Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace

Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace

by Susan Loughlin


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ISBN-13: 9780750967334
Publisher: History Press Limited, The
Publication date: 07/01/2016
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Susan Loughlin holds a PhD in History from the National University of Ireland, Galway.

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Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace

By Susan Loughlin

The History Press

Copyright © 2016 Susan Loughlin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7509-6876-8


Background: Government and Religion in 1536

When looking back at the year 1536, Thomas Cromwell must have questioned the merits of astrology. In January, one astrologer, John Robyns, advised him that 'nothing noteworthy is to be expected'. Robyns clearly did not predict the imminent death of Katherine of Aragon, the fall of Anne Boleyn or the outbreak of an insurrection so large that it had the potential to threaten Henry VIII's grasp on the throne – the largest popular revolt in English history. The Pilgrimage of Grace was indeed a massive rebellion against the policies of the Crown and those closely identified with Thomas Cromwell. The underlying causes of the insurrection and the motivation of the participants has been the subject of much debate and controversy among historians and a consensus has not been achieved.

At the start of the New Year 1536, it is probable that Henry VIII thought that the worst of his tribulations in matters of religion had passed. Rome had been repudiated and Parliament had acquiesced in the king's desire to be recognised as the Supreme Head of the Church within his own realm. His treatment of Katherine of Aragon may have aroused condemnation and censure but Henry had escaped any meaningful retribution by her nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Anne Boleyn had borne him (another) daughter and was pregnant again, undoubtedly desperate for the chance to present Henry with his longed-for son and heir. The queen and her evangelical adherents must have had grounds for optimism – the Succession Act of 1534, which named Henry and Anne's issue as heirs, and the executions of Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher all pointed towards a new era.

What, then, did happen to bring about the Pilgrimage of Grace? And to what extent was it religiously motivated? How did a situation arise where such a vast uprising in the region was made possible? What was the perception of Henry's behaviour abroad? Northern power structures will be examined in due course but initially the religious flux in the realm needs to be addressed. To explore the religious motivation, the events preceding the rebellion and the use of rhetoric (from both sides) in harnessing religious sympathy will be identified.

The Act of Supremacy of 1534 is crucial to the Henrician Reformation/experiment. Clearly the king could not have legally pursued his policies and reformation without it. It is therefore fundamental to an appreciation of the context in which the Reformation was enforced. The king had annexed the power of visitation, the power to discipline the clergy, the right to correct opinion, supervision of canon law and doctrine and the right to try heretics. However, in 1535, Henry delegated his ecclesiastical powers to the Lord Privy Seal, Thomas Cromwell, when he appointed him vicegerent, or vicar general, and Cromwell has become synonymous with the 'policy and police' or the enforcement of the Reformation in the 1530s. According to Bush, 'Cromwell's vicegerency arose from the government's urgent need to conduct a survey of the English Church following the break with Rome'. Whilst this might well be true, it also was typical of Henry to delegate power to a favoured minister, as he himself had such distaste for everyday administration and the minutiae of detail this concerned. As might be expected, Thomas Cranmer, as Archbishop of Canterbury, also had a role to play in the Henrician Reformation, but it is interesting to note that the experiment became synonymous with Cromwell, a layman.

Before examining any evidence for resistance to the Henrician Reformation in these years, it is necessary to highlight the significance of An Act Extinguishing the Authority of the Bishop of Rome and both the First and Second Henrician Injunctions. The 1536 act, extinguishing the 'pretended power and usurped authority of the Bishop of Rome, by some called the Pope', was the final piece of legislation severing England's ties with Rome. The act made it illegal to 'extol, set forth, maintain or defend the authority, jurisdiction or power of the Bishop of Rome' with effect from the first day of August 1536. Anyone guilty of so doing and 'being thereof lawfully convicted according to the laws of this realm ... shall incur ... penalties, pains and forfeitures'. Clearly this statute is absolutely central to the enforcement of the Royal Supremacy and any changes, doctrinal or otherwise, resulting from it. These statutes and the promulgation of the Ten Articles of the Faith of the Church of England and the dissemination of the First Henrician Injunctions underpinned the king's religious policy prior to the autumn of 1536.

