What follows is a description of the Lincolnshire Rising (Pilgrimage of Grace) by Gilbert Burnett, taken from his book of 1825.
Gilbert Burnett, D.D. 1825
Now, not only their own interest, mixed with their zeal for the ancient religion, but the pope's authority, gave them as good a warrant to incline the people to rebel, as any had in former times, of whom some were canonized for the like practices. For in August the former year, the pope had summoned the king to appear within ninety days, and to answer for putting away his queen, and taking another wife; and for the laws he had made against the church, and putting the bishop of Rochester and others to death for not obeying these laws: and if he did not reform these faults, or did not appear to answer for them, the pope excommunicated him, and all that favoured him; deprived the king, put the kingdom under an interdict, forbade all his subjects to obey, and other states to hold commerce with him; dissolved all his leagues with foreign princes, commanded all the clergy to depart out of England, and his nobility to rise in arms against him. But now, the force of those thunders, which had formerly produced great earthquakes and commotions, was much abated; yet some storms were raised by this, though not so violent as had been in former times.
The people were quiet till they had reaped their harvest. And though some injunctions were published a little before, to help it the better forward, most of the holy-days in harvest being abolished by the king's authority, yet that rather inflamed them the more. Other injunctions were published in the king's name by Cromwell, his vicegerent, which was the first act of pure supremacy done by the king. For in all that went before, he had the concurrence of the two convocations. But these, it is like, were penned by Cranmer. The reader is referred to the collection of papers for them, as I transcribed them out of the Register.
The substance of them was, that, first, all ecclesiastical incumbents were for a quarter of a year after that, once every Sunday, and ever after that, twice every quarter, to publish to the people, that the bishop of Rome's usurped power had no ground in the law of God; and therefore was on good reasons abolished in this kingdom: and that the king's power was by the law of God supreme over all persons in his dominions. And they were to do their uttermost endeavour to extirpate the pope's authority, and to establish the king's.
Secondly, They were to declare the articles lately published, and agreed to, by the convocation: and to make the people know which of them were articles of faith, and which of them rules for the decent and politic order of the church.
Thirdly, They were to declare the articles lately set forth, for the abrogation of some superfluous holy-days, particularly in harvest time.
Fourthly, They were no more to extol images or relics for superstition or gain; nor to exhort people to make pilgrimages, as if blessings and good things were to be obtained of this or that saint or image.. But instead of that, the people were to be instructed to apply themselves to the keeping of God's commandments, and doing works of charity; and to believe that God was better served by them, when they stayed at home and provided for their families, than when they went pilgrimages; and that the monies laid out on these were better given to the poor.
Fifthly, They were to exhort the people to teach their children the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, in English: and every incumbent was to explain these, one article a day, till the people were instructed in them. And to take great care, that all children were bred up to some trade or way of living.
Sixthly, They must take care that the sacraments and sacramentals be reverently administered in their parishes; from which when at any time they were absent, they were to commit the cure to a learned and expert curate, who might instruct the people in wholesome doctrine: that they might all see that their pastors did not pursue their own profits or interests so much as the glory of God, and the good of the souls under their cure.
* Seventhly, They should not, except on urgent occasion, go to taverns or ale-houses: nor sit too long at any sort of games after their meals; but give themselves to the study of the Scripture, or some other honest exercise; and remember that they must excel others in purity of life, and be examples to all others to live well and Christianly.
* The seventh article is wholly omitted, for providing a Bible in Latin and English, and laying it in the quire.
Eighthly, Because the goods of the church were the goods of the poor, every beneficed person that had twenty pounds or above, and did not reside, was yearly to distribute the fortieth part of his benefice to the poor of the parish.
Ninthly, Every incumbent that had a hundred pounds a year, must give an exhibition for one scholar at some grammar-school, or university; who, after he had completed his studies, was to be partner of the cure and charge, both in preaching and other duties: and so many hundred pounds as any had, so many students he was to breed up.
Tenthly, Where parsonage or vicarage-houses were in great decay, the incumbent was every year to give a fifth part of his profits to the repairing of them, till they were finished; and then to maintain them in the state they were in.
