Ebooks   ➡  Nonfiction  ➡  History  ➡  Modern / 16th Century

Why did the Northern Rebellion in 1569 fail in comparison to other rebellions?


Why did the Northern Rebellion in 1569 fail in comparison to other rebellions?

Adam Freeman

Why did the Northern Rebellion in 1569 fail in comparison with other contemporary rebellions?

Published by Adam Freeman at Shakespir

7,000 words

Copyright 2016 Adam Freeman

Shakespir Edition

About the author:

Growing up in Staffordshire Adam Freeman studies History all through his school years and after graduating with four A-Levels attended the University of Winchester, completing a degree in Ancient, Classical and Medieval Studies in 2014, this joint degree was in History and Archaeology. The Dissertation on the politics and decisions behind the construction of churches in Mercia in the mid to late eight century during the reign of King Offa, was the first e-book to be published on Shakespir. In 2016 the author completed a Masters Degree at the University of Birmingham (Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage) in International Heritage Management.

To contact the author go to – [email protected]


List of Figures


Chapter 1 – The Pilgrimage of Grace 1536

Chapter 2 – The Northern Rebellion 1569

Chapter 3 –

Conclusion –

Bibliography –

List of Figures:

Image 1 (Front cover) – Image of Elizabeth I at her coronation. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.co.uk

Image 2 – Plaque of the Rising of the North. Image courtesy of gettyimages.co.uk

Image 3 – Map of the route of the Pilgrimage of Grace 1536/7. Image courtesy of tudorplace.com.ar

Image 4 – Painting of the Pilgrimage of Grace 1536. Image courtesy of luminarium.org

Image 5 – Map of Northern Rebellion 1569. Image courtesy of tudorplace


On 22 August 1485 the fractious and disorderly Lancastrian period of English period came to an end at the battle of Bosworth that also brought to an end the War of the Roses. This civil war was largely a battle of warrying families of the 1450’s for a thirty period. The accession of Henry Tudor as King after the Battle of Bosworth and his subsequent marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and thus uniting the two great families; did not end the push for change. The Battle of Stoke Field during his reign and in Henry VIII’s reign the Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck conspiracies showed that the Tudor court was always on alert that a popular rebellion could remove them from power.

This book deals with the religious motivated rebellion and risings that has come about from Henry VIII’s religious policies in the 1530 and 40’s, through the subsequent break with Rome, divorce of Katherine of Aragon, the creation of the Anglican Church of England, the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the suppression and attempted removal of all catholic heritage. For any person living through these times, it must have been a great revolution that altered the whole make up of the state they had grown accustomed to all their life. Once Henry VIII had died, the revolution changed again, with the Edwardian reforms and prayer book rebellions, Mary’s return to Catholicism and the mass execution of Protestants and then the subsequent Elizabethan settlement when she came to the throne.

The first rebellion of the sixteenth century is the Pilgrimage of Grace, it is the name given to the massive rebellion that occurred in late 1536, it originated from the Lincolnshire rising and was well supported in protest at the ensuing dissolution of the monasteries, economic hardship and Mary’s bastardization just to name a few. This rebellion that was defeated by Henry’s forces was joined by more localised risings throughout the mid 16th century up until 1569 when the Northern Rebellion or Northern Earls revolt begun. The revolt marked the year when Mary entered England, the first years of Elizabeth’s religious reforms were taking their toll on the people and foreign matters were becoming big national issues.

Image 2 – Plaque of the Rising of the North. Image courtesy of gettyimages.co.uk

In this book the whole period of religious revolution will be analysed, from the Pilgrimage of Grace to the northern rebellion, these two great rebellions will be compared to assess what changed in the northern land or hadn’t between the 1530’s and 1560’s. This will be set within the wider religious, social and political context in the country and discus how and why the Northern Rebellion failed so spectacularly and was the last large Tudor rebellion.

