Pilgrimage of Grace

Pilgrimage of Grace
Banner of the Holy Wounds (Pilgrimage of Grace).svg
A banner bearing the Holy Wounds of Jesus Christ, which was carried at the Pilgrimage of Grace
LocationYork, Yorkshire, England
DateOctober 1536 – October 1537
Attack type
Uprising and subsequent suppression
PerpetratorsRobert Aske
Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy
Sir Robert Constable
Sir Francis Bigod
No. of participants
40,000
DefenderThomas Cromwell, Vicegerent in Spirituals to Henry VIII

The Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular uprising that began in Yorkshire in October 1536, before spreading to other parts of Northern England including Cumberland, Northumberland and north Lancashire, under the leadership of lawyer Robert Aske. The "most serious of all Tudor rebellions", it was a protest against Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the policies of the King's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, as well as other specific political, social and economic grievances.[1]

The Pilgrimage began almost immediately following the suppression of the short-lived Lincolnshire rising of 1536. The traditional historical view portrays the Pilgrimage as "a spontaneous mass protest of the conservative elements in the North of England angry with the religious upheavals instigated by King Henry VIII". Historians have noted that there were contributing economic factors.[2]

Lincolnshire Rising

Plaque commemorating the Lincolnshire Rising, opposite south entrance to St James' Church, Louth

The Lincolnshire Rising was a brief rising by Roman Catholics against the establishment of the Church of England by Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries set in motion by Thomas Cromwell. Both planned to assert the nation's religious autonomy and the king's supremacy over religious matters. The dissolution of the monasteries resulted in much property being transferred to the Crown.[3]

The royal commissioners seized not only land, but the church plate, jewels, gold crosses, and bells. Silver chalices were replaced by ones made of tin. In some instances these items had been donated by local families in thanksgiving for a perceived blessing or in memory of a family member. There was also resistance to the recently passed Statute of Uses, which sought to recover royal fees based on land tenure.[4]

The rising began on 1 October 1536[1] at St James' Church, Louth, after evensong, shortly after the closure of Louth Park Abbey. The stated aim of the uprising was to protest against the suppression of Catholic religious houses, not the rule of Henry VIII himself. The commissioners' registers were seized and burned. It quickly gained support in Horncastle, Market Rasen, Caistor and other nearby towns. The chancellor of the Bishop of Lincoln, who was ill at Killingbroke, was captured and beaten to death by the mob.[4]

Angered by the actions of commissioners, the protesters demanded the end of the collection of a subsidy, the end of the Ten Articles, an end to the dissolution, an end to taxes in peacetime, a purge of heretics in government and the repeal of the Statute of Uses. With support from local gentry, a force of demonstrators, estimated at up to 40,000, marched on Lincoln, Lincolnshire, and occupied Lincoln Cathedral. They demanded the freedom to continue worshipping as Catholics and protection for the treasures of Lincolnshire churches. The protest was led by a monk and a shoemaker and involved 22,000 people.[5]:56

The protest effectively ended on 4 October 1536, when the King sent word for the occupiers to disperse or face the forces of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, which had already been mobilised. By 14 October, few remained in Lincoln. Following the rising, the vicar of Louth and Captain Cobbler, two of the main leaders, were captured and hanged at Tyburn.[3]

Most of the other local ringleaders were also executed during the next twelve days, including William Moreland, or Borrowby, one of the former Louth Park Abbey monks.[6] A lawyer from Willingham was hanged, drawn and quartered for his involvement.[3] The Lincolnshire Rising helped inspire the more widespread Pilgrimage of Grace.