The causes of Tudor Rebellions from 1485-1601

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

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.


  1. where have you referenced the Loades and Fletcher quotes from?

  2. As Hannah said above, please can you tell me where you referenced the D.M. Loades quote, as I need the reference for my coursework.