Timeline of Tudor monarchs:

Henry VII – 1485-1509

Henry VIII – 1509-1547

Edward VI – 1547 – 1553

Jane Grey – 1553

Mary I – 1553 -1558

Elizabeth I – 1558 -1603


Battle of Stoke Field 1487

Cornish rebellion 1497

Pilgrimage of Grace 1536

Prayer book rebellion 1549

Wyatt Rebellion 1554

Northern rebellion 1569

Chapter 1 – Pilgrimage of Grace

In 1509 Henry Tudor succeeded his father as King of England, it was the first peaceful succession for many decades; the new athletic King brought about stability, but within the space of nearly thirty years the King and the country had changed dramatically from this earlier positive exuberance. 1536 was a year that changed Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty that his father had created forever, ‘within a space of twelve months the apparent betrayal by his wife, a dangerous fall from a horse and a religious rebellion all played their part in transforming Henry’ (Limpcomb telegraph.co.uk). The latter of these problems for Henry form the basis of this study into rebellions during the Tudor period. The rebellion mentioned here is the Pilgrimage of Grace that broke in 1536, in late October in the north of England as shown in image 3; it consisted of nine armies manned by 50,000 men who threatened to march on London with a set of demands that they saw as important enough to defy the order of the country and bring the Realm into chaos.

Image 3 – Map of the route of the Pilgrimage of Grace 1536/7. Image courtesy of Tudorplace.com.ar

To understand why the rebellion started in 1536, a revolt that whilst religiously motivated also had political and economic strands to the grievances. It was a symbolic expression of a long term distrust and anger at the way London and King Henry VIII was governing the country. The leading scholars of this period is Denton who describes the reasons for their march on London; ‘central to the Pilgrims complaints was the belief that the society of orders was in dire peril. Much of the complaint was couched in such a way as to accuse the government of showing contempt for the society of orders: first, though maltreating the royal family, especially Princess Mary whom an act of parliament had rendered illegimate; second through replacing nobles in the councils of the King by men of villein wealth and by taking away its liberties and privileges; and thirdly through oppressing the commons with too much taxation’ (Denton, 1999:118). It is immediately seen that the umbrella of protest incorporated a lot of different aims and factors, this recognition is one of the reasons for the success of the Pilgrimage in shaking the Tudor State and the first open revolt against Henry VIII. As has been laid out above the rebellion was called and nicknamed as the Pilgrimage of Grace this made it distinct above other rebellions and a sign of one of the grievances that the population had with Henry. ‘As a well as a rising of the commons it was uniquely conceived as a pilgrimage. Also distinguishing it was the importance the rebels attached to oath-swearing. An exceptionally large number of gentlemen and clerics were involved’ (Bush 1996:8). These two factors show that the order and control of the rebellion meant that it wasn’t sporadic and opportunistic but more thought through and focused, whilst the importance of getting gentlemen and clerics on the same side showed the momentum was with the rebels and the people who had fallen out with the Henrician regime were joining together.

The role of the leaders in the sense of the local community and important Lords and Barons gave the rebellion legitimacy, the biggest threat were the northern earls consisting of the Earl of Northumberland and Westmorland who had grown restless as their power and influence was gradually eroded through the reign of Henry VII and now Henry VIII. There open support of Richard III against Henry Tudor during the last few months of his reign is an indication of where their loyalties had laid. As a result the rebellions have been seen by some historians as an expression of the grievances of the north as a whole with Geoffrey Elton going as far as to say that, ‘in the main the northern risings represent the effort of a defeated Court faction to create a power base in the country for the purpose of achieving a political victory at court’ (Elton London, 1977). This harsh critique that was written down in the 1970s is reminisant of the current interpretation of the period, where the political factors were seen as a reason for their support and instigator of a rebellion. R.W Hoyle even asks whether the Lincolnshire rising was the actual start of the rebellion and so the northern involvement was a necessary part of the rebellion but not the biggest, ‘the insurrection happened in Lincolnshire – not normally counted as a northern county and was initially expected to spread into East Anglia, where there was an attempt to raise a new revolt in April 1537. Whilst the north Midlands were mustered against the Pilgrims, there was evident sympathy for the rebels among those facing them we might conclude that the risings of 1536 chanced to happen in the north rather than arose out of an ingrained characteristic of society’ (Hoyle, Oxford, 2003). This assertion questions whether the north was as important to the rebellion as has been made by some historians, and whether the power base of the north was already on the downturn even before the rebellion.

