Economic and social issues were the main cause of Tudor Rebellion in Tudor England. Tudor England encountered problems with their economy and society. The society suffered from economic issues such as enclosure and bad harvest but also, they encountered problems with the nobility and the government. These issues concerned the majority of the people that started off rebellions. However, there were evidently rebellions that did not emphasise the problems of economic and social issues and saw these problems as one of the reasons for the rebellion. This clearly shows that economic and social issues were not the main cause of rebellions.
Therefore, it will be argued that economic and social issues were a contributory cause and that faction is the main cause of Tudor Rebellion in Tudor England. Henry VII faced two main tax rebellions under his reign – Yorkshire Rebellion (1489) and Cornish Rebellion (1497) while Henry VIII encountered the Amicable Grant (1525). The people in Yorkshire rebelled against the increased in tax in order to financially support the war against France. The people rejected this and rebelled due to the reason that they were supposed to finance a war in the south whereby they were geographically removed.
They also saw themselves as a separate country because they had their own Parliament – The Stannery. In addition, counties of Northumberland, Westmoreland and Cumberland had been exempt on the grounds of poverty. Similarly, the people in Cornwall did not support the idea of increased tax in order to finance the war with Scotland in the north thus started a rebellion. Tax rebellion also occurred in Henry VIII’s reign. Amicable Grant was triggered because of Wolsey’s action in 1522 in forcing loans. The Grant also made excessive demands on the laity and clergy.
Unlike the Cornish and Yorkshire who were regional rebellions such as Cornwall and York, the Grant was a national rebellion such as East Anglia, Wiltshire and Kent. Another difference is that Cornish and Yorkshire, Henry VII was able to negotiate with the Parliament about the increase in tax whilst Wolsey raised the tax without the consent of the Parliament. In the end, these rebellions were taken down easily by Henry VII and Henry VIII however the fact that these rebellions occurred suggests the instability of the crown as well as the resentment of the people to the king.
Later on, the Tudors did not further on encounter any tax rebellions due to the fact that the Crown has been established and that Edward, Mary and Elizabeth focused on issues that threatened their position in the crown. These shows at the beginning of the Tudor reign, economic and social issues were the main causes of rebellions. Other economic issues caused problems in Tudor England. Kett’s rebellion (1549) and Oxfordshire’s rebellion (1596) was caused mainly by economic problems and social issues such as resentment towards the gentry and enclosure.
Robert Kett rebelled against the enclosing of lands and denied the peasantry to graze their farm animals. They also rebelled against the landlords that had been obstructing government commissions that were investigating illegal enclosures. Similarly, Oxfordshire rebellion encountered the same problems. The villagers were denied the right to pasturage and common lands have been fenced off. The good harvests and pressure from landowners to bring more wasteland to cultivation also led to enclosure. These rebellions attracted support from people because this concerned the peasantry.
The peasantry suffered from the changes the government established and also the treatment they received from the nobility. In fact, the gentry saw the problems of enclosure as a positive thing because they benefitted from it. Contrastingly, Pilgrimage of Grace (1536) and Western Rebellion (1549) showed that the economic and social issues were simply a contributory cause. The Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion was caused by one of the item in the 1536 Pontefract article because of enclosures while Western was about the rack-renting and sheep tax.
The issue in Pilgrimage of Grace was of no difference from Kett’s and Oxfordshire. The rebels rioted over illegal enclosures against the nobility. For instance, Yorkshire and Cumberland pulled down hedges to attack the lands of the Earl of Cumberland who enclosed his tenants’ lands and denied them grazing rights. As for Western, the increase of tax hit the peasants and the nobility benefitted because of the dissolution of monasteries. During this time, they also encountered problems, which were the main cause for the rebellion, the issue of religion.
The Tudors did not experience problems with economy and social resentment during their early years because Henry VII and Henry VIII kept the nobility in control by limiting their powers and their lands. Meanwhile, Mary was not able to encounter this problem because she focused on the problems with religion. Elizabeth saw no threat with problems with enclosure because Oxfordshire was not able to attract support. The problems with enclosure were not seen as a big problem as it was under Edward because of Edward was a minority and was not able to control the problems presented to him.
Some rebellions emphasised that the economic issue and resentment to the gentry were the main cause for the rebellion however, economic and social issues were mostly seen to gather popular support as this issue affected everyone nationally because of the economic problems Tudor England had. Clearly only a number of people were not motivated by economic and social issues. Some rebellions may have used economic and gentry resentment as a subsidiary cause however they may had been driven by other causes, and one of these was faction.
