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Tudor Rebellions

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Tudor Rebellions

The Tudor era was filled with rebellions that threatened each monarch in a specific way. They had a multitude of complex motivations and causes - let's find out what these were.

Tudor Rebellions Timeline

Monarch:Date:Rebellion:
Henry VII (1485-1509)1486The Stafford-Lovell Rebellion
1487The Simnel Rebellion
1489The Yorkshire Rebellion
1491-1499The Warbeck Rebellion
1497The Cornish Uprising
1497The Second Cornish Uprising
Henry VIII (1509-1547)1525The Amicable Grant Rebellion
1534-1537The Silken Thomas (Kildare) Rebellion
1536-1537The Pilgrimage of Grace
1537Bigod's Rebellion
Edward VI (1547-1553)1549The Western Prayer Book Rebellion
1549Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Rising
1549Kett's Rebellion
Mid-Tudor Crisis (1553)1553The Northumberland Rising (Lady Jane Grey)
Mary I (1553-1558)1554Wyatt's Rebellion
Elizabeth I (1558-1603)1569The Northern Rebellion
1569-1573The First Desmond Rising
1579-83The Second Desmond Rising
1593-1603Tyrone's Rebellion
1596Oxfordshire Rebellion
1601Essex Rebellion

Causes of Tudor Rebellions

Several common factors motivated rebellions in the Tudor era. It should be noted, however, that rebellions often had more than one cause and political concerns were normally intertwined with religious and economic ones as well.

Economic causes

Economic factors were a large motivator of rebellions in the Tudor era. They came in two forms - economic change and tax. Economic changes, like enclosure and national taxes imposed to fund wars, were a continuing grievance for the people of England.

Enclosure

The fencing off of common land by private landlords.

Let's look at a couple of examples of economic rebellions:

The Cornish Rebellion

The Cornish Rebellion was a tax rebellion that took place in 1497 in Cornwall. It was caused by popular unrest at a tax that had been imposed by Parliament in order to pay for a war in the North of England. The Cornish felt that it was unfair that they should be paying for a war that was happening so far away and had nothing to do with them.

Kett's Rebellion

Kett's Rebellion took place in 1549 during the reign of Edward VI. It was a protest against enclosure, which severely affected the economic circumstances of the common people and made it harder for them to earn money.

Religious causes

Religious rebellions mainly occurred in the second half of the Tudor era, after the English Reformation had taken place. The Reformation occurred under Henry VIII and split the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church and the authority of the Pope. The change from Catholic to Protestant would continue to be a grievance amongst the English people for many years to come. Most of the rebellions that were religiously motivated were Catholic uprisings against the Protestant Church of England.

The Pilgrimage of Grace

The Pilgrimage of Grace took place in 1537, during the reign of Henry VIII. It was a protest against the English Reformation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was one of the largest rebellions against a monarch to take place in the Tudor era.

Wyatt's Rebellion

Wyatt's Rebellion had multiple causes - it was a rebellion against Mary I's marriage to Phillip of Spain. Of course, there was a political element to it - many feared Spanish influence on English affairs - but equally, there were many concerns that the country would be forced back to Catholicism.

Mary I restored the Pope as head of the Church in England, returning Catholicism to the country and even undertaking religious persecution against Protestants, hence her nickname Bloody Mary. Her marriage to Phillip of Spain would increase Catholic influence in England; understandably, this did not sit well with Protestants in the country.

Political causes

Political rebellions were less frequent as they generally only involved the nobility. Normally, the cause was a desire to gain more power and influence at the Royal Court. However, popular movements could have political causes as well, like an objection to a royal marriage.

The Essex Rebellion

This Rebellion was led by the Earl of Essex against Elizabeth I and the main court faction in order to try and gain more political power. There was no participation by the common people - it was a largely internal affair. It was the last rebellion faced by a Tudor monarch.

The Stafford-Lovell Rebellion

The Stafford-Lovell Rebellion happened within the first year of Henry VII's reign. It was an attempt to seize the throne from the newly-crowned Henry VII and restore power back to the Yorkist faction.

Dynastic causes

Dynastic rebellions only really concerned Henry VII. A dynastic rebellion was when a faction tried to seize the throne from a monarch. Henry VII had issues with these, particularly in the early years of his reign after the end of the Wars of the Roses.

The Warbeck Rebellion

The Warbeck Rebellion was an attempt to take the throne from Henry VII. A man named Perkin Warbeck pretended to be Richard, Duke of York and the rightful heir to the throne. Backed by members of the nobility, the rebellion lasted nine years but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Summary of the causes of the Tudor Rebellions

As we have seen, Tudor rebellions had a variety of causes - but what type of rebellions did each Tudor monarch face the most?

Henry VII: dynastic and economic

  • Dynastic rebellions, like the Simnel and Warbeck Rebellions, occurred because Henry VII's position on the throne was tenuous. He had won the crown from Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, but there were still many Yorkist sympathisers and those who had a stronger claim to the throne than Henry.
  • Economic rebellions normally occurred in response to taxation. Henry had to toe a difficult line between not asking the people for too much money and making sure he could support the army to defend himself from threats he faced.

