Robert Aske (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Robert Aske

Q1: Compare the value of sources 1 and 5 to the historian.

A1: Source 1 was produced soon after the Pilgrimage of Grace. It gives the names of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace: Robert Aske, Henry Percy, Nicholas Rudston and Robert Constable. It also provides details of the towns visited by Aske and his men. Source 5 is a 20th century illustration of Robert Aske and is of little use to the historian.

Q2: Read sources 2 and 3. What do they tell us about Robert Aske's views on the monasteries and on the behaviour he expected from people who joined the Pilgrimage of Grace.

A2: In source 2 Robert Aske makes it clear that he believes that the monasteries in the "north parts" helped "poor men and laudably served God". In source 3 made his followers sign oaths that promised that they joined the Pilgrimage of Grace "for no particular profit to your self, nor to do any displeasure to any private person, but by counsel of the commonwealth, nor slay nor murder for no envy".

Q3: Compare the views of the historians, Roger Lockyer (source 4) and Anthony Fletcher (source 6) on Robert Aske.

A3: Roger Lockyer and Anthony Fletcher both provide a very positive portrait of Robert Aske. Lockyer points out that "Aske was an idealist, who gave to the rebellion most of its spiritual quality". Fletcher agrees with Lockyer that Aske was loyal to Henry VIII and had no intentions of trying to remove him from power. He also indicates that his real enemy was Thomas Cromwell. Fletcher also emphasizes the non-violence policy of Aske's leadership pointing out that only "one man was killed during the Pilgrimage".

Q4: Read the introduction and study source 8. Why do you think the Five Wounds of Christ flag was carried in the Pilgrimage of Grace march in Yorkshire?

A4: The pilgrims carried the Five Wounds of Christ flag. "It depicted a bleeding heart above a chalice, both being surrounded at the corners by the pierced hands and feet". The flag symbolized the sacrifices made by Jesus Christ. The pilgrims feared that they also would be punished for defending the existence of the monasteries.

Q5: Read sources 7 and 9 and then explain Jasper Ridley's words: "Aske spent Christmas at Greenwich as Henry's guest. Henry was very friendly, and Aske was flattered, charmed and completely fooled."

A5: Aske was invited to be Henry's guest at Greenwich Palace during the Christmas holiday. Henry was able to persuade Aske to use his men to put down the rising organized by Sir Francis Bigod. Jasper Ridley suggests that Aske was "completely fooled" by Henry who only three months later ordered his execution.

Q6: Why did Henry VIII decide to have Robert Aske "hung, drawn and quartered"? It will help you to read sources 10 and 11.

A6: To be "hung, drawn and quartered" was considered to be the most painful way for a man to die. Henry hoped that the fear of this punishment would stop people rebelling against his rule. To commit an act of treason was extremely rare in Tudor England. However, Henry also used this form of punishment against people like the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace who had not been guilty of this offence. Robert Aske and the other leaders of the movement made it clear that they wanted his officials removed, not Henry.