West Yorkshire Archaeology Service
The Tudors in
of the Roses
The closure of the smaller monasteries had led to great dissatisfaction among the people of Yorkshire. In late 1536 a rebellion broke out against Henry VIII's rule. It was known as the Pilgrimage of Grace because its leaders envisaged their revolt in religious as well as political terms. As a result they used traditional religious symbols such as the five wounds of Christ as their insignia.
The rebellion was led by a lawyer named Robert Aske who gathered a huge army which grew larger as he had more success. The castles at Skipton and Scarborough held out against the rebels, but the towns of Hull and York welcomed them in. Eventually he led his men to Pontefract Castle. Lord Darcy (of Temple Newsam) who was in charge of the castle immediately surrendered to the rebels and went over to their side. He had previously written to Henry to ask for guns and ammunition, claiming that that he had not enough armaments to defend the castle. The rebels then held a conference at Pontefract to consider their policy and what to do next. Their aims were broadly those you would expect of the conservative, staunchly Catholic north of England. The wanted Henry to recognise the authority of the Pope once more. Those abbots who had not had their monastic houses already closed down wanted assurances that this would not happen. They also wanted monks to be returned to those establishments where the monks had already been turned out. This had already been instituted in some areas which the Pilgrims had under their control . Finally the rebels wanted the recognition of the legitimate decent of Mary Tudor, whom Henry had declared illegitimate. As Mary was a staunch Catholic this would have meant that Catholicism would have continued to be the official religion in Britain.
Henry sent the Duke of Norfolk north to deal with the problem. The opposing forces met at Doncaster. Negotiations were undertaken on the bridge over the River Don and Norfolk agreed to take back the rebels' demands to the king, if they in turn would disband their army. To this they agreed and the rebel army dispersed without any fighting taking place.
Henry, of course, did nothing about their demands and, finding a suitable pretext early the following year, eventually had the rebel leaders, including Darcy and Aske, executed.
Jennings, B., 1999, Yorkshire Monasteries, Cloister, Land and People
This material was compiled by Dave Weldrake, Education Officer for