History of England (Froude)/Chapter 13
THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE.
THE Nun of Kent's conspiracy, the recent humour of Convocation, the menaces of Reginald Pole, alike revealed a dangerous feeling in the country. A religious revolution in the midst of an armed population intensely interested in the event, could not be accomplished without an appeal being made at some period of its course to force; and religion was at this time but one out of many elements of confusion. Society, within and without, from the heart of its creed to its outward organization, was passing through a transition, and the records of the Pilgrimage of Grace cast their light far down into the structure and inmost constitution of English life.
The organic changes introduced by the Parliament of 1529 had been the work of the King and the second house in the legislature; and the Peers had not only seen measures pass into law which they would gladly have rejected had they dared, but their supremacy was slipping away from them; the Commons, who in times past had confined themselves to voting supplies and passing without inquiry such measures as were sent down to them, had started suddenly into new proportions, and had taken upon themselves to discuss questions sacred hitherto to Convocation. The Upper House had been treated in the disputes which had arisen with significant disrespect; ancient and honoured customs had been discontinued among them against their desire; and, constitutionally averse to change, they were hurried powerless along by a force which was bearing them they knew not where. Hating heretics with true English conservatism, they found men who but a few years before would have been in the dungeons of Lollards' Tower, now high in Court favour, high in office, and with seats in their own body. They had learnt to endure the presence of self-raised men when as ecclesiastics such men represented the respectable dignity of the Church; but the proud English nobles had now for the first time to tolerate the society and submit to the dictation of a lay peer who had been a tradesman's orphan and a homeless vagabond. The Reformation in their minds was associated with the exaltation of base blood, the levelling of ranks, the breaking down the old rule and order of the land. Eager to check so dangerous a movement, they had listened, some of them, to the revelations of the Nun. Fifteen great men and lords, Lord Darcy stated, had confederated secretly to force the Government to change their policy; and Darcy himself had been in communication for the same purpose with the Spanish ambassador, and was of course made aware of the intended invasion in the preceding winter. The discontent extended to the county families, who shared or imitated the prejudices of their feudal leaders; and those families had again their peculiar grievances. On the suppression of the abbeys the peers obtained grants, or expected to obtain them, from the forfeited estates. The country gentlemen saw only the desecration of the familiar scenes of their daily life, the violation of the tombs of their ancestors, and the buildings themselves, the beauty of which was the admiration of foreigners who visited England, reduced to ruins. The abbots had been their personal friends, 'the trustees for their children and the executors of their wills;' the monks had been the teachers of their children; the free tables and free lodgings in these houses had made them attractive and convenient places of resort in distant journeys; and in remote districts the trade of the neighbourhood, from the wholesale purchases of the corn-dealer to the huckstering of the wandering pedlar, had been mainly carried on within their walls.
'The Statute of Uses,' again, an important but insufficient measure of reform, passed in the last session of Parliament but one, had created not unreasonable irritation. Previous to the modification of the feudal law in the year 1540, land was not subject to testamentary disposition; and it had been usual to evade the prohibition of direct bequest, in making provision for younger children, by leaving estates in 'use,' charged with payments so considerable as to amount virtually to a transfer of the property. The injustice of the common law was in this way remedied, but remedied so awkwardly as to embarrass and complicate the titles of estates beyond extrication. A 'use' might be erected on a 'use;' it might be extended to the descendants of those in whose behalf it first was made; it might be mortgaged, or transferred as a security to raise money. The apparent owner of a property might effect a sale, and the buyer find his purchase so encumbered as to be useless to him. The intricacies of tenure thus often passed the skill of judges to unravel; while, again, the lords of the fiefs were unable to claim their fines or fees or liveries, and the Crown, in cases of treason, could not enforce its forfeitures. The Statute of Uses terminated the immediate difficulty by creating, like the recent Irish Encumbered Estates Act, parliamentary titles. All persons entitled to the use of lands were declared to be to all intents and purposes the lawful possessors, as much as if the lands had been made over to them by formal grant or conveyance. They became actual owners, with all the rights and all the liabilities of their special tenures. The embarrassed titles were in this way simplified; but now, the common law remaining as yet unchanged, the original evil returned in full force. Since a trust was equivalent to a conveyance, and land could not be bequeathed by will, the system of trusts was virtually terminated. Charges could not be created upon estates, and the landowners complained that they could no longer raise money if they wanted it; their estates must go wholly to the eldest sons; and, unless they were allowed to divide their properties by will, their younger children would be left portionless.
Small grievances are readily magnified in seasons of general disruption. A wicked spirit in the person of Cromwell was said to rule the King, and everything which he did was evil, and every evil of the commonwealth was due to his malignant influence.
The discontent of the noblemen and gentlemen would in itself have been formidable. Their armed retinues were considerable. The constitutional power of the counties was in their hands. But the commons, again, had their own grounds of complaint, for the most part just, though arising from causes over which the Government had no control, from social changes deeper than the Reformation itself. In early times each petty district in England had been self-supporting, raising its own corn, feeding its own cattle, producing by women's hands in the cottages and farmhouses its own manufactures. There were few or no large roads, no canals, small means of transport of any kind, and from this condition of things had arisen the laws which we call short-sighted, against engrossers of grain. Wealthy speculators, watching their opportunity, might buy up the produce not immediately needed, of an abundant harvest, and when the stock which was left was exhausted, they could make their own market, unchecked by a danger of competition. In time no doubt the mischief would have righted itself, but only with the assistance of a coercive police which had no existence, who would have held down the people while they learnt their lesson by starvation. The habits of a great nation could only change slowly. Each estate or each township for the most part grew its own food, and (the average of seasons compensating each other) food adequate for the mouths dependent upon it.
The development of trade at the close of the fifteenth century gave the first shock to the system. The demand for English wool in Flanders had increased largely, and holders of property found they could make their own advantage by turning their corn-land into pasture, breaking up the farms, enclosing the commons, and becoming graziers on a gigantic scale.
I have described in the first chapter of this work the manner in which the Tudor sovereigns had attempted to check this tendency, but interest had so far proved too strong for legislation. The statutes prohibiting enclosures had remained, especially in the northern counties, unenforced; and the small farmers and petty copyholders, hitherto thriving and independent, found themselves at once turned out of their farms and deprived of the resource of the common lands. They had suffered frightfully, and they saw no reason for their sufferings. From the Trent northward a deep and angry spirit of discontent had arisen which could be stirred easily into mutiny.
Nor were these the only grievances of the northern populace. The Yorkshire knights, squires, sheriffs, and justices of the peace, intent, as we see, on their own interests, had been overbearing and tyrannical in their offices. The Abbot of York, interceding with Cromwell in behalf of some poor man who had been needlessly arrested and troubled, declared that 'there was such a company of wilful gentlemen within Yorkshire as he thought there were not in all England besides;' and Cromwell in consequence had 'roughly handled the grand jury.' Courts of arbitration had sat from immemorial time in the northern baronies where disputes between landlords and tenants had been equitably and cheaply adjusted. The growing inequality of fortunes had broken through this useful custom. Small farmers and petty leaseholders now found themselves sued or compelled to sue in the courts at Westminster, and the expenses of a journey to London, or of the employment of London advocates, placed them virtually at the mercy of their landlords. Thus the law itself had been made an instrument of oppression, and the better order of gentlemen, who would have seen justice enforced, had they been able, found themselves assailed daily with 'piteous complaints' which they had no power to satisfy. The occupation of the council with the larger questions of the Church, had left statesmen too little leisure to attend to these disorders. Cromwell's occasional and abrupt interference had created irritation, but no improvement; and mischiefs of all kinds had grown unheeded till the summer of 1536, when a fresh list of grievances, some real, some imaginary, brought the crisis to a head.
The Convocation of York, composed of rougher materials than the representatives of the southern counties, had acquiesced but tardily in the measures of the late years. Abuses of all kinds instinctively sympathize, and the clergy of the north, who were the most ignorant in England, and the laity whose social irregularities where the greatest, united resolutely in their attachment to the Pope, were most alarmed at the progress of heresy, and were most anxious for a reaction. The deciding Act against Rome and the King's articles of religion struck down the hopes which had been excited there and elsewhere by the disgrace of Queen Anne. Men saw the Papacy finally abandoned, they saw heresy encouraged, and they were proportionately disappointed and enraged.
At this moment three commissions were issued by the Crown, each of which would have tried the patience of the people, if conducted with the greatest prudence, and at the happiest opportunity.
The second portion of the subsidy (an income-tax of two and a half per cent. on all incomes above twenty pounds a year), which had been voted in the autumn of 1534, had fallen due. The money had been required for the Irish war, and the disaffected party in England had wished well to the insurgents, so that the collectors found the greatest difficulty either in enforcing the tax, or obtaining correct accounts of the properties on which it was to be paid.
Simultaneously Legh and Layton, the two most active and most unpopular of the monastic visitors, were sent to Yorkshire to carry out the Act of Suppression. Others went into Lincolnshire, others to Cheshire and Lancashire, while a third set carried round the injunctions of Cromwell to the clergy, with directions further to summon before them every individual parish priest, to examine into his character, his habits and qualifications, and eject summarily all inefficient persons from their offices and emoluments.
