Key Issue 3: Rebellion + unrest 1547-1558

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Economic and Social problems

Economic and social problems

  • Vagrancy, People who moved from area to area
  • Population increase, rising population casued lower living standards (allowed for diseases) + more food is needed
  • Debasing the coinage, mixing gold with other metals to increase the amount of money but decreasing the worth
  • Rising food prices, farmers began to farm sheep rather than crops (more money + bad harvests) results in less food
  • Enclosure, higher gentry fence off common land preventing common people from using it - Common land was availible to all people to farm and collect fruit. Rich men (sheep farmers) enclosed the land preventing others from using it = economic problems as the produce was unaffordable
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Economic problems + enclosure

- Most likely cause of economic problems was rising population 

  • 1525-1551 rose from 2.3 million to 3 million
  • Agricultural productivity was unable to keep up withe the increase
    • price of food rose
    • bad harvests
    • grain prices rose faster than meat + dairy (staple diet)
    • land given to sheep farmers not crops
    • land not fertile enough
  • Young population meant the dependency ratio increased (children consume not contribute)


  • Putting up a fence or hedge around that has previously been open
    • landowners often ignored the rights of others
    • enclosed common land caused villagers to destory the fences
    • given to those who changed it from crops to sheep = unemployment
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Economic problems pt.2

Rent + new leases are more money than what the farmers earn so it has become too expensive

  • forces farmers out + increase vagrancy (need to beg for money)
  • takes the view that enclosure is the casue of problems to petition their elimination

Debasing the coinage

  • More money was put in circulation
    • gold mixed with other metals 
    • impacted prices as more money was availible but not food
    • resulted in poverty + inflation
    • used to finance war

Poor Harvests , made the situation worse by driving the price of food up even more. 6 years of failed harvests = not enough food

- Dissolution of the monasteries , removed an institution that helped the poor. Increased unemployment + depression in the cloth trade = more problems

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  • Authorities perceived vagrants to be a threat to law and order
    • many turned to crime or became beggars
  • No police, so used harsh measures to prevent unrest 
  • 1547 Vagrancy Act
    • condemned vagrants to slavery for two years for a first offence and life for a second
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Social+Economic problems + unrest

Somerset's government

  • Debasement of money to fund war in Scotland (resulted in inflation)
    • some believed it was the greed of the landowners
  • Tried to commissions in both 1548 + 1549 to look into the problem of enclosure
    • achievements were limited as landowners blocked attempts to legislate the issue
  • Forced Somerset to issue proclaimations to force landowners to reverse their policy
    • lost him the support of landowners
    • encourage lower classes to see Somerset as their champion 
    • as a result it encouraged the lower orders to take law into their own hands on what they thought was illegal (believed Somerset would support them)

Unrest 1549

  • No guarantee that Somerset would be accepted as protector after Henry VIII's death
    • fears of unrest
    • clergy ordered to preach obedience from the pulpit
    • Somerset lacked royal authority that an ordained monarch would have
      • unpopular policies could eaily be challenged
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Unrest in 1549 - Why?

- Late spring/summer = central+southern England facing riot and rebellion

  • at least 25 counties show unrest
    • loss of life + destruction of property
    • march - Lincolnshire
    • may - Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent, Sussex, Essex....Etc.

Prayer Book Rebellion

  • Traditionally called the prayer book rebellion (suggests religious motivation)
  • 1547, William Body (local archdecan + protestant sympathiser) attacked when he returned to oversee iconoclasm
    • 1548, murdered 
  • Significant number of peasants gathered at Bodwin (the country town of Cornwall)
    • to protest against the imposition of the Act of Uniformity
    • much larger disturbance at Sampford Courteny 
      • objected to the new prayer book 
      • religion dominated the demands
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Devon + Cornwall rising


  • Dominated (religious) demands
    • probably drawn up by the catholic priests 
    • wanted a restoration of traditional doctrine 
    • asserted belief in transubstantiation + purgartory
  • Some non-religious demands 
    • sheep and cloth tax
      • would have hit pastural areas like Devon and Cornwall hard
    • considered the gentry to be enemies 
      • attacked and robbed the gentry
      • Devon rebels kiled gentry William Helyces

