Henry VIII , Challenging religious changes 1533-37

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  • Created on: 07-10-20 14:28

The King's Great Matter

Known as the King's great matter due to the amount of royal and government focus it commanded, Henry's process of securing his annulment lasted for seven years, from 1527 to 1534. The religious changes that Henry and Thomas Cromwell, Henry's chief minister, imposed greatly stemmed from Henry's desire to get an annulment from Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry his new love, Anne Boleyn, who he hoped could provide him with the male heir that Catherine seemingly could not.

Henry failed to get an annulment as-

  • Catherine was well liked and believed she made a good queen- she even served as regent and helped defeat the Scottish while Henry fought in France
  • Catherine insisted she and Arthur had not consumated the marriage
  • Despite Henry's insistence, Catherine refused to become a nun
  • Catherine's nephew was Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who dominated Rome, so the Pope refused to grant them an annulment as he didn't want to get on Charles' bad side
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The break with Rome

Henry required the approval of the Pope in order to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, but the Pope refused to give it. Cromwell persuaded Henry to put pressure on the Church is order to force the Pope to provide his blessing. This pressure set in motion a chain of events that led to, eventually, England's unintended break with Rome in 1534. The Catholic Church in England was now forced to support the King's annunlent, which Cromwell had hoped might force the Pope to follow their example, but this did not happen. The pressure that Henry and Cromwell were exerting on the Church of England increased year by year. This Reformation in religion was accomplished with the active support of parliament, which Cromwell managed skillfully. 

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1534- The Act of Supremacy

Henry's power over the Church of England was increasing due to, in part, the submission of the English Clergy and the gradual cutting of ties with Rome- both of which were caused by the political and legal pressure the Reformation Council (1529-36) were exerting over them. This increase in power meant that not only did the Pope's authority diminish,but in 1534, Henry was in a position to assume full control over the Church and he did so in the Act of Supremacy. Henry was now the Supreme Head of the Chruch of England and had the legal authority to make any changes he wished. Alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury (Thomas Cranmer), Henry set about initiating doctrinal reforms.

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The impact of the King's religious changes

Some of Henry's subjects found the break with Rome and the new reforms of Church doctrine too much, leading to a conflict between conservatives and reformers at the court

  • The conservatives, who were lead by Bishop Steven Gardiner and the Duke of Norfolk (Thomas Howard) resisted religious change and wanted to keep the Church Catholic
  • The reformers, who were led by Cranmer and Cromwell, were eager to move the Church in a protestant direction

The conflicts at court mirrored the discontent accross the country, notably casualties include:

  • The executions of Sir Thomas More and Bishope John Fisher in 1535
  • The persecutions of the Fransiscans and Carthusians- two monastic religious orders and members of the regular clergy, who remained loyal to the Pope

A survey was initiated to determine the state of the monasteries by Cromwell in 1535 and the results of this were contained in ' Valor Ecclesiasticus' and led to the passing of the Act for the Dissolution of the monasteries a year later, in 1536 and the publication of the Act of Ten Articles the same year and the Bishops Book a year later moved the Church in a distinctly reformist direction

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Causes of the dissolution

  • Financial- the Crown was in dire need of an additonal permanent source of income and there was a lot of money in these monasteries
  • Easy target- the monasteries were already in crisis and it was rumoured that the monastic orders prefferred papal primacy (the Pope) to royal Supremacy
  • Humanists had condemned the monasteries as a drain on the nation's wealth 
  • The monastic vocation had declined to such an extent that many houses were staffed by diwindling numbers of inmates
  • There were fewer than 10,000 monks, friars and nuns, who inhabited over 800 monastic institutions and they were sustained by about 1/5th of the cultivated land in England and Wales
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Visitation of the monasteries

Cromwell, who was serving as the King's viceregent (he was responsible for the day to day control of the Church) was a Lutheran sympathiser and thus had no time for the monastic way of life. He, in 1535, sent his agents to visit every monastery to compile a thorough record of their conditon and wealth. The Comperta Monastica was compiled to record the condition and the behaviour of the inmates and the Valor Ecclasticus was compiled to record the net worth and income of each monastery

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1536- The Act for the dissolution of smaller monas

The visitations had led to rumours that the government wanted to dissolve the monasteries and seize their wealth and this became a reality in March 1536, when the Act was passed by parliament. 

  • All religious houses with an annual income of less than £200 should be dissolved and their property should be passed to the Crown
  • It provided for the heads of the houses to be granted a pension and offered the chance for other members to be transferred to larger houses or ceasing to be 'religious'
  • Over 300 houses fell into the category specified by the act and nearly all of them were dissolved
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1538-40:The destruction of the remaining monasteri

  • Some monasteries were closed during 1536-37, but this eased slighly due to the pilgrimage of grace
  • Once the rebellion had been crushed, the dissolution began again
  • Once the Act for the Dissolution of the Greater Monasteries had been passed in 1539, most of the monasteries had already been dissolved
  • They had all been closed by early 1540
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1536- The Lincolnshire Rising

In October 1536 in Louth, the townspeople heard rumours that the King intended to close the Church and a nearby monastery and, proud of their church and monastery, the people began to riot. 