The dissolution of the religious houses commenced in the midst of an ominous and sullen silence. The Act extended only to houses whose incomes were under two hundred pounds a year, and among these the commissioners were to use their discretion. They were to visit every abbey and priory, to examine the books, examine the monks—when the income fell short, or when the character of the house was vicious, to eject the occupants, and place the lands and farm-buildings in the hands of lay tenants for the Crown. The discharge of an unpopular office, however conducted, would have exposed those who undertook it to great odium. It is likely that those who did undertake it were men who felt bitterly on the monastic vices, and did their work with little scruple or sympathy. Legh and Layton were accused subsequently of having conducted themselves with overbearing insolence; they were said also to have taken bribes, and where bribes were not offered, to have extorted them from the houses which they spared. That they went through their business roughly is exceedingly probable; whether needlessly so must not be concluded from the report of persons to whom their entire occupation was sacrilege. That they received money is evident from their own reports to the Government; but it is evident also that they did not attempt to conceal that they received it. When the revenues of the Crown were irregular and small, the salaries even of ministers of state were derived in great measure from fees and presents; the visitors of the monasteries, travelling with large retinues, were expected to make their duties self-supporting, to inflict themselves as guests on the houses to which they went, and to pay their own and their servants' 'wages' from the funds of the establishments. Sums of money would be frequently offered them in lieu of a painful hospitality; and whether they took unfair advantage of their opportunities for extortion, or whether they exercised a proper moderation, cannot be concluded from the mere fact that there was a clamour ugainst them. But beyond doubt their other proceedings were both rash and blameable. Their servants, with the hot puritan blood already in their veins, trained in the exposure of the impostures and profligacies of which they had seen so many, scorning and hating the whole monastic race, had paraded their contempt before the world; they had ridden along the highways decked in the spoils of the desecrated chapels, with copes for doublets, tunics for saddle-cloths, and the silver relic cases hammered into sheaths for their daggers. They had been directed to enforce an abrogation of the superfluous holy days; they had shown such excessive zeal that in some places common markets had been held under their direction on Sundays.
Scenes like these working upon tempers already inflamed, gave point to discontent. Heresy, that word of dread and horror to English ears, rang from lip to lip. Their hated enemy was at the people's doors, and their other sufferings were the just vengeance of an angry God. Imagination, as usual, hastened to assist and expand the nucleus of truth. Cromwell had formed the excellent design, which two years later he carried into effect, of instituting parish registers. A report of his intention had gone abroad, and mingling with the irritating inquiries of the subsidy commissioners into the value of men's properties, gave rise to a rumour that a fine was to be paid to the Crown on every wedding, funeral, or christening; that a tax would be levied on every head of cattle, or the cattle should be forfeited; that no man should eat in his house white meat, pig, goose, nor capon, but that he should pay certain dues to the King's Grace.'
In the desecration of the abbey chapels and altar-plate a design was imagined against all religion. The clergy were to be despoiled; the parish churches pulled down, one only to be left for every seven or eight miles; the church plate to be confiscated, and 'chalices of tin' supplied for the priest to sing with.
Every element necessary for a great revolt was thus in motion—wounded superstition, real suffering, caused by real injustice, with their attendant train of phantoms. The clergy in the north were disaffected to a man; the people were in the angry humour which looks eagerly for an enemy, and flies at the first which seems to offer. If to a spirit of revolt there had been added a unity of purpose, the results would have been far other than they were. Happily, the discontents of the nobility, the gentlemen, the clergy, the commons, were different, and in many respects, opposite; and although, in the first heat of the commotion, a combination threatened to be possible, jealousy and suspicion rapidly accomplished the work of disintegration. The noble lords were in the interest of Pole, of European Catholicism, the Empire, and the Papacy; the country gentlemen desired only the quiet enjoyment of a right to do as they would with their own, and the quiet maintenance of a Church which was too corrupt to interfere with them. The working people had a just cause, though disguised by folly; but all honest sufferers soon learnt, that in rising against the Government, they had mistaken their best friends for foes.
SeptemberIt was Michaelmas then, in the year 1536. Towards the fall of the summer, clergy from the southern counties had been flitting northward, and on their return had talked mysteriously to their parishioners of impending insurrections in which honest men would bear their part. In Yorkshire and Lincolnshire the stories of the intended destruction of parish churches had been vociferously circulated; and Lord Hussey, at his castle at Sleford, had been heard to say to one of the gentlemen of the county, that 'the world would never mend until they fought for it.' September passed away; at the end of the month, the nunnery of Legbourne, near Louth, was suppressed by the visitors, and two servants of Cromwell were left in the house, to complete the dissolution. On Monday, the 2nd of October, Heneage, one of the examiners under the clerical commission, was coming, with the chancellor of the Bishop of Lincoln, into Louth itself, and the clergy of the neighbourhood were to appear and submit themselves to inspection.
Sunday, October 1.The evening before being Sunday, a knot of people gathered on the green in the town. They had the great silver cross belonging to the parish with them; and as a crowd collected about them, a voice cried, 'Masters, let us follow the Cross; God knows whether ever we shall follow it hereafter or nay.' They formed in procession, and went round the streets; and after vespers, a party, headed 'by one Nicholas Melton, who, being a shoemaker, was called Captain Cobler,' appeared at the doors of the church, and required the churchwardens to give them the key of the jewel chamber. The chancellor, they said, was coming the next morning, and intended to seize the plate. The churchwardens hesitating, the keys were taken by force. The chests were opened, the crosses, chalices, and candlesticks 'were showed openly in the sight of every man,' and then, lest they should be stolen in the night, an armed watch kept guard till daybreak in the church aisles.
October 2.At nine o'clock on Monday morning Heneage entered the town, with a single servant. The chancellor was ill, and could not attend. As he rode in, the alarm-bell pealed out from Louth Tower. The inhabitants swarmed into the streets with bills and staves; 'the stir and the noise arising hideous. The commissioner, in panic at the disturbance, hurried into the church for sanctuary; but the protection was not allowed to avail him. He was brought out into the market-place, a sword was held to his breast, and he was sworn at an extemporized tribunal to be true to the commons, upon pain of death. 'Let us swear! let us all swear!' was then the cry. A general oath was drawn. The townsmen swore—all strangers resident swore, that they would be faithful to the King, the commonwealth, and to Holy Church.
In the heat of the enthusiasm appeared the registrar of the diocese, who had followed Heneage with his books, in which was enrolled Cromwell's commission. Instantly clutched, he was dragged to the market-cross. A priest was mounted on the stone steps, and commanded him to read the commission aloud. He began; but the 'hideous clamour' drowned his voice. The crowd climbing on his shoulders, to overlook the pages, bore him down. He flung the book among the mob, and it was torn leaf from leaf and burnt upon the spot. The registrar barely escaped with his life: he was rescued by friends, and hurried beyond the gates.
Meanwhile, a party of the rioters had gone out to Legbourne, and returned, bringing Cromwell's servants, who were first set in the stocks, and thrust afterwards into the town gaol.
So passed Monday. The next morning, early, the common-bell was again ringing. Other commissioners were reported to be at Castre, a few miles distant; and Melton the shoemaker, and 'one great James,' a tailor, with a volunteer army of horse and foot, harnessed and unharnessed, set out to seize them. The alarm had spread; the people from the neighbouring villages joined them as they passed, or had already risen and were in marching order. At Castre they found the commissioners fled; but a thousand horse were waiting for them, and the number was every moment increasing. Whole parishes marched in, headed by their clergy. A rendezvous was fixed at Rotherwell; and at Rotherwell, on that day, or the next, besides the commons, 'there were priests and monks' (the latter fresh ejected from their monasteries—pensioned, but furious) 'to the number of seven or eight hundred.' Some were 'bidding their bedes,' and praying for the Pope and cardinals; some were in full harness, or armed with such weapons as they could find: all were urging on the people. They had, as yet, no plans. What would the gentlemen do? was the question. 'Kill the gentlemen,' the priests answered; 'if they will not join us, they shall all be hanged.' This difficulty was soon settled. They were swept up from their halls, or wherever they could be found. The oath was offered them, with the alternative of instant death; and they swore against their will, as all afterwards pretended, and as some perhaps sincerely felt; but when the oath was once taken, they joined with a hearty unanimity, and brought in with them their own armed retainers, and the stores from their houses. Sir Edward Madyson came in, Sir Thomas Tyrwhit and Sir William Ascue. Lord Borough, who was in Ascue's company when the insurgents caught him, rode for his life, and escaped. One of his servants was overtaken in the pursuit, was wounded mortally, and shriven on the field.
So matters went at Louth and Castre. October 3.On Tuesday, October 3rd, the country rose at Horncastle, in the same manner, only on an even larger scale. On a heath in that neighbourhood there was 'a great muster;' the gentlemen of the county coming in, in large numbers, with 'Mr Dymmock,' the sheriff, at their head. Dr Mackarel, the Abbot of Barlings, was present, with his canons, in full armour; from the abbey came a waggon-load of victuals; oxen and sheep were driven in from the neighbourhood; and a retainer of the house carried a banner, on which was worked a plough, a chalice and a host, a horn, and the five wounds of Christ. The sheriff, with his brother, rode up and down the heath, scattering money among the crowd and the insurrection now gaining point, another gentle man 'wrote on the field upon his saddle bow,' a series of articles, which were to form the ground of the rising.
Six demands were to be made upon the Crown: 1. The religious houses should be restored, 2. The subsidy should be remitted. 3. The clergy should pay no more tenths and first-fruits to the Crown. 4. The Statute of Uses should be repealed. 5. The villein blood should be removed from the privy council. 6. The heretic bishops, Cranmer and Latimer, Hilsey Bishop of Rochester, Brown Archbishop of Dublin, and their own Bishop Longlands the persecuting Erastian, should be deprived and punished.
The deviser and the sheriff sat on their horses side by side, and read these articles, one by one, aloud, to the people. 'Do they please you or not?' they said, when they had done. 'Yea, yea, yea!' the people shouted, waving their staves above their heads; and messengers were chosen instantly, and despatched upon the spot, to carry to Windsor to the King the demands of the inhabitants of Lincolnshire. Nothing was required more but that the rebellion should be cemented by a common crime; and this, too, was speedily accomplished.
