|Pilgrimage of Grace|
|Location||York, Yorkshire, England|
|Date||October 1536 – October 1537|
|Uprising and subsequent suppression|
Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy
Sir Robert Constable
Sir Francis Bigod
No. of participants
|Defender||Thomas Cromwell, Vicegerent in Spirituals to Henry VIII|
The Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular uprising that began in Yorkshire in October 1536, before spreading to other parts of Northern England including Cumberland, Northumberland and north Lancashire, under the leadership of lawyer Robert Aske. The "most serious of all Tudor rebellions", it was a protest against Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the policies of the King's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, as well as other specific political, social and economic grievances.
The Pilgrimage began almost immediately following the suppression of the short-lived Lincolnshire rising of 1536. The traditional historical view portrays the Pilgrimage as "a spontaneous mass protest of the conservative elements in the North of England angry with the religious upheavals instigated by King Henry VIII". Historians have noted that there were contributing economic factors.
The Lincolnshire Rising was a brief rising by Roman Catholics against the establishment of the Church of England by Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries set in motion by Thomas Cromwell. Both planned to assert the nation's religious autonomy and the king's supremacy over religious matters. The dissolution of the monasteries resulted in much property being transferred to the Crown.
The royal commissioners seized not only land, but the church plate, jewels, gold crosses, and bells. Silver chalices were replaced by ones made of tin. In some instances these items had been donated by local families in thanksgiving for a perceived blessing or in memory of a family member. There was also resistance to the recently passed Statute of Uses, which sought to recover royal fees based on land tenure.
The rising began on 1 October 1536 at St James' Church, Louth, after evensong, shortly after the closure of Louth Park Abbey. The stated aim of the uprising was to protest against the suppression of Catholic religious houses, not the rule of Henry VIII himself. The commissioners' registers were seized and burned. It quickly gained support in Horncastle, Market Rasen, Caistor and other nearby towns. The chancellor of the Bishop of Lincoln, who was ill at Killingbroke, was captured and beaten to death by the mob.
Angered by the actions of commissioners, the protesters demanded the end of the collection of a subsidy, the end of the Ten Articles, an end to the dissolution, an end to taxes in peacetime, a purge of heretics in government and the repeal of the Statute of Uses. With support from local gentry, a force of demonstrators, estimated at up to 40,000, marched on Lincoln, Lincolnshire, and occupied Lincoln Cathedral. They demanded the freedom to continue worshipping as Catholics and protection for the treasures of Lincolnshire churches. The protest was led by a monk and a shoemaker and involved 22,000 people.:56
The protest effectively ended on 4 October 1536, when the King sent word for the occupiers to disperse or face the forces of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, which had already been mobilised. By 14 October, few remained in Lincoln. Following the rising, the vicar of Louth and Captain Cobbler, two of the main leaders, were captured and hanged at Tyburn.
Most of the other local ringleaders were also executed during the next twelve days, including William Moreland, or Borrowby, one of the former Louth Park Abbey monks. A lawyer from Willingham was hanged, drawn and quartered for his involvement. The Lincolnshire Rising helped inspire the more widespread Pilgrimage of Grace.
The movement broke out on 13 October 1536, immediately following the failure of the Lincolnshire Rising. Only then was the term 'Pilgrimage of Grace' used. Historians have identified several key themes of the revolt:
The northern gentry had concerns over the new Statute of Uses. The poor harvest of 1535 had also led to high food prices, which likely contributed to discontent. The dissolution of the monasteries also affected the local poor, many of whom relied on them for food and shelter.
Many people in northern England disliked the way in which Henry VIII had cast off his wife, Catherine of Aragon. Although her successor, Anne Boleyn, had been unpopular as Catherine's replacement, as both a rumoured Protestant and a southerner, her execution in 1536 on trumped-up charges of adultery and treason had done much to undermine the monarchy's prestige and the King's personal reputation. Aristocrats objected to the rise of Thomas Cromwell, who was 'base born'.
The local church was, for many in the north, the centre of community life. Many ordinary peasants were worried that their church plate would be confiscated. There were also popular rumours at the time which hinted that baptisms might be taxed. The recently released Ten Articles and the new order of prayer issued by the government in 1535 had also made official doctrine more Protestant, which went against the Catholic beliefs of most northerners.
Robert Aske was chosen to lead the insurgents; he was a barrister from London, a resident of the Inns of Court, and the youngest son of Sir Robert Aske of Aughton, near Selby. His family was from Aske Hall, Richmondshire, and had long been in Yorkshire. In 1536, Aske led a band of 9,000 followers, who entered and occupied York. He arranged for expelled monks and nuns to return to their houses; the King's newly installed tenants were driven out, and Catholic observances were resumed.
The rising was so successful that the royalist leaders, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, opened negotiations with the insurgents at Scawsby Leys, near Doncaster, where Aske had assembled between thirty and forty thousand people.
Norfolk promised a general pardon and a Parliament to be held at York within a year, as well as a reprieve for the abbeys until the parliament had met. Naively trusting the king's promises, Aske dismissed his followers.
Jesse Childs (a biographer of the Earl of Surrey, Norfolk's son) specifically notes that Henry VIII did not authorize Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, to grant remedies for the grievances. Norfolk's enemies had whispered into the King's ear that the Howards could put down a rebellion of peasants if they wanted to, suggesting that Norfolk sympathized with the Pilgrimage. Norfolk, seeing their vast numbers (he and the Earl of Shrewsbury were outnumbered: they had 5000 and 7000 respectively but there were 40,000 pilgrims) negotiated and made promises to avoid being massacred.
