Northern rebellion

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How far do you agree with the view that the Northern Rebellion of 1569 posed a serious threat to Elizabeth?

The Northern Rebellion of 1569 was the greatest popular rising of Elizabeth’s reign, raising an army of around 8,000. However, historians have argued this was not a popular uprising similar to the Pilgrimage of Grace 1536, or the 1549 rebellions which were designed to air the grievances of the general population. Instead the Northern Rebellion is often viewed as a political plot orchestrated by high ranking nobility with the backing of overseas powers and therefore a very serious threat to Elizabeth’s crown.

The involvement of high ranking northern nobility is the most important reason why this rebellion posed such a significant threat.  Firstly the nobility were the Crown’s method of putting down rebellion, the Crown had no standing army so relied on local lords crushing dissent. When it was the nobility raising the people, the Crown’s first line of defence was gone.  Secondly, thanks to the survival of feudalism in the north, the nobility were able to raise a massive force which could pose a threat. Without leadership from the nobility such numbers couldn’t be raised.  Thirdly, the nobility could gain the support of Mary Queen of Scots and her allies, (for example, Philip II) raising the “real or imagined possibilities of overseas support” mentioned in source 1. Source 2 emphasises how an alliance between Norfolk “The richest man in the kingdom” and cousin to the Queen could “strengthen her (Mary’s) political position” and further “destabilise the still shaky structure of Elizabethan politics”. Both had a legitimate claim to the throne which was a tremendous threat to Elizabeth, particularly following her being made illegitimate and delegitimized by Henry VIII.

Source 1 describes the possibility of overseas aid in quite a derogatory manner implying its “imagined possibility”. However, when one considers the plotting taking place between Philip’s ambassador and the leading nobility, as well as the excommunication of Elizabeth in 1570, an action designed to coincide with the


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