The focus on the Lincolnshire rising above is important but even before the rising exploded out there to chain the events and especially the leadership is important to go back to 25 September when, ‘oath-taking began among the commons in the Lordship of Dent in the west riding of Yorkshire, as Lincolnshire had joined in the rebellion it spread south; already prominent was the name of Robert Aske, Aske was an astute and successful lawyer who had a number of grievances against the Cromwellian regime, and who had already become one of the gentry captains in Lincolnshire’ (Fletcher, 1997:25/6). As momentum grew over the weeks it all came to a head on 13 October when the companies from the East Riding and Marshland joined up on their march to York. It seems to have been during the advance to York that Aske began to speak of the rising as a pilgrimage, telling two messengers ‘they were the pilgrimages and had a pilgrimage gate to go’. The full title of the rising became ‘the Pilgrimage of Grace for the commonwealth’: the grace which it sought was not primarily grace from God, but grace from the King for his poor subjects.^^1^^ Thus leadership from a member of the aspiring middle gentry gave the rising a legitimacy and would have almost certainly led to more gentry people to join the fray, thus giving the movement a higher chance of success.

Image 4 – Painting of the Pilgrimage of Grace 1536. Image courtesy of luminarium.org

The economic vulnerability that England faced, exasperated in the outbreak of plague in 1531 and 1535 gave rise to discontent and popular calls to reform the government, this coupled with the religious grievances for example the selling of land from monasteries had left some landowners in huge debt and against the policy of the Dissolution of the Monastery’s was a recipe for disaster for the still recent new Tudor state. As Denton describes, ‘the Pilgrimage of Grace belonged to a tradition of revolt. Within the tradition were two major strands of revolt: on the one hand, risings of the commons principally moved by agrarian grievances and therefore against the landlords; on the other, risings of the commons principally moved by the political grievances and therefore against the government’ (Denton, 1999: 122). The landlords crucially were to the masses representations of the cruel machine of the Tudor government, which could with unpopular taxes in 1534 left the economic deprived areas of the country vulnerable to all kinds of revolt. This is explained in an examination of George Guisborough who was arrested a year after the Pilgrimage of Grace in connection with the Walshingham conspiracy he says what causes resulted in his rebellion. There complaints be for diverse things as concern for keeping of sheep and farms and all other such things belonging to them that they have taken them and such goods and chattels as they had to maintain the people with as we went forward with all the strength we might make.^^2^^ This excerpt from the examination describes superbly the local and specific reasons why George rebelled and what he wanted to achieve.

Away from the political aspects there were other competing factors that made 1536 a recipe for disaster in the eyes of the Henrician government, 1536 saw the first stages of Cromwell and Henry’s reformation that would change the shape of the church and its relationship with the state of England forever. Religion in the medieval period was the one constant that the population could rely on as Kings and wars had come and gone. This was the Roman Catholic religion, with the Pope as head of the church, the dissolution of the monasteries was intent on destroying all places of worship that were connected with the now treasonous religion and sent shockwaves not only to the local population but to the pro catholic voices at Court and in Parliament. This last group of people would be one of the reasons for the period of success that the rebellion had, the various statements of grievances produced by the pilgrims expressed alarm at what was happening to the church as placed in the hands of heretics, its wealth and privileges were being taken away, as I have stated to describe above the uprising revealed that the commons saw their cause as closely involved with that of the clergy. For the sake of the commonwealth, it was felt both had to be safeguarded against government greed. Likewise, they believed that the wealth of the church had to be protected for the sake of the religion. As a commons petition of January 1537 declared: it was vital ‘to maintain the profit of holy church which was the upholding of the Christian faith’ (Denton 1999:121). The issue of religion which also encompassed the anger that was felt by many parts of the population for the decision by the King to bastardize Princess Mary, were the key reasons for getting the large sections of the middle class and the commons on side. This realization of the over level of support from court was one the Tudor State would never forget.

The highpoint of the Pilgrimage of Grace was the picture of Aske giving a set of demands to the King with a whole army worth of protestors behind him, crucially Robert Aske did not want to plunge the Kingdom into civil war because he and others in the Pilgrimage thought they were dealing with honourable men, Stephanie Mann is clear that, ‘It was the Tudor regime that had gone against its word. This assertion that Henry had gone against his earlier concessions is seen further in the fact that Henry desiring revenge ordered Norfolk to increase the number of executions’ (Mann, 2008: 19). It must be noted that Stephanie’s pro catholic views might have leant to some exaggeration from her part in highlighting the plight of Catholics during the Tudor period. ‘Although the Pilgrimage of Grace was only a protest against Henrys policy’s and the Pilgrims protested vigorously that they were no traitors, but the Kings loyal subjects’ (Loades, D 2007:149). This would eventually prove their undoing, for the leader Aske’s body would be hung from the chains for York Castle for many years to come as a warning to future rebellions and rebellion leaders, and would lead to nay protest be seen as a traitors act. The murder of the leading conspirators who were part of the peasants revolt against Richard II over two hundred years ago should have been a warning to the conspirators.Not only was the Pilgrimage of Grace a high point in sense of rebellions for Henry it would be for the whole Tudor Period as a whole. Economic, political and social changes throughout the period and especially into the later part of the sixteenth century meant any call for rebellion fell on deaf ears.