The rebellion in Ireland had been inaugurated with the murder of Archbishop Allen; the insurgents of Lincolnshire found a lower victim, but they sacrificed him with the same savageness. The chancellor of Lincoln had been the instrument through whom Cromwell had communicated with the diocese, and was a special object of hatred. It does not appear how he fell into the people's hands. We find only that 'he was very sick,' and in this condition he was brought up on horseback into the field at Horncastle. As he appeared he was received by 'the parsons and vicars' with a loud long yell—'Kill him! kill him!' 'Whereupon two of the rebels, by procurement of the said parsons and vicars, pulled him violently off his horse, and, as he knelt upon his knees, with their staves they slew him, the parsons crying continually, 'Kill him! kill him!''
As the body lay on the ground it was stripped bare, and the garments were parted among the murderers. The sheriff distributed the money that was in the chancellor's purse. 'And every parson and every vicar in the field counselled their parishioners, with many comfortable words, to proceed in their journey, saying unto them that they should lack neither gold nor silver.' These, we presume, were Pole's seven thousand children of light who had not bowed the knee to Baal—the noble army of saints who were to flock to Charles's banners.
The same Tuesday there was a rising at Lincoln. Bishop Longlands' palace was attacked and plundered, and the town occupied by armed bodies of insurgents. By the middle of the week the whole country was in movement—beacons blazing, alarm-bells ringing; and, pending the reply of the King, Lincoln became the focus to which the separate bodies from Castre, Horncastle, Louth, and all other towns and villages, flocked in for head quarters.
The duty of repressing riots and disturbances in England lay with the nobility in their several districts. In default of organized military or police, the nobility ex officio were the responsible guardians of the peace. They held their estates subject to these obligations, and neglect, unless it could be shown to be involuntary, was treason. The nobleman who had to answer for the peace of Lincolnshire, was Lord Hussey of Sleford. Lord Hussey had spoken, as I have stated, in unambiguous language, of the probability and desirableness of a struggle. When the moment came, it seems as if he had desired the fruits of a Catholic victory without the danger of fighting for it, or else had been frightened and doubtful how to act. When the first news of the commotion reached him, he wrote to the mayor of Lincoln, commanding him, in the King's name, to take good care of the city; to buy up or secure the arms; to levy men; and, if he found himself unable to hold his ground, to let him know without delay. His letter fell into the hands of the insurgents; but Lord Hussey, though he must have known the fate of it, or, at least, could not have been ignorant of the state of the country, sat still at Sleford, waiting to see how events would turn. Yeomen and gentlemen who had not joined in the rising hurried to him. for directions, promising to act in whatever way he would command; but he would give no orders—he preferred to remain passive—he would not be false to his prince—he would not be against the defenders of the faith. The volunteers who had offered their services for the Crown he called 'busy knaves'—'he bade them go their own way as they would;' and still uncertain, he sent messengers to the rebels to inquire their intentions. But he would not join them; he would not resist them; at length, when they threatened to end the difficulty by bringing him forcibly into their camp, he escaped secretly out of the country; while Lady Hussey, 'who was supposed to know her husband's mind,' sent provisions to a detachment of the Lincoln army. For such conduct the commander of a division would be tried by a court-martial with no uncertain sentence; but the extent of Hussey's offence is best seen in contrast with the behaviour of Lord Shrewsbury, whose courage and fidelity on this occasion perhaps saved Henry's crown.
The messengers sent from Horncastle were Sir Marmaduke Constable and Sir Edward Madyson. Heneage the commissioner was permitted to accompany them, perhaps to save him from being murdered by the priests. They did not spare the spur, and, riding through the night, Wednesday, Oct. 4.they found the King at Windsor the day following. Henry on the instant despatched a courier to Lord Hussey, and another to Lord Shrewsbury, directing them to raise all the men whom they could muster; sending at the same time private letters to the gentlemen who were said to be with the insurgents, to recall them, if possible, to their allegiance. Lord Shrewsbury had not waited for instructions. Although his own county had not so far been disturbed, he had called out his tenantry, and had gone forward to Sherwood with every man that he could impress, on the instant that he heard of the rising. Anticipating the form that it might assume, he had sent despatches on the very first day through Derbyshire, Stafford, Shropshire, Worcester, Leicester, and Northampton, to have the powers of the counties raised without a moment's delay. Henry's letter found him at Sherwood on the 6th of October. Friday, October 6.The King he knew had written also to Lord Hussey; but, understanding the character of this nobleman better than his master understood it, and with a foreboding of his possible disloyalty, he sent on the messenger to Sleford with a further note from himself, entreating him at such a moment not to be found wanting to his duty. 'My lord,' he wrote, 'for the old acquaintance between your lordship and me, as unto him that I heartily love, I will write the plainness of my mind. Ye have always been an honourable and true gentleman, and, I doubt not, will now so prove yourself. I have no commandment from the King but only to suppress the rebellion; and I assure you, my lord, on my truth, that all the King's subjects of six shires will be with me to-morrow at night, to the number of forty thousand able persons; and I trust to have your lordship to keep us company.' His exhortations were in vain; Lord Hussey made no effort; he had not the manliness to join the rising—he had not the loyalty to assist in repressing it. He stole away and left the country to its fate. His conduct, unfortunately, was imitated largely in the counties on which Lord Shrewsbury relied for reinforcements. Instead of the thirty or forty thousand men whom he expected, the royalist leader could scarcely collect three or four thousand. Ten times this number were by this time collected at Lincoln; and ominous news at the same time reaching him of the state of Yorkshire, he found it prudent to wait at Nottingham, overawing that immediate neighbourhood till he could hear again from the King.
Meanwhile Madyson and Constable had been detained in London. The immediate danger was lest the rebels should march on London before a sufficient force could be brought into the field to check them. Sir William Fitzwilliam, Sir John Russell, Cromwell's gallant nephew Richard, Sir William Parr, Sir Francis Brian, every loyal friend of the Government who could be spared, scattered south and west of 'the metropolis calling the people on their allegiance to the King's service. The command-in-chief was given to the Duke of Suffolk. The stores in the Tower, a battery of field artillery, bows, arrows, ammunition of all kinds, were sent on in hot haste to Ampthill; and so little time had been lost, Monday, October 9. that on Monday, the 9th of October, a week only from the first outbreak at Louth, Sir John Russell with the advanced guard was at Stamford, and a respectable force was following in his rear.
Alarming reports came in of the temper of the north-midland and eastern counties. The disposition of the people between Lincoln and London was said to be as bad as possible. If there had been delay or trifling, or if Shrewsbury had been less promptly loyal, in all likelihood the whole of England north of the Ouse would have been in a flame.
From the south and the west, on the other hand, accounts were more reassuring; Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, all counties where the bishops had found heaviest work in persecuting Protestants, had answered loyally to the royal summons. Volunteers flocked in, man and horse, in larger numbers than were required; on Tuesday, the 10th, Suffolk was able to close his muster rolls, and needed only adequate equipment to be at the head of a body of men as large as he could conveniently move. But he had no leisure to wait for stores. Rumours were already flying that Russell had been attacked, that he had fought and lost a battle and twenty thousand men. The security against a spread of the conflagration was to trample it out upon the spot. Imperfectly furnished as he was, the Duke reached Stamford only two Wednesday, Oct. 11days after the first division of his troops. He was obliged to pause for twenty-four hours to provide means for crossing the rivers, and halt and refresh his men. The rebels on the Monday had been reported to be from fifty to sixty thousand strong. A lost battle would be the loss of the kingdom. It was necessary to take all precautions. But Suffolk within a few hours of his arrival at Stamford learnt that time was doing his work swiftly and surely. The insurrection, so wide and so rapid, had been an explosion of loose powder, not a judicious economy of it. The burst had been so spontaneous, there was an absence of preparation so complete, that it was embarrassed by its own magnitude. There was no forethought, no efficient leader—sixty thousand men had drifted to Lincoln and had halted there in noisy uncertainty till their way to London was interrupted. They had no commissariat—each man had brought a few days' provisions with him, and when these were gone the multitude dissolved with the same rapidity with which it had assembled. On the Wednesday at noon Richard Cromwell reported that the township of Boston, amounting to twelve thousand men, were gone home. In the evening of the same day five or six thousand others were said to have gone, and not more than twenty thousand at the outside were believed to be remaining in the camp. The young cavaliers in the royal army began to fear that there would be no battle after all.
Suffolk could now act safely, and preparatory to his advance he sent forward the King's answer to the articles of Horncastle.
'Concerning choosing of councillors,' the King wrote, 'I have never read, heard, nor known that princes' councillors and prelates should be appointed by rude and ignorant common people. How presumptuous, then, are ye, the rude commons of one shire, and that one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm, and of least experience, to take upon you, contrary to God's law and man's law, to rule your prince whom ye are bound to obey and serve, and for no worldly cause to withstand?
'As to the suppression of religious houses and monasteries, we will that ye and all our subjects should well know that this is granted us by all the nobles, spiritual and temporal, of this our realm, and by all the commons of the same by Act of Parliament, and not set forth by any councillor or councillors upon their mere will and fantasy as ye falsely would persuade our realm to believe: and where ye allege that the service of God is much thereby diminished, the truth thereof is contrary, for there be none houses suppressed where God was well served, but where most vice, mischief, and abomination of living was used; and that doth well appear by their own confessions subscribed with their own hands, in the time of our visitation. And yet were suffered a great many of them, more than we by the Act needed, to stand; wherein if they amend not their living we fear we have more to answer for than for the suppression of all the rest.'
