an inadequate force – he could not advance. The rebels set siege to Exeter- it was six weeks before Somerset took the situation seriously and gave Russell the men to relive it, while Russell could get no support from local people. The citizens of Exeter were divided, but those loyal to the crown won. Russell relived Exeter on 6 August, after skirmishes with 6,000 rebels but he did not dare follow them into the west. On 16th August Russell, now with 8,000 mercenaries, defeated the rebels at Stamford Courtenay, killing over 4,000 of them.

‘ The rebellion never had any real chance of forcing the government to make concessions in its religious policy’ The rebels got so far because Somerset was busy with other problems – rebellions in the midlands and east, and war declared by France on 8th August. Somerset may have made concessions, but he was losing his grip on the council, and other members would never have allowed them.

Very little – it distracted Somerset when he was dealing with Kett’s rebellion. Religious policies were not changed and Somerset’s others policies went when he lost power. Catholicism was restored only as a result of Mary’s accession [1553].

Kett's rebellion 1549

Kett's rebellion was motivated by both religious and economic issues. In contrast with the Western rebellion, the Kett's rebellion, was in part a reaction to the slow rate of progress Protestantism was making in eastern England. There was a strong feeling that the ministers were not good enough to advance the reformation. The rebels demanded better educated and resident clergy.

However, while religion became increasingly important to the rebels it was economic issues which first sparked the rebellion. Enclosures were becoming increasingly common particualrly in the East of England during this period. The rebellion was triggered between two local rivals, Robert Kett and John Flowerdew. Both had enclosed their land and while rioting broke out on Flowerdew's estates Kett had the foresight to dismantle his before offering himself as the spokesman of the rebels. What had agitated the rebels were accusations that these men were obstructing a government commission that was investigating illegal enclosure in the area. The rebels believed they would have government backing (The Good Duke) if they took the law into their own hands.

1. Enclosures: Protector Somerset and his civil servant John Hales believed that the economic and agrarian problems of the time were caused by greedy landlords trying to enclose land. They tried to stop this but the commons blocked three bills in 1548, so they set up commissions to look into enclosure abuses. The only one that got anywhere was near the area affected by the rebellion. The rebels thought that they were supported by the central government when they began tearing down enclosures. Resentments against the landlords was made worse by rack renting, and overstocking [grazing more than their fair share of animals] of commons by landlords.
2. Bad Local Gov: The rebellion began in Norfolk, which was particularly ill-administrated by its traditional magistrates’ (Elton). Kett’s article 57 says his purpose was to ensure that the ‘good laws, statues, proclamations’ made for the good people were no longer disregarded by the JPs. The rebels at Mousehold were careful to govern the area around very fairly. Many of the rural ruling classes had been corruptly abusing their privileges, and in Norwich city there Was a ‘breakdown of trust between the governing class and the people who normally sustained local government which has no parallel in the Tudor period’ (Fletcher)
3. Religion: 7 articles in Kett’s manifesto contain more protestant demands – that priests should preach and teach more, that priests live with aristocrats rather than with their flocks, and that they are grasping over tithes. They demanded that parishioners should choose new priests if their existing priest was not good enough. Norfolk had a tradition of Protestant radicalism- including Lollardy.

There had been many anti-enclosure riots across England, and one such riot at Attleborough in Norfolk gained a leader in Robert Kett, who led rioters to Norwich. He was joined by citizens and other s from the country, and soon had 16,000 in his camp at Mousehold outside Norwich. Mass uprisings swept through East Anglia and the South East, with several rebel camps set up. On July 22, they took Norwich by storm. The Suffolk rebel camp was suppressed, but Kett’s organization was excellent and popular, and the marquis of Northampton, sent by Somerset to put Kett down, mishandled events: he wasted time, allowed his Italian mercenaries to rest on cushions and was defeated by the rebels in a battle in the streets of Norwich. Northampton fled Norwich, and panic spread through the gentry. The Earl of Warwick was then sent with 12,000 men, and eventually defeated Kett outside Norwich, killing 3,000 men. Kett and between 50,300 men were hanged. Other riots and minor risings continued.