The contemporaries saw the Pilgrimage of Grace as a failure and the Tudor State coming out of the rebellion more strongly and secure. Some historians have seen the rebellion as a success in the amount of people who supported it and the level of support within court, and that Henry’s regime was lucky to survive. Whichever side you fall upon it is clear that the population of England was more scared of the power that the Henrician government could enforce on it. Peter Ackroyd sets the scene, ‘after the rebellion perfectly, that there was no more rumours and wishers of revolt. There were no more complaints about the suppression of the monasteries. The people had fallen silent’ (Ackroyd, 2012:355). Another note to make is in the words of David Starkey talking about his and his University tutor Elton’s views on the period that after 1540, ‘with the fall of Thomas Cromwell the reign might as well have been over, from Elton’s point of view the reign should’ve been over, the next few years were joined with unnecessary wars and personal indulgence’ (Starkey, D www.bl.uk). This lecture was held in 2009 to accompany the 500 years anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession.

There were future rebellions in Henry VIII’s reign, but they all had different aims and accomplishments. The next biggest rebellion occurred in 1549 in Oxfordshire the rising occurred due to economic and historic factors that the leaders were trying to get changed. The 1540’s marked the third year of harvest failures with many families starving and struggling to survive, this brought discontent and exasperation on the side of the farmers and workers, John Walter describes the state of society then in October 1549 the earl of Bath wrote to the privy council of the need for the gentry to return to their estates ‘to be at hand to stay the fury of the inferior multitude if they should happen to break out in sudden outcry for want of relief, as without good circumspection many suspect they may and will do’ (Walter, J oxfordjournals.org, 91). The rising was led by Bartholomew Steere a craftsman who like earlier revolutionary leaders had god connections with all sections of society as he had worked in the household of Lord Lieutenant Norris, although the lack of universal support from any sections of the middle or richer classes is a testament to the changing aspirations and priorities that these people saw in their life, the area had made contact with trade guilds, merchants and the rise of capitalism in these times meant people crucially didn’t think their life’s would be improved or changed for the better by rebellion or protest.

The Oxford rebellion conspirators had ‘of considerable planning and political acumen’ (Walter, J oxfordjournals.org: 91) this assertion by Walter shows the danger similar to the Pilgrimage of Grace that it set to the Tudor state. But why did the rebellion crumble so quickly and what can the effects of the Pilgrimage of Grace be laid at its door. The first note to make is that even after the Pilgrimage of Grace there were various risings, for example in London 1545 and East Anglia 1547, all of these; including the Oxford rising that happened in 1549 was due to economic reasons not a question of religious or political discontent and more importantly they didn’t spread, and so were easily countered by the forces of the Tudor State, not to forget the efficient spy network in the coutnry. The unearthing of the rebellion as had happened before is due to previous punishments that the population were afraid of and people saw confessing treasons more better than being caught performing such an act. John Walter in his well received article on the rising of the people explains why it is very important in the middle of the Tudor reign. ‘The government’s response to the discovery of the conspiracy was to instigate a vigorous judicial inquiry which culminated in convictions for treason for conspiring to levy war against the crown. The government’s pursuit and prosecution of the conspirators provides valuable evidence from opposite ends of the political and social spectrum of contemporaries’ perception of the crisis. In particular, detailed interrogations make it possible to examine how the poor perceived, interpreted and sought to respond to change in their society. Married with the local evidence, these records permit a study of the rising in context’ (Walter, J oxfordjournals.org) It shows that the rising had the hallmarks to achieve what it set out to do.

