the western rebellion


Causes pt1


  • wanted a restoration of the six articles, and a return to traditional practices
  • doctorine restoration ; transubstantiation, purgatory 
  • refused the concept of mass of both times, new service considered a 'christmas game'  wanted a restoration of latin
  • against the act of uniformity - english bible
  • insited mass be as normal, samford Courtenay devon
  • William Body destroying church images, murder 1548
  • wanted catholic preachers released from jail so that they could preach
  • no call for Papal reinstatement

Social and Economic

  • sheep and cloth tax
  • hatred of the gentry, more pronounced social divisions in Cornwall as they shouted 'kill the gentlemen' at Bodmin; robbed at St Michael's Mount; murdered William Hellyons; plundered castle
  • resentment of english interference through the gentry, many of which were protestant and had benefitted from the reformation (monastic lands)
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Violence of the Rebels

  • aggressive towards the gentry
  • unwilling to negotiate with the gentry, even though many had sympathy with them due to their concerns over Somerset's authority
  • attempted to set fire to Exceter's gates (however they didn't attempt a full scale attack, although they sieged)
  • took 5 + skirmishes/battles for the rebels to be defeated

attitude and impact of the government 

  • Courtnay's fall : no powerful nobel supporting or able to control the rebellion - power vacuum in the south west, which although Sir John Russel had replaced them, they had not spent enough time in the area for the locals to recognise his authority
  • Peter Carew: protestant sympathiser, aggravted the situation, later he was reprimanded
  • Government forces: set fire to the barns, 'refuse scum of the whole country' - class divide, which the made the rebels spread messages thaat the gentry were united against them - which enabled them to gather furthermore support
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impact on government

YES - big threat!

direct attack on government policy

government extremely weak

  • took place under minority of the king, many agreed with the government 
  • 23 counties experienceing unrest, the western rebels could have met up with these- war with scotland and threat of french invasion
  • William Paget commented that the new religion had not won the hearts of the people.
  • Somerset uninformed on the severity of the situation

Exceter stressed out

  • cheap free and food --> free to the poor

forced into several battles

  • slow to send troops to the west, rebellion able to gain ground
  • despite being badly armed, they were able to goad the royal troops into battle
  • withdrew troops from Scotland to combat the rebellions
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political stability

Result of rebellion

  • Somerset removed from power in 1549
  • reversal of his unpopular acts : the slavery act of 1547

Result of regional instability

  • fall of the Courtney's, Sir John Russell not well established
  • power vaccum, like Kett's where the Howards of East Anglia had fallen
  • Carew worsened the situation - no social stauts
  • council of the west 1539
  • murder of william body 1548
  • Mayer of Bodmin joined the rebellion
  • 'closest thing Tudor England saw to class war' John Guy
  • Lesser Gentry the leasers, faults in controlling the lower classes
  • established gentry which felt alienated from power and court were passive througout the breakout
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Broke out on Whitsunday June 1549

Leaders: Humphrey Arundell - cornish gentleman,, Robert Welsh - vicar of St Thomas in devon

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causes pt2


  • restoration of Cardinal Pole, as a political leader
  • wished Mary Tudor to be back in the line of succession
  • downfall of the Courtenay's in court, claimants to the throne 
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nature pt2

Rebel Army

  • grew to 5000
  • didnt launch attack on Exceter, although they were antagonistic towards it
  • peaceful element of the 5 wounds of Christ, as used by the POG
  • behaviour of the gentry in the years running up to the rebellion explains some of the antagonistic behaviour towards them from the rebels
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government pt 2

NO - Not a serious threat


  • didn't wish to overthrow the government
  • also more socio-economic in aspects, therefore even less of a threat


  • unable to take Exceter
  • didn't attempt to march on London
  • didn't join with other rebels - only 5000
  • rebellion eventually able to be crushed : not that strong

Religional instability

  • fall of the Courtenays, Sir John Russel not well established
  • council of the West 1539
  • Cornwall resented any english interference
  • Carew worsening the situation
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