  • The rumours were belived as Cromwell's commisioners had visited the monastery recently 
  • The Vicar of Louth made matters worse when he stated that the King intended to confisticate all treasures of all the Parish churches in England and tax baptisms, weddings and funerals
  • News of a riot spread to the nearby towns and riots broke out in Caistor, Horncastle and Sleaford
  • At Horncastle, an angry mob murdered the Bishop of Lincoln and one of Cromwell's commisioners
  • The rioters joined forces and marched on Lincoln with hopes of giving the King a list of their demands
  • Henry VIII was alarmed and dispatched an army under the Duke of Suffolk
  • The rebellion collapsed following the arrival of the army and the gentry sued for peace
  • The people returned home
  • Henry described it as 'The most brute and beastly shire of the whole realm'
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1536-37: The Pilgrimage of Grace

  • There were rumours of wholesale monastic closures, people were inspired by the Lincolnshire rising and angry about the 1534 subsidy
  • The people of Yorkshire rose in rebellion on the 10th October
  • The rebellion had attarcted 10,000 men by the 16th October
  • By the 19th, the rebels had taken over Pontefract Castle and the port of Hull
  • They besieged Skipton Castle on the 21st and trapped the Earl of Cumberland
  • Robert Aske assumed control and revised the Lincolnshire rebels' demands and placed a stronger emphasis on preserving the Church and defending the monasteries
  • They recruited more followers, including Lord Hussey, Lord Darcy, Sir William Babthrope and Sir Thomas Percy- as they moved North and they reached over 30,000
  • The King, preoccupied with Lincolnshire, did not immediately recognise the severity of the threat and a royal army, led by the Duke of Norfolk took a month to arrive
  • Norfolk was outnumbered and arranged a truce, allowing the rebels to submit their list of complaints
  • Aske convened a meeting on the 27th to draw up the Pontefract Articles, which were submitted to the King
  • Henry issued a general pardon while he reviewed the articles
  • Sir Francis Bigod led a new rising, which was put down and led to the arrest of Aske for treason and his execution
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Robert Aske (1500-37)

  • A London Lawyer
  • Had powerful family connections- Henry Clifford, Earl of Cumberland was his cousin
  • Stumbled into the Lincolnshire Rebellion while travelling through the country to London for the beginning of the law term (he never intended to join/lead a rebellion)
  • He was captured and persuaded to join a band of rebels at Sawcliff
  • He soon took the lead in decision making and organising the rebel bands in the North
  • He made contact with the main rebel group at Louth and travelled to Yorkshire, hoping to gain support for the rising that was taking place there
  • He managed to recruit 10,000 men and entered the city of York where he issued a proclamation that laid out the aims of the rebellion- which were to preserve and defend the Church
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The Pontefract Articles

Aske, following the collapse of the Lincolshire Rising, drew up a list of grievances, wrote his own oath and entitiled his new movement 'The Pilgrimage of Grace'

He then advanced from York to Pontefract Castle, where he took a siege, capturing many including the castle's constable, Thomas Lord Darcy, Edward Lee, Archbishop of York and a number of Yorkshire Gentry. Darcy, along with a few other members of the gentry, were persuaded to join the rebellion. They helped Aske to draw up the Pontefract Articles, which called for:

  • The legitimisation of Princess Mary (to reinstate her as Henry's heir)
  • Cromwell and others among the King's 'evil councillers' to be dismissed
  • A meeting of a Northern Parliament (in York)
  • An end the closure of the monasteries
  • The restoration of links with the Pope (who Catholics believed to be the only rightful leader of the Church and had a link with God)
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The end of the rebellion

  • The King sent an army of 4000 men under Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk
  • The rebel force, however had amassed some 30,000 men and so Norfolk issued a truce
  • Norfolk was presnted with the Pontefract articles and promised to issue a pardon and that a parliament would be held in York to discuss the issues at hand further
  • The King invited Aske to go to Court over Christmas 1536 and Aske negotiated an agreement there
  • However, as he did this, Sir Francis Bigod (a renegade member of the gentry) led a new rising (January 1537)
  • Aske was blamed for this and arrested, tried and hanged in July 1537
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Sir Francis Bigod (1507-37)

  • The son of SIr John Bigod of Hinderwell, Yorkshire
  • An unlikely rebel- he was a Protestant and had been one of Cromwell's northern agents
  • He was a Justice of the Peace and a member of the Reformation Parliament 
  • He, however, wanted monasteries to be reformed rather than dissolved
  • He initially opposed the Pilgrimage of Grace, but was captured by rebels who persuaded him to join their cause
  • He, distrustful of the King and doubting that Aske would be successful in his bid to gain royal acceptance of the Pontefract Articles, decided to revive the rebellion in Yorkshire
  • His men were defeated and he fled to Cumberland, only to be captured
  • He was tried and hanged in June 1537
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Henry VIII- Dealing with the rebels

Outbreak of rebellion was Henry's greatest fear, although he was well aware that the religious changes he introduced were such that some people might be pushed into armed opposition of the crown and its ministers. 