Dismissing the Act of Uses as beyond their understanding, and coming to the subsidy,—
'Think ye,' the King said, 'that we be so faint-hearted that perforce ye would compel us with your insurrection and such rebellious demeanour to remit the same? Make ye sure by occasion of this your ingratitude, unnaturalness, and unkindness to us now administered, ye give us cause which hath always been as much dedicate to your wealth as ever was king, not so much to set our study for the setting forward of the same seeing how unkindly and untruly ye deal now with us:
'Wherefore, sirs, remember your follies and traitorous demeanour, and shame not your native country of England. We charge you eftsoons that ye withdraw yourselves to your own houses every man, cause the provokers of you to this mischief to be delivered to our lieutenant's hands or ours, and you yourselves submit yourselves to such condign punishment as we and our nobles shall think you worthy to suffer. For doubt ye not else that we will not suffer this injury at your hands unrevenged; and we pray unto Almighty God to give you grace to do your duties; and rather obediently to consent amongst you to deliver into the hands of our lieutenant a hundred persons, to be ordered according to their demerits, than by your obstinacy and wilfulness to put yourselves, lives, wives, children, lands, goods, and chattels, besides the indignation of God, in the utter adventure of total destruction.'
Thursday, Oct. 12.When the letter was brought in, the insurgent council were sitting in the chapter-house of the cathedral. The cooler-headed among the gentlemen, even those among them who on the whole sympathized in the rising, had seen by this time that success was doubtful, and that if obtained it would be attended with many inconveniences to themselves. The enclosures would go down, the cattle farms would be confiscated. The yeomen's tenures would be everywhere revised. The probability, however, was that, without concert, without discipline, without a leader, they would be destroyed in detail; and their best plan would be to secure their own safety. Their prudence nearly cost them their lives.
'We, the gentlemen,' says one of them, 'when the letters came, thought to read them secretly among ourselves; but as we were reading them the commons present cried that they would hear them read or else pull them from us. And therefore I read the letters openly; and because there was a little clause there which we feared would stir the commons, I did leave that clause unread, which was perceived by a canon there, and he said openly the letter was falsely read, by reason whereof I was like to be slain:'
The assembly broke into confusion. The alarm spread that the gentlemen would betray the cause, as in fact they intended to do. The clergy and the leaders of the commons clamoured to go forward and attack Suffolk, and two hundred of the most violent went out into the cloister to consult by themselves. After a brief conference they resolved that the clergy had been right from the first, that the gentlemen were no true friends of the cause, and that they had better kill them. They went back into the chapter-house, and, guarding the doors, prepared to execute their intention, when some one cried that it was wiser to leave them till the next day; they should go with them into action, and if they flinched they would kill them then. After some hesitation the two hundred went out again—again changed their minds and returned; but by this time the intended victims had escaped by a private entrance into the house of the murdered chancellor, and barricaded the door. It was now evening. The cloisters were growing dark, and the mob finally retired to the camp, swearing that they would return at daybreak.
The gentlemen then debated what they had better do. Lincoln cathedral is a natural fortress. The main body of the insurgents lay round the bottom of the hill on which the cathedral stands; the gentlemen, with their retinues, seem to have been lodged in the houses round the close, and to have been left in undisputed possession of their quarters for the night. Suffolk was known to be advancing. They determined, if possible, to cut their way to him in the morning, or else to hold out in their present position till they were relieved. Meanwhile the division in the council had extended to the camp. Alarmed by the desertions, surprised by the rapidity with which the King's troops had been collected, and with, the fatal distrust of one another which forms the best security of governments against the danger of insurrection, the farmers and villagers were disposed in large numbers to follow the example of their natural leaders. The party of the squires were for peace: the party of the clergy for a battle. The former moved off in the darkness in a body and joined the party in the cathedral. There was now no longer danger. The gentry were surrounded by dependents on whom they could rely; and though still inferior in number, were better armed and disciplined than the brawling crowd of fanatics in the camp. Friday, October 13.When day broke they descended the hill, and told the people that for the present their enterprise must be relinquished. The King had said that they were misinformed on the character of his measures. It was, perhaps, true, and for the present they must wait and see. If they were deceived they might make a fresh insurrection.
They were heard in sullen silence, but they were obeyed. There was no resistance; they made their way to the King's army, and soon after, the Duke of Suffolk, Sir John Russell, and young Cromwell rode into Lincoln. The streets, we are told, were crowded, but no cheer saluted them, no bonnet was moved. The royalist commanders came in as conquerors after a bloodless victgry, but they read in the menacing faces which frowned upon them that their work was still, perhaps, to be done.
For the present, however, the conflagration was extinguished. The cathedral was turned into an arsenal, fortified and garrisoned; and the suspicion and jealousy which had been raised between the spiritualty and the gentlemen soon doing its work, the latter offered their services to Suffolk, and laboured to earn their pardon by their exertions for the restoration of order. The towns one by one sent in their submission. Louth made its peace by surrendering unconditionally fifteen of the original leaders of the commotion. A hundred or more were taken prisoners elsewhere, Abbot Mackarel and his canons being of the number; and Suffolk was informed that these, who were the worst offenders, being reserved for future punishment, he might declare a free pardon to all the rest 'without doing unto them any hurt or damage in their goods or persons.'
In less than a fortnight a rebellion of sixty thousand persons had subsided as suddenly as it had risen. Contrived by the monks and parish priests, it had been commenced without concert, it had been conducted without practical skill. The clergy had communicated to their instruments alike their fury and their incapacity.
But the insurrection in Lincolnshire was but the first shower which is the herald of the storm.
On the night of the 12th of October there was present at an inn in Lincoln, watching the issue of events, a gentleman of Yorkshire, whose name, a few weeks later, was ringing through every English household in accents of terror or admiration.
Our story must go back to the beginning of the month. The law vacation was drawing to its close, and younger brothers in county families who then, as now, were members of the inns of court, were returning from their holidays to London. The season had been of unusual beauty. The summer had lingered into the autumn, and during the latter half of SeptemberSeptember young Sir Ralph Ellerkar, of Ellerkar Hall in 'Yorkyswold,' had been entertaining a party of friends for cub-hunting. Among his guests were his three cousins, John, Robert, and Christopher Aske. John, the eldest, was the owner of the old family property of Aughton-on-the-Derwent, a quiet unobtrusive gentleman with two sons, students at the Temple: of Robert, till he now emerges into light, we discover only that he was a barrister in good practice at Westminster; and Christopher was the possessor of an estate in Marshland in the West Riding. The Askes were highly connected, being cousins of the Earl of Cumberland, whose eldest son, Lord Clifford, had recently married a daughter of the Duke of Suffolk, and niece of the King.
October 3.The hunting party broke up on the 3rd of October, and Robert, if his own account of himself was true, left Ellerkar with no other intention than of going direct to London to his business. His route lay across the Humber at Welton, and when in the ferry he heard from the boatmen that the commons were up in Lincolnshire. He wished to return, but the state of the tide would not allow him; he then endeavoured to make his way by by-roads and bridle-paths to the house of a brother-in-law at Sawcliffe. October 4.But he was met somewhere near Appleby by a party of the rebels. They demanded who he was, and on his replying, they offered him the popular oath. It is hard to believe that he was altogether taken by surprise; a man of such remarkable powers as he afterwards exhibited could not have been wholly ignorant of the condition of the country; and if his loyalty had been previously sound he would not have thrown himself into the rising with such deliberate energy. The people by whom he was 'taken,' as he designated what had befallen him, became his body-guard to Sawcliffe. He must have been well known in the district. His brother's property lay but a few miles distant, across the Trent, and as soon as the news spread that he was among the rebels his name was made a rallying cry. The command of the district was assigned to him from the Humber to Kirton, and for the next few days he remained endeavouring to organize the movement into some kind of form. But he was doubtful of the prospects of the rebellion, and doubtful of his own conduct; the commons of the West Biding beginning to stir, he crossed into Marshland; and passing the Ouse into Howdenshire, he went from village to village, giving orders that no bells should be rung, no beacon should be lighted, except on the receipt of a special message from himself.
Leaving his own county, he again hastened back to his command in Lincolnshire; and by this time he heard of Suffolk's advance with the King's answer to the petition. He rode post to Lincoln, and reached the town to find the commons and the gentlemen on the verge of fighting among themselves. October 12.He endeavoured to make his way into the cathedral close, but finding himself suspected by the commons, and being told that he would be murdered if he persevered, he remained in concealment till Suffolk had made known the intentions of the Government; and then, perhaps satisfied that the opportunity was past, perhaps believing that if not made use of on the instant it might never recur, perhaps resigning himself to be guided by events, he went back at full speed to Yorkshire.
And events had decided: whatever his intentions may have been, the choice was no longer open to him.
October 13.As he rode down at midnight to the bank of the Humber, the clash of the alarm-bells came pealing far over the water. From hill to hill, from church tower to church tower, the warning lights were shooting. The fishermen on the German Ocean watched them, flickering in the darkness from Spurnhead to Scarborough, from Scarborough to Berwick-upon-Tweed. They streamed westward, over the long marshes across Spalding Moor; up the Ouse and the Wharf, to the watershed where the rivers flow into the Irish Sea. The mountains of Westmoreland sent on the message to Kendal, to Cockermouth, to Penrith, to Carlisle; and for days and nights there was one loud storm of bells and blaze of beacons from the Trent to the Cheviot Hills.
