Popular Politics and the English Reformation

By Ethan H. Shagan | Go to book overview

3
Politics and the Pilgrimage
of Grace revisited

Only two years after the royal supremacy was written into law, and only months after Henry VIII's first, tentative reforms of religious worship, a series of rebellions threatened to halt the English Reformation in its tracks. Sparked in Lincolnshire in October 1536 and spreading quickly through Yorkshire and the far north, the Pilgrimage of Grace was the largest popular uprising in England between the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and the civil wars of the 1640s. As in the maid of Kent affair, the pilgrims strove for a legitimate voice with which to oppose a regime whose radical fiscal and ecclesiastical policies had severely depleted its stockpile of goodwill and instinctive obedience. Also as in Elizabeth Barton's movement, the Pilgrimage of Grace combined popular and elite politics in a particularly explosive mixture. Much more so than Barton, however, the Pilgrimage directly threatened the government's survival: with perhaps 50,000 men in arms, if the rebels had marched on London no royal force could possibly have stopped them.1

____________________
1
Until recently, the standard account of the Pilgrimage of Grace was Madeleine Hope Dodds and Ruth Dodds, The Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536–1537, and the Exeter Conspiracy, 1538, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1915). This has now been surpassed by Michael Bush, The Pilgrimage of Grace: A Study of the Rebel Armies of October 1536 (Manchester, 1996); Michael Bush and David Bownes, The Defeat of the Pilgrimage of Grace: A Study of the Postpardon Revolts of December 1536 to March 1537 and their Effect (Hull, 1999); and R. W. Hoyle, The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Politics of the 1530s (Oxford, 2001). Other useful literature includes: R. W. Hoyle, 'Thomas Master's Narrative of the Pilgrimage of Grace', Northern History, 21 (1985), pp. 53–79; Mervyn James, 'Obedience and Dissent in Henrician England: The Lincolnshire Rebellion, 1536', P&P, 48 (1970), 3–78; A. G. Dickens, 'Secular and Religious Motivation in the Pilgrimage of Grace', in G. J. Cumings (ed.), The Province of York, Studies in Church History, 4 (Leiden, 1967); C. S. L Davies, 'The Pilgrimage of Grace Reconsidered', P&P, 41 (1968), 54–75; C. S. L. Davies, 'Popular Religion and the Pilgrimage of Grace', in A. Fletcher and J. Stephenson (eds.), Order and Disorder in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1985); Christopher Haigh, The Last Days of the Lancashire Monasteries and the Pilgrimage of Grace, Chetham Society, 3rd series, 17 (Manchester, 1969); S. M. Harrison, The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Lake Counties, 1536–7 (London, 1981); Michael Bush, 'The Richmondshire Uprising of 1536 and the Pilgrimage of Grace', Northern History, 29 (1993), 64–98; Michael Bush, 'Captain Poverty and the Pilgrimage of Grace', Historical Research, 65 (1992), 17–36; G. R. Elton, 'Politics and the Pilgrimage of Grace', in his Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government, 4 vols. (Cambridge, 1974–92), vol. 3; Michael Bush, “'Up for the 89 Commonweal”: The Significance of Tax Grievances in the English Rebellions of 1536', EHR, 106 (1991), 299–318; Michael Bush, “'Enhancements and Importunate Charges”: An Analysis of the Tax Complaints of October 1536', Albion, 22 (1990), 403–19; Michael Bush, 'Tax Reform and Rebellion in Early Tudor England', History, 76 (1991), 379–400; S. J. Gunn, 'Peers, Commons, and Gentry in the Lincolnshire Revolt of 1536', P&P, 123 (1989), 52–79; Margaret Bowker, 'Lincolnshire 1536: Heresy, Schism or Religious Discontent?' in Derek Baker (ed.), Schism, Heresy and Religious Protest, Studies in Church History, 9 (Cambridge, 1972).

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