The Tudor period of English history refers to the rule of
Henry VII through Queen Elizabeth and ranges from 1485 to 1603. They are the
most famous English royal dynasty, which commenced on rebellion. The dynasty
started when Henry defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth field, which
is known as one of England’s defining battles as it ended the reign of Richard
III and led to Henry Tudor becoming Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs
and included the reign of two of England’s most famous monarchs-Henry VIII and
his daughter Elizabeth I. Many Historians agreed that the great theme of Tudor
history was the reformation, the transformation of England from Catholicism to
Protestantism. The four sovereigns, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and
Elizabeth I had entirely different approaches, with henry replacing the Pope in
the form of the head of the church of England but maintaining Catholic
doctrines, Edward imposing a very strict Protestantism, Many attempting to
reinstate Catholicism, and Elizabeth arriving at a compromise position that
defined the not-quite-protestant church of England. It began with the insistent
demands of Henry VIII, which the pope refused to grant. The English Reformation
was to have far reaching consequences In Tudor England. Henry VIII decided to
rid himself of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, after she had failed to
produce a male heir to the throne. He had already decided who his next wife
would be-Anne Boleyn. By 1527, Catherine was considered too old to have any
more children; however, the Roman Catholic Church did not allow it. Through
enactment of the Act of the Supremacy formulated by Henry VIII and his
parliament, England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of
England became an independent entity from the Roman church and the king of
England was appointed as leader of the church. As such the Pope had no
influence over any religious matters in England and this paved way for
transformation to Protestantism. This seminal period was to shape the country
and prove the driving force behind the majority of the major rebellions during
the reign of the four of the five Tudor monarchs.

It would too simplistic to claim that all rebellions were
caused by a single factor, as the majority had rebels with varying issues and
aims. However, a Religious dispute seems the most common cause of civil unrest
and factional divisions in the royal court, especially under the reigns of King
Henry VIII and Queen Mary. The tensions between Catholicism and Protestantism
proved a continuous theme from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Elizabeth I.
Most of the rebels were in opposition to the religion of the reigning monarch.

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The Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536, as well as being one of the
most significant rebellions in Tudor history, was a turning point in Tudor
history.  Religion as the most important
reason for rebellion is asserted be fellows who argues “religion does appear to
be the prime cause of the rising”, as monks and clerks played a huge part in
the rising as they have provided funds, helped organise the rebellions and were
armed. They were motivated due to changes in churches leading them to be unemployed,
homeless and only provided with minimal pension as well as having to adapt back
into society, which they had been cut off from and lacking the talent required
to find work. Evidently they would rebel as they had nothing to lose, but
everything to gain, they would want their life back. In short, religious
changes hugely impacted monks and clerks especially the economic situation,
causing them to rebel.

 Moreover the motives
of the rebels in the Pilgrimage of Grace can assessed through the oath taken by
them. It states that “you shall not enter into this as our Pilgrimage of Grace
for the commonwealth, other than the love you bear for the faith of almighty
god, and to the holy church militant and its maintenance”. The rebels are
taking the course which is important because they obviously played a huge part
in the rebellion and are distinctively stating that they are rebelling in the
name of god and not for any other purpose. The occasion of this source is
significant (October 1536), as the rebellion itself occurred on the same day,
suggesting the reason the spark the entire rebellion was for religious causes.
The tone of the source is serious as an oath to god would not be taken lightly.

The impact of Religion change is proven as it continued to
play a major role in the later years of the Tudor reign, and was a main factor
in the Northern Earl Northumberland in 1549. Despite the belief that
Catholicism was declining. Haigh’s study of Tudor Lancashire shows that “it was
still strong even in the north where the Protestants had failed to take a hold,
of the people. This proves that religion continued to be a polarising subject
In the north and stagnant progress of reformation and the issues caused by the
pilgrimage of grace in 1536 were enough to demonstrate how strong ties to the
old religion were. Building on this idea, Fellows suggests that “it was hardly
surprising that Mary Queen of Scots” arrival in the North provided the spark
for rebellion indicating importantly, that the growing resentment against the
influx of militant protestants and the appointment of Pilkington, a protestant
as Bishop in Durham meant that rebels were motivated by what they perceived as
an aggressive promotion of religious change.

A breakdown of the “examination of the Earl of
Northumberland” indicates the opinion of one of the leaders of the rebellion in
1569.This makes the source valuable, as it is a direct representation of the
motives behind the rebellion, published soon after the event, from the words of
the leader of the rebellion itself, suggesting that this first person account
is a closer way to look into why events transgressed the way they did. The
source indicates, that the rebels “first aim” was to “reform religion and
preservation of the Queen of scots as heir” indicating clear religious motives.
The source alludes to the deep, passionate concern the Earl had for his faith
and the subsequent bitter personal grievances he had against the queen for
quashing the stability of his beliefs, spurring him to lead the rise up against
the unwelcomed changes. This source alludes to the idea that these aims “were
greatly favoured by most of the noblemen of the “realm” which is supported by
the evidence that the rebels seizure of the Durham Cathedral “was well
attended” proving the vast support of the old religion from many groups in
society and their union to rebel.

If we consider the Wyatt, Pilgrimage of Grace, and Northern
earls rebellion in isolation, we may well come to the conclusion that the Tudor
period was full of complex multi causal rebellions, yet prior to the English
reformation economic factors in the form of Taxation was the dominant theme.