Chapter 2 – Northern Rebellion

The next biggest rebellion to originate and touch the north occurred in 1569, similar to the previous rebellions there was anger simmering within the area for a long while, originating from the effects of the Pilgrimage of Grace. This rebellion occurred during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, there was uncertainty over her religious reforms, the rise of Cecil and the power that was leaving certain northern barons. A comparison with the march of the Pilgrimage of Grace and the cities it touched, as shown in image 4 MacCaffrey comments, ‘it was Mary’s arrival in England that set in motion a flurry of activity in several different quarters. The circle in which it raised most new hopes was that of the English Catholics. Scattered, leaderless, and disinherited since the beginning of the reign, they now began to stir’ (MacCaffrey, W 1993) 114). In his book MacCaffrey describes authentically the importance that Mary gave to this sporadic following, not only as a supporter of Catholic ideals but as a figure head for the people.

Image 5 – Map of Northern Rebellion

1569. Image courtesy of tudorplace

Only two year since her forced abdication from the Scottish Crown; in favour of her son James. Mary had escaped to England to gain sanctuary from her cousin Queen Elizabeth. This intertwining period brought great unease for Elizabeth and her allies at court, due to the evident popularity of Mary in the north and other catholic supporting areas. ‘The year 1569 found the equilibrium in England in a very unstable condition, and besides the trouble with Mary and with the Catholic powers already mentioned, the Protestant party were restless and angry at the ill success of their fellow-reformers abroad. As has been discussed before, foreign influence was at this time a most potent factor in English politics’ (Pollen, J.H 1920: 128/9). This extract from the work of J.H Pollen shows how for many Mary was the final piece in the jigsaw to resurrect the Catholic faith and bring Elizabeth into line, crucially there was no wish to see Elizabeth removed from the throne. The three prominent ideas that Pollen expands on that Mary should be declared heir to the throne of England, and treated as such, the second that Cecil should be deposed, the third, that Elizabeth should be converted. Similar to previous risings they did not want an overthrow of the government but just a change of course and direction. The quick reaction of the Elizabethan government to this threat and Mary’s move to Coventry meant they were always a step ahead of the rebels. ‘The dissent was not collective or organised, the new Bishops were putting their diocese in order, vacancies were being filled, the parish church was being cleared of Catholic devotional objects’ (Rowlands. Historytoday.com) Marie Rowland’s recognition of the steps taken by Elizabeth to stem any dissent very early in her reign clearly shows she had learnt from her sister and her brothers problems in power. The failure to free Mary only added fuel to the Protestants aim to damage any Catholic hope for a return to favour, their policy’s abroad to grant ships and supplies to the Hugenot and Geuex rovers only strengthened this message.

The issue of foreign policy does have a factor in the Northern Rebellion. The unpopular wars with France that had characterised Henry VIII’s reign had now come to an end and the emerging enemy to English dominance abroad was Spain. ‘(But) in 1567 the second religious war had broken out in France, while in the same year the Revolt of the Netherlands had started, bringing upon friends of English protestants and customers of English merchants the bloody rule of the Duke of Alva, and sending refugees flying to England, there to create among zealots the sense of impending conflict with the power of Catholic darkness’ (Neale, 1965:178). This human face to the wars and the social problem that was now engulfing England is well described by Neale and his book on the politics and the parliaments of Elizabeth’s reign is helpful, as this book was first produced in 1953 it will harbour some of the thoughts of that age that parliament and politics were the key factors in any dispute. This foreign aggression had breeded a strong sense of nationalism and pride in English military and economically factors, this was encouraged by the government who coupled it with a strong sense of anti-Catholicism. For the majority of the middle gentry, the ones who were key to any success of a rebellion the support that Mary had from Spain and the Pope made them feel uneasy, especially in the religious proposals that the leaders of the rebellion had declared, the future Spanish armada would have an impact in supporting these views.

The main backers of this rebellion were the northern baron’s, some historians refer to it as the northern earls revolt as a representation of their importance. The two northern Earls were the Earl of Westmorland and Northumberland, they had descendants who participated in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and unlike other sections of society they still remembered this and saw it as one of the leading lights of their recent family history. MacCaffrey takes a kind look at the earl’s involvement and takes the blame out on Lady Westmorland who, ‘scornfully told them their inaction would shame them forever and leave them nothing but to crawl into their holes. Similar persuasion came from their adherents among the neighbouring gentry. Behind Lady Westmorland’s words loomed the whole inheritance of the Percys and Nevilles. Hereditary overlords of the border counties for generations, they were prisoners of their own past’ (MacCaffrey, Elizabeth I, 1993). This shows how history weighed heavy on the decisions took by the barons, it is clear if they concentrated on the actual events and circumstances than the history that had previously happened their actions might have been different and more dangerous to the government.