All Yorkshire was in movement. October 9.Strangely, too, as Aske assures us, he found himself the object of an unsought distinction. His own name was the watchword which every tongue was crying. In his absence an address had gone out around the towns, had been hung on church doors, and posted on market crosses, which bore his signature, though, as he protested, it was neither written by himself nor with his consent. Ill composed, but with a rugged eloquence, he called upon all good Englishmen to make a, stand for the Church of Christ, which wicked men were destroying, for the commonwealth of the realm, and for their own livings, which were stolen from them by impositions. For those who would join it should be well; those who refused to join, or dared to resist, should be under Christ's curse, and be held guilty of all the Christian blood which should be shed.
Whoever wrote the letter, it did its work. One scene out of many will illustrate the effect.
William Stapleton, a friend of Aske, and a brother barrister, also bound to London for the term, was spending a few days at the Grey Friars at Beverley, with his brother Christopher. The latter had been out of health, and had gone thither for change of air with his wife. The young lawyer was to have set out over the Huinber on the 4th of October. At three in the morning his servant woke him, with the news that the Lincolnshire beacons were on fire, and the country was impassable. Beverley itself was in the greatest excitement; the sick brother was afraid to be left alone, and William Stapleton agreed for the present to remain and take care of him. October 8.On Sunday morning they were startled by the sound of the alarm-bell. A servant who was sent out to learn what had happened, brought in word that an address had arrived from Robert Aske, and that a proclamation was out, under the town seal, calling on every man to repair to Westwood Green, under the walls of the Grey Friars, and be sworn in to the commons. Christopher Stapleton, a sensible man, made somewhat timid by illness, ordered all doors to be locked and bolted, and gave directions that no one of his household should stir. His wife, a hater of Protestants, an admirer of Queen Catherine, of the Pope, and the old religion, was burning with sympathy for the insurgents. The family confessor appeared on the scene, a certain Father Bonaventure, taking the lady's part, and they two together 'went forth out of the door among the crowd.' 'God's blessing on ye,' William Stapleton heard his sister-in-law cry.—'Speed ye well,' the priest cried; 'speed ye well in your godly purposes.' The people rushed about them. 'Where are your husband and his brother?' they shouted to her. 'In the Freers,' she answered. 'Bring them out!' the cry rose. 'Pull them out by the head; or we will burn the Freers and them within it.' Back flew the lady in haste, and perhaps in scorn, to urge forward her hesitating lord—he wailing, wringing his hands, wishing himself out of the world; she exclaiming it was God's quarrel—let him rise and show himself a man. The dispute lingered; the crowd grew impatient; the doors were dashed in; they rushed into the hall, and thrust the oath down the throat of the reluctant gentleman, and as they surged back they swept the brother out with them upon the green. Five hundred voices were crying, 'Captains! captains!' and presently a shout rose above the rest, 'Master William Stapleton shall be our captain!' And so it was to be: the priest Bonaventure had willed it so; and Stapleton, seeing worse would follow if he refused, consented.
It was like a contagion of madness—instantly he was wild like the rest. 'Forward!' was the cry—whither, who knew or cared? only 'Forward!' and as the multitude rocked to and fro, a splashed rider spurred through the streets, 'like a man distraught,' eyes staring, hair streaming, shouting, as he passed, that they should rise and follow, and flashing away like a meteor.
So went Sunday at Beverley, the 8th of October, 1536; and within a few days the substance of the same scene repeated itself in all the towns of all the northern counties, the accidents only varying. The same spirit was abroad as in Lincolnshire; but here were strong heads and strong wills, which could turn the wild humour to a purpose—men who had foreseen the catastrophe, and were prepared to use it.
Lord Darcy of Templehurst was among the most distinguished of the conservative nobility. He was an old man. He had won his spurs under Henry VII. He had fought against the Moors by the side of Ferdinand, and he had earned laurels in the wars in France against Louis XII. Strong in his military reputation, in his rank, and in his age,, he had spoken in Parliament against the separation from the See of Home; and though sworn like the rest of the peers to obey the law, he had openly avowed the reluctance of his assent—he had secretly maintained a correspondence with the Imperial Court.
The King, who respected a frank opposition, and had no suspicion of anything beyond what was open, continued his confidence in a man whom he regarded as a tried friend, and Darcy, from his credit with the Crown, his rank, and his position, was at this moment the feudal sovereign of the East Riding. To him Henry wrote on the first news of the commotion in Lincolnshire, when he wrote to Lord Hussey and Lord Shrewsbury, but entering into fuller detail, warning him of the falsehoods which had been circulated to excite the people, and condescending to inform him 'that he had never thought to take one pennyworth of the parish churches' goods from them.' He desired Lord Darcy to let the truth be known, meantime assuring him that there was no cause for alarm; 'one true man was worth twenty thieves and traitors,' and all true men, he doubted not, would do their duty in suppressing the insurrection.
This letter was written on the same 8th of October on which the scenes which have been described took place at Beverley. Five days later the King had found reason to change his opinion of Lord Darcy.
To him, as to Lord Hussey, the outbreak at this especial crisis appeared inopportune. The Emperor had just suffered a heavy reverse in France, and there was ro prospect at that moment of assistance either from Flanders or Spain. A fair occasion had been lost in the preceding winter—another had not yet arisen. The conservative English were, however, strong in themselves, and might be equal to the work if they were not crushed prematurely; he resolved to secure them time by his own inaction. On the first symptoms of uneasiness he sent his son, Sir Arthur Darcy, to Lord Shrewsbury, who was then at Nottingham, with further orders, after reporting on the state of the country, to go on to Windsor with a letter to the King. Sharing, however, in none of his father's opinions, the heir of the Darcies caught fire in the stir of Shrewsbury's camp—he preferred to remain where he was, and, sending the letter by another hand, he wrote to Templehurst for arms and men. Lord Darcy had no intention that his banner should be seen in the field against the insurgents. Unable to dispose of Sir Arthur as he had intended, he replied that he had changed his mind; his son must return to him at his best speed; for the present, he said, he had himself raised no men, nor did he intend to raise any—he had put out a proclamation with which he trusted the people might be quieted. The manœuvre answered well. Lord Shrewsbury was held in check by insurrections on either side of him, and could move neither on Yorkshire nor Lincolnshire. The rebels were buying up every bow, pike, and arrow in the country, and Lord Darcy now shut himself up with no more than twelve of his followers in Pomfret Castle, without arms, without fuel, without provisions, and taking no effectual steps to secure either the one or the other. In defence of his conduct he stated afterwards that his convoys had been intercepted. An experienced military commander who could have called a thousand men under arms by a word, could have introduced a few waggon-loads of corn and beer, had such been his wish. He was taking precautions (it is more likely) to enable him to yield gracefully to necessity should necessity arise. The conflagration now spread swiftly. Every one who was disposed to be loyal looked to Darcy for orders. The Earl of Cumberland wrote to him from Skipton Castle, Sir Brien Hastings the sheriff, Sir Richard Tempest, and many others. They would raise their men, they said, and either join him at Pomfret, or at whatever place he chose to direct. But Darcy would do nothing, and would allow nothing to be done. He replied that he had no commission and could give no instructions. The King had twice written to him, but had sent no special directions, and he would not act without them.
Lord Darcy played skilfully into the rebels' hands. The rebels made admirable use of their opportunity. With method in their madness, the townships everywhere organized themselves. Instead of marching in unwieldy tumultuous bodies, they picked their 'tallest and strongest' men; they armed and equipped them; and, raising money by a rate from house to house, they sent them out with a month's wages in their pockets, and a promise of a continuance should their services be prolonged. The day after his return from Lincoln, Aske found himself at the head of an army of horse and foot, furnished admirably at all points. They were grouped in companies by their parishes, and instead of colours, the crosses of the churches were borne by the priests.
The first great rendezvous in Yorkshire was on Weighton common. Saturday, October 14.Here Stapleton came in with nine thousand men from Beverley and Holderness. The two divisions encamped upon the heath, and Aske became acknowledged as the commander of the entire force. Couriers brought in news from all parts of the country. Sir Ralph Evers and Sir George Conyers were reputed to have taken refuge in Scarborough. Sir Ralph Ellerkar the elder and Sir John Constable were holding Hull for the King. These places must at once be seized. Stapleton rode down from Weighton to Hull gate, and summoned the town. The mayor was for yielding at once; he had no men, he said, no meat, no money, no horse or harness—resistance was impossible. Ellerkar and Constable, however, would not hear of surrender. Constable replied that he would rather die with honesty than live with shame; and Stapleton carrying back this answer to Aske, it was agreed that the former should lay siege to Hull upon the spot, while the main body of the army moved forward upon York.
Skirting parties meantime scoured the country far and near. They surrounded the castles and houses, and called on every lord, knight, and gentleman to mount his horse, with his servants, and join them, or they would leave neither corn-stack in their yards nor cattle in their sheds, and would burn their roofs over their heads.
Aske himself was present everywhere, or some counterfeit who bore his name. It seemed 'there were six Richmonds in the field.' The Earl of Northumberland lay sick at Wressill Castle. From the day of Anne Boleyn's trial he had sunk, and now was dying. His failing spirit was disturbed by the news that Aske was at his gates, and that an armed host were shouting 'thousands for a Percy!' If the Earl could not come, the rebels said, then his brothers must come—Sir Thomas and Sir Ingram. And next, with side glances, we catch sight of Sir Ingram Percy swearing in the commons, and stirring the country at Alnwick: 'using such malicious words as were abominable to hear; wishing that he might thrust his sword into the Lord Cromwell's belly; wishing the Lord Cromwell were hanged on high, and he standing by to see it.' And again we see the old Countess of Northumberland at her house at Semar, 'sore weeping and lamenting' over her children's disloyalty; Sir Thomas Percy listening, half moved, to her entreaties; for a moment pausing uncertain, then borne away by the contagion, and a few hours later flaunting, with gay plumes and gorgeous armour, in the rebel host.