This is certainly the case during the first Tudor rebellion
in Yorkshire 1489, due to Henry VII’s need for money and his proposed plan for
taxation. Fletcher and MacCulloch indicate that the ‘Tudors determinedly
pressed parliament into forming a new taxation subsidies”, proving that it was
Henry’s attitude of economic change that made it easy for individuals to feel
angry at apparent demands, causing tensions in the North. Fellows support this,
indicating that taxation “rose in a new way caused resentment”. This was proven
as the rebels of Yorkshire challenged the idea of paying to help Britain fight
France. The intensity of rebels views on taxation can be proven by the murder
of the Earl of Northumberland, who was allegedly killed by Sir John Egremont,
who went on to lead the subsequent rebellion. Indicating the rebels’
determination for their grievances to be acknowledged. This evidence proves
that economic issues were the main cause of the Yorkshire Rebellion, as a
backdrop of a series of bad harvests in 1489 resulted in growing local
animosity against taxation and thus the need to rebel.

The role of economic factors as a main cause for rebellion
in Tudor England cannot be underestimated. Even after the English reformation
economic factors would continue to dominate certain revolts. In 1549 when 27
counties revolted against illegal enclosures imposed on the lower classes and
grievances over taxes such as the subsidy act of the same year and Somerset’s
wool tax which motivated the mono causal Kett rebellion of 1549 and in part the
Western rebellion, evidence for economic issues being a primary cause of
rebellion across the entire Tudor period can be seen. The mono causal Cornish
rebellion (1497), Yorkshire (1489) and Amicable Grant (1525) rebellions were
all primarily concerned with what they perceived to be unfair taxation to fund
wars in Scotland and France and attracted large numbers of protesters, notably
10,000 to the Cornish rebellion. This supports the notion that it was a main
cause for rebellion.

Economic issues continued to plague Tudor England as the
burden improved by governmental taxes, first implemented in 1489, continued to
mount. This caused the amicable grant crisis of 1525 which A.F Pollard
describes to be the most “most violent exaction in English History” as rebels
stood against the devastating subsidies implemented by Wolsey. The subsidy
demands were met with all     resistance
from all groups including the commons who pleaded poverty due to paying regular
taxation of 1513 and the wealthy alderman who could offer plate but no money.
Echoing this position is J.  Guy, who
suggests “that the late payments of the vast majority of the tax payers
signalled burgeoning Wolsey’s fiscal ambitions proving that economic tension
continued to be the major reason for revolt, even in  the 16th Century.

Fear for dynastic oppression is further evident in the Wyatt
rebellion; there was a clear impression that Britain had an aversion, which is
now recognisable as Xenophobia, towards foreign authorities or foreign powers;
the fear of Irish rebels particularly epitomised this sentiment. Britain feared
that Prince Phillip of Spain would have a truly influential role in the ruling
of England. There was a fear that, as Mary was the first female to rule as
queen, whether England would truly be ruled, or whether the prince would rule
the nation on her behalf.Ths significant social progression, in having a female
rule the country for the first time, sparked significant anxiety amongst the
general populace and made the nation more susceptible to xenophobia sentiments
regarding the monarchy: it can be  argued
that this manifested itself into a rebellion, within which the people on
England feared for how they would be ruled. While this may be interpreted this
as a sole fear of foreigners and common sexism, one can argue that the public
had such little confidence  in the foundation
of their monarchy, that they feared a foreign takeover was viable.

Dynastic issues also played a main role in the Essex
rebellion of 1601 as a result of rebellion leader Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of
Essex’s hostility towards the monarch – Elizabeth I. Dawson suggests that this
stemmed from Essex’s “little understanding of the needs and policies of the
queen” that proved to ultimately cause conflict and resounding tension between
the pair, with the queen “suspicious of those who did not see the virtue of
peace” .Devereux successfully challenged this notion many times and ultimately
lost his official posts and was suspended from the Privy council in 1599 due to
his failed attempts to lead the 1599 expedition to Ireland. The fall from grace
that ensured for Devereux was damning both financially and personally and is
why he made a “chaotic attempt to win back his power “by organising a
rebellion, a direct threat to the queen and her council. This proves that
Essex, alongside his 300 supporters was marching with dynastic intentions.

Similarly political issues also played a major role in the
Yorkshire and Cornish rebellions, with Fellows suggesting that the rebellions
were not due to economic issues but were a sign that “not all areas of England
had been absorbed into the nation” and exposed the fragility of the Tudor
monarchy. Fellows reflect that “throughout his reign Henry was concerned about
the security of his throne” proving that he was well aware that as he had
seized the throne by force, others could too. This realisation came to a head
in the Yorkshire rebellion, led by Sir John Egremont, who was an illegitimate
member of the Percy family and a Yorkist sympathiser.  Fletcher and MacCulloch suggest that he had
effectively “used the rebellion to further the Yorkist cause” and thus led the
rebellion with dynastic motives.

In conclusion, the rebellions of Tudor England from
1485-1585 can certainly be attributed to religious causes. Unlike economic
issues, which were the primary motive behind the motive behind the rebellions
from 1485-1536, religion did not just cause revolts between civilians and
higher echelons of power, but polarised the nation and its many classes,
spurring internal rebellions. Economic factors only played a small part in
later rebellions of the Tudor reign and surfaced due to rebels’ primary
religious motives. This proves that religious issues encompassed all other
factors to rebel including political, factional and economic motives and was a
catalyst to many of the major rebellions. Royal Commander Sir Sadler stated
“the ancient faith still lay like lees at the bottom of the men’s hearts and if
the vessel was stirred a little came to the top”, proving  that due to the religious changes of
1536,religion became the main cause of the unrest and revolt from the people of
Tudor England.

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