Indirectly fatal to Somerset. He was blamed by many for provoking the rebellion and for being too weak and slow to suppress it. Warwick’s success made him the obvious leader to challenge Somerset, and his army could be used to topple Somerset. This happened, bloodlessly, on 5th October. But the rising was not aimed at bringing Somerset down- more at supporting him against local gentry.

1. A counter reaction by MPs in November 1549 re-enacted the 13th century statue of Merton, enabling lords of the manor to enclose common land at their own discretion, leaving ‘sufficient’ for tenants use [landlords judged what was ‘sufficient’], with the death penalty for those who broke down fences. MPs also passed laws making it a felony to combine to lower rents and lower the price of corn.
2. Warwick brought in a more extreme Protestantism [but not due to Kett]

Northumberland's Coup 1553

In 1553 as Edward was dying he issued a 'Devise' which aimed to exclude Mary from the succession in order to avoid passing the throne to a Catholic. It was also largely responsible for the Duke of Northumberland's rebellion. He saw an opportunity to hold on to power and led an armed rebellion in favour of his daughter in law Lady Jane Grey.

Factional/Religious/Dynastic: John Dudley, the Earl of Northumberland had grown in power at the end of Edward’s reign and was reluctant to lose this power or see England under the leadership of a Catholic Queen. Edward’s ‘devise’ aimed to exclude Mary from the succession and was largely responsible for the Duke of Northumberland’s rebellion.

In 1553 the Duke of Northumberland had the support of aristocrats like the earls of Oxford and Huntingdon, and Lords Grey and Clinton in his attempt to overthrow Mary, but significantly more nobles rallied to her defence and most of Northumberland’s army 2000 deserted when confrontation seemed likely. The critical moment came on 18th July when Earl of Oxford defected. Next day, the Privy council declared for Mary, and the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London followed suit. Though Northumberland could still count on some loyal nobles he knew the game was up.

Mary’s response was to show leniency towards the rebels. Only a handful were punished: Northumberland and his two close associates, Sir John Gates and Sir Thomas Palmer were executed. Lady Jane Grey, her father and Northumberland’s sons were imprisoned. Jane was later executed as a result of Wyatt’s rebellion. Showed that the Protestant reformation was not as complete as it was assumed as many welcomed the return of a Catholic Queen. It also shows how important the rightful heir was to the people of England- they would rather a legitimised Tudor on the throne.

Wyatt's Rebellion 1554

Unusually Mary was not targeted by rebellion as a result of her counter-reformation. She had reversed much of Edward's policy before the Wyatt’s revolt. Originating from Kent it was fuelled by political factors rather than religious issues. However it cannot been ignored that Kent was a Protestant stronghold and all the leaders of the rebellion can be linked to the Protestant church. Instead Wyatt's agenda was linked to the emergence of a Spanish faction at court following the proposal of Philip II to Mary. This xenophobia Wyatt believed would prompt more support from the nation.

1. Political: D.M Loades ‘The real reasons which lay behind the conspiracy were secular and political’. The plot was led by prominent members of the Edwardian regime who had done their best to keep Jane on the throne, and who would have been happy to see her back. The rebels were objecting to the proposed marriage of Mary I to the King of Spain, her cousin Philip II. There were no effective constitutional ways of opposing such a marriage – Mary rejected a Commons petition against the marriage in Nov. 1553. The marriage was linked to a restoration of lands to the Church that had been sold off in the previous two reigns. The conspiracy aimed to depose Mary and marry her Protestant sister to Edward Courtney, grandson of Edward IV., and put her on the throne. Wyatt appealed to patriotism when raising rebellion, saying he meant no harm to Mary- only to keep her from bad advisers, and to keep the Spaniards out of England.
2. Religious; ‘The religious agenda of the rebellion deserves more attention that Loades gives it‘ (Fletcher). John Ponet, recently deprived Bishop Winchester, was one of Wyatt’s advisers. The only real violence in London was against the property of the catholic Bishop Gardiner. Not a single rebel had Catholic sympathies. Thomas Wyatt was an enthusiastic evangelical, Carew was notorious as a promoter of Protestantism in the West, and Croft had been entrusted to introducing the Protestant liturgy in Ireland. There is evidence of Protestant religious radicalism in Kent, the seat of the rebellion.