For instance, Warbeck (1491-7) and Simnel (1486-7), Essex (1601), Northern Earls (1569), Wyatt (1554) and the Devise for succession (1553) main cause for rebellion was faction. Warbeck and Simnel were pretenders who challenged the throne to overthrow Henry VII. They were supported by leading Yorkists such as John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln and Sir Edward Brampton, a Yorkist sympathiser. Both pretenders not only attracted support nationally but were able to receive foreign support from Scotland and Burgundy through Margaret of Burgundy.
On the other hand, Mary was able to encounter problems with faction. The Devise aimed to exclude Mary from the succession and wished to hold on to power Lady Jane Grey. This also sparked Wyatt’s rebellion due to that if Mary succeeds the throne, Elizabeth will be excluded to the throne, and Catholicism will rule England. This also meant that the parliament seats will be assigned to Spaniards. In contrast to Simnel and Warbeck, Wyatt had no intention of overthrowing Mary to the throne but wanted to prevent the changes that Mary may establish.
Another difference is that Wyatt was able to attract support nationally and was not seen as threatening as Simnel and Warbeck. There are other rebellions that occurred on the last years of the Tudors. Under Elizabeth’s reign, two factional rebellions took place. The revolt of the Northern Earls was caused by the gentry: Northumberland and Cumberland against William Cecil. In the same way, Pilgrimage of Grace had a subsidiary cause of faction. Henry’s divorce with Catherine of Aragon and disinheritance of Mary alarmed the Aragonist faction. This implied that they would lose power in court without Catherin or Mary on crown.
Northumberland and Cumberland demanded the return of political power in the north and wealth as this would ensure a restoration of their influence in the government in the northern counties and increase their financial and political fortunes. To finish, Essex’s rebellion was a weak revolt against Elizabeth and Robert Cecil. Essex’s revolt was his last attempt to restore his influence after his humiliating defeat and barging in to Elizabeth’s bedchamber without her permission. Another reason was because Essex had been banned from court and lost his control on sweet patent wines and has seen Cecil has his rival to rise over him.
The Tudors experienced factional rebellions due to the one factor being favoured over the other, the need to overthrow the current ruler and for personal reason such as power and fortune. This shows that the issue of faction was more seen as threatening compared to economic and social issue. This proves that economic and social issue were subsidiary cause compared to faction who can be seen as a main cause. Finally, the problems with religion can also be seen as a driving cause for rebellion. The Pilgrimage of Grace and Western rebellion emphasised religion and used religion as the main cause for the revolt.
The Pilgrimage of Grace was motivated by Henry’s break from Rome, dissolution of monasteries and the attack on religious images. These issues were seen in the demands outlined in York, Lincoln and Pontefract Article. Furthermore, the rebels were seen with the banner of the Five Wounds of Christ and the clergy were seen as rebel captains. Similarly under Edward’s reign, uprising occurred in Devon and Cornwall because of the reforms Edward was trying to implement at that time such as the Book of Common Prayer and the dissolution of chantries.
The Northern Earls also used religion to attract support from the peasantry as this concerned them. Northumberland confessed to their supporters that their main aim was religion however it seemed that it was more personal. On the other hand, these rebellions were different. The Pilgrimage was a national revolt while Western and Northern Earls were regional revolts. The Pilgrimage and Western’s main cause for rebellion was mainly because of the changes in religion while Northern Earls simply used religion to gain support.
Kett and Wyatt also made use of religion in different ways. Similar to Northern Earls, Kett rebelled against the lack of quality of preachers and residential incumbents in their diocese. Wyatt, on the other hand, downplayed religion and highlighted faction but motivated by religious grievances against Mary. 8 out of 14 leaders in Wyatt’s rebellion were protestant and supported for the rising in Maidstone where Mary’s martyrs came from. Therefore, religion was an important source of discontent after Henry VIII’s reign up to Elizabeth’s reign.
Henry VII did not encounter such problems as he focused on the improvement and the stability of the crown and the economy of England. In conclusion, economic and social issues were simply a subsidiary cause for a more important cause of rebellions in Tudor England. It can be seen that throughout the period, problems with religion were stated. Many rebellions used religion as a propaganda tool for a bigger cause of rebellion. However, notable for the peasantry, the issue of religion was an important cause of rebellion in the middle of the period.
In times of economic disasters such as enclosure and taxation showed that poverty is enough to start a rebellion. Then again, this was not clearly the most important cause of rebellion throughout the period as some rebellions occurred when Tudor England’s economy was stable, for instance, Wyatt and Northern Earls. As a final point, faction were the most consistent cause of rebellion and this was also seen as the most important as people with financial and political resources were capable of launching a threatening rebellion. It is also seen throughout the whole period which suggests its importance.