October 19 – Henry VIII decides on tough action

Oct19,2022 #Pilgrimage of Grace

By this day in Tudor history, 19th October 1536, in the reign of King Henry VIII, a rebellion in the North of England was well underway.

This rebellion is known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, and on 19th October Henry VIII decided that it was time for tough action against the rebels. The rebellion needed putting down.

Henry VIII had refused to give in to the rebels’ demands and they, in turn, had refused to disperse and go back to their homes. So, on 19th October 1536, the king wrote to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby, giving them instructions on how to handle the situation. These letters do not make for easy reading, for this was Henry VIII at his most brutal. He was going to make examples of these rebels, men he perceived as traitors to the Crown.


On this day in history, 19th October 1536, King Henry VIII got tough on the Pilgrimage of Grace rebels.

Before I share excerpts from the king’s letters to the Duke of Suffolk and Earl of Derby regarding the rebels, I thought I’d just remind you what this rebellion was all about.

In brief, the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion was an uprising in the north of England which was sparked off initially by trouble in Lincolnshire. This trouble, in turn, was caused by discontent over the dissolution of Louth Abbey, the government commissions in the area and rumours that these commissions would confiscate jewels and plate from churches and impose new taxes. The rebels were also unhappy with the dissolution of the monasteries in general because of the effect on the common people and the poor, the king’s break with Rome, the appointments of men like Thomas Cromwell and Richard Rich to the king’s council, and the promotions of some clergymen.

By this day in history, 19th October 1536, there’d been trouble in Horncastle in Lincolnshire, which saw two men murdered; grievances sent to the king, lawyer Robert Aske had joined the rebels and become a leader, and tens of thousands of men were reported as being “up” in rebellion, and there were fears that they would take the city of York.

Henry VIII had replied to the rebels’ grievances early on, refusing to give in to their demands and ordering them to withdraw to their own houses, but the rebels took no notice.

On 19th October 1536, in a letter to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, the king wrote:
“You are to use all dexterity in getting the harness and weapons of the said rebels brought in to Lincoln or other sure places, and cause all the boats on the Humber or means of passage into Yorkshire to be taken up. After this, if it appear to you by due proof that the rebels have since their retires from Lincoln attempted any new rebellion, you shall, with your forces run upon them and with all extremity ‘destroy, burn, and kill man, woman, and child the terrible example of all others, and specially the town of Louth because to this rebellion took his beginning in the same.’ We have sent you this day a good sum of money, and will send more as required.”

Yes, you heard that right, Suffolk was to kill men, women and children as an example to others.

And in a letter written the same day to Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby, the king wrote:
“We lately commanded you to make ready your forces and go to the earl of Shrewsbury, our lieutenant to suppress the rebellion in the North; but having since heard of an insurrection attempted about the abbey of Salley in Lancashire, where the abbot and monks have been restored by the traitors, we now desire you immediately to repress it, to apprehend the captains and either have them immediately executed as traitors or sent up to us. We leave it, however, to your discretion to go elsewhere in case of greater emergency. You are to take the said abbot and monks forth with violence and have them hanged without delay in their monks’ apparel, and see that no town or village begin to assemble.”

So now the abbot and monks are being hanged as examples.

Henry VIII wanted this rebellion put down ASAP, and brutality was the way to do that, in his view. I do wonder what Suffolk and Derby thought of his instructions.

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