Tuesday, 17 November 2009

What caused rebellions?

Religion can be said to be the only genuinely national factor in causing revolt. All the other causes were essentially regional in their nature. The aim was usually a reversal of government policies, changing apparent moves towards Protestantism. This can be seen in the P of G, Western and Northern Earls. (evidence for P of G= against dissolution, abolition of Holy days, resented doctrinal moves towards Protestantism. Western- Wanted restoration of images, objected to new 1549 Prayer Book, wanted a restoration of the 6 Articles. Northern- against new brand of militant Protestantism in Durham they took Durham Cathedral and said the Mass ) There were some rebellions that wanted change towards Protestantism- Wyatt’s secretly wanted to replace Mary with Elizabeth, Ket’s worried about the standard of teaching but was not Protestant in nature, as Duffy points out many of the rebels carried the Banner of the Five Wounds with them.
The majority of people went along with the religious changes out of deference whilst others demonstrated passive resistance (priests on the introduction of the 1549 Prayer Book.)
Clearly before 1529 religion was not a factor, the regime was Roman Catholic. After the break with Rome this changed and when peoples experience began to change after 1536 religion became a factor in causing rebellion. For 34 years in the middle period religion became a major factor in rebellion. After this time some Catholics took part in plots against Elizabeth, but there was no mass rising. Catholics were loyal to Elizabeth, realising that Protestantism was not as big a threat as they had feared and they put nation before religion. The proof of this being the support that Catholics demonstrated during the Armada crisis of 1587 and the Appellants of the 1590’s

During the 15th Century faction had been a major problem. During this time weak kingship and challenges to the succession saw a rapid turnover of rulers. Henry VII dealt with this problem by establishing strong rule. He was also lucky in that those around him who were potential opponents were too young to be real trouble. He was able to control the nobles through carrot and stick policies. Up to 1529 H VIII had few problems with faction due to the dominance of Wolsey. The problem of faction really came to the fore after Henry’s first divorce when the Aragonese and Boleyn faction developed. After the break with Rome the issue of religion became entangled with the struggle for power amongst the nobility. Faction was a major issue in the P of G as the Northern Earls wanted to remove Cranmer, Cromwell and Riche from positions of influence. It has even be suggested that the rebellion was deliberately provoked by the Earls in order to regain their traditional positions of power.
Faction was also a problem during the Mid Tudor period with faction causing some instability. The Protestants had been able to seize power at the end of Henry VIII’s reign and Somerset was able to take power via the unfulfilled gifts clause. Somerset fell from power in 1549 in the aftermath of the rebellions. Northumberland took over, but his caused few real problems in terms of the governing of the country. Factional struggle between Paget and Gardiner under Mary has been massively exaggerated and caused little problem.
This issue can also be seen in 1569 when the Northern Earls rose again over Elizabeth’s continued policy of centralisation and their lack of influence at court. Faction was also a cause in Wyatt’s and Essex Rebellions. (Essex= attempted to rival the policies of Cecil and to call Parliament to guarantee succession of James IV and thus ensure his position).

Taxation was the most common cause of rebellion before 1536 especially when prices were rising and the people lacked the means to increase their income. This happened in times of war for example the Yorkshire Rebellion where locals were angry about having to pay for the war in Brittany, they felt that they should not have to pay for an event so far away. Another example is the Amicable Grant where HVIII was forced to modify his foreign policy in the face of popular protest about the tax for it. This war was prompted by the French King, Francis I being captured by Charles V. The main problems in all these rebellions was the subsidy. This was a new tax and people resented paying it rather than the traditional fifteenth and tenth. Taxation was only a problem up until 1536 (apart from sheep tax in the Western rebellion).
After this Henry had the finances from the Dissolution and given the massive changes he was making in the Church he was unable to make excessive demands for taxation. Other Tudor monarchs failed to collect tax effectively due to fear of rebellion. Elizabeth in particular has been called a coward by Fletcher in allowing the value of the subsidy to fall allowing the assessment of the wealth to become a ‘farce’ Schofield

The succession
Before the accession of HVIII there was a worry about the succession of the Tudors due to the Wars of the Roses (where military might rather than legitimacy decided the succession) been in the distant past and HVII’s eldest son dying leaving questions about his heir. This stopped with the peaceful accession of HVIII and the issue of the Houses of York and Lancaster become an irrelevance. After 1536 succession again becomes an issue due to the Reformation. Dynastic rebellions become more concerned with the succession rather than deposing the existing monarch. They usually want an heir with the same religion as them. This can be seen in the following rebellions; P of G – Mary, LJG- LJG or Mary depending in how the rebellion is seen, Essex- James VI of Scotland. In all of these rebellions though, the Tudors are seen as the legitimate royal family.

The motives of individuals in rebellions
It is important to remember that in rebellions that different individuals would have different motivations. Most of the rebellions would have had groups motivated by different reasons. In the Pilgrimage of Grace the Nobility would have had very different motives to those of the peasants. In the Western rebellion some would have been most aggrieved by The imposition of the Sheep Tax and others by Prayer Book. We should always be careful of ascribing motives to the rebels on the basis of their demands. Often demands reflected the views of the leadership and not the mass of rebels. In 1549 the first demands of the rebels were for a Prayer Book in Cornish, it was not until got the Priests involved in the writing the second of the demands that they demanded the Prayer Book in Latin.

Enclosure and poor economic situations.
Enclosure was an important issue throughout the period causing many riots which occasionally grew into revolts. In 1489 legislation against enclosure was passed by Henry VII in an attempt to reduce hardship felt by the people. Enclosure riots in 1517/18 led to Wolsey passing anti enclosure legislation an act he repeated in 1526.
The two best examples are Ket’s and Oxfordshire. In Ket’s we see there is anger at Flowerdew, a lawyer who had been putting up fences. One article refers specifically to enclosure and fences were thrown down in East Anglia. The fact that Somerset seemed to disapprove of enclosure and set up commissions run be Hale only served to raise the peasant’s hopes making matters worse.
Deteriorating economic circumstances also contributed to grievances. Rising prices, population growth, poverty and vagrancy sparked unrest; this played a major role in 1549. However much of the 16th Century was a time of distress and so therefore there should have been rebellions every year especially in the 1590’s. Therefore economic grievance was not a primary cause of rebellion but it became important when the pressure was too great such as in times of taxation (eg. Amicable Grant). The Tudors recognised this as a problem; at first they tried to address the problem of enclosure. Then Somerset passed legislation punishing vagrants. 1552 the first law was passed to help the poor. Elizabeth later passed Poor Laws to help ease the problem.

Ruling Classes found other ways to Express Displeasure.At the beginning of the period rebellion was seen as a legitimate way of expressing a grievance. The ruling classes, however, found other ways to express displeasure. They preferred to use Parliament to express discontent. This can be seen in the monopolies debate at the end of Elizabeth’s reign and in Mary’s religious settlement concerning land. Men who had provided the leadership for most of the risings had been drawn into central government and so identified themselves more closely with the state rather than the commons. Growing educational opportunities meant that the land- owning class was able to educate themselves for public office and would close rank on the lower born. The gentry became more involved with the county shire administration acting as JP’s, Lord Lieutenants and Provost Marshals. This provided them with a prestige and status which they were mot prepared to lose. This led to a polarisation between the rich and poor. Prosperous traders and landowners looked to the ruling class for protection and an alliance between gentry and the middling sort. This was expressed in culture and architecture, servants no longer ate in the Great Hall. Rebellion became the last resort of the desperate.