Sparked in Lincolnshire in October 1536 and expanding rapidly through
Yorkshire and the far north, the Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular rising that
presented a “major armed challenge to the Henrician Reformation” . Historians
have argued endlessly about the true causes of the Pilgrimage. But, it is fair to
say that the rising incorporated a mixture of political, religious, social and
economic issues. Therefore, economic factors were only partly to blame for the
Pilgrimage of Grace.
Firstly, politics was partly to blame for the Pilgrimage of Grace. By early 1527
King Henry VIII sought a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Though, it is hard to
pinpoint exactly why, the ...view middle of the document...
But, it is fair to say
that this is because it was such a hot topic; hence, it was only vaguely
mentioned with the “demand that the king maintain the Church in its traditional
form” . Thus, by discounting such a hot topic they stood a better chance of the
king accepting their grievances. In addition, anger surrounded his so-called ‘evil’
chief minister Thomas Cromwell as will be discussed later concerning the
dissolution of monasteries.
Likewise, religion was partly to blame for the Pilgrimage of Grace starting
with the dissolution of the monasteries. In effect, all monasteries were visited in
June 1535 and February 1536. Consequently, the evidence gathered was used to
dissolve those smaller monasteries which were “defined as those with less than
£200 income” . Strikingly, the reforms chief recipient was the king who “gained
the lands of the dissolved houses” . Thus, one can find solace in the argument
that the government was avaricious; therefore, it was just the beginning of the
general seizure of all the monasteries. Robert Aske, an English lawyer who led
the Pilgrimage of Grace, emphasised the social importance of the monasteries.
In short, he stated that they provided education, hospitality, alms-giving and
were a vital part of the Christian tradition. As a result, the government was
denounced as sacrilegious. Even more so, when the king pronounced his Ten
Articles in July 1536 and it presented only three sacraments: baptism, penance
and the Eucharist. This was swiftly followed by his vicegerents, Thomas
Cromwell, injunctions that denounced shrines, cults of saints and pilgrimages
etc. In addition, holy and saints’ days were deemed surplus to requirements.
Thus, these radical reforms were believed to be the “outgrowth of heresy” .
Unsurprisingly, most anger centred on Thomas Cromwell due to his prominence
in government throughout the Henrician Reformation. C. S. L. Davies has
outlined the outrage towards Cromwell by declaring that he became a
convenient bogey for the various ills of 1536. He goes on to state that he was
viewed as the evil genius of government, exhorting taxation, abolishing
monasteries, threatening the traditional form of parochial worship and its
Moreover, economic factors was partly to blame for the Pilgrimage of Grace
through taxation. First, lay taxes in the 1530s were both heavy and eccentric,
“raising fears that ordinary constitutional restraints were being ignored” . For
instance, the fifteenth and tenth granted in 1534 did not contain the regular
rebate fo poverty, nor was it justified on military grounds. In 1536, the Statute
of Uses stopped nobles and gentlemen avoiding feudal payments to the Crown.
Also, clerical taxation was tremendously heavy with the so-called ‘first fruits’
“taxing all priests whole year’s income when they took up any new benefices”
claiming 10% of all livings. More importantly, Michael Bush has...