This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Pilgrimage of Grace
Q1: Read the introduction and study sources 2, 3, 4, 9 and 11. Give as many reasons as you can for the Pilgrimage of Grace.
A1: (a) The monasteries in the North made a substantial contribution to the local economy. Closing down the monasteries increased the number of people unemployed. (b) The transfer of land from open field to enclosure and from arable to pasture also increased unemployment. (c) The monasteries provided help for the poor and the sick. (d) monasteries provided shelter for travellers. (e) People in the North had recently suffered from poor harvests. (f) Henry VIII had upset people by introducing new taxes. (g) Robert Aske and other Pilgrimage of Grace leaders believed that Parliaments should be held in the North.
Q2: Do you think the artists who painted sources 1 and 10 were supporters or opponents of the Pilgrimage of Grace?
A2: Both these artists provide very positive views of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace. They appear as dignified and devout.
A3: Eustace Chapuys worked for King Charles V. He was based in London and supplied regular reports for the French king. As a Roman Catholic he was sympathetic to those complaining about the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He was also keen to report on anything that was critical of the rule of Henry VIII. When he writes "the number will increase, especially if they get some assistance in money from abroad" he appears to be suggesting that the King provides money to help the rebels.
Edward Hall was a loyal supporter of Henry VIII and would not have written anything that would have upset the king. There is also evidence that he helped Anne Askew, a woman arrested on suspicion of heresy in March 1546. Askew was a religious reformer who was highly critical of the behaviour of monks. Hall illustrates his hostility to the Pilgrimage of Grace by claiming that "they tried to deceive the ignorant people".
Q4: How many people took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Why is it difficult for historians to give an accurate number of people involved in this movement?
A4: The author of source 7 estimates that as many as 20,000 people "may have actively supported the rebellion at some stages" and this suggests "that over one-third of the inhabitants were active rebels indicates a high level of involvement". This figure was based on eyewitness accounts. However, it is extremely difficult to calculate the number of people in large groups of people.
Q5: Read sources 12 and 14. Explain why Henry VIII wanted the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace to be punished in this way.
A5: Henry VIII made it very clear that he wanted the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace to be executed in public so that it would "be a fearful warning". (source 12) During the Tudor period it was believed that the worst way to punish someone was to have them "hung, drawn and quartered". According to the judge in the Pilgrimage of Grace case this meant: "You are to be drawn upon a hurdle to the place of execution, and there you are to be hanged by the neck, and being alive cut down, and your privy-members to be cut off, and your bowels to be taken out of your belly and there burned, you being alive; and your head to be cut off, and your body to be divided into four quarters, and that your head and quarters to be disposed of where his majesty shall think fit." (source 14)
Q6: Sources 13, 15 and 16 give the names of the leaders of the rebellion who were executed. Source 15 gives the name of a person who is not mentioned in 13 and 16. Can you give reasons for this.
A6: Margaret Cheyney is the name of the person listed as being executed in source 15 but not in 13 and 16. Of the estimated 200 people who were executed as a result of the Pilgrimage of Grace, it is believed that Cheyney is the only woman punished in this way. It is possible that Thomas Cromwell felt guilty about having a woman executed and that is why her name is not mentioned in the letter. Sharon L. Jansen, the author of Dangerous Talk and Strange Behaviour: Women and Popular Resistance to the Reforms of Henry VIII (1996) has accused historians such as John Guy of ignoring the role played by women in Tudor politics.