Eleventhly, All these injunctions were to be observed, under pain of suspension and sequestration of the mean profits till they were observed."
These were equally ungrateful to the corrupt clergy, and to the laity that adhered to the old doctrine. The very same opinions, about pilgrimages, images, and saints departed, and instructing the people in the principles of Christian religion in the vulgar tongue, for which the Lollards were, not long ago, either burnt or forced to abjure them, were now set up by the king's authority. From whence they concluded, that whatsoever the king said of his maintaining the old doctrine, yet he was now changing it. The clergy also were much troubled at this precedent, of the king's giving such injunctions to them, without the consent of the convocation; from which they concluded, they were now to be slaves to the lord vicegerent. The matter of these injunctions was also very uneasy to them. The great profits they made by their images and relics, and the pilgrimages to them, were now taken away: and yet severe.
Impositions and heavy taxes were laid on them; a fifth paid for repairs, a tenth at least for an exhibitioner, and a fortieth for charity, which were cried out on as intolerable burdens. Their labour was also increased, and they were bound up to many severities of life; all these things touched the secular clergy to the quick, and made them concur with the regular clergy in disposing the people to rebel.
This was secretly fomented by the great abbots. For though they were not yet struck at, yet the way was prepared to it; and their houses were oppressed with crowds of those who were sent to them from the suppressed houses. There were some pains taken to remove their fears. For a letter was sent to them all in the king's name, to silence the reports that were spread abroad, as if all monasteries were to be quite suppressed. This they were required not to believe, but to serve God according to their order, to obey the king's injunctions, to keep hospitality, and to make no wastes nor dilapidations. Yet this gave them small comfort; and, as all such things do, rather increased than quieted their jealousies and fears. So many secret causes concurring, no wonder the people fell into mutinous and seditious practices. The first rising was in Lincolnshire, in the beginning of October; where a churchman, disguised into a cobbler, and directed by a monk, drew a great body of men after him. About twenty thousand were gathered together. They swore to be true to God, the king, and the commonwealth, and digested their grievances into a few articles, which they sent to the king, desiring a redress of them.
" They complained of some things that related to secular concerns, and some acts of parliament that were uneasy to them: they also complained of the suppression of so many religious houses: that the King had mean persons in high places about him, who were ill counsellors: they also complained of some bishops who had subverted the faith: and they apprehended the jewels and plate of their churches should be taken away. Therefore they desired the king would call to him the nobility of the realm, and by their advice redress their grievances: concluding with an acknowledgment of the king's being their supreme head, and that the tenths and first-fruits of all livings belonged to him of right."
When the king heard of this insurrection, he presently sent the duke of Suffolk with a commission to raise forces for dispersing them: but with him he sent an answer to their petition. He began with that about his counsellors, and said, " It was never before heard of, that the rabble presumed to dictate to their prince what counsellors he should choose. That was the prince's work, and not their's. That suppression of religious houses was done pursuant to an act of parliament, and was not set forth by any of his counsellors. The heads of these religious houses had under their own hands confessed those horrid scandals which made them a reproach to the nation; and in many houses there were not above four or five religious persons. So it seemed they were better pleased that such dissolute persons should consume their rents in riotous and idle living, than that their prince should have them for the common good of the whole kingdom. He also answered their other demands in the same high and commanding strain; and required them to submit themselves to his mercy, and to deliver their captains and lieutenants into the hands of his lieutenants , and to disperse, and carry themselves as became good and obedient subjects, and to put a hundred of their number into the hands of his lieutenants, to be ordered as they had deserved."
When this answer was brought to them, it raised their spirits higher. The practising clergymen continued to inflame them; they persuaded them that the Christian religion would be very soon effaced, and taken away quite, if they did not vigorously defend it; that it would come to that, that no man should marry a wife, receive any of the sacraments, nor eat a piece of roast meat, but he should pay for it; that it were better to live under the Turk than under such oppression. Therefore, there was no cause in which they could with more honour and a better conscience hazard their lives, than for the holy faith. This encouraged and kept them together a little longer: they had forced many of the gentry of the country to go along with them. These sent a secret message to the duke of Suffolk, letting him know what ill effects the king's rough answer had produced: that they had joined with the people only to moderate them a little, and they knew nothing that would be so effectual as the offer of a general pardon.
