A Level History: The Pilgrimage of Grace- A Blow to the Crown?

Pil of GracePil of Grace

You may know about the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’, especially if you are studying Tudor History. It is distinguishable for the figure 30,000. Why? That is the minimum number of men historians estimate joined the rebellion- a momentous number for its time.

But what reason is commonly used by historians to explain the cause of the rebellion?

Many people living in the North of England in 1536 still very much believed in the Old Religion- Roman Catholicism, despite Henry’s break with Rome and his establishing of the Royal Supremacy (he was declared the Head of the Church of England). When Henry VIII embarked on a process of closing down the Monasteries, many Northerners felt their views ignored, and rose in protest (the monasteries had offered many benefits to their community; amongst others, for the economy, being places of learning, aiding the poor and sick and sheltering Pilgrims). Note two things here: first, that religious reasons are one of several that prompted the rebels to protest (social and economic issues, and even rumours feature amongst others). Secondly, the name “Pilgrimage of Grace” is used to refer collectively to the several rebellions that took place in Northern England at that time.

Historians have long discussed the Pilgrimage of Grace- no, not for its catchy name, but because of one of the key questions that it presents us with: how much was it a threat to Henry VIII? Here, we straighten out some of the key arguments:

HOW FAR DID THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE (1536) POSE A THREAT TO HENRY VIII AND HIS REGIME?

Pil of Grace

WHAT HAVE SOME HISTORIANS WRITTEN ABOUT THE REBELLION?

Pil of Grace

Like in many other debates, there is no definitive ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer as to how far the rebellion threatened Henry VIII’s crown. It is a decision that should be left up to you. Certainly, however, it is important to bear in mind that because we can look on the event with hindsight, our perception of how dangerous it really was could be radically more different than had we been there at that time ourselves. Nevertheless, I would love to know what you think about how perilous you see the Pilgrimage as being towards Henry VIII, comment below!

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