Economic and Social Issues Were the Main Cause of Tudor Rebellion in Tudor England

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The principal cause of Tudor Rebellion in Tudor England was economic and social issues. The society encountered challenges in their economy and society, encompassing problems like enclosure and bad harvest. Moreover, they also faced difficulties with the nobility and the government. These concerns impacted a substantial portion of the population, resulting in rebellions. Nonetheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that certain rebellions did not exclusively center on economic and social problems. Instead, they regarded these issues as contributing factors to the rebellion. This illustrates that although economic and social issues held great importance, they were not the exclusive reason behind the rebellions.

It will be argued that economic and social issues contributed to Tudor Rebellion in Tudor England, with faction being the main cause. During Henry VII’s reign, there were two major tax rebellions – namely the Yorkshire Rebellion in 1489 and the Cornish Rebellion in 1497. Similarly, Henry VIII faced the Amicable Grant in 1525. The Yorkshire Rebellion took place due to popular opposition towards higher taxes intended for supporting the war against France. The people revolted against being required to fund a conflict in the southern region despite their geographical separation.

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The inhabitants of Cornwall saw themselves as a separate nation because they had their own Parliament, called The Stannery. Additionally, the counties of Northumberland, Westmoreland, and Cumberland were exempt from taxes because they were considered poor. Similarly, the people of Cornwall opposed raising taxes to fund the war against Scotland in the north and rebelled. A similar tax rebellion happened during Henry VIII’s reign when Wolsey introduced loans and burdensome obligations on both secular and religious groups in 1522, which became known as the Amicable Grant.

The Grant rebellion, like the Cornish and Yorkshire rebellions in Cornwall and York, respectively, was regionally based. However, it differed from these rebellions in that it was a national uprising that occurred in East Anglia, Wiltshire, and Kent. Another contrast was the manner in which Henry VII dealt with each rebellion. He was able to negotiate with the Parliament regarding the tax increase in Cornish and Yorkshire, whereas Wolsey raised the tax without parliamentary consent. Despite the ease with which Henry VII and Henry VIII were able to suppress these rebellions, their occurrence suggests not only the instability of the crown but also the people’s resentment toward the king.

Later on, the Tudors did not encounter any further tax rebellions because the Crown had been established and Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth concentrated on addressing threats to their rule. Thus, economic and social issues were the primary catalysts for rebellions at the start of the Tudor reign. Other economic problems also plagued Tudor England, as demonstrated by Kett’s rebellion (1549) and Oxfordshire’s rebellion (1596), which were mainly caused by economic difficulties and social discontent towards the landed gentry and enclosure.

Robert Kett and the Oxfordshire rebellion both opposed the enclosure of lands and the denial of grazing rights for farm animals. They also rebelled against landlords who hindered government investigations into illegal enclosures. The villagers in Oxfordshire were also denied access to common lands due to fencing, and enclosure was further encouraged by bountiful harvests and pressure from landowners to cultivate more wasteland. These rebellions gained support from the peasantry due to their shared concerns.

The government’s changes and treatment from the nobility negatively affected the peasantry, while the gentry viewed enclosure as advantageous. However, both the Pilgrimage of Grace (1536) and Western Rebellion (1549) demonstrated that economic and social problems were only one factor that contributed to these uprisings. The Pilgrimage of Grace was sparked by enclosures, as stated in the 1536 Pontefract article, whereas the Western Rebellion centered around rack-renting and sheep tax.

The issue in Pilgrimage of Grace was similar to Kett’s and Oxfordshire. The rebels protested against the nobility due to illegal enclosures. In Yorkshire and Cumberland, the rebels destroyed hedges to retaliate against the Earl of Cumberland, who had enclosed his tenants’ lands and deprived them of grazing rights. In Western, the peasants suffered from increased taxes while the nobility benefited from the dissolution of monasteries. Religion also played a major role in this rebellion, as it caused additional problems.

The Tudors initially avoided economic and social discontent by exerting control over the nobility’s power and land ownership. However, Mary encountered challenges related to religion, while Elizabeth did not consider the issue of enclosure a threat as Oxfordshire failed to garner support. The magnitude of enclosure problems during Edward’s reign was minimized as he was a minor and lacked sufficient control over the issues at hand.

The main cause for some rebellions was the economic issue and resentment towards the gentry. However, these rebellions also gathered popular support due to the widespread economic problems faced by Tudor England. While economic and social issues were predominant, not everyone was motivated solely by these factors. Some rebellions may have used economic problems and resentment towards the gentry as secondary causes, but they may have been driven by other factors as well, such as factionalism.