In February 1537 there was a new rising (not authorised by Aske) in Cumberland and Westmorland, called Bigod's Rebellion, under Sir Francis Bigod, of Settrington in the North Riding of Yorkshire. Because he knew the promises he made on behalf of the King would not be met, Norfolk reacted quickly to the new uprising after the Pilgrims did not disperse as they had promised.
The rebellion failed and King Henry arrested Bigod, Aske and several other rebels, such as Darcy, John Hussey, 1st Baron Hussey of Sleaford, the Chief Butler of England; Sir Thomas Percy and Sir Robert Constable. All were convicted of treason and executed. During 1537 Bigod was hanged at Tyburn; Lords Darcy and Hussey both beheaded; Thomas Moigne, M.P. for Lincoln was hanged, drawn and quartered; Sir Robert Constable hanged in chains at Hull; and Robert Aske hanged in chains at York. In total 216 were executed: several lords and knights (including Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Stephen Hamerton, Sir William Lumley, Sir John Constable and Sir William Constable), 6 abbots (Adam Sedbar, Abbot of Jervaulx, William Trafford, Abbot of Sawley, Matthew Mackarel, Abbot of Barlings and Bishop of Chalcedon, William Thirsk, Abbot of Fountains and the Prior of Bridlington), 38 monks, and 16 parish priests. Sir Nicholas Tempest, Bowbearer of the Forest of Bowland, was hanged at Tyburn, Sir John Bulmer hanged, drawn and quartered and his wife Margaret Stafford burnt at the stake.
In late 1538, Sir Edward Neville, Keeper of the Sewer, was beheaded. The loss of the leaders enabled the Duke of Norfolk to quell the rising, and martial law was imposed upon the demonstrating regions. Norfolk executed some 216 activists (such as Lord Darcy, who tried to implicate Norfolk as a sympathizer): churchmen, monks, commoners.
Also the 16 day of May  there were arraigned at Westminster afore the King’s Commissioners, the Lord Chancellor that day being the chief, these persons following: Sir Robert Constable, knight; Sir Thomas Percy, knight, and brother to the Earl of Northumberland; Sir John Bulmer, knight, and Ralph Bulmer, his son and heir; Sir Francis Bigod, knight; Margaret Cheney, after Lady Bulmer by untrue matrimony; George Lumley, esquire; Robert Aske, gentleman, that was captain in the insurrection of the Northern men; and one Hamerton, esquire, all which persons were indicted of high treason against the King, and that day condemned by a jury of knights and esquires for the same, whereupon they had sentence to be drawn, hanged and quartered, but Ralph Bulmer, the son of John Bulmer, was reprieved and had no sentence.
And on the 25 day of May, being the Friday in Whitsun week, Sir John Bulmer, Sir Stephen Hamerton, knights, were hanged and headed; Nicholas Tempest, esquire; Doctor Cockerell, priest; Abbot quondam of Fountains; and Doctor Pickering, friar, were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and there hanged, bowelled and quartered, and their heads set on London Bridge and divers gates in London.
And the same day Margaret Cheney, 'other wife to Bulmer called', was drawn after them from the Tower of London into Smithfield, and there burned according to her judgment, God pardon her soul, being the Friday in Whitsun week; she was a very fair creature, and a beautiful.
The Lincolnshire Rising and the Pilgrimage of Grace have traditionally been seen as failures for the following reasons:
Their partial successes are less known:
Historians have noted the leaders among the nobility and gentry in the Lincolnshire Rising and the Pilgrimage of Grace and tend to argue that the Risings gained legitimacy only through the involvement of the northern nobility and gentlemen, such as Lord Darcy, Lord Hussey and Robert Aske. However, historians such as M.E. James, C.S.L. Davies and Andy Wood, among others, believe the question of leadership was more complex.
James and Davies look at the Risings of 1536 as the product of common grievances. The lower classes were aggrieved because of the closure of local monasteries by the Act of Suppression. The northern nobility felt their rights were being taken away from them in the Acts of 1535–1536, which made them lose confidence in the royal government. James analysed how the lower classes and the nobility used each other as a legitimizing force in an extremely ordered society.
The nobles hid behind the force of the lower classes with claims of coercion, since they were seen as blameless for their actions because they did not possess political choice. This allowed the nobles an arena to air their grievances while, at the same time, playing the victims of popular violence. The lower classes used the nobility to give their grievance a sense of obedience since the "leaders" of the rebellion were of a higher social class.
Davies considers the leadership of the 1536 Risings as more of a cohesion. Common grievances over evil advisors and religion brought the higher and lower classes together in their fight. Once the nobles had to confront the King's forces and an all-out war, they decided to surrender, thereby ending the cohesion.
Historian Andy Wood, representing social historians of the late 20th century who have found more agency among the lower classes, argues that the commons were the effective force behind the Risings. He argues that this force came from a class group largely left out of history: minor gentlemen and well-off farmers. He believes these groups were the leaders of the Risings because they had more political agency and thought.
The sub-prior of the Augustinian Cartmel Priory and several of the canons were hanged, along with ten villagers who had supported them. The monks of the Augustinian Hexham priory, who became involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace, were executed.