So the duke of Suffolk, as he moved towards them with the forces which he had drawn together sent to the king to know his pleasure, and earnestly advised a gentle composing of the matter without blood. At that same time the king was advertised from the north, that there was a general and formidable rising there: of which he had the greater apprehensions, because of their neighbourhood to Scotland; whose king, being the king's nephew, was the heir presumptive of the crown, since the king had illegitimated both his daughters: and though the king's firm alliance with France made him less apprehensive of trouble from Scotland, and their king was at this time in France, to marry the daughter of Francis; yet he did not know how far a general rising might invite that king, to send orders to head and assist the rebels in the north.
Therefore, he resolved first to quiet Lincolnshire: and as he had raised a great force about London, with which he was marching in person against them, so he sent a new proclamation, requiring them to return to their obedience, with secret assurances of mercy. By these means they were melted away. Those who had been carried in the stream submitted to the king's mercy, and promised all obedience for the future; others, that were obstinate, and knew themselves unpardonable, fled northward, and joined themselves to the rebels there: some of their other leaders were apprehended, in particular the cobbler, and were executed.
But for the northern rebellion, as the parties concerned, being at a greater distance from the court, had larger opportunities to gather themselves into a huge body; so the whole contrivance of it was better laid. One Ask commanded in chief; he was a gentleman of an ordinary condition, but understood well how to draw on and govern a multitude. Their march was called the pilgrimage of grace; and, to inveigle the people, some priests marched before them with crosses in their hands. In their banners they had a crucifix, with the five wounds, and a chalice; and every one wore on his sleeve, as the badge of the party, an emblem of the five wounds of Christ, with the name Jesus wrought in the midst. All that joined to them took an oath, " that they entered into this pilgrimage of grace for the love of God, the preservation of the king's person and issue, the purifying the nobility, and driving away all base-born and ill counsellors; and for no particular profit of their own, nor to do displeasure to any, nor to kill any for envy; but to take before them the cross of Christ, his faith, the restitution of the church, and the suppression of heretics and their opinions."
These were specious pretences, and very apt to work upon a giddy and discontented multitude. So people flocked about their crosses and standards in great numbers, and they grew to be forty thousand strong. They went over the country without any opposition. The archbishop of York and the Lord Darcy were in Pomfret castle; which they yielded to them, and were made to swear their covenant. They were both suspected of being secret promoters of the rebellion; the latter suffered for it; but how the former excused himself, I cannot give any account. They also took York and Hull; but though they summoned the castle of Skipton, yet the earl of Cumberland, who would not degenerate from his noble ancestors, held it out against all their force; and though many of the gentlemen, whom he had entertained at his own cost, deserted him, yet he made a brave resistance. Scarborough castle was also long besieged; but there Sir Ralph Evers, that commanded it, gave an unexampled instance of his fidelity and courage; for though his provisions fell short, so that for twenty days he and his men had nothing but bread and water, yet they stood out till they were relieved.
This rising in Yorkshire encouraged those of Lancashire, the bishoprie of Duresme, and Westmoreland, to arm. Against these, the earl of Shrewsbury, that he might not fall short of the gallantry and loyalty of his renowned ancestors, made head, though he had no commission from the king. But he knew his zeal and fidelity would easily procure him a pardon, which he modestly asked for the service he had done. The king sent him not only that, but a commission to command in chief all his forces in the north. To his assistance he ordered the earl of Derby to march; and sent Courtney, marquis of Exeter, and the earls of Huntingdon and Rutland to join him. He also ordered the duke of Suffolk, with the force that he had led into Lincolnshire, to lie still there, lest they, being but newly quieted, should break out again, and fall upon his armies behind, when the Yorkshire men met them before.