The rising was planned to take place in March 1554 with a series of rising around the country led by prominent gentry, and the French giving naval support. But the secrecy of the plot was lost, and various uncoordinated small rising took place in January, led by the Duke of Suffolk [Leics.], Carew [Devon] , while Croft never tried to raise Herefordshire. Only in Kent did Wyatt get a rebellion going, raising his standard at Maidstone and his HQ in Rochester. Many neutral gentry were quietly sympathetic, and did nothing to stop Wyatt. The royalist commander, Norfolk, had to retreat to London when the Whitecoats Londoner at his back deserted to the rebels. The whitecoats urged a rapid attack on London, which could have succeeded, but Wyatt hesitated and then Mary played for time. Mary promised to follow parliament’s advice over her marriage, gaining her crucial support in London. When Wyatt finally marched on London on Feb 6th he put the government forces to flight, causing panic in London, But Mary stayed firm, Ludgate gate stayed closed, and the populace did not rise for Wyatt. Wyatt surrendered after about 40 men were killed.

Dangerous; If the Londoners had backed Wyatt, Mary may have been deposed, and Elizabeth enthroned. The presence of a royal alternative and credible, popular noble leadership together with the seat of rebellion near London, and the xenophobic feelings against Philip combined to give it a real chance. But the crucial movement against a ruling Tudor, had proved difficult to make again, suggesting that the mystique of the Tudors made them almost impossible to dethrone.

The leading conspirators, together with nearly 100 men, were executed. Jane and her husband Guilford Dudley, were executed, but Elizabeth was not, due to lack of evidence against her. Wyatt, after his execution, attained martyr status, especially in Elizabeth’s reign, when there was a reaction against Spain and against Catholics. There were no mass reprisals as in 1536, as Kent was a sensitive and vulnerable area. Mary duly married Philip and got England in a disastrous war against France.

Shane O'Neill 1559

He resented losing his Earldom of Tyrone in Ulster to his brother. He was willing his brother to get it but this only stirred up resentment against him. When he begged forgiveness from Elizabeth I, she agreed to recognise him as Captain of Tyrone and the ‘O’Neill’ head of clan, but he was soon plotting with Charles IX and Mary Queen of Scots, and claiming to be the true defender of the faith.

Despite Elizabeth’s appointments when Shane returned to Ireland he continued to disregard the law, raid lands of rival clansmen, kidnapped hostages and dabbled in high treason. In 1566 Elizabeth finally abandoned her attempts to reconcile him and turned to a military solution. Elizabeth sent 700 troops to establish a garrison in Ulster but the defeat of Shane was dependant on the support of the other clans. Shane O’Neill was finally defeated in 1567.

Dangerous: See Kildare; also from reaction of Elizabeth it clearly concerned her particular due to the link with MQS.

Following the suppression of the rebellion, junior members of the clan were made to surrender their land in Ulster and have them regranted according to English law, the Scots in Atrim were expelled, three garrisons set up and two English colonies were established.

Geraldine Rebellion 1565-83

Fitzgerald returned from abroad and raised Irish rebels in protest at Elizabeth’s religious and political policies.
The rebellion lasted for five years even though Fitzgerald was killed within weeks of its start. On his death Desmond continued the rebellion. He received aid from Italian and Spanish troops at Smerwick. He was eventually rounded up by an English army led by Lord Wilton. His army was more than capable to solving the Geraldine rebellion and shows that the government had put their mind to solving the Irish problem. Desmond was executed.
From time to time rebellions in Ireland could be a security risk but they never presented a serious challenge to English rule and domestic troubles and foreign wars were always given priority. The Tudors however, increasingly struggled to suppress disturbances in Ireland.
Cost Elizabeth £ 254,000

The rebellion of the Northern Earls 1569-70

Defence of the Catholic faith, together with personal and political motives, go a long way to explaining the reason for the Northern Earls rebellion. Westmoreland had been born a Catholic while Northumberland was converted in 1567. The North of England had hung on to the old religion despite the 5p fine charged for missing the weekly Protestant service however, the wealthy were frequently protected by their local JP. The rebels actions suggest there was an element of religious motivation as they restored the mass at Durham cathedral.

