Western Rebellion facts

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The Prayer Book/Western Rebellion, 15 49


Causes: Religious

  • It was triggered by resentment in Cornwall to William Body, a commissioner investigating church property in the county in 15 47.  His arrogance and the investigation into the chantries created concerns about the confiscation of church goods.  He was murdered after he destroyed church images.  This created a climate of antagonism which was heightened by the introduction of the Prayer Book on 10 June 15 49; the rebellion took place in the same month.  When the priest at Sampford Courtney in Devon used the new Prayer Book on Whitsunday 15 49, the locals started to rebel.
  • The list of articles produced by the rebels (Bodmin, June 15 49) was solely about the reintroduction of Catholicism.  They demanded a reinstatement of Act of Six Articles (15 39), Latin Liturgy, Communion in one kind, prayers for dead, and mass to be celebrated by the priests, with holy bread and holy water every Sunday, psalms and ashes at the accustomed times, images set up again in every church. They also asked that half the lands be given back to the abbeys (Act for the Dissolution of the Monasteries, 15 36 and 15 39)
  • J. Loach states that despite any social and economic concerns, ‘religion was, clearly, the main driving force of the risings’. 

Causes: Social and Economic

  • Anthony Fletcher believes that ‘to interpret the rebellion as solely religious would be a vast simplification’
  • In the early stages of the rebellion, economic grievances figure more highly.  Complaints about taxes on sheep and cloth generated rumours about further taxes on other animals.  The list of demands (Bodmin, June 15 49) was actually the second list; the initial list contained complaints about taxes and food prices, probably more of a concern for the masses – it was probably the influence of a small group of clergy led by Robert Welsh who changed the focus to religious grievances

Causes: Political



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