On Sunday, October the 15th, the main army crossed the Derwent, moving direct for York. October 16.On Monday they were before the gates. The citizens were all in the interest of the rebellion; and the mayor was allowed only to take precautions for the security of property and life. The engagements which he exacted from Aske, and which were punctually observed, speak well for the discipline of the insurgents. No pillage was to be permitted, or injury, of any kind. The prices which were to be paid for victuals and horsemeat were published in the camp by proclamation. The infantry, as composed of the most dangerous materials, were to remain in the field. On these terms the gates were opened, and Aske, with the horse, rode in and took possession. His first act, on entering the city, was to fix a proclamation on the doors of the cathedral, inviting all monks and nuns dispossessed from their houses to report their names and conditions, with a view to their immediate restoration. Work is done rapidly by willing hands, in the midst of a willing people. In the week which followed, by a common impulse, the King's tenants were universally expelled. The vacant dormitories were again peopled; the refectories were again filled with exulting faces. 'Though it were never so late when they returned, the friars sang matins the same night.'
Orders were next issued in Aske's name, commanding all lords, knights, and gentlemen in the northern counties to repair to his presence; and now, at last, Lord Darcy believed that the time was come when he might commit himself with safety; or rather, since the secrets of men's minds must not be lightly conjectured, he must be heard first in his own defence, and afterwards his actions must speak for him. On the night of the surrender of York he sent his steward from Pomfret, with a request for a copy of the oath and of the articles of the rising, promising, if they pleased him, to join the confederacy. The Archbishop of York, Dr Magnus an old diplomatic servant of the Crown, Sir Robert Constable, Lord Neville, and Sir Nicholas Babthorpe, were by this time with him in the castle. His own compliance would involve the compliance of these, and would partially involve their sanction.
On the morning of the 16th or 17th he received a third letter from the King, written now in grave displeasure; the truth had not been told; the King had heard, to his surprise, that Lord Darcy, instead of raising a force and taking the field, had shut himself up, with no more than twelve servants, in Pomfret; 'If this be so,' he said, 'it is negligently passed.' Lord Darcy excused himself by replying that he was not to blame; that he had done his best; but there were sixty thousand men in arms, forty thousand in harness. They took what they pleased—horses, plate, and cattle; the whole population was with them; he could not trust his own retainers; and, preparing the King for what he was next to hear, he informed him that Pomfret itself was defenceless. Tuesday, October 17.'The town,' he said, 'nor any other town, will not victual us for our money; and of such provision as we ourselves have made, the commons do stop the passage so straitly, that no victual can come to us; the castle is in danger to be taken, or we to lose our lives.' The defence may have been partially true. It may have been merely plausible. At all events, it was necessary for him to come to some swift resolution. The occupation of Lincoln by the Duke of Suffolk had set Lord Shrewsbury at liberty; arms had been sent down, and money; and the midland counties, in recovered confidence, had furnished recruits, though in limited numbers. The Earl was now at Newark, in a condition to advance; and on the same 17th of October, on which this despairing letter was written, he sent forward a post to Pomfret, telling Darcy to hold his ground, and to expect his arrival at the earliest moment possible. Neither the rebels nor Shrewsbury could afford to lose so important a position; and both made haste. Again, on the same Tuesday, the 17th, couriers brought news to Aske, at York, that the commons of Durham were hasting to join him, bringing with them Lord Latimer, Lord Lumley, and the Earl of Westmoreland. Being thus secure in his rear, the rebel leader carried his answer to Lord Darcy in person, at the head of his forces. Thursday, October 19.He reached Pomfret on the afternoon of Thursday, the 19th; finding the town on his side, and knowing or suspecting Darcy's disposition, he sent in a message that the castle must be delivered, or it should be immediately stormed. A conference was demanded and agreed to. Hostages were sent in by Aske. Lord Darcy, the Archbishop, and the other noblemen and gentlemen, came out before the gate.
'And there and then the said Aske declared unto the said lords spiritual and temporal the griefs of the commons; and how first the lords spiritual had not done their duty, in that they had not been plain with the King's Highness for the speedy remedy and punishing of heresy, and the preachers thereof; and for the taking the ornaments of the churches and abbeys suppressed, and the violating of relics by the suppressors; the irreverent demeanour of the doers thereof; the abuse of the vestments taken extraordinary; and other their negligences in doing their duty, as well to their sovereign as to the commons.
'And to the lords temporal the said Aske declared that they had misused themselves, in that they had not prudently declared to his Highness the poverty of his realm, whereby all dangers might have been avoided; for insomuch as in the north parts much of the relief of the commons was by favour of abbeys; and that before this last statute made the King's Highness had no money out of that shire in award yearly, for that his Grace's revenues of them went to the finding of Berwick; now the property of abbeys suppressed, tenths, and first-fruits, went out of those parts; by occasion whereof, within short space of years, there should no money nor treasure then be left, neither the tenant have to pay his yearly rent to his lord, nor the lord have money to do the King service. In those parts were neither the presence of his Grace, execution of his laws nor yet but little recourse of merchandise; and of necessity the said country should either perish with skaith or of very poverty make commotion or rebellion: and the lords knew the same to be true, and had not dons their duty, for they had not declared the said poverty of the said country to the King's Highness.'
'There were divers reasonings on both parts.' Darcy asked for time; if not relieved, he said he would surrender on Saturday; but Aske, to whom Shrewsbury's position and intentions were well known, and who was informed privately that the few men who were in the castle would perhaps offer no resistance to an attack, 'would not condescend thereto.' He allowed Lord Darcy till eight o'clock the following morning, and no longer. The night passed. At the hour appointed, fresh delay was demanded, but with a certainty that it would not be granted; and the alternative being an immediate storm, the drawbridge was lowered—Pomfret Castle was in possession of the rebels, and Lord Darcy, the Archbishop of York, and every other man within Friday, October 20.the walls high and low, were sworn to the common oath.
The extent of deliberate treachery on the part of Darcy may remain uncertain. The objects of the insurrection were cordially approved by him. It is not impossible that, when the moment came, he could not resign his loyalty without a struggle. But he had taken no precautions to avert the catastrophe. If he had not consciously encouraged its approach, he saw it coming, and he waited in the most unfavourable position to be overwhelmed; and when the step was once taken, beyond any question he welcomed the excuse to his conscience, and passed instantly to the front rank as among the chiefs of the enterprise.
On the afternoon of the surrender the insurgent leaders were sitting at dinner at the great table in the hall. A letter was brought in and given to Lord Darcy. He read it, dropped it on the cloth, and 'suddenly gave a great sigh.' Aske, who was sitting opposite to him, stretched his hand for the paper across the board. It was brief, and carried no signature—Lord Shrewsbury, the writer merely said, would be at Pomfret the same night.
The sigh may be easily construed; but if it was a symptom of repentance, Darcy showed no other. A council of war was held when the dinner was over; and bringing his military knowledge into use, he pointed out the dangerous spots, he marked the lines of defence, and told off the commanders to their posts. Before night all the passages of the Don by which Shrewsbury could advance were secured.
Leaving Pomfret, we turn for a moment to Hull, where Stapleton also had accomplished his work expeditiously. On the same day on which he separated from Aske he had taken a position on the north of the town. There was a private feud between Beverley and Hull. His men were unruly, and eager for spoil; and the harbour being full of shipping, it was with difficulty that he prevented them from sending down blazing pitch barrels with the tide into the midst of it, and storming the walls in the smoke and confusion. Stapleton, however, was a resolute man; he was determined that the cause should not be disgraced by outrage, and he enforced discipline by an act of salutary severity. Two of the most unmanageable of his followers were tried by court-martial, and sentenced to be executed. 'A friar,' Stapleton says, 'was assigned to them, that they might make them clean to God,' and they expected nothing but death. But the object so far was only to terrify. One of them, 'a sanctuary man,' was tied by the waist with a rope, and trailed behind a boat up and down the river, and 'the waterman did at several times put him down with the oar under the head.' The other seeing him, thought also to be so handled; 'howbeit, at the request of honest men, and being a housekeeper, he was suffered to go unpunished, and both were banished the host; after which there was never spoil more.'
In the town there was mere despondency, and each day made defence more difficult. Reinforcements were thronging into the rebels' camp; the harbour was at their mercy. Constable was for holding out to the last, and then cutting his way through. Ellerkar would agree to surrender if he and his friends might be spared the oath and might leave the country. These terms were accepted, and on Friday, Stapleton occupied Hull.
So it went over the whole north; scarcely one blow was struck anywhere. The whole population were swept along in the general current, and Skipton Castle alone in Yorkshire now held out for the Crown.
With the defence of this place is connected an act of romantic heroism which deserves to be remembered.
Robert Aske, as we have seen, had two brothers, Christopher and John. In the hot struggle the ties of blood were of little moment, and when the West Riding rose, and they had to choose the part which they would take, 'they determined rather to be hewn in gobbets than stain their allegiance.' Being gallant gentlemen, instead of flying the county, they made their way with forty of their retainers to their cousin the Earl of Cumberland, and with him threw themselves into Skip ton. The aid came in good time; for the day after their arrival the Earl's whole retinue rode off in a body to the rebels, leaving him but a mixed household of some eighty people to garrison the castle. They were soon surrounded; but being well provisioned, and behind strong stone walls, they held the rebels at bay, and but for an unfortunate accident they could have faced the danger with cheerfulness. But unhappily the Earl's family were in the heart of the danger.