The long-feared rebellion broke out in late 1536, beginning in Lincolnshire and quickly escalating and spreading to Yorkshire, acquiring the name 'Pilgrimage of Grace'

The Pilgrimage of Grace was the largest and potentially most serious rebllion of the 16th century, having attracted between 30,000 and 40,000 people and including half a dozen counties in the North

  • Henry's intital reaction was to suppress the rebellion with military force, ordering the Dukes of Suffolk (LR) and Norfolk (PoG) to deal with the insurgents but their forces of no more than 4000 men each were vastly outnumbered
  • Henry then turned to dimplomacy, persuading the rebel leader Robert Aske of his good intentions
  • Henry negotiated through Norfolk, who posed as a sympathiser, and conceded to their demands
  • He also promised a free pardon for all the rebels who agreed to return home
  • The rebels had been duped- weeks after they returned home many, including Aske, were hunted down, arrested, put on trial and executed
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Thomas Cromwell- Dealing with the rebels

Cromwell. as the King's viceregent in religious affairs, played a pivotal role in the Henrican Reformation, exerting the most signifixant influence of any individual

Cromwell also had  a powerful influence in royal circles, even being described as 'an agent of Satan sent by the devil to lure King Henry to damnation' by his enemy, Cardinal Reginald Pole. This made the rebels determined to get rid of him

Cromwell responded cynically by using the rebels' loyalty to the King to outmanoeuvre them, advising Henry to:

  • Prolong negotiations to gain time to raise a larger army
  • Feign sympathy with the rebels' demands so that Aske would trust him and order his forces to disperse
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Duke of Norfolk- Dealing with the rebels

The Duke of Norfolk was one of the most powerful and influential figures at court, who came to prominence by leading a faction opposed to Henry's chief minster, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.

He was a conservative in religion and so had become a leading critic of reformers Cromwell and Cranmer, but had been careful not to oppose the King's religious changes

Although his position at Court was weakened by Cromwell's increasing power, Norfolk never lost the trust of the King

  • The King turned to Norfolk to suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace
  • He was unable to crush the rebellion by military means, so engineered the defeat of the rebels through the deception of their leader, Robert Aske 
  • He promised to take their demands seriously and detached him from his followers
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Reasons that the rebellion failed

The Pilgrimage of Grace failed, mainly, due to the naivety of the rebels and their undying loyalty to Henry VIII

They, educated by the Church to accept the notion of the Great Claim of Being (every person's place in society had been ordained by God), were naive enough to-

  • Proclaim their loyalty to Hnery VIII, wishing only to remove his 'evil councillors'
  • Trust the King's promises that their complaints would be taken seriously and they would be pardoned

Robert Aske agreed to disband the pilgrimage in return for the promise of a pardon and a parliament. It may be argued that the failure of the pilgrims to press home their advantage was what allowed Henry to suppress the rebellion. As a result, Aske and the pilgrims achieved none of their aims

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Impact of the rebellion

The rebellion, although never a serious threat to the King, did threaten the maintenance of law and order in England- no King could allow a rebellion to go unpunished, no matter how loyal the rebels claimed to be.

A lack of punishment would have set a president and Aske even admitted, under interrogation, that he would have been willing to fight if Henry had not conceded to the grievances expressed in the pilgrims' petition

Henry managed to effectively disarm and disperse the rebels, by decieving Aske and appearing to sympathise with some of their grievances.

To deter other possible rebels, Henry dealt ruthlessly with the ringleaders Aske, Bigod and their senior captains

Norfolk was tasked with displaying the Crown's power in the North by deploying military forces in strategic areas and invoking martial law

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The extent of the repression of the rebellion (sta

Besides the ringleaders, about 200 rebels were put to death in the aftermath of the uprisings. Norfolk moved through northern counties with an armed force and as a result:

  • 34 insurgents were executed in Lincolnshire
  • 74 rebels were killed under martial law in Cumberland and Westmorland
  • The majority of the remaining dead were hanged in Yorkshire
  • Others came from Lancashire, Durham and Northumberland

The ringleaders were put on trial and executed-

  • Sir Francis Bigod, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir John Bulmer, Sir Stephen Hamerton, Nicholas Tempest, George Lumley, John Pickering, William Wood and Adam Sedbergh were all executed at Tyburn
  • Abbot James Cockerell of Guisborough and Abbot William Thirsk of Fountains were hanged
  • Bulmer's wife, Margaret Cheyne, was burnt at Smithfield for her support for the pilgrims
  • Thomas, Lord Darcy, was beheaded on Tower Hill, Sir Robert Constable was hanged at Hull, and Lord Hussey was beheaded at Lincoln
  • Robert Aske was hanged at York
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