Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Aske, Robert
ASKE, ROBERT (d. 1537), leader of the insurrection called the 'Pilgrimage of Grace,' was of an old Yorkshire family, which took its name from Aske, in Richmondshire, though the branch to which he belonged had been long settled at Aughton, in the East Riding (Whitaker's Richmond-shire, i. 117). Of his personal history nothing is known apart from that movement, except that he was an attorney and fellow of Gray's Inn. It appears, by papers in the Record Office, that he had at least two brothers, John and Christopher, who were to some extent compromised by his proceedings. The rebellion which brought him into so much notoriety began in Lincolnshire in October 1536. In the beginning of that year parliament had passed an act for the suppression of those monasteries whose revenues fell below 200l. a year. Some months later a book had been published by authority affecting the received doctrine of the Sacraments, and injunctions had been issued for the abrogation of a number of old holidays. These things touched at once the faith, the privileges, and the social life of the people generally; while another statute, called the Statute of Uses, bore hard upon the gentry, and the increase of taxation was an additional subject of complaint. The first outbreak was at Louth, in Lincolnshire, where the commissioners for the subsidy had arranged to sit in the beginning of October. Here the leaders were Dr. Mackerel, prior of Barlings, and one who called himself Captain Cobbler. The number who followed them was reckoned at twenty thousand. But the Earl of Shrewsbury caused them to disperse, exhibiting an answer to their complaints from the king, showing that none of the things objected to had been done without the sanction of parliament.
The Lincolnshire rising, however, had scarcely been quelled when another, and a far more serious one, broke out in Yorkshire, and here Aske took the lead. The malcontents displayed banners with a picture of Christ upon the cross, and on the other side of a chalice and wafer. They took prisoners Lord Darcy and the Archbishop of York, and compelled them (not unwillingly, as it was generally believed) to swear fidelity to the common cause. Even a herald sent to them in the king's name was compelled to kneel before Aske at Pomfret, who forbade him to read the proclamation with which he was charged, and said that he himself and his company would go up to London and have all the vile blood removed out of the king's council. The whole north of England seemed to be as one man in this matter, and the lords sent by the king to put down the rebellion would fain have temporised. But no terms could be arranged, and a day of battle was agreed upon, which was to be 27 October, the eve of St. Simon and St. Jude. The result, had it taken place, might probably have been a slaughter not inferior to that of the bloody field of Towton. But a rain which fell the night before swelled all the rivers, and made the tiniest streams impassable, so that the armies could not approach each other. Meanwhile the king had been prevailed on, as a matter of prudence, to send a conciliatory message, promising pardon and a hearing for all grievances, which, when announced, had the best effect. The rebels at once disbanded and returned to their homes.
At Christmas general pardons were sent down into the north, according to the king's promise; and Aske came up to London, being expressly invited by the king to declare to him personally the causes of complaint. He was received by Henry with marked attention and courtesy, and on his return into the north took with him assurances calculated to pacify the minds of the community. The king promised that he himself would shortly visit the country, cause a parliament to be held at York, and bring his queen, Jane Seymour, thither to be crowned. These pledges were not more than sufficient; for a new insurrection in the east of Yorkshire had broken out in January under Sir Francis Bigod, which Aske and Lord Conyers contrived to set at rest. Aske received the king's thanks for his conduct in this matter, and it might have appeared that he had fairly won his pardon. But the country was still in an anxious and unsettled state; and whether or no Aske himself had done anything once more to forfeit the king's favour, he was in May a prisoner in the Tower of London. He was arraigned at Westminster before a special commission, along with a number of others who had joined in the rebellion, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. More than a month elapsed before the sentence was carried out, and the king determined that the leading rebels should suffer in the districts where they had raised commotions. On 28 June, accordingly, Lord Hussy, Sir Robert Constable, and Aske were carried on horseback from the Tower into the north. Hussy was beheaded at Lincoln, Constable was hanged in chains at Hull, and Aske suffered the like fate within the city of York.
On a tower of the church of Aughton, in the East Riding, is a rather ambiguous inscription below a shield: 'Christofer le second filz de Robert Ask ch'r oblier ne doy A° D'i 1536.' This, as Pegge remarks, might be translated, 'I, Christopher, the second son of Robert Ask, knight, ought not to forget the year of our Lord 1536.' But it may be, as he also suggests, that the tower itself is supposed to speak: 'I ought not to forget Christopher,' and that 1536 is to be read merely as the date of the inscription (Allen's County of York, ii. 231). Under any circumstances it is a very striking memorial of that terrible year. This Christopher may have been the brother, and Sir Robert Ask the father, of the insurgent. They were certainly near relations.