Lady Eleanor Clifford, Lord Clifford's young wife, with three little children and several other ladies, were staying, when the insurrection burst out, at Bolton Abbey. Perhaps they had taken sanctuary there; or possibly they were on a visit, and were cut off by the suddenness of the rising. There, however, ten miles off among the glens and hills, the ladies were, and on the third day of the siege notice was sent to the Earl that they should be held as hostages for his submission. The insurgents threatened that the day following Lady Eleanor and her infant son and daughters should be brought up in front of a storming party, and if the attack again failed, they would 'violate all the ladies, and enforce them with knaves' under the walls. After the ferocious murder of the Bishop of Lincoln's chancellor, no villany was impossible; and it is likely that the Catholic rebellion would have been soiled by as deep an infamy as can be found in the English annals but for the adventurous courage of Christopher Aske. In the dead of the night, with the vicar of Skipton, a groom, and a boy, he stole through the camp of the besiegers. He crossed the moors, with led horses, by unfrequented paths, and he 'drew such a draught,' he says, that he conveyed all the said ladies through the commons in safety, 'so close and clean, that the same was never mistrusted nor perceived till they were within the castle;' a noble exploit, shining on the bypaths of history like a rare rich flower. Proudly the little garrison looked down, when day dawned, from the battlements, upon the fierce multitude who were howling below in baffled rage. A few days later, as if in scorn of their impotence, the same gallant gentleman flung open the gates, dropped the drawbridge, and rode down in full armour, with his train, to the market-cross at Skipton, and there, after three long 'Oyez's,' he read aloud the King's proclamation in the midst of the crowd … 'with leisure enough,' he adds, in his disdainful way … 'and that done, he returned to the castle.'
While the North was thus in full commotion, the Government were straining every nerve to meet the emergency. The King had at first intended to repair in person to Lincolnshire. He had changed his mind when he heard of Suffolk's rapid success. But Yorkshire seemed again to require his presence. The levies which had been sent for from the southern counties had been countermanded, but were recalled within a few hours of the first order. 'The matter hung like a fever, now hot, now cold.' Rumours took the place of intelligence. Each post contradicted the last, and for several days there was no certain news, either of the form or the extent of the danger. Lord Shrewsbury wrote that he had thrown his outposts forwards to the Don; but he doubted his ability to prevent the passage of the river, which he feared the rebels would attempt. He was still under-handed, and entreated assistance. The Earls of Rutland and Huntingdon were preparing to join him; but the reinforcements which they would bring were altogether inadequate, and the Duke of Norfolk and the Marquis of Exeter were sent down to add the weight of their names; their men were to follow as they could be raised. Cromwell was collecting money in London. The subsidy had not been paid in; large sums belonging to the Crown had fallen into the hands of Aske at York, and the treasury was empty. But 'benevolences' were extorted from the wealthy London clergy: 'they could not help in their persons,' the King said, and 'they must show their good will, if they had any,' in another way. Loans could be borrowed, besides, in the City; the royal plate could go to the Mint; the crown jewels, if necessary, could be sold. Henry, more than any of the council, now comprehended the danger. 'His Majesty,' wrote his secretary on the 18th of October, 'appeareth to fear much this matter, specially if he should want money, for in Lord Darcy, his Grace said, he had no great hope.' Ten thousand pounds were raised in two days. It was but a small instalment; but it served to 'stop the gap' for the moment. Oct. 24.Three thousand men, with six pieces of field artillery, were sent at once after Norfolk, and overtook him on the 24th of October at Worksop.
Norfolk, it was clear, had gone upon the service most reluctantly. He, too, had deeper sympathies with the movement than he cared to avow; but, even from those very sympathies, he was the fittest person to be chosen to suppress it. The rebels professed to have risen in defence of the nobility and the Catholic faith. They would have to fight their way through an army led by the natural head of the party which they desired to serve. The force under Shrewsbury was now at Doncaster, where, on the 25th, the Duke joined him. The town was in their hands, and the southern end of the bridge had been fortified. The autumn rains had by this time raised the river, securing their flank, and it would have been difficult for an attacking army to force a passage, even with great advantage of numbers. Their situation, at the same time, was most precarious; of the forty thousand men, of whom Shrewsbury had written to Lord Hussey, he had not been able to raise a tenth; and, if rumour was to be believed, the loyalty of the few who were with him would not bear too severe a strain. With Norfolk's reinforcements, the whole army did not, perhaps, exceed eight thousand men, while even these were divided; detachments were scattered up the river to watch and guard the few points at which it might be passed. Under such circumstances the conduct which might be necessary could only be determined on the spot; and the King, in his instructions, left a wide margin of discretion to the generals. He had summoned the whole force of the south and west of England to come to him in London, and he intended to appear himself at their head. He directed Norfolk, therefore, to observe the greatest caution; by all means to avoid a battle, unless with a certainty of victory; and 'the chances of war being so uncertain,' he said, 'many times devices meant for the best purpose turning to evil happs and notable misfortunes,' he advised that rather than there should be any risk incurred, the Duke should fall back on the line of the Trent, fortify Newark and Nottingham, and wait his own arrival; 'until,' to use the King's own words, ' with our army royal, which we do put in readiness, we shall repair unto you, and so with God's help be able to bear down the traitors before us; yourselves having more regard to the defence of us and of your natural country than to any dishonour that might be spoken of such retirement, which in the end shall prove more honourable than with a little hasty forwardness to jeopard both our honour and October 25.your lives. 'For we assure you,' he said, 'we would neither adventure you our cousin of Norfolk, nor you our cousin of Shrewsbury, or other our good and true subjects, in such sort as there should be a likelihood of wilful casting of any of you away for all the lands and dominion we have on that side Trent.'
The Duke of Norfolk, on his way down, had written from Welbeck, 'all desperately.' By any means, fair or foul, he had said that he would crush the rebels; 'he would esteem no promise that he would make to them, nor think his honour touched in the breach of the same.'
To this Henry replied, 'Albeit we certainly know that ye will pretermit none occasion wherein by policy or otherwise ye may damage our enemies, we doubt not, again, but in all your proceedings you will have such a temperance as our honour specially shall remain untouched, and yours rather increased, than, by the certain grant of that you cannot certainly promise, appear in the mouths of the worst men anything defaced.' Finally, he concluded, 'Whereas you desire us, in case any mischance should happen unto you, to be good lord unto your children, surely, good cousin, albeit we trust certainly in God that no such thing shall fortune, yet we would you should perfectly know that if God should take you out of this transitory life before us, we should not fail so to remember your children, being your lively images, and in such wise to look on them with our princely favour as others by their example should not be discouraged to follow your steps.'
Lord Shrewsbury, as soon as he found himself too late to prevent the capture of Pomfret, sent forward Lancaster Herald with a royal proclamation, and with directions that it should be read at the market cross. Saturday, October 21.The herald started on his perilous adventure 'in his King's coat of arms.' As he approached Pomfret he overtook crowds of the country people upon the road, who in answer to his questions told him that they were in arms to defend Holy Church, which wicked men were destroying. They too and their cattle, their burials and their weddings, were to be taxed, and they would not endure it. The herald informed them that they were all imposed upon. Neither the King nor the council had ever thought of any such measures; and the people, he said, seemed ready to listen, 'being weary of their lives.' Lies, happily, are canker-worms, and spoil all causes, good or bad, which admit their company, as those who had spread these stories discovered to their cost when the truth became generally known.
Lancaster Herald, however, could do little; he found the town swarming with armed men, eager and furious. He was arrested before he was able to unroll his parchment, and presently a message from the castle summoned him to appear before 'the great captain.'
'As I entered into the first ward,' he said, 'there I found many in harness, very cruel fellows, and a porter with a white staff in his hand; and at the two other ward gates a porter with his staff, accompanied with harnessed men. I was brought into the hall, which I found full of people; and there I was commanded to tarry till the traitorous captain's pleasure was known. In that space I stood up at the high table in the hall, and there showed to the people the cause of my coming and the effect of the proclamation; and in doing the same the said Aske sent for me into his chamber, there keeping his port and countenance as though he had been a great prince.'
The Archbishop of York, Lord Darcy, Sir Robert Constable, Mr Magnus, Sir Christopher Danby, and several other gentlemen were in the room. As the herald entered, Aske rose, and, 'with a cruel and inestimable proud countenance, stretched himself and took the hearing of the tale.' When it was declared to him, he requested to see the proclamation, took it, and read it openly without reverence to any person; he then said he need call no council, he would give an answer of his own wit himself.
Standing in the highest place in the chamber, taking the high estate upon him, 'Herald,' he replied, 'as a messenger you are welcome to me and all my company, intending as I do; and as for the proclamation sent from the lords from whom you come, it shall not be read at the market cross, nor in no place amongst my people which be under my guiding.'
He spoke of his intentions; the herald inquired what they were. He said 'he would go to London, he and his company, of pilgrimage to the King's Highness, and there to have all the vile blood of his council put from him, and all the noble blood set up again; and also the faith of Christ and his laws to be kept, and full restitution to Christ's Church of all wrongs done unto it; and also the commonalty to be used as they should be.' 'And he bade me trust to this,' the herald said, 'for he would die for it.'
Lancaster begged for that answer in writing. 'With, a good will,' Aske replied; and he put his hand to his bill, and with a proud voice said, 'This is mine act, whosoever say to the contrary. I mean no harm to the King's person, but to see reformation; I will die in the quarrel, and my people with me.'
Lancaster again entreated on his knees that he might read the proclamation. On his life he should not, Aske answered; he might come and go at his pleasure, and if Shrewsbury desired an interview with the Pomfret council, a safe-conduct was at his service; but he would allow nothing to be put in the people's heads which might divert them from their purpose. 'Commend me to the lords,' he said at parting, 'and tell them it were meet they were with me, for that I do is for all their wealths.'