However there was undeniably factional reasons for this rebellion. The Northern Earls schemed to overthrow William Cecil who they considered as too influential at court. They held him responsible for the uncertain succession and poor policy decisions. The plan involved Norfolk marrying Mary Queen of Scots who was at the time under house arrest in England.

Most of the plotters confessed to the Queen however unwisely the Northern Earls pressed their cause. Westmoreland was bullied by his wife to continue while Northumberland had an axe to grind as his wardship had been given to a local rival.

National/Factional/Political – Mary Queen of Scots was semi-captive in England, and her proposed marriage to the catholic Duke of Norfolk was blocked by Elizabeth, who was threatened by such a move. Mary was tireless in her letters to plotters abroad and in England to help her against Elizabeth, including the papal agent Ridolfi and the Spanish ambassador De Spes. Norfolk, when forbidden to marry Mary, had left court without permission, and many thought hw had left to start a rebellion. This encouraged the Northern earls to think of rebellion.
Religious- Fletcher quotes Marcombe and Taylor in emphasising local insecurities caused by the new bishop of Durham, the strongly protestant James Pilkington, who was aggressive in his assault on religious imagery and church furniture, and in his regaining full legal control over church lands. Northumberland was also pushed by his wife, a fervent catholic. All leaders were influenced by the Counter-reformation. Fletcher thinks religions was an important cause, but Elton writes ‘ religion played little part in the disaffection, though it supplied a useful cloak’.
Local/Factional – The catholic earls of Northumberland [Percy] and Westmoreland [ Neville] were pushed into rebellion by their tenants and by Sussex [President of the council of the North] calling them to answer for their actions. Elizabeth had put her cousin Lord Hunsdon in charge of Berwick, and built up the clientele of Northumberland’s rival, Sir John Forster. Northumberland had many personal grievances against Elizabeth; she dropped him as Lieutenant of the North, took away his Wardenship if the middle march, ignored his claim over a copper mine etc. Many of the rebels were retainers or tenants of the Earls.

Norfolk leaving court and then his summons to London provoked the two earls to call out their follows [Fletcher writes that the followers called out the earls]. On 14 November the rebels entered Durham cathedral, said mass, tore up the English bible and prayer book, and marched south to free Mary Queen of Scots and Norfolk and to restore Catholicism. Sussex was penned in York with the royal forces until the rebel forces melted away in the face of Hunsdon moving south from Newcastle and rumours of a huge royal force under Warwick being gathered in the south. After minor skirmishes, the earls fled to Scotland. A belated rising by Leonard Dacre was crushed by Hunsdon at Naworth. It had been almost bloodless.

No danger. The plotters had been told by De Spes before it started that it was likely to fail. Norfolk and both Earls showed no courage or determination, and seemed reluctant to act. Many of the northern gentry had ‘answered coldly’ to rebel calls. Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, failed to act and Dacre was too late. The rebellion was in midwinter, and many rebels were freezing and starving, The support for the rebels was very limited geographically. Fletcher cites its ‘incoherence and aimlessness’

Elizabeth order severe punishments, Elton says 800 were executed, Fletcher says less than 450 were executed due to bad weather allowing many to escape and the reluctance of Bowes to pursue them. The Puritan Earl of Huntingdon became the new president of the council of the North, and he systematically broke down the feudal links that had kept the northern Earls so powerful, and imposed much more centralised rule. England’s bonds with Scotland were strengthened due to Regent Moray backing the English and handing over Northumberland. De Spes and Mary were weakened, and there were calls from the 1570 Parliament for Mary to be executed, and calls for Elizabeth to get married and have an heir. Her moves towards marriage and alliance with Henri Duke of Anjou were an indirect result.

Tyrone 1595

In the final decade of Elizabeth’s reign it was clear tensions were building again. The plantations provoked ill-feeling as new owners raised rents and took land to which they were not entitled. Government policies of compositions, establishing Protestant churches at the expense of the Catholics, seizing attainted lands all fuelled resentment. Hugh O’Neill, despite being brought up in the earl of Leicester’s household, returned to Ireland in 1593 and wished to be recognised as ‘the O’Neill’ ruler of Ulster. He had defended Elizabeth’s policies of garrisons when other clans had attacked them and he did not feel he had been adequately rewarded. His aim was to expel the new English settlers and Anglo-Irish administration, and to achieve independence. Some historians see O’Neill using the resentment growing in Ireland as a useful cover for what was actually an attempt at power.

