The causes of Tudor Rebellions from 1485-1601

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

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.


  1. This is absolutely brilliant! Thank you so much. This is in such detail, better than my A-Level text book!