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December 3, 1536 – A Pardon is Offered to the Pilgrims of Grace

The Pilgrimage of Grace, from John Cassells’ Illustrated History of England, Volume 2 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Oof. The pardon was real, but it was immersed in bad faith…Let’s back up for context.

The Pilgrimage of Grace was the largest revolt of the Tudor Era – it a was protest primarily against Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church and the dissolution of the monasteries. The movement stemmed from the Lincolnshire Rising, and quickly took it over. By the beginning of December, the leaders had assembled between 30,000 and 40,000 people in York, which far outnumbered the 5,000 men which the Duke of Norfolk had brought to subdue them (and which was all the King could muster right then). Knowing he had no choice, Norfolk immediately set to negotiate to get them to disperse and to buy time. He immediately promised a general pardon (knowing the King would have no choice but to ratify it), promised that Jane Seymour would be crowned in York the next year (instead of in London as was customary), even told them that a Parliament would be held in the North. He also accepted their lists of demands (“The Commons’ Petition”), inviting their leader, Robert Aske, to court to discuss the terms with the King himself. It worked. The crowd went home, happy that they would soon see the changes they had been ready to fight for.

Of course, there was no way that Henry was going to keep any of these promises – other than the pardon (which he couldn’t really avoid once they acted on it by going home). When February rolled around and nothing had been done, there would be a new rising, but then Henry would be prepared. He would send Norfolk north immediately to crush them before they gathered any real momentum, imposing martial law and executing enough rebels to make people think twice about joining them. That last bit was so effective that no subsequent rebellion in the Tudor Era came close in scope to the Pilgrimage of Grace…


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December 3, 1536 – A Pardon is Offered to the Pilgrims of Grace
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One Comment

  1. David Cavallo David Cavallo

    Great lesson, makes me think of how history repeats it’s self. Too bad, people who govern now, have very limited exposure to history.

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