The Main Causes of Rebellion and Disorder

Revision cards for the causes section of the course


Dynastic Succession

The desire to overthrow the Tudors or change the succession remained a main or contributing cause to many of the rebellions throughout the period 1485-1603.

Henry VII (1485-1509): Most frequent and serious dynastic challenges as his claim to the throne was weak. He was a usurper. Remaining Yorkists with a stronger claim to the throne.

Lovel (1486): Richard III's former councillor. Wanted to replace HVII with Earl of Warwick or de la Pole.

Lambert Simnel (1487): Claimed he was the Earl of Warwick (Richard III's nephew, imprisoned in Tower). Supported by Earl of Lincoln, Lovel, Margaret of Burgundy, Earl of Kildare.

Warbeck (1491-99): Pretended to be Duke of York. Raised foreign support from France, Burgundy and Scotland. 1495 - Failed landing at Deal, 1496 - Failed invasion from Scotland, 1497 - Driven out of Exeter and Taunton, 1497 - Fled to sanctuary

Henry VIII (1509-1547): PoG (1536-37) - Not a main cause, rebels demanded that Mary be restored after Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon was annulled.

Mary Tudor (1553-1558): Northumberland (1553) - Northumberland aimed to keep LJG on the throne after Edward's Devise named her as his successor.

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Dynastic Succession cont.

Wyatt (1554): Courtier under HVIII and EVI and Kentish gentry. Aimed to ensure Elizabeth's succession. Wanted to prevent MI from marrying Philip. Rebels denied that they wanted to overthrow Mary. Raised force in kent, marched on London. Stopped at city gates.

Elizabeth I (1558-1603):

Northern Earls (1569): To ensure MQS was legitimate heir if EI had no children. Wanted MQS to marry Duke of Norfolk and Elizabeth name her as heir. Alternative Catholic Monarch.

Essex (1601): Did not want to harm EI but wanted to endear himself to likely heir, James VI of Scotland, by forcing her to acknowledge James as heir. Wanted to remove EI's present councillors and replace them with himself and his supporters - "Kingmaker"

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HVII: Weak position and dynastic threats meant he needed to raise money. 1489 - Parliament voted for £100,000 to fund war against France. 1497 - Voted for additional £60,000 to fund war in Scotland.

Yorkshire (1489): Objected to paying for war against France. North was very poor, made worse by poor harvest in 1488. HVII refused to negotiate, despite exempting other northern counties due to poverty. Rebels murder Earl of Northumberland, tax collector.

Cornish (1497): Objected to paying for war agaisnt Scotland. Rebels claimed their grievances were against royal officials advising on finance, John Morton and Reginald Bray.

HVIII: Amicable Grant (1525): Non-parliamentary tax after heavy taxtion for war in France. People were poor after  forced loans in 1522 and a subsidy in 1523. Grant based of official's assessments, higher rate than previously. Protests in many counites, major in Suffolk.

PoG (1536-37): Demanded Subsidy Act of 1534 was abandoned.

EVI: Western (1549): Opposed Subsidy Act of 1549 aimed to raise money on sheep and woollen cloth. Would have hit farmers in West Country hard.

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Became cause because of 1534 Reformation. Most wanted to reverse religious change.

HVIII: PoG (1536-37): In response to dissolution of the monasteries. Rebels argued that closing monasteries affected social and economic services as well as religion. 9 of 24 demands were religious grievances. Rising had many religious symbols: Five Wounds of Christ and sang Pilgrims' ballad.

EVI: Western (1549): Particularly against introduction of English, Protestant Prayer Book in 1549. 13 demands were religious and called for restoration of traditional Catholic practices: Latin mass, relics, images and chantries. Did not call for restoration of papcy.

Kett (1549): Rebels complained about lack of progress of Reformation, called for improvement in the quality of the clergy.

MI: Northumberland (1553): Concerned that Mary's accession would bring Catholic restoration.

Wyatt (1554): Took place in strongly Protestant area, fears her marriage would re-establish Catholic dynasty.

EI: Northern Earls (1569): Cloak of religion. Leaders were Catholic. Religious elements: Five Wounds, restoring mass in Durham, destorying English Bibles.

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Mainly a secondary cause.

HVII: Yorkists acted like a faction. Wanted to remove HVII and "evil councillors", Bray and Morton.

HVIII: Amicable Grant (1525): Those opposed to Cardinal Wolsey used the original opposition to the tax to sitr up further unrest and made little effort to collect the tax. Opponents of Wolsey hoped that Henry would lose faith in his minster.

PoG (1536-37): Aragonese faction wanted to regain influence. Rebellion attempted to remove Thomas Cromwell. Many leaders, Lord Darcy and Lord Hussey has links to Catherine and wanted Mary restored.

MI: Northumberland (1553): Attempt to preserve the domination of Northumberland's supporters.

Wyatt (1554): Wyatt feared they would lose their positions and influence to Spaniards.

EI: Northern Earls (1569): Northumberland and Westmorland were losing influence to southern councillors, led by William Cecil. Blamed him for religious changes and foreign policy.

Essex (1601): Position was in decline, unable to provide rewards for supporters. Vs. Robert Cecil.

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Famine, Inflation and Social Issues

Often triggers for localised unrest, if not put down quickly, could become major rebellions.

Famine and Disease: 1/4 harvesters failed but only once did this result in open rebellion - Oxfordshire (1596). Food riots were common - Gloucestershire and Hampshire (1586) and Somerset, Sussex and Kent (1596-97). In times of famine and disease, potential rebels stayed at home and the yeomen and gentry benefited from the subsequent rise in the price of food.

