The causes of Tudor Rebellions from 1485-1601

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

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.

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