Tudor Rebellions: Western/Prayer Book Rebellion

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  • The Western/ Prayer Book Rebellion May-Aug 1549
    • cause
      • religious factors
        • the Reformation 1534
        • Dec 1548, First Book of Common Prayer, a manual written by Cranmer outlining the liturgy to be followed in church services
          • liturgy - form of worship
          • services in English, not Latin
          • Sacraments - Eucharist, baptism, last rites, confirmation, marriage
          • Communion in both kinds and transubstantiation (the bread and wine are actually the blood and body of Christ during Mass)
          • Clerical marriage allowed
          • still unclear about purgatory
          • no prayers for the dead
            • the abolition of Chantries
          • traditional robes in church
          • feasts and holy days remain, worship of saints discouraged but not banned
        • Jan 1549 - Act of Uniformity, this made the book of common prayer official, and it became law. It satisfied few people, Catholics saw it as too Protestant, Protestants saw it as too Catholic
      • economic factors
        • 1549 Subsidy Act
          • tax on wool
        • debasement and inflation
      • social factors
        • strong resentment against the gentry who profited from the sale of the church lands and who were now occupying positions of authority in central/local government
        • the common people of Devon were more hostile towards their gentry than in most other parts of England
          • Cornwall in particular had a strong cultural tradition. their own language, traditions, almost like their own country
    • the demands
      • 13/14 articles showed they wanted restoration not reformation
      • they wanted the return of relics, Latin, one kind of communion, chantries, and mass every sunday
    • events of the rebellion
      • may-august 1549
        • Cornwall - The first sign of trouble came from Helston in April 1548, when the much hated government commissioner William Body visited the town to oversee the destruction of church images. In the ensuing riot, Body was murdered. The brutality of the government's response cause widespread resentment
        • Rebellion takes hold! In Spring 1549, the imposition of the New Prayer Book led to protests across Cornwall which came together under the leadership of Humphrey Arundel at Bodmin and a list of articles was compiled
        • In the village of Sampford Courtney, people were provoked into rebellion by their priest's use of the new Prayer Book on 10th June 1549 (Whitsunday). The rebels persuaded the priest to deliver a traditional Catholic mass. A member of the gentry, Hellyons, who intervened was killed,
        • They then joined the forces from Cornwall at Crediton on 20th June where Arundel and 6000 men had gathered. Somerset sent a small force led by Carew, he was instructed to show leniency. However, Carew made the situation worse, he failed to meet with the rebels and when his servant set fire to a barn, the rebels nearly erupted into violence.
        • Arundel and the rebels marched to the walls of Exeter. A six week siege ensured where loyalty to the crown led the citizens of Exeter to defend their city staunchly against rebel attack
        • Somerset was acting on inadequate information and only had limited resources. he was struggling to suppress enclosure riots in the Midlands, maintain adequate forces on the Scottish border, and watch out for French aggression.
        • He replaced Carew with Russell, who was urged to find a peaceful solution. Russell and his 100 men were based at Honiton throughout July 1549. He was not strong enough to attack the rebels and was forced to wait for reinforcements
        • On 12th July, reinforcements under Lord Grey were delayed due to the uprising in Oxfordshire. On 28th July, in response to pressure from Somerset, Russell began his advance against the rebels. He was aided by the arrival of forces from Lord Grey on 3rd August. The rebels were defeated in clashes at Fenny Bridges, Clyst St Mary, and Clyst Heath. On 6th August, Russell relieved the city of Exeter as further government forces under Herbert arrived
        • Somerset put pressure on Russell to finish the job as France declared war on England on 8th August.  On the 16th August, Russell led a royal army of 8000 men against the rebels who had reformed at Sampford Courtney. It required a three pronged attack by Russell, Grey, and Herbert before the rebels fled. After this, Russell dealt with pockets of resistance. In total, 4000 West Country men had been killed.
    • How threatening was the rebellion?
      • Arundel was a gentleman with considerable tactical skills.
      • By June 1549, his support had attracted 6000 men centred on Bodmin, representing all social classes. Most of the local gentry had either joined the rebellion or gone into hiding.
      • Arundel kept control and discipline by dividing the rebels into military detachments under the control of colonels, majors, captains, or clergy.
      • Although this rebellion was not a dynastic threat, the impact on the government upon hearing news of this rebel force intending to march on London raised concerns.
    • Punishments
      • Over 100 rebels were hanged ion Devon and Somerset towns, and martial law was imposed in Cornwall. Among the victims were eight priests.
      • The ringleaders including Arundel were sent to London and executed in Jan 1550. Robert Welsh - vicar of St Thomas - was hanged in his won church tower in Exeter dressed in catholic vestments.
      • Hostility was deepened further as government force had acted illegally, executing without trial, confiscating / redistibuting property.

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