- Gentry gained financially from the dissolution of the monasteries + chantries

  • raised rents (good lordship dissapeared)
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Kett’s Rebellion pt.1

Leader, Robert Kett

  • Started as an enclosure riot in Norfolk 
  • Angry at lawyer John Flowerdew
  • 16,000 men
  • Local forces unable to difuse the rebels
  • Government sent a force of 14,000 troops under the Marquis of Northampton
  • Earl of Warwick sent
    • rebels masacred 

29 Demands

  • Complaints of gentry manipulation of the system (excluding pasture/grazing time)
  • peasants forced off common land
  • Fishing rights, rivers availible for all
  • Rising rents as landowners put them up to combat inflation
  • More protestant demands, new prayer book
  • Attacked nobles, gentry (landowners) + running of local government
    • conservative with demands
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Kett’s Rebellion pt.2

Did not develop into a full-scale rebellion 

  • Primarily caused by long-term economic developments + religious changes
  • Evidence of opposition to enclosure in Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, suffolk + Kent
    • Surrey rebels threw down enclosures at Witley Park
  • Religion main cause in Oxfordshire and Yorkshire
    • due to religious changes 
    • blamed catholics

- Kett is executed after the rebellion 

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Why did the rebellions of 1549 fail? pt. 1

Only Western + Kett's became full-scale rebellion

Earl of Arunder

  • Sussex, met the rebels face to face
    • found out the causes of their grievances
    • 'good lord' behaviour + hospitality
    • discovered the gentry were at fault and ordered them to fix their ways 
      • rebels were satisfied and dispersed 
      • stoppped the rebellion through good lordship
  • Northampshire, local gentry used their own retainers to contain the unrest
  • Leicestershire + Rutland, 
    • Marquis of Dorset + Earl of Huntingdon put down the unrest

- Riots could have escalated under good leadership (e.g Ketts)

- Government was already vulnerable, forces were stretched by the battle against Scotland + other forces on standby due to the threat of France

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Why did the rebellions of 1549 fail? pt. 2

West country

  • Devon + Norfolk
  • Nobility and gentry were either absent or unable to act because of the scale of the unrest
  • Gov, unaware of the unrest + rebels joined forces
  • Tried to disperse the rebellion by offering pardons
  • 3,000 rebels killed in battle


  • Somerset only sent a small force under the marquis of Northampton at first 
    • pardon offer refused
    • troops had to be sent from Scotland and mercenaries were employed
      • Warwick arrived at Norwich with 12,000 men
    • 27th August, rebels were slaughtered 
      • 3,000 men were killed on the battlefield (only 49 executed as punishment)
      • government forced to abandon its policy in Scotland
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Rebellions + threat?

Western rebellionmore of a serious religious threat

  • Wanted religious change (did not aim to remove Edward)Not a threat in desire for political change
    • did not advance on London + failed to take regional capital
    • lacked noble + gentry support 
    • Battles to defeat the rebels 
    • serious threat, troops had to be brought back from Scotland

Kett's rebellionmore of a strategic military threat

  • Did not aim to remove monarch 
    • did not march on London but defeated Northampton and took Norwich 
    • 16,000 rebels, 3,000 killed (serious threat)
    • troops brought back from scotland rebels established organised camps 
      • risk of invasion from France
      • government resources are more stretched 
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Wyatt's rebellion

  • May have rebelled due to Mary's decision to marry Phillip of Spain (timing suggests this was the main cause)
  • Dec 1553, rumours to remove Mary became a plot 
    • plotters were going to marry Edward Courtenay to Elizabeth 
    • replace Mary with Elizabeth
    • examination of Edward.C revealed the plot

Thomas Wyatt 

  • Loyal to the Tudors 
  • Fearful of loosing his position + influence in local society
  • Appealed to nationalism + xenophobia

Economic reasons, decline in kent cloth trade 

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