On the 20th of October he sent the duke of Norfolk with more forces to join the earl of Shrewsbury; but the rebels were very numerous and desperate. When the duke of Norfolk understood their strength, he saw great reason to proceed with much caution; for if they had got the least advantage of the king's troops, all the discontents in England would upon the report of that have broken out. He saw their numbers were now such, that the gaining some time was their ruin; for such a great body could not subsist long together without much provisions, and that must be very hard for them to bring in. So he set forward a treaty: it was both honourable for the king to offer mercy to his distracted subjects, and of great advantage to his affairs; for as their numbers did every day lessen, so the king's forces were still increasing. He wrote to the king, that, considering the season of the year, he thought the offering some fair conditions might persuade them to lay down their arms, and disperse themselves; yet when the earl of Shrewsbury sent a herald with a proclamation, ordering them to lay down their arms and submit to the king's mercy, Ask received him sitting in state, with the archbishop on the one hand, and the Lord Darcy on the other; but would not suffer any proclamation to be made till he knew the contents of It. And when the herald told what they were, he sent him away without suffering him to publish it; and then the priests used all their endeavours to engage the people to a firm resolution of not dispersing themselves, till all matters about religion were fully settled.
As they went forward, they everywhere repossessed the ejected monks of their houses; and this encouraged the rest, who had a great mind to be in their old nests again. They published also many stories among them of the growing burdens of the king's government, and made them believe that impositions would be laid on every thing that was either bought or sold. But the king, hearing how strong they were, sent out a general summons to all the nobility to meet him at Northampton the 7th of November. And the forces sent against the rebels advanced to Doncaster, to hinder them from coming further southward; and took the bridge, which they fortified, and laid their forces along the river to maintain that pass.
The writers of that time say, that the day of battle was agreed upon; but that, the night before, excessive rains falling, the river swelled so that it was unpassable next day, and they could not force the bridge. Yet it is not likely the earl of Shrewsbury, having in all but five thousand men about him, would agree to a pitched battle with those who were six times his number, being then thirty thousand.
Therefore it is more likely that the rebels only intended to pass the river the next day, which the rain that fell hindered: but the duke of Norfolk continued to press a treaty, which was hearkened to by the other side, who were reduced to great straits; for their captain would not suffer them to spoil the country, and they were no longer able to subsist without doing that.
The duke of Norfolk directed some that were secretly gained, or had been sent over to them as deserters, to spread reports among them, that their leaders were making terms for themselves, and would leave the rest to be undone. This, joined to their necessities, made many fall off every day. The duke of Norfolk, finding his arts had so good an operation, offered to go to court with any whom they would send with their demands, and to intercede for them. This he knew would take up some time, and most of them would be dispersed before he could return. So they sent two gentlemen, whom they had forced to go with them, to the king, to Windsor.
Upon this, the king discharged the rendezvous at Northampton, and delayed the sending an answer as much as could be; but at last, hearing that, though most of them were dispersed, yet they had engaged to return upon warning, arid that they took it ill that no answer came; he sent the duke of Norfolk to them with a general pardon, six only excepted by name, and four others that were not named. But in this the king's counsels were generally censured, for everyone was now in fear, and so the rebels rejected the proposition. The king also sent them word by their own messenger, "that he took it very ill at their hands, that they had chosen rather to rise in arms against him, than to petition him about those things, which were uneasy to them.'
And to appease them a little, the king, by new injunctions, commanded the clergy to continue the use of all the ceremonies of the church. This, it is like, was intended for keeping up the four sacraments, which had not been mentioned in the former articles. The clergy that were with the rebels met at Pomfret, to draw up articles to be offered at the treaty that was to be at Doncaster; where three hundred were ordered to come from the rebels to treat with the king's commissioners. So great a number was called, in hopes that they would disagree about their demands, and so fall out among themselves. On the 6th of December they met to treat, and it seems had so laid their matter before, that they agreed upon these following demands.
" A general pardon to be granted: a parliament to be held at York; and courts of justice to be there, that none on the north of Trent might be brought to London upon any law-suit. They desired a repeal of some acts of parliament; those for the last subsidy, for uses, for making words misprision of treason, and for the clergy paying their tenths and first-fruits to the king. They desired the princess Mary might be restored to her right of succession; the pope to his wonted jurisdiction, and the monks to their houses again: that the Lutherans might be punished; that Audley, the lord chancellor, and Cromwell, the lord privy-seal, might be excluded from the next parliament; and Lee and Leighton, that had visited the monasteries, might be imprisoned for bribery and extortion."