This sense of history and inaction is also described by ME. James who in 1973 says these as the key reasons for the action took, ‘that between Forster and his kin and the Percies there was a feud which went back to the days of the Pilgrimage of Grace, with the two factions subsequently competing for the control of the March offices. The Percies had their day during the early years of the Marian regime, when the family earldom and estates were restored, and the seventh earl was made warden of the East and Middle Marches. But then followed the Elizabethan reversal when Forster himself took over the Middle march from his old enemy, and Northumberland was replaced in the East March first by Lord Grey of Wilton, then by the Earl of Bedford, both trusted agents of the Elizabethan regime’ (James M.E oxfordjournals.co.uk). It is easy to see why Northumberland and other parts of society had rebelled against the government but the support of other northern barons meant there was always a force and say in northern matters by the government, which proved helpful in halting the spread of the Northern Rebellion.

Chapter 3 – Comparisons and summary

The time between the Pilgrimage of Grace and the Northern Rebellion was a thirty year period that saw ‘three’ monarchs come and go. Not all of the rebellions that happened in this intertwining period were necessary within a religious context; the Wyatt rebellion of 1554 in London will be touched on to analyse the contemporary views on rebellions and how it can be seen through the written evidence of the period. Corbert comments, ‘the Wyatt rebellion of 1554 aimed to overthrow Queen Mary and place Princess Elizabeth, with young Edward Courteny on the throne. After the Wyatt Rebellion failed, young Edward Courtney was imprisoned once again, at first in the Tower but lately at Fotheringhay’ (Corbert, 2013: 334). The rebellion crucially failed to have the support of London, which directly resulted in the rebellion failing and not having the resources to tackle the Queen’s forces effectively

McCulloch and Fletcher in their recent works assess why the rebellion failed, and the religious link that it had, ‘the most plausible motivation of those who led Wyatt’s rebellion and its associated conspirators was an attempt to restore the Protestant ascendancy of the reigns of Edward VI and Jane. Why did the conspirators not publicise this religious and political motivation? For the same reason that the Lady Mary remained silent about the religious theme during the July 1553 coup-d’etat which successfully overturned the reign of Queen Jane. England was a deeply divided country in terms of religion in 1553-54; it made no sense to limit the appeal of any rebellion by appearing to only one side of the religious divide. It was much better to find a uniting theme, such as the satisfying motif of hating and fearing foreigners, in order to maximise support; hence the concentration on the Spanish marriage’ (McCulloch, Fletcher, 2016) the reference to Edward VI and Jane, shows that amongst all the political decisions took over the last thirty years, the religious question whilst not always at the forefront of peoples mind was the crucial link that bounded everything together. For a modern audience the coronation of Mary I was a clear victory for Catholicism, but to contemporise it was a success due to it its ability in removing the Dudley’s from the crown and Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII so the succession completed Henry’s succession plan, ignoring the fact the succession was changed legally afterwards.

This analysis of Kent is important in understanding the nationwide dissent, there were catholic sympathisers across the whole country, as Loughlin remarks, ‘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 of Marshes 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. Bristol, which had been a base of the evangical Hugh Latimer was the setting for what Elton has described as ‘violent exchanges’ from the pulpit between the old and new’ (Loughlin, 2016). This shows that outside London alongside the capital there was a lot of discontent with the direction the country was taking on an ecclesiastical viewpoint.


Since the subjugation of the north during Henrys reign and the closeness that Elizabeth had now brought the majority of northern people to support her had left the northern earls who had been superseded in court by other northern voices on the side this is highlighted effectively by AN. Wilson in 2011 who shows that, ‘the increase of prosperity and the combined efforts of the northern council and commission ‘made York a miniature Westminster’, and so when the rebellion broke out York had completely reversed its position as the champion of Catholic reaction’ (Wilson, A.N 2011:93/4). An example of the changing social and economic prosperity, that was focused on key northern cities to suppress and remove all dissent, this was supported by a lengthy spy network. During the protection of the city which saw 14,000 soldiers being housed in the city, ‘the citizens of York gave a short-term loan of no more than £1,000 to supply the soldier’s wages’ (Wilson, AN 2011: 93/4). This evidence shows that the North less saw Catholicism and supporting their fellow northern earls as important and key to survival as they had in previous decades due to better opportunities and richer splendours being shown by the Elizabethan government.