Henry VIII: religious and economic

  • Religious rebellions began with Henry VIII's decision to split from Rome and establish the church of England. This was not a popular decision with the people of England, and some rebellions aimed to restore the authority of the Catholic Church in England.
  • Henry VIII desired to be known as a great warrior king, similar to Henry V. Therefore, he undertook many military campaigns that were incredibly expensive to run. He asked parliament for extraordinary revenue for huge amounts of tax, which the English people thought was very unfair and selfish.

Edward VI: religious and economic

  • Edward VI was very strongly Protestant and wanted to continue the Reformation and even make it stricter after his father's death. Many had hoped that the rise of Protestantism might be curbed after Henry VIII's death, and so tried to change the balance back to Catholicism.
  • Enclosure was a big issue in the reign of Edward VI, with major rebellions occurring due to increased enclosure, which people saw as an infringement of their rights.

Mary I: political

  • Mary I faced challenges tied to politics. The major rebellion of her reign, Wyatt's rebellion, was a response to Mary's decision to marry Phillip II of Spain, a Catholic monarch. It should be noted that by this point, religion was a political issue. A marriage to Phillip II would have resulted in increased Catholic influence in England.

Elizabeth I: political and religious

  • Elizabeth I faced opposition from Catholic nobles who had gained hope of restoring Catholicism during the reign of Mary I. In addition, she faced threats from a faction that supported Mary Queen of Scots, a Catholic, as queen of England.
  • Since religion was pretty much inseparable from politics at this time, there were also other rebellions in which religion was a motivating factor. There were also attempts by nobles to gain more power within the court.

Primary Sources for Tudor Rebellions

We can learn about the rebellions Tudor monarchs faced thanks to primary sources from the time.

Sometimes, a source from the period of the actual rebellion might have been preserved, which can tell us about the proceeding of the rebellion, and the thoughts, actions and feelings of those involved.

Examples of these would be:

  • The list of demands sent to Edward VI by Robert Kett during Kett's Rebellion of 1549
  • Robert Aske's speech given to the participants of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1537
  • Letters between government ministers and foreign ambassadors discussing potential courses of action or reporting on events
  • State papers

Tudor Rebellions Part of Kett's petition with his signature StudySmarterPart of Kett's petition. This part shows Robert Kett's signature. Image via the British Library.

Much of what we know about Tudor rebellions comes from Chronicles, usually written after the rebellion had occurred. Examples of key chroniclers are:

  • Raphael Holinshed
  • John Stow
  • Richard Hooker
  • Edward Hall

If you want to practice your source analysis, try looking at Hall's Chronicle from 1548 or The Chronicles of England by John Stow.

Tudor Rebellions Summary

How threatening were the Tudor Rebellions? Ultimately, none of the rebellions in the Tudor era were fully successful. Some partially achieved their aims; some achieved nothing. However, this is not to say that they did not present a threat to the Tudor monarchy.

Some rebellions had a physical threat - e.g. the rebels captured major cities, reached London or killed important people, but rebellions could be equally threatening without those aspects. For example, the Amicable Grant Rebellion stopped Henry VIII's ambitions in foreign policy and showed him that the English people could impact government policy. Equally, the Cornish Rebellion was commemorated in Cornwall and stood as a marker event in preserving Cornwall's independence and cultural dignity.

Overall, Tudor Rebellions impacted the shaping of society, politics, economics and religion in the Tudor era.

List of Tudor Rebellions

The table below shows a list of Tudor Rebellions that were considered to be the most threatening.

RebellionNotable EventsImpact
The Warbeck Rebellion
  • Was an attempt to seize the throne from Henry VII.
  • Warbeck had support from foreign powers.
  • Lasted nine years, but ultimately failed.
It didn't matter that Warbeck was an impostor. He was a figurehead for the Yorkist cause and had the potential to attract a lot of support. In addition, he gained support from Burgundy and Scotland. Henry VII knew not to underestimate a dynastic rebellion - after all, he had gained his crown through one!
The Pilgrimage of Grace
  • A reaction against the Reformation, Dissolution of the Monasteries and Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
  • Gained a lot of popular support - one of the biggest rebellions to take place against a monarch.
The Pilgrimage of Grace showed just how unhappy the people of England were with Henry VIII. Since the Reformation was incredibly unpopular in mainland Europe, there was a very real threat of an invasion by more powerful countries that England could not have withstood, leading to Henry VIII losing his throne.
The Amicable Grant Rebellion
  • Took place in response to taxation for a war that Henry VIII wanted to wage.
  • There was uproar all over the country, mainly concentrated in East Anglia.
  • Henry abandoned the tax due to discontent and did not raise the full amount.
Although it did not fully achieve its aims, the Amicable Grant Rebellion displayed the power that the people could wield. It reduced Henry VIII's popularity and credibility with the people of England, and the fact that it spread over the country made it particularly threatening.