The O’Neill rebellion was allowed to grow as Elizabeth had a shortage of both men and money to fight the rebellion. He managed to rally more than 6000 troops. It traversed all four Irish provinces and the size of rebel armies exceeded Elizabeth’s resources. Not until 1599 was a force of 17,000 sent under the command of the Earl of Essex. This would have been large enough to combat the revolt if he had deployed the troops effectively but he proceeded to divide his army, putting half in garrisons and sending the rest into the provinces, without ever forcing Tyrone to submit. By 1603, when Tyrone finally surrendered to Lord Mountjoy, more than 30,000 English troops had been sent to Ireland.

Dangerous: Unlike other rebellions it sparked nationwide revolts against English rule and lasted for 8 years. England was at war with Spain and there were serious domestic problems such as runaway inflation, food shortages, rising unemployment and recurrent plague. Elizabeth was aware of the strategic importance of Ireland [Spain had landed there before] but money to fight a rebellion was in short supply. Elizabeth underestimated the scale of his revolt, made several unwise appointments and deployed insufficient resources until her military commander persuaded Tyrone to submit.

Cost Elizabeth £2 million. The Earl renounced his title of ‘the O’Neill’ and agreed to support English sheriffs and garrisons in Ulster but the was granted a pardon and recovered all he had held at the start of the rebellion.

Oxfordshire 1596

Social and Economic: As population levels started to rise in the second half of the sixteenth century, pressure on land for food and work increased, and the enclosure of common land, whether agreed amicably among farmers or enforced illegally by greedy landlords, was seen by distressed groups as the cause of their grief. For much of the period grain prices rose ahead of wool prices and enclosure attracted less political attention. By 1590s, however, private profit was replacing communal co-operation. Allegations that common lands had been fenced off, villagers denied rights of pasturage and land converted from arable to pasture lay behind the food riots in the south-west and south-east of England in 1595 and the enclosure rebellion in Oxfordshire in 1596.

Four men gathered at Enslow Hill with the intention of seizing arms and artillery from the home of Lord Norris, the lord lieutenant of Oxford, and many more protesters but no one else joined in. It is difficult to judge whether the Oxfordshire rebels were serious about murdering seven local landlords who had enclosed the fields nearby but it could explain the reluctance of serving men to join them. Although the Privy council feared that similar plans existed to seize food supplies and attack gentry and their farms, no further disturbances occurred.
On the face of it there seemed little wrong with the organisation of this rising: the ringleaders spent a long time planning their moves and determining when and where it would take place. Unfortunately secrecy was not high on their agenda and a fair-weather colleague alerted his Lord of the intended rising. The rebel’s choice of Enslow Hill made their arrest rather predictable and the attempted rebellion was defeated before it could start.

The council from its treatment of the rebels [see below] clearly considered this rebellion threatening although in reality it never got started.

Five ringleaders were taken to London, interrogated, imprisoned for six months, tortured and then sentenced to death for making war against the Queen. In June two were hanged, drawn and quartered the fate of the rest is unknown. On four occasions the council ordered the Lord Lieutenant to make arrests even though he only believed no more than 20 men were involved. As a result many innocent men found themselves in London prisons. Clearly the privy council over-reacted out of fear that this was part of a larger conspiracy or that a similar incident might occur elsewhere. In a climate of suspicion and uncertainty, it had decided against taking any chances.
The Privy council did as a result of the rising restore land under tillage and initiate prosecutions against illegal enclosures.