In early January 1536, the Imperial Ambassador to Rome, Dr Pedro Ortiz, wrote to Katherine of Aragon that the 'intention of the pope is that ... prayers shall be offered for the Queen and Princess, and the Saints who are fighting for the faith in England'. Dr Ortiz's communications throughout 1536 do appear to be both lively and dogmatic but they are also prone to exaggeration and a scant regard for detail. However, his letter to Katherine as she lay dying at Kimbolton (exiled by Henry and forbidden from seeing her daughter, Princess Mary) does illustrate that the English Reformation was by no means perceived abroad as the abject capitulation of Henry's subjects. This can also be seen in the writings of Johannes Cochlaeus. On 6 January, he wrote to Henry that he was encouraged by the constancy of Fisher and More, whom Henry had put to death, and enlarged on the crimes into which the king has been led by his 'lawless passion'.

The Reformation was disseminated and enforced by injunctions, proclamations and statutes and in February 1536, a draft Act of Parliament was drawn up 'against pilgrimages and superstitious worship of relics'. In March 1536, we witness Cranmer hard at work on the preliminaries. Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, wrote to Charles V:

The prelates here are daily in communication in the house of the archbishop of Canterbury for the determination of certain articles and for the reform of ecclesiastical ceremonies ... they do not admit ... purgatory ... the use of chrism ... the festivals of the saints and images ...

It would be only natural that fear and uncertainty would have been present within the realm, as previously held certainties and practices were swept away. In February, Chapuys reported that the people were in despair and seeking help from abroad; and in April, a priest in Cumberland was reported to Cromwell for having said that 40,000 would rise up in one day. Henry himself was 'apprehensive of some commotion' in June when the people expected the restoration of the Princess Mary, following the fall and execution of Anne Boleyn in May.

The pace of reform, however, continued. The Act Extinguishing the Authority of the Bishop of Rome was followed by an Act of Convocation for the Abrogation of Certain Holydays, especially during harvest time, which was passed in August. The First Henrician Injunctions were drawn up by Thomas Cromwell and issued in August 1536 and instructed the clergy on the changes in religion – they were an accompaniment to the Ten Articles of the Anglican Church. The clergy in convocation had acquiesced with the Ten Articles and rejected Purgatory, as well as accepting the abrogation of holy days. Purgatory and prayers for the dead had been a central tenet of the medieval Church and were woven into the fabric of local religious culture, which also set great store by the veneration of local saints and pilgrimages. At the same time as these disturbing innovations were taking place, the monasteries were being dissolved (the legislation of empowerment having been enacted in February–April of 1536). The timing of the outbreak of the Northern Rebellions is significant. It surely can be no coincidence that a rebellion which commenced no more than eight weeks after the First Henrician Injunctions would have been motivated by the changes in religion.

It is appropriate, at this juncture, to look at some instances of opposition to the Henrician religious innovations prior to the outbreak of the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire risings. Yorkshire and Lincolnshire were by no means the only counties where dissent was evident; it was indeed a concern in 'every part of the realm'. For example, the Vicar of Stanton-Lacy in Shropshire was examined before the Council in the Marches in September–October 1535 for having failed to delete the pope's name from his service books. Bishop Rowland Lee forwarded the papers to Cromwell but no more was heard of it. Bristol, which had been the base of the evangelical Hugh Latimer, was the setting for what Elton has described as 'violent exchanges' from the pulpit between the old and new.

Preaching was an important tool in promulgating the Crown's religious message throughout the country prior to and after the Pilgrimage. A Friar Brynstan preached at Glastonbury Abbey in March 1536, and clearly his views would have been at odds with Cromwell's but perhaps more representative of the groundswell of opinion. He spoke about those who embraced the 'new books', calling them 'adulterers' and 'filthy lechers'. He further accused them of being full of envy and malice, whilst being ready to wrong their neighbours. Master Lovell, in Dorset, was reported for disloyal preaching in the summer of 1536. He had encouraged the people to keep holy days and offer candles, as well as cautioning them against heretics and the practice of reading the New Testament in English. A prior in St Alban's Abbey, Hertfordshire, denounced Cromwell and Anne Boleyn as the maintainers of all heresies and asked what should be done about those whose purpose it was to destroy his religion? However, the sub-prior of Woburn, Bedfordshire, sought pardon for the scruples he had entertained regarding the Royal Supremacy and his erroneous estimation of More and Fisher. The First Injunctions were issued in August 1536 and as early as 30 September, Sir Henry Parker was reporting of opposition in Hertfordshire: the curates and sextons of Stortford and Little Hadham had kept the holy day with high and solemn ringing and singing, contrary to the king's injunctions.