Tudor Rebellions - Key Takeaways

  • Tudor Rebellions had many causes; the main four categories were economic, political, religious and dynastic.
  • Different monarchs had to deal with certain causes more than others - e.g. Henry VIII dealt with religious rebellions, while Henry VII mainly faced dynastic or economic rebellions.
  • Primary sources like letters, petitions, state papers and chronicles tell us about these Rebellions.
  • Tudor Rebellions had varying threat levels and varying amounts of success.
  • Nevertheless, some had an impact that wasn't physical - e.g. destabilising the government or weakening the position of the monarch

Frequently Asked Questions about Tudor Rebellions

The term 'Tudor'  is to denote the royal dynasty of the Tudor family, who ruled England from 1485 to 1603.

There were 21 major rebellions over the Tudor era.

The Pilgrimage of Grace was very threatening, mainly due to its potential to be supported by foreign powers, the number of people who supported it, and how it diminished Henry VIII's credibility.

It is unknown exactly when Henry Tudor decided to join Buckingham's rebellion and try for the throne. However, it is likely that he agreed to join the rebellion quite early on, around its beginning date of 10th October 1483.

There were four rebellions that took place during the reign of Henry VIII: 

  • The Amicable Grant Rebellion
  • The Pilgrimage of Grace
  • The Silken Thomas Rebellion
  • Bigod's Rebellion

Final Tudor Rebellions Quiz

Question

When did the Yorkshire Rebellion take place?

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1497

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How long did the rebellion last?

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One month

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What type of rebellion was the Yorkshire Rebellion?

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An economic rebellion

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Who was murdered during the Yorkshire Rebellion?

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The Earl of Northumberland

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Why didn't Henry give Yorkshire an exemption from the tax?

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He didn't want to be seen as weak

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How much did Henry VII want to raise in extraordinary revenue?

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£100,000

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How much did Henry VII end up raising from the tax?

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Around £30,000

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Who was the main leader of the Yorkshire Rebellion?

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Sir John Egremont

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Which city did the rebels capture?

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York

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What did ordinary revenue encompass?

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Customs duties, feudal duties, profits from crown lands

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Who led the force that defeated the rebels?

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The Earl of Surrey

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The tax that caused the rebellion was part of what type of income?

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Extraordinary revenue

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Why were some Northern counties exempt from the tax?

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They were expected to use their resources to defend England in the case of a Scottish invasion

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What had happened the year before the rebellion that had made the tax particularly unwelcome in Yorkshire?

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A poor harvest

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What particular danger was there with a rebellion rising in the North of England?

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The danger that Scotland would use it to invade

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When did the Pilgrimage of Grace take place?

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October 1536 to July 1537

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What smaller uprising preceded the Pilgrimage of Grace?

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The Lincolnshire Rising

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Who led the Pilgrimage of Grace?

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Robert Aske

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Which of the following was NOT a cause of the Pilgrimage of Grace?

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Education

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The articles that detailed the rebel demands were called…

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The Pontefract Articles

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What was enclosure?

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The fencing off of common land by private landlords

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Which historian put forward the theory of a noble conspiracy in support of the rebellion?


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Geoffrey Elton

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Which politician was responsible for the policies of the Reformation and particularly hated by the rebels?


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Thomas Cromwell

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Who led the King’s forces to defeat the rebels in Yorkshire?


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The Duke of Norfolk

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Which important piece of biblical imagery was included on the banner that the rebels marched under?


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The wounds suffered by Jesus on the cross

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What was one reason why the Pilgrimage of Grace was a genuine threat to Henry VIII?


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The potential for foreign support from much more powerful countries

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What happened over Christmas in 1536?


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Robert Aske was invited to Greenwich Palace to meet the king

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Who led the smaller and very unsuccessful uprising in early 1537?


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Sir Francis Bigod

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Why did the rebellion occur and spread in the North of England?


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The North of England was traditionally a strongly Catholic area.

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What was the eventual fate of Robert Aske?


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He was executed

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When did the Simnel Rebellion take place?

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 January-June 1487

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The Battle of Stoke marked the end of which conflict?

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The Wars of the Roses

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How did the Earl of Lincoln have a claim to the throne?

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He was Richard III’s nephew

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How many mercenaries did Margaret of Burgundy send to the rebel cause?


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2000

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Where did the Rebellion’s forces land in England?

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Lancashire

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Who did Lambert Simnel claim to be?


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Edward, Earl of Warwick

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When did the Battle of Stoke take place?

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16th June 1487

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Where was Lambert Simnel crowned Edward VI?


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Ireland

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Which one of the following was part of Henry’s response to the Rebellion?


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Reinstating the Duke of Northumberland

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How many troops did the rebels have in the Battle of Stoke?

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8000

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What profession did Richard Symonds hold?


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Priest

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What crucial group of people did the rebellion NOT have support from?


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The English people

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What happened to Lambert Simnel after the Rebellion?

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He was pardoned

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What was strange about Henry VII’s actions towards many of the rebels?


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He offered them pardons

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When did Henry VII become King of England?


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1485

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When did Kett's Rebellion take place?

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July-December 1549

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What was Robert Kett's profession?

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Landowner

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What was the oak tree, under which Robert Kett dispensed justice during the capture of Norwich, called?

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The Oak of Reformation

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Kett’s Rebellion took place during the reign of which monarch?

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Edward VI

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How many rebels were camped on Mousehold Heath?


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Around 15,000

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