Thursday, 19 November 2009

How did the Nature and Frequency of rebellions differ across the period?

The regional nature of rebellions

Most rebellions were a regional phenomenon. They marched on their regional capitals not on London, Pilgrimage on York, Northern Earls on Durham, Western on Exeter and Ket’s on Norwich. This reflects the agricultural nature of society with people being unwilling to move far away from their crops or animals.

The causes of rebellions reflected regional concerns, from taxation( Yorks, Cornish,) religion( The south west and North) Enclosure( The Eastern counties)
The first attempts at control were regional, ie the noble.
In 1549 there were many rebellions. They were in not connected to each other, had their own regional causes and were largely stopped by the local noble, for example Arundel put down a Rebellion in Sussex.
That they were regional is proven by the fact that rebellions did not spread to other regions. For example in 1569 rebels were unable to move South to free MQS due to the opposition of the counties to their south.
The Amicable Grant was the closest to a national rebellion.
Those areas far away from London were less under the control of the Tudors and therefore more prone to rebellion.
The Tudors were more concerned to control the South East and the Midlands as this was their power base
As the period went on then the increased centralisation decreased this as a factor in rebellion. The Tudors were responsible for creating a nation state.

The North

During the Wars of the Roses the North was a semi independent region of England that was dominated by the Dukes of Westmoreland and especially Northumberland in the form of the Percy family. The region had also supported the Yorkists during the Wars of the Roses. This region gave the Tudors more problems than any other in many ways, but it should be remembered that over the period as a whole the Tudors successfully destroyed the power of the noble families in this region and asserted their control. Also being so far from London if the rebellion remained regional then it would not really be a threat.
Henry VII showed his determination to bring the North under control by going on a progress, which saw a rebellion in the form of the Lovell rebellion. There was also the taxation rebellion of 1489 provoked by an unwillingness to pay for any French War. Henry enforced his control by creating the Council of the North led by Surrey who owed his power to Henry.
Under Henry VIII the north was controlled by First Wolsey as Archbishop of York and then by Cromwell who reintroduced the Council of the North following the Pilgrimage of Grace. A rebellion that again shows the rebellious nature of the North. Previous problems were made worse by the Catholic nature of the region. There was only one small rebellion in Yorks in 1549, due to Henry’s brutal suppression that followed the Pilgrimage.
Under Mary power was restored to the northern nobility but Elizabeth quickly took it back, giving power to Pilkington (Bishop of Durham) and Hunsdon and Foster. This was one of the factors that led to the Revolt of the Northern Earls. It is important to remember that the Northern Earls could not raise the numbers that were raised in the 1530’s showing the increased loyalty to the monarchy that had grown up. They did not rise in 1587 nor did Mary Queen of Scots gain any mass support. Thus showing that by the end of the period the North had ceased to be a significant threat.

The South West

Its distance from London meant that the South West was very hard to control. In addition often the Tudors were not too concerned with rebellions in the extremities of the country
$ as long as they did not march on London. Even if rebels were successful in defeating Royal forces it would not be that much of a problem. The fact that in 1549 the Western rebels were successful in taking Exeter proves this clearly, as Russell had time to gather forces march on the region and defeat the rebels.. In 1497, however, the rebels marched on London in an attempt to persuade Henry VII to abandon his attempt to collect a subsidy.
The South West was also distinctive in that the people spoke Cornish rather than English. This led to a nationalist feeling in the region that was reflected in 1549 when the rebels first set of demands included a call for the Prayer Book to be in Cornish. It was only the influence of the clergy on the second set of demands that changed this to a call for a return to the Prayer Book in Latin.
After 1549 the centre began to assert itself in the South West especially with the appointment of the Lords Lieutenant and the extension of the power of the JP’s.

The South East and Midlands

The South East and Midlands of England were the most important areas of the country for the Tudors. Their proximity to London and their large populations meant that any rebellions in these areas would be a real problem for the regime.
This was clearly shown in 1525 for when counties such as Kent and Essex took part in the protests against the Amicable Grant. When it became clear that the normally loyal London was adamant that it would not pay Henry VIII had no choice but to scrap the tax.
It is also clear that in 1549 Somerset chose to deal with rebellions in the Midlands rather than those in Norfolk and the South West. This clearly shows the importance of this region to the Tudors.
It is also true that because of it’s proximity to London Tudor control of this region was strong even at the start of the dynasty and the people were loyal. The fact that Wyatt’s rebellion came close to success shows that the Tudors were right to take rebellions in this region seriously. This was clearly demonstrated when the Duke of Norfolk was defeated and the rebels were able to march quickly on London. In other
regions such events did not present such a level of danger. Essex’s rebellion took place here also but gained no support of the population and is not really important in this context.