But the lords, who knew that the king would by no means agree to these propositions, rejected them. Upon which the rebels took heart again, and were growing more enraged and desperate; so that the duke of Norfolk wrote to the king, that if some content were not given them, it might end very ill, for they were much stronger than his forces were: and both he and the other commanders of the king's forces, in their hearts wished, that most of their demands were granted; being persons, who, though they complied with the king, and were against that rebellion, yet were great enemies to Lutheranism, and wished a reconciliation with Rome; of which the duke of Norfolk was afterwards accused by the Lord Darcy, as if he had secretly encouraged them to insist on these demands.
The king, seeing the humour was so obstinate, resolved to use gentler remedies; and so sent to the duke of Norfolk a general pardon, with a promise of a parliament, ordering him not to make use of these except in extremity. This was no easy thing to that duke; since he might be afterwards made to answer for it, whether the extremity was really such as to justify his granting these things. But the rebels were become again as numerous as ever, and had resolved to cross the river, and to force the king's camp, which was still much inferior to theirs in number.
But rains falling the second time, made the fords again unpassable. This was spoken of by the king's party as little less than a miracle; that God's providence had twice so opportunely interposed for the stopping of the progress of the rebels; and it is very probable, that, on the other side, it made great impression on the superstitious multitude, and both discouraged them and disposed them to accept of the offer of pardon, and a parliament to be soon called, for considering their other demands. The king signed the pardon at Richmond, the 9th of December; by which all their treasons and rebellion to that day were pardoned, provided they made their submission to the duke of Norfolk and the earl of Shrewsbury, and lived in due obedience for the future. The king sent likewise a long answer to their demands. "As to what they complained about the subversion of the faith: he protested his zeal for the true Christian faith, and that he would live and die in the defence and preservation of it.
But the ignorant multitude were not to instruct him what the true faith was, nor to presume to correct what he and the whole convocation had agreed on. That as he had preserved the church of England in her true liberties, so he would do still; and that he had done nothing that was so oppressive, as many of his progenitors had done upon lesser grounds. But that he took it very ill of them, who had rather one churl or two should enjoy the profits of their monasteries, to support them in their dissolute and abominable course of living, than that their king should have them for defraying the great charge he was at for their defence against foreign enemies. For the laws, it was high presumption in a rude multitude to take on them to judge what laws were good, and what not.
They had more reason to think, that he, after twenty-eight years' reign, should know it better than they could. And for his government, he had so long preserved his subjects in peace and justice, had so defended them from their enemies, had so secured his frontier, had granted so many general pardons, had been so unwilling to punish his subjects, and so ready to receive them into mercy; that they could show no parallel to his government among all their former kings.
And whereas it was said, that he had many of the nobility of his council in the beginning of his reign, and few now; he shewed them, in that one instance, how they were abused by the lying slanders of some disaffected persons; for when he came to the crown, there were none that were born noble of his council, but only the earl of Surry and the earl of Shrewsbury; whereas now, the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the marquis of Exeter, the lord steward, the earls of Oxford and Sussex, and the Lord Sands, were of the privy-council; and for the spirituality, the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Winchester, Hereford, and Chichester were also of it: and he and his whole council judging it necessary to have some at the board who understood the law of England, and the treaties with foreign princes; he had by their unanimous advice brought in his chancellor and the lord privy-seal.
He though it strange, that they, who were but brutes, should think they could better judge who should be his counsellors than himself and his whole council: therefore he would bear no such thing at their hands; it being inconsistent with the duty of good subjects to meddle in such matters. But if they, or any of his other subjects, could bring any just complaint against any about him, he was ready to hear it; and if it were proved, he would punish it according to law. As for the complaints against some of the prelates, for preaching against the faith, they could know none of these things but by the report of others; since they lived at such a distance, that they themselves had not heard any of them preach. Therefore he required them not to give credit to lies, nor be misled by those who spread such calumnies and ill reports; and he concluded all with a severe expostulation; adding, that such was his love to his subjects, that imputing this insurrection rather to their folly and lightness than to any malice or rancour, he was willing to pass it over more gently, as they would perceive by his proclamation."