Inflation and Rents: Inflation was a major problem from the 1520s - major impact on grain prices. Landowners raise rents to make up for losses cause by inflation. PoG (1536-37): Argued that the dissolution would hit the poor who relied on monastic charity. Kett (1549): Price of land and rent for land be returned to that of 1485. Rebels also protested against old feudal dues, castleward.

Social Issues: Unrest in 26 counties in 1549. Kett and Western wanted to narrow the gap between the rich and the peasants. Kett (1549): 17/29 demands were linked to rents, landlords and enclosures. Closest thing to a "class war", rebelling against nobles and gentry landowners. Rebels wanted serfs to be set free and a number of demands attacked offices of local government - gentry. Western (1549): No demands regarding rents. Demands included a call to limit the size of gentry households.

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Cause tension between landowners and tenants, particularly when land was converted from arable to pasture or when common land was fenced off.

HVIII: PoG (1536-37): 1 demand called for the pulling down of enclosures put up since 1489. There had been enclosure riots in 1535, likely this was a grievance in certain areas of the North.

EVI: 1549: Enclosure played a role in most of the 26 counties where unrest took place. Encouraged by the Duke of Somerset's Enclosure Commission, many tenants took the law into their own hands and pulled down fences and hedges. Kett: 1st article attacked enclosure and rebellion was triggered by a dispute between landowners Robert Kett and John Flowerdew who had recently enclosed land. Kett took down fences and led the attack on Flowerdew's lands. Landlords were obstructing an enquiry into illegal enclosures. 1st demand protected enclosures where saffron was grown and many tenants supported enclosure when it prevented landowners from folding cattle on their land. Biggest concern=when landowners took over common land as it denied peasants the right to use that land. Western: Not in demands, contemporaries did comment on the problem of enclosure and mentioned the pulling down of hedges.

EI: Oxfordshire (1596): Government lifted restrictions on enclosing open field in 1593 - new enclosures in Oxfordshire at Hampton Gaye and Hampton Poyle. Assembly arranged at Enslow Hill, site of 1549 rising sparked by enclosures.

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Largely the result of attempts by English to increase central control. Similar to tax revolts, pilgrims and N.Earls. Like Irish, these groups felt their traditional rights and privileges were being ignored. Until 1534, monarch had worked with Earl of Kildare, Deputy Lieutenant, no rebellions. Five major rebellions caused by increased government intervention.

HVIII: From 1532 Thomas Cromwell began to change the distribution of power in Ireland and Kildare began to lose influence. Crucial issues were religious changes. King doubted Kildare would uphold HVIII as Head of the Church. Kildare was summoned to England but lodged in the Tower where he died, son and uncles rose in rebellion. Silken Thomas (1534-37): Ignored requests to go to London, raised 1000 men and invaded the Pale. Rebels attacked religious changes but Silken wanted to drive the English out and rule Ireland.

EI: Government attempted to increase its influence in Ireland and reduce power of the clan chiefs. All rebellions were politically motivated against English control, religion and defence of the Catholic Church were often used to gain wider support. Shane O'Neill (1558-67): Wanted to rule Ulster, killed own brother. Plotted with France and MQS, claimed to act as a defender of Catholicism, aim was to increase power. Fitzgerald (1569-73): JFF resented English attempts at colonisation and imposition of martial law. COusin was put in Tower after a feud with the English Butler clan. Claimed to be defending Catholicism, growing English influence was main cause.

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Ireland cont.

Geraldine (1579-83): Hatred towards increasing number of English settlers and increased government interference from Dublin into clan life. In order to increase support Fitzgerald also appealed to the growing animosity to the religious changes that had followed Elizabeth's excommunication (1570).

Tyrone (1595-1603): Plantation system caused increased hostility as settlers raised rent, took over more land and began to establish Protestant Church. 1595 - Tyrone led a revolt, became nationwide, aim of removing the settlers and the English administration so that Ireland could become independent. Tyrone also had personal grievance that the had not been properly rewarded by the English government for helping them when the government in Ireland was attacked by other clans.

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Why Did Rebellions Occur?

Multicausal: In religious rebellions, PoG, evidence of factional conflict, social and economic grievance and dynastic concerns, similar pattern can be seen in N.Earls. 1540 - trouble in the West Country had mainly religious causes and East Anglia had social and economic causes. However, the West Country had social and economic grievances with the sheep tax, whilst Kett had complaints about the quality of the clergy.

Long-term/Short-term causes: Rebellions often had long-term grievances, needed a trigger to spark unrest. PoG, Western - underlying causes were disruption caused by religious change and social and economic pressures. PoG trigger - rumour of changes to parish church and closure of small monasteries. Western - Introduction of the Prayer Book. Many rebellions had social and economic undercurrents. Period saw rising prices and population - increased pressure on the peasantry.

Dynastic: Mainly cause in early period - Claim was weak, Yorkists. Less important from 1530s. Taxation: Major under HVII and early HVIII, subsidiary after 1525. Religion: Only a causes after 1534, no religious unrest after 1569. Faction: Cause throughout period from Yorkists (HVII) to rebellion against Cecil faction under EI. Economic and social: Often underlying cause, most significant in 1549. Enclosure: Underlying cause in 1536, most significant in 1549 and 1596. Ireland: Mostly occur under EI as reaction to increased government interference.

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