The decline of rebellion

There are many reasons why rebellions had declined by the end of the period.
1. The demise of rebellion was prompted by a change in attitude of the ruling classes towards rebellion
2. The ruling classes found ways, other than rebellion, to express their displeasure
3. As the state took on greater social powers it was able to reduce the worry that the poor and vagrants created
4. The power of the state had grown
5. Elizabeth used the church to help bolster the regime and the growth of Protestantism.
6. Elizabeth’s character and use of Gloriana

Lack of foreign support

Many rebellions had counted upon foreign support. Nearly all challenges to HVII had foreign support (Simnel 2000 troops from Ireland etc.) but the backers were not prepared to supply large amounts of troops and funds. Margaret of Burgundy never gave any effective support to rebels. This suggests an awareness that the enterprise was doomed to failure and foreign powers were not prepared for loss. They therefore settled for nuisance value and preventing HVII from feeling fully secure. Later foreign support failed to materialise at all- i.e. the Northern Earls had relied on Spanish troops but failed to keep regular contact and it is unlikely that Philip would have risked such an enterprise. The foreign rulers realised the futility of the cause. Failure to obtain foreign support made it easier for the government as it did not have to worry about invasion as well as rebellion.

The numbers of rebels

Numerically it is the grievance rebellions that posed the greatest threat. The largest was the P of G with 30-40 000. Other large rebellions= Ket’s 16,000, Cornish 15, 000. Warbeck only managed to raise 1,500 troops and none of these were English suggesting the ultimately loyal nature of the population. However as the Tudor regime developed and attitude towards rebellion changed (1549) numbers dwindled and the last two rebellions reflect this (Oxfordshire- 4, Essex- 300)

The aims of the rebels

The rebels had two main aims- either to redress grievances or to overthrow the monarch. The most challenging rebellions were those that sought to remove the monarch from power. These occurred at the start of the Tudor period (Simnel and Warbeck – Both Yorkist pretenders trying to get the throne for themselves. These became less frequent as the period progressed. After 1536 the nature of these rebellions changed so that they were concerned with the succession rather than removing the monarch. This was usually due to the religion of the heir ( P of G = Mary, Wyatt’s = Elizabeth). This also shows that the Tudors had become accepted as the legitimate ruling family as the hoped for heir was a Tudor or the next obvious choice.
In grievance rebellions the population were ultimately loyal so the threat was lessened. This does not mean that they did not achieve things!
The lack of violence used by the rebels.

Generally because most rebellions were to modify policy rather than to overthrow the regime and because of the deferential nature of Tudor society rebels used little violence. During The Pilgrimage of Grace only one person was killed and that was a rebel who came to join the Pilgrimage wearing his muster tunic (itself a sign of deference). Three men were injured falling from the walls of Pontefract castle when drunk! Indeed the Pilgrims were careful to punish looters. Most rebels would have been hated to be called rebels they felt they were merely righting wrongs committed by their social superiors. The rebels of 1549 said they were of the commonwealth. Rather than use violence many of them formed camps especially in 1549 and in the 1590’s many of the poor saw the formation of camps as an end in itself.
Only 5 nobles were killed by mobs under the Tudors.

Those rebellions that saw the use and threat of violence were those inspired more by ‘high politics’ such as Simnel, Wyatt etc.
Most of the violence seen during the regime was initiated by the regime, such as the forces sent to put down the Western and Ket’s rebellion and the violence used in response to the rebellions ieg after the Pilgrimage of Grace.


Leadership of rebellions

Some rebel leaders eg Ket and Aske were more effective than others eg Perkin Warbeck and Wyatt and Essex.
Aske brought with him intelligence, skill in debating and argument and excellent organisational skills. He ensured that the rebels were well disciplined and appeared as an army as opposed to an uncontrollable rabble. He also came up with the name which proved to be a great piece of propaganda.
Other leaders were not so effective, Wyatt turned back when he reached London, even though he had been in a strong position and could possibly have defeated Mary. The Northern Earls were disorganised, had failed to keep in touch with their foreign counterparts and basically had no jurisdiction outside of their area. Finally, Essex displayed the actions of a desperate man in his attempt at a rebellion.
With effective leadership a rebellion had a greater chance of success. An effective leader needed to be able to rally the troops and keep them on side. Mary successfully achieved this during the Lady Jane Grey affair