Examples of rebellions caused by faction include Warbeck (1491-7) and Simnel (1486-7), Essex (1601), the Northern Earls (1569), Wyatt (1554), and the Devise for succession (1553). Warbeck and Simnel were individuals who falsely claimed the throne in an attempt to overthrow Henry VII. They received backing from prominent Yorkists like John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, and Sir Edward Brampton, a sympathizer of the Yorkist cause. Additionally, both pretenders garnered support domestically as well as receiving assistance from Scotland and Burgundy, facilitated by Margaret of Burgundy.

On the other hand, Mary encountered factional problems. The Devise sought to exclude Mary from the succession and favored Lady Jane Grey to hold onto power. This caused Wyatt’s rebellion as Mary’s ascension to the throne would result in Elizabeth being excluded and Catholicism ruling England. Additionally, parliament seats would be given to Spaniards. Unlike Simnel and Warbeck, Wyatt did not intend to overthrow Mary, but rather wanted to prevent any changes she may bring about.

One difference is that Wyatt was able to attract national support and was not seen as threatening as Simnel and Warbeck. Furthermore, there were other rebellions that occurred during the last years of the Tudors. Two factional rebellions took place under Elizabeth’s reign. The revolt of the Northern Earls, caused by Northumberland and Cumberland against William Cecil, was one such rebellion. Similarly, the Pilgrimage of Grace had a subsidiary cause of faction. Henry’s divorce with Catherine of Aragon and disinheritance of Mary alarmed the Aragonist faction, as it implied they would lose power in court without Catherine or Mary on the crown.

Northumberland and Cumberland wanted their political power and wealth to be restored. This would not only reinforce their influence in the government of the northern counties but also enhance their financial and political fortunes. Essex’s rebellion, on the other hand, was a feeble uprising against Elizabeth and Robert Cecil. After suffering a humiliating defeat and intruding into Elizabeth’s bedchamber without her consent, Essex staged this revolt as his final attempt to regain his influence. Additionally, being banned from court and losing control over sweet patent wines, Essex viewed Cecil as his rival standing in the way of his ascent.

The Tudors faced factional rebellions due to favoritism, desire to overthrow the current ruler, and personal motivations for power and wealth. This illustrates that faction was perceived as a more menacing issue than economic and social concerns, indicating that these issues were secondary to faction, which can be considered the primary cause. Additionally, religious problems can also be identified as a significant catalyst for rebellion. The Pilgrimage of Grace and Western rebellion highlighted religion and utilized it as the primary motive for the uprising.

The Pilgrimage of Grace was driven by Henry’s separation from Rome, the dissolution of monasteries, and the assault on religious images. These concerns were evident in the requests outlined in the York, Lincoln, and Pontefract Article. Additionally, the rebels displayed the banner representing the Five Wounds of Christ, and the clergy served as rebel leaders. Similarly, during Edward’s reign, there were uprisings in Devon and Cornwall due to the reforms he was attempting to enforce, including the implementation of the Book of Common Prayer and the dissolution of chantries.

The Northern Earls utilized religion as a means to gain support from the peasantry, recognizing its importance to them. Northumberland openly admitted to their followers that religion was their primary objective, although it appeared to have more personal motivations. In contrast, these rebellions were distinct in nature. The Pilgrimage of Grace was a revolt on a national scale, while the uprisings of the Western and Northern Earls were regional in nature. The Pilgrimage and the Western Earls rebelled primarily due to religious changes, while the Northern Earls merely employed religion as a means to obtain support.

Kett and Wyatt both utilized religion in varying manners. In a similar fashion to the Northern Earls, Kett revolted due to the inadequate quality of preachers and residential incumbents in their area. Conversely, Wyatt de-emphasized religion and instead emphasized factionalism, but his motivation stemmed from religious grievances against Mary. Among the leaders of Wyatt’s rebellion, 8 out of 14 were protestant and supported the uprising in Maidstone, which is where Mary’s martyrs originated from. As a result, religion served as a significant source of dissatisfaction from the reign of Henry VIII until the reign of Elizabeth.

Unlike his predecessors, Henry VII focused on the development and stability of England’s monarchy and economy. Consequently, economic troubles and social issues were not the main catalysts for rebellions in Tudor England. Instead, religious unrest was the primary cause that persisted throughout this era. Religion was frequently manipulated to incite rebellion and used as a propaganda weapon for larger agendas. Nevertheless, religion also played a significant role in the uprisings of the peasantry during the middle of this period.

During the Tudor period in England, rebellion was caused by various factors. Economic disasters like enclosure and taxation often acted as triggers for rebellions, revealing the effects of poverty. However, it is important to acknowledge that economic instability was not always the main cause of rebellion. This can be seen in cases such as Wyatt and Northern Earls where rebellions occurred despite economic stability. Ultimately, faction consistently emerged as the most significant cause of rebellion. Those with both financial and political resources had the power to provoke dangerous rebellions, making faction a prevalent factor throughout this entire period.

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Economic and Social Issues Were the Main Cause of Tudor Rebellion in Tudor England. (2017, Jan 23). Retrieved from

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