How were events in England perceived outside the realm prior to the Lincolnshire Rising and the Pilgrimage? Charles V and King Francis I of France had done little to interfere in developments in England since the break with Rome. It would be hard to determine a motive for any potential French involvement, apart from wanting to appease the papacy and perhaps stir up some more trouble for their perennial enemies, the English. The 'Most Christian King', Francis, was more than preoccupied with Hapsburg–Valois rivalry and the Italian Wars. Indeed these priorities had led him to form an alliance with Suleiman the Magnificent and the Ottoman Turks.

Certainly a little more surprising was the laissez-faire attitude of the Emperor and King of Spain, Charles V. Charles was, after all, the nephew of Katherine of Aragon and her cruel and shameful treatment at the hands of her husband was both a family and diplomatic matter. For all that, Charles' priorities lay elsewhere. He was embroiled in the Italian Wars and deep-rooted enmity with the Valois and Francis I. His role as Holy Roman Emperor brought him the problems of repelling the Turks and also the religious difficulties which ensued from Luther's stance in Germany. Moreover, he was responsible for his dominions in the New World. Apart from providing moral support to Katherine and Mary and being a potentially threatening presence, Charles had not become directly involved in the affairs of England.

So, in the period leading up to the Pilgrimage of Grace, there had been no direct or practical involvement from the papacy or European monarchs in the English political or religious scene. Although a second excommunication had been drawn up against Henry in August 1535, a Bull of Deprivation was not finally approved in consistory until January 1536. In the middle of the month, Chapuys reported to Charles V that the people were indignant because of Henry and Anne's gleeful rejoicing at Katherine's death (she died on 7 January). Poison and grief, he suggested, were being blamed for the queen's death. He then advised that, given the people's indignation, the time was ripe for the pope to proceed with the 'necessary remedies'. The following month, whilst reporting on the state of religion in England, Chapuys advised Charles that if the matter were ten times more unjust, none would dare to contradict Henry without outside support. Around this time, rumours were circulating in Scotland that Francis I 'abhorred' Henry's break with Rome. According to Chapuys, the king had determined that curates hearing confessions should not absolve anyone who did not accept that the pope was the Antichrist and the king the Supreme Head of the Church.

Having had experience of religious turmoil in Germany, Charles was aware of potential trouble in England. The emperor informed Chapuys that the withdrawal of Henry from the Church of Rome was truly a matter of great importance, the outcome of which could be division and confusion in his realm. Charles, however, was probably not concerned with internal strife in England. He must have feared a relatively powerful fellow ruler at close proximity to the German Lutheran princes. Reginald Pole (an exile in Italy and a Plantagenet cousin of the king who had refused to agree with the Royal Supremacy) expressed his dissatisfaction with the inertia of the papacy and the emperor shortly afterwards in not enforcing the laws of the Church against Henry.

A few weeks later, in mid-April 1536, Charles showed his hand. He informed Chapuys that he had persuaded the pope to suspend the Declaration of Privation against Henry and the appeal to the secular arm (Charles in his capacity as Holy Roman Emperor) until Charles advised him to do so. His letter to his ambassador was written in the context of proposed war with France and he desired to demonstrate his amity towards Henry. This suggests that Henry was, in reality, not a player on the chessboard of European politics: the issue of England's break with Rome was clearly not a priority for the emperor. Charles simply wanted to avoid Henry giving any sort of support to Francis I.

At the same time, Dr Ortiz advised the emperor's wife, Isabella, that the English were confirming their heresies by translating the Bible, altering many passages to support their errors. Meanwhile, Charles instructed Chapuys to conduct negotiations with Cromwell with regard to the possibility of Henry's reconciliation with the Holy See. Chapuys continued to inform his master of the developments in England and shortly after advised that the English Church sought to 'usurp' the foundations for the redemption of the dead – the doctrine of Purgatory and the practice of Masses for souls. William Weston of Lincoln College in Oxford felt the need to preach a sermon at the university in which he said that although he had been commanded to avoid mentioning Purgatory, it was a heresy to deny it.