Now the people were come to themselves again (1537), and glad to get off so easily; and they all cheerfully accepted the king's offers, and went home again to their several dwellings. Yet the clergy were no way satisfied, but continued still to practise amongst them, and kept the rebellion still on foot; so that it broke out soon after. The duke of Norfolk and the earl of Shrewsbury were ordered to lie still in the country with their forces, till all things were more fully composed. They made them all come to a full submission: and, first, to revoke all oaths and promises made during the rebellion, for which they asked the king's pardon on their knees.
Secondly, To swear to be true to the king and his heirs and successors.
Thirdly, To obey and maintain all the acts of parliament made during the king's reign.
Fourthly, Not to take arms again but by the king's authority.
Fifthly, To apprehend all seditious persons.
Sixthly, To remove all the monks, nuns, and friars, whom they had placed again in the dissolved monasteries.
There were also orders given to send Ask, their captain, and the Lord Darcy, to court. Ask was kindly received, and well used by the king. He had showed great conduct in commanding the rebels; and it seems the king had a mind, either to gain him to his service, or, which I suspect was the true cause, to draw from him a discovery of all those, who, in the other parts of the kingdom, had favoured or relieved them. For he suspected, not without cause, that some of the great abbots had given secret supplies of money to the rebels; for which many of them were afterwards tried and attainted.
The Lord Darcy was under great apprehensions, and studied to purge himself, that he was forced to a compliance with them; but pleaded, that the long and important services he had done the crown for fifty years, he being then fourscore, together with his great age and infirmity, might mitigate the king's displeasure. But he was made prisoner.
Whether this gave those who had been in arms new jealousies, that the king's pardon would not be inviolably observed; or whether the clergy had of new prevailed on them to rise in arms, I cannot determine; but it broke out again, though not so dangerously as before.
Two gentlemen of the north, Musgrave and Tilby, raised a body of eight thousand men, and thought to have surprised Carlisle; but were repulsed by those within. And, in their return, the duke of Norfolk fell upon them, and routed them. He took many prisoners, and by martial law hanged up all their captains, and seventy other prisoners, on the walls of Carlisle. Others at that same time thought to have surprised Hull; but it was prevented, and the leaders of that party were also taken and executed.
Many other risings were in several places of the country, which were all soon repressed: the ground of them all was, that the parliament, which was promised, was not called: but the king said, they had not kept conditions with him, nor would he call a parliament till all things were quieted. But the duke of Norfolk's vigilance everywhere prevented their gathering together in any great body.
And after several unsuccessful attempts, at length the country was absolutely quieted in January following. And then the duke of Norfolk proceeded according to the martial law against many whom he had taken. Ask had also left the court without leave, and had gone amongst them, but was quickly taken. So he 'and many others were sent to several places, to be made public examples.
He suffered at York, others at Hull, and in other towns in Yorkshire. But the Lord Darcy and the Lord Hussy were arraigned at Westminster, and attainted of treason; the former for the northern, and the other for the Lincolnshire insurrection. The Lord Darcy was beheaded at Tower-hill; and was much lamented. Every body thought, that, considering his merits, his age, and former services, he had hard measure.
The Lord Hussy was beheaded at Lincoln. The Lord Darcy, in his trial, accused the duke of Norfolk, that, in the treaty at Doncaster, he had encouraged the rebels to continue in their demands. This the duke denied, and desired a trial by combat, and gave some presumptions to show that the Lord Darcy bore him ill-will, and said this out of malice.
The king either did not believe this, or would not seem to believe it; and the duke's great diligence in the suppression of these commotions set him beyond all jealousies. But after those executions, the king wrote to the duke in July next, to proclaim an absolute amnesty over all the north; which was received with great joy, every body being in fear of himself: and so this threatening storm was dissipated without the effusion of much blood, save what the sword of justice drew.
At the same time the king of Scotland returning from France with his queen, and touching on the coast of England, many of the people fell down at his feet, praying him to assist them, and he should have all. But he was, it seems, bound up by the French king: and so went home without giving them any encouragement. And thus ended this rebellion, which was chiefly carried on by the clergy under pretence of religion.