Essex 1601

The Earl of Essex had developed to be Elizabeth's favourite courtier. He had gained a reputation as a heoric figure fighting duels winning himself many admirers. While a famous aristocrat he was hort on cash. He attempted to rule the court and rival Cecil which turned the queen against him. It reached a head when Essex turned his back on the Queen following an argument. The Queen slapped him and as a result Essex felt he had been publically shamed. He was sent from court and as a result he lost his influence at court. In 1598 William Cecil died and so as a result Essex was able to return to court however with mounting debts he needed royal support so he accepted his appointment as Lord Lieutenant in Ireland. His future career depended on his success in Ireland.
Unfortunately for Essex his military failures weakened his position and his absence from court allowed his enemies to work against him. In a last desperate attempt to regain his position he burst into Elizabeth's bedchamber. In summer 1600 it became even worse as he was charged with treason on the grounds that he had conspired with Spain and the Pope. The charges were unfounded but Essex was becoming increasingly vulnerable and this was made clear when Elizabeth refused to grant his sweet wine monopoly.

Political factions were central to the cause of this revolt. His star was falling and he resented the influence that Robert Cecil had at court. Essex planned a show of noble force believing it would lead the Queen to readmit him to court and to her favour. Essex gambled on his political strength and popularity as a factional leader - It failed!

Faction/ personal – many of Elizabeth’s trusted old councillors died around 1590, leaving her with few trustworthy servants. The earl of Essex had enjoyed a meteoric rise to Elizabeth’s favour after the death of her favourite Leicester, but he pushed it too hard. He declared himself ‘not of a nature to be ruled’, and having turned his back on Elizabeth, half drew his sword when she boxed his ears. With war against Spain and rebellion in Ireland and bad harvests eating at Elizabeth’s funds, there was a lack of available patronage for the factions, and Robert Cecil’s faction was pushing Essex for power at court – vicious rivalry ensued. Essex’s disastrous expedition to Ireland led to him returning, defeated in 1599. He alleged that Cecil has undermined his campaign, and stormed into Elizabeth’s rooms, mud splattered and uninvited. He was imprisoned for a year where he ineptly plotted with those gentlemen and nobles kept out of office by Cecil’s faction, and with reckless deserters from his Irish army, encouraged by the London mob. In 1600, he was persuaded to throw himself on the Queen’s mercy and was allowed to live under house confinement in Essex House, but deprived of the monopoly of sweet wines and faced with financial ruin, and close to a nervous breakdown, he decided to risk rebellion. Cheyney blames Elizabeth’s jealously for Essex’s popularity. Elton blames Essex for acting as an over mighty subject, rejecting the idea that it was due to bastard feudalism – ‘there was nothing territorial about Essex’s power; he was no feudal lord.’ Fletcher: ‘Essex had articulated real anxieties: the court was seen as increasingly corrupt, and Elizabeth was not only keeping silent about the succession, but withholding power from the aristocratic younger generation’.

In Feb 1601, the privy council, which could no longer ignore the plotting, ordered Essex to attend it to answer charges. Essex arrested the four councillors who came with the message, and with a crowd of 200 gentlemen, armed only with swords, went into the streets shouting that Cecil, Raleigh etc were aiming to murder Essex. No one moved, and riot petered out. Essex went home and later surrendered with the Earls of Southampton and Rutland.

Although Elizabeth was old and superficially unpopular in London, and Essex had the support of the prominent young nobles and some Londoners, he never had a chance of seizing power, and the Londoners who barred their doors to him knew that, Essex was too unstable, Cecil was too calculating and powerful, and Elizabeth too established with the Tudor name and 42 years of success as Queen.
But Fletcher writes: ‘Although he failed to win any wider support, this was profoundly serious as it was the first attempt to challenge government in the capital for nearly half a century’

Essex was executed; most of his followers were heavily fined. The ruin of Essex and his faction left Cecil in a dangerously powerful position as the only factional leader: ‘Little Cecil trips up and down, he rules both court and crown’ went the rhyme of the day. James VI of Scotland had used Essex as his confident, but now Cecil was free to establish himself in the good graces of James, the most likely successor to Elizabeth. Essex was leader of the war party in fighting the Spanish and Irish – now there was a move to peace, led by Cecil. Elizabeth was left depressed and eventually losing the desire to live. The corruption of the patronage system by Essex, and the dominance of Cecil, continued to affect politics in James’ I reign: political instability let to the Catholic dominated Main, Bye and Gunpowder plots.