Dissatisfaction with the Henrician injunctions and the direction in which the Church in England was proceeding was clearly not confined to the North. About this time, Chapuys was able to gleefully report of the fall of Anne Boleyn: the people, he said, were joyous at the ruin of the concubine and hopeful of Princess Mary's restoration. Such was the state of affairs in the spring and summer of 1536, prior to the issue of the First Henrician Injunctions in August and the ensuing uprisings at the start of October.

On the domestic front, the disgrace and fall of Anne Boleyn may have given conservative factions grounds for optimism and the possibility of a fresh start. Anne was a figurehead for the evangelical cause and had been found guilty of sexual crimes then associated with witchcraft. Anne's rise and haughty demeanour had not endeared her to many and some were certain to believe slanderous accusations against her. The accusation of witchcraft and entrapment had also been levelled at Henry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth Woodville, by her detractors. Elizabeth was also a commoner who had been raised up by her marriage to King Edward IV. The fact that the king had been so anxious to be rid of Anne probably had her opponents rubbing their hands with delight and anticipation. However, Henry immediately remarried – to Jane Seymour – and the First Henrician Injunctions were issued in late summer. The conservatives had experienced a false dawn. At about the same time, the Plantagenet exile Reginald Pole was putting an interesting slant on the Kildare Rebellion in Ireland (1534), when he advised Cardinal Contarini that the Earl of Kildare had been condemned to death for courageously vindicating the pope's authority in Ireland.


Excerpted from Insurrection by Susan Loughlin. Copyright © 2016 Susan Loughlin. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 7

1 Background: Government and Religion in 1536 17

2 The Pilgrimage of Grace: A Holy Crusade? 28

3 Resumption of Revolts and Royal Retribution 56

4 Rehabilitated Rebels and Reward 79

5 Loyalty and Patronage 101

6 Perceptions and the Pilgrimage: The Crown's Response 132

7 The Rhetoric of Resistance and Religiosity 152

Conclusion 175

Notes 189

List of Abbreviations 212

Bibliography 213

Acknowledgements 220

Index 221

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Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
StephanieAMann More than 1 year ago
I start reading a non-fiction book at the back: I check for an index, look at the list of works cited or consulted and glance at the notes. At the back of this book, Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and The Pilgrimage of Grace, I read the Acknowledgement from the author, Susan Loughlin, and saw something that could strike fear into a reader's heart: this book was based upon her doctoral thesis or dissertation. Obviously, however, Loughlin either wrote an extremely readable and accessible thesis or rewrote it ably to make it accessible to a non-academic though educated and interested reader. She kindly sent me a copy of her book for my opinion of it and I think it is not only a great study of the Pilgrimage of Grace but also a convincing test of the Christopher Haigh theory of the English Reformation as something which was imposed from above and slowly adopted in the country. Loughlin argues cogently that the Pilgrimage of Grace was a mostly grassroots protest against the religious changes that were being proclaimed and slowly enforced in 1536 and the dissolution of the smaller monasteries that Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's Vice Regent in Spiritual matters was coordinating. Loughlin also examines the pattern of patronage and bribery the Crown and Cromwell practiced to enforce loyalty to the monarch and acceptance of the religious changes, in addition to the punishment Henry VIII wanted meted out to those he regarded as rebels. It's rather terrifying because this patronage seems to have a corrupting effect on the recipient, who grovels before Cromwell, begging to be useful and begging to be accepted as loyal and true--but he will have to keep proving it, and will receive more honors, and so on, and so on, in a pattern of sycophancy. And of course, the process of sharing and selling the lands and buildings of the larger monasteries, the Court of Augmentations, would create an even closer bond between the recipients and the monarch, so that even those who were devout Catholics and did not agree with Lutheran doctrine or theology would go along with the religious changes, at least apparently. This is a fascinating exploration of the background and aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace--and of course the actual events of the uprising in the North--with the addition of an excellent discussion of the connections between the Pilgrimage of Grace and the Northern Rebellion of 1569. Highly recommended.