There was no Aske figure like in the Pilgrimage of Grace to lead the revolt and campaign effectively for the rights of the masses. ‘During the period after the Pilgrimage of Grace, 144 people were executed, including Aske and the other leaders, and the north was placed under what amounted to martial law for the next two or three years. The rebellion was used to tar all subsequent opposition to the regime as treason’ (Ryrie, 2009:140). Even after Henrys reign the burning of Catholics by Mary and other acts of brutality concerning revolts afterwards had left a nervous chill among many sections of the country to openly join in rebellion. It wasn’t help by the Duke of Norfolk who had changed his mind and literally laid himself at the Queens feet asking for forgiveness for participating in the organization of the rebellion, this is best described by Alison Weir that, “Norfolk was aware of what was being planned in the north an, fearful of being implicated, sent a messenger to Westmorland to beg him to call off the rising. ’If not, it should cost me my head, for that I am going to Court’. On 3rd October Norfolk was arrested on the way to Windsor. Cecil had assured him that, if he submitted to her, the Queen would not deal harshly with him, but ten days later, as he had feared, he was committed to the Tower” (Weir, 1998: 208). Although the rebellion continued resolutely there was no one who was able to lead the rising that was already splitting into sections of people who had different acts to grind.

Although there was a lack of support from the upper echelons of society the lower and working class also failed to connect with the rising and rise wholehearted. As the Tudor period expanded social conditions were supported by progressive political and economic progression. The poor were becoming more in tune with the wider area and ‘national’ issues were discussed more and more within the otherwise confines of community’s that had crucially harbored collective views and support whether for Richard III, pretenders to the Tudor throne or to the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion in the past.

This change which was also coupled in the early Millennium in historical understanding and research with socio-economic factors is best described by the revolutionary work by Keith Wrigton and David Levine in their study of Terling in Essex, it saw that there was a significant weakening of the localism of provincial society. There was a slow shift from a situation in which long-active forces of integration were still somewhat weaker than the forces of local autonomy, toward one in which centripetal forces gained the precedence. Persisting economic diversity came to reflect specialization within an emerging national economy. Local loyalties and identities slowly gave way before the increased participation of those of yeoman status and above in the political and cultural life of the nation’ (Wrigton, Levine, 1995: 7). This move to wider participation by the poor especially those in the north was encouraged by the Elizabethan government, the move towards a northern powerhouse by the current establishment in Britain, to allow wealth to be spread out, but also to allow all dissent, in this modern context it is between political parties to not fester and grow.


This book has assessed the Northern rebellion of 1569, a revolt that whilst unsuccessful in its ability to change either public feeling or direction of government, not to mention the eventual execution of Mary Queen of Scots for an alleged catholic plot to place her on the throne. The rebellion has been set within a wider Tudor context, especially in connection to the religious policies supported by Queen Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII, through to Edward VI and Mary’s policies. All that affected what would be known as the Elizabethan settlement that she brought in to heal the gap between the Protestant and Catholic faith in the country and thus consolidate her own power.

England as a nation had moved on since the break with Rome and the alienation of the country from the rest of continental Europe, it had restarted trading relations with its neighbours in Netherlands and Flanders, its image was changing as a country more associated with exploration and finance. Within these changing times, as the economy grew the need for revolution and change becomes less needed; disease and famine had generally disappeared. Living conditions of the country had increased and had brought more power to the enlarging working class. The government had countered there need for more power and opportunities with more participation at court and within their local communities, an increase in MPs from non-aristocratic families had meant that the government was seen as one of the people and not a ‘foreign’ voice as had been felt during the tight circle of advisors and confiderants that previous decades and centuries had been symbolized by.

On the earlier point on trade, relations with the continent had improved so much especially after the war with France had ended that trade and exchange in the idea of markets and fairs were increasing throughout England. Communities were returning but with more participation to the medieval idea of weekly markets and the possibility to gain exotic commodities and products lent itself to healthy competition and the encouragement of local production to sell to neighbouring and foreign hands. As time went by these trade guilds in certain cities had more power than any Kings/Queens representative had, the fact that these were led by local people gave a sense of pride that is still felt today in the large array of medieval trade halls that are still used or shown to the public today. It is obvious with this run down of the economic fortune of England that there was no appetite for rebellion or even anger at the government in many corners of society.

It is shown that not one rebellion can be completely similar to a previous or later one, each having their own place in history and particular circumstances. The main religious rebellions that covered the Tudor period the Pilgrimage if Grace in 1536, the Oxfordshire risings and the Northern Rebellion of 1569, only the Pilgrimage of Grace by the majority of historians is seen as a success and one that truly tested the Tudor state. There are many reasons why the ensuing rebellions failed; this can be interpreted in social, economic, political and even foreign matters – all of which played their part. And it is seen that a slow downward curve of the positive aspects of society for a rebellion was happening, the north was coming close to the south in social, political and economical aspects, the economy was doing well and taxes were generally at a lower level that in the earlier sixteenth century. People’s priorities had changed as human nature had developed and progression had been seen through the decades: capitalism and consumerism, political representation in parliament, nationalism had spread. With religion, organised communities, political uncertainty in the sense of the monarchy had largely dissipated.

I hope this book will form an important part of the analysis of the rebellions of the Tudor age; the Northern Rebellion is most of the time overshadowed by earlier rebellions in the Tudor period from the Battle of Stoke field and Pilgrimage of Grace. It was an important rebellion in giving a sign of the changing times, the changing social aspects that would have a large bearing on the later religious rebellions that for many people was an unsolved catholic revolution.


Secondary Sources:

Ackroyd. P The History of England Volume II Tudors (MacMillan, London, 2012)

Bush M The Pilgrimage of Grace a study of the rebel armies of October 1536 (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1996)

Denton J. Orders and Hierarchies in Late Medieval and Renaissance Europe (Macmillan Press, Manchester, 1999)

Elton G.R Reform and Reformation England 1509-1558 (Edward Arnold, London, 1977)


Hoyle R W The pilgrimage of Grace and the politics of the 1530’s (Oxford University Press, 2001)


Kesserling The Northern Rebellion of 1569: Faith and politics and protest in England (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

Loades, D Henry VIII court, church and conflict (The National Archive, Surrey, 2007)

Loughlin, S Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace (The History Press, Suffolk, 2016)

Mann, S Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics endured the English Reformation (Skepter publishers, 2009)

MacCulloch. D Fletcher. A, Tudor Rebellions (Routledge, Oxon, 2016)

MacCaffrey W, Elizabeth I (Edward Arnold, London, 1993)

Neale J R Elizabeth I and her Parliaments Vol 1 1559-1581 (Jonathon Cape, 1969)

Pollen J H, The English Catholics in the reign of Queen Elizabeth a study of their politics civil life and government (Longmans, Green and Co, 1920)

Weir A, Elizabeth the Queen (Jonathon Cape, 1998)

Wilson A.N The Elizabethans (Hutchison Library, London, 2011)

Wrighton K Levie D Poverty and piety in an English village: Terling, 1525-1700 (London, 1979)

Web based sources:

[+ http://www.historytoday.com/marie-rowlands/english-catholics-reign-elizabeth+] (accessed 19.2.2013)

A “RISING OF THE PEOPLE”? THE OXFORDSHIRE RISING OF 1596 (Downloaded from http://past.oxfordjournals.org/ at University of Winchester on February 18, 2013)


http://www.jstor.org/stable/175711?seq=7 (accessed 14.2.2013)

[+ http://past.oxfordjournals.org/content/60/1/49.full.pdf+html?hwoaspck=true+] (accessed 17.2.2013)

[+ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5169512/The-year-that-changed-Henry-VIII.html+] (acccesed 15.2.2013)


http://www.bl.uk/whatson/podcasts/podcast95053.mp3 (accessed 20.03.2013)

Letters and papers of the reign of Henry VIII; TNA, SP 1/119, fol. 33r: 1537 The examination of George Guisborough concerning the Walshingham conspiracy

1 ibid

2 Primary source



Why did the Northern Rebellion in 1569 fail in comparison to other rebellions?

  • ISBN: 9781370508112
  • Author: Adam Freeman
  • Published: 2016-11-01 18:20:10
  • Words: 7044
Why did the Northern Rebellion in 1569 fail in comparison to other rebellions? Why did the Northern Rebellion in 1569 fail in comparison to other rebellions?