October 25.By this time the powers of all the great families, except the Cliffords, the Dacres, and the Musgraves, had come in to the confederacy. Six peers, or eldest sons of peers, were willingly or unwillingly with Aske at Pomfret. Lord Westmoreland was represented by Lord Neville. Lord Latimer was present in person, and with him Lord Darcy, Lord Lumley, Lord Scrope, Lord Conyers. Besides these, were the Constables of Flamborough, the Tempests from Durham, the Boweses, the Everses, the Fairfaxes, the Strangwayses, young Ellerkar of Ellerkar, the Danbys, St Johns, Bulmers, Mallorys, Lascelleses, Nor tons, Moncktons, Gowers, Ingoldsbys: we scarcely miss a single name famous in Border story. Such a gathering had not been seen in England since the grandfathers of these same men fought on Towton Moor, and the red rose of Lancaster faded before 'the summer sun of York.' Were their descendants, in another bloody battle, to seat a fresh Plantagenet on Edward's throne? No such aim had as yet risen consciously into form; but civil wars have strange issues—a scion of the old house was perhaps dreaming, beyond the sea, of a new and betteromened union; a prince of the pure blood might marry the Princess Mary, restored to her legitimate inheritance. Of all the natural chiefs of the North who were in the power of the insurgents, Lord Northumberland only was absent. On the first summons he was spared for his illness; a second deputation ordered him to commit his powers, as the leader of his clan, to his brothers. But the brave Percy chose to die as he had lived. 'At that time and at all other times, the Earl was very earnest against the commons in the King's behalf and the lord privy seal's.' He lay in his bed resolute in refusal. The crowd yelled before the castle, 'Strike off his head, and make Sir Thomas Percy earl.' 'I can die but once,' he said; 'let them do it; it will rid me of my pain.' 'And therewith the Earl fell weeping, ever wishing himself out of the world.'
They left him to nature and to death, which was waiting at his doors. The word went now through the army, 'Every man to Doncaster.' There lay Shrewsbury and the Duke of Norfolk, with a small handful of disaffected men between themselves and London, to which they were going.
They marched from Pomfret in three divisions. Sir Thomas Percy, at the head of five thousand men, carried the banner of St Cuthbert. In the second division, over ten thousand strong, were the musters of Holderness and the "West Riding, with Aske himself and Lord Darcy. The rear was a magnificent body of twelve thousand horse, all in armour: the knights, esquires, and yeomen of Richmondshire and Durham.
In this order they came down to the Don, where their advanced posts were already stationed, and deployed along the banks from Ferrybridge to Doncaster.
A deep river, heavily swollen, divided them from the royal army; but they were assured by spies that the water was the only obstacle which prevented the loyalists from deserting to them.
There were traitors in London who kept the insurgents informed of Henry's movements, and even of the resolutions at the council board. They knew that if they could dispose of the one small body in their front, no other force was as yet in the field which could oppose or even delay their march. They had even persuaded themselves that, on the mere display of their strength, the Duke of Norfolk must either retire or would himself come over to their side.
Norfolk, however, who had but reached Doncaster the morning of the same day, lay still, and as yet showed no sign of moving. If they intended to pass, they must force the bridge. Apparently they must fight a battle; and at this extremity they hesitated. Their professed intention was no more than an armed demonstration. They were ready to fight; but in fighting they could no longer maintain the pretence that they were loyal subjects. They desired to free the King from plebeian advisers, and restore the influence of the nobles. It was embarrassing to commence with defeating an army led by four peers of the purest blood in England.
Wednesday, October 25; Thursday October 26.For two days the armies lay watching each other. Parties of clergy were busy up and down the rebel host, urging an advance, protesting that if they hesitated the cause was lost; but their overwhelming strength seems to have persuaded the leaders that their cause, so far from being lost, was won already, and that there was no need of violence.
On the 25th Lancaster Herald came across to desire, in Norfolk's name, that four of them would hold an interview with him, under a safe-conduct, in Doncaster, and explain their objects. Aske replied by a counteroffer, that eight or twelve principal persons on both sides should hold a conference on Doncaster Bridge.
Both proposals were rejected; the Duke said that he should remain in his lines, and receive their attack whenever they dared to make it. There was a pause. Aske called a council of war; and 'the lords' or perhaps Lord Darcy knowing that in rebellions half measures are suicide, voted for an immediate onset. Aske himself was of a different opinion. Norfolk did not wholly refuse negotiation; one other attempt might at least be made to avoid bloodshed. 'The Duke,' said Aske, in his account of his conduct, ' neither of those days had above six or eight thousand men, while we were nigh thirty thousand at the least; but we considered that if battle had been given, if the Duke had obtained the victory, all the knights, esquires, and all others of those parts had been attainted, slain, and undone, for the Scots and the enemies of the King; and, on the other part, if the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Shrewsbury, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Huntingdon, the Lord Talbot, and others, had been slain, what great captains, councillors, noble blood, persons dread in foreign realms, and Catholic knights had wanted and been lost. What displeasure should this have been to the King's public wealth, and what comfort to the antient enemies of the realm. It was considered also what honour the north parts had attained by the said Duke; how he was beloved for his activity and fortune.'
If a battle was to be avoided nevertheless, no time was to be lost, for skirmishing parties were crossing the river backwards and forwards, and accident might at any moment bring on a general engagement. Aske had gained his point at the council; he signified his desire for a further parley, October 26.and on Thursday afternoon, after an exchange of hostages, Sir Thomas Hilton, Sir Ralph Ellerkar, Sir Robert Chaloner, and Sir Robert Bowes crossed to the royal camp to attempt, if possible, to induce the Duke to agree to the open conference on the bridge.The conditions on which they would consent to admit even this first slight concession were already those of conquerors. A preliminary promise was demanded from the Duke that all persons who, in heart, word, or deed, had taken part in the insurrection, should have free pardon for life, lands, and goods; that neither in the pardon nor in the public records of the realm should they be described as traitors. The Duke must explain further the extent of his powers to treat. If 'the captain' was to be present on the bridge, he must state what hostages he was prepared to offer for the security of so great a person; and as Richard Cromwell was supposed to be with the King's army, neither he nor any of his kin should be admitted among the delegates. If these terms were allowed, the conference should take place, and the objects of the insurrection might be explained in full for the Duke to judge of them.
Hilton and his companions remained for the night in Doncaster. Friday, October 27.In the morning they returned with a favourable answer. After dinner the same four gentlemen, accompanied by Lords Latimer, Lumley, Darcy, Sir Robert Constable, and Sir John Bulmer, went down upon the bridge. They were met by an equal number of knights and noblemen from Norfolk's army; Robert Aske remaining on the bank of the Don, 'the whole host standing with him in perfect array.' The conference lasted till the October day had closed in darkness. What destinies did not hang upon its issue? The insurgents it is likely might have forced the passage of the river; and although the river of time was running with too full a current for them or any man to have stayed its course, yet they might have stained its waters with streams of English blood; the sunrise of the Reformation might have been veiled in storms; and victory, when it came at last, have shone over gory battle-fields and mangled ruins.
Such was not the destiny appointed for England. The insurgents were deceived by their strength. They believed themselves irresistible, and like many others who Lave played at revolutions, dreamt that they could afford to be moderate.
It was agreed that Sir Robert Bowes and Sir Ralph Ellerkar should carry the articles to the King; that the Duke of Norfolk should escort them in person, and intercede for their favourable hearing. Meanwhile, and till the King's reply was known, there should be an armistice. The musters on both sides should be disbanded—neither party should 'innovate' upon the status in quo.
The loyalists and the rebels alike expected to gain by delay. Letters from all parts of the kingdom were daily pouring in to Aske, full of gratitude, admiration, and promises of help. He had leisure to organize the vast force of which the command had been thrust upon him, to communicate with the Emperor or with the Regent's Court at Brussels, and to establish a correspondence with the southern counties.
The Duke of Norfolk escaped an immediate danger; agreeing in heart with the general objects of the rising, he trusted that the petition, supported by the formidable report which he would carry up with him, might bring the King to consent to a partial reaction; if not to be reconciled to the Pope, at least to sacrifice Cromwell and the heretical bishops.
November.The weight of the crisis now rested on Henry himself. Cromwell was powerless where his own person was the subject of contention. He had no friends—or none whose connection with him did not increase his danger—while by his enemies he was hated as an incarnation of Satan. He left his cause in the King's hands, to be supported or allowed to fall.
But the Tudor princes were invariably most calm when those around them were panic-stricken. From the moment that the real danger was known, the King's own hand was on the helm—his own voice was heard dictating his orders. Lincolnshire had again become menacing, and Suffolk had written despairing letters; the King told him 'not to be frightened at his shadow.' The reactionary members of the council had suggested a call of Parliament, and a proclamation that if any of the King's subjects could prove the late measures of the Government to be against the laws of God or the interests of the commonwealth, these measures should be undone. They had begged, further, that his Highness would invite all persons who had complaints against Cromwell and the bishops to come forward with their proofs, and would give a promise that if the charges could be substantiated, they should be proceeded against and punished. At such a crisis the King refused either to call a Parliament to embarrass his hands, or to invite his subjects to argue against his policy. 'He dared to testify that there never were in any of his predecessors' days so many wholesome, commodious, and beneficial Acts made for the commonwealth: for those who were named subverters of God's laws he did take and repute them to be just and true executors of God's laws.' If any one could duly prove to the contrary, they should be duly punished. ' But in case,' he said, 'it be but a false and untrue report (as we verily think it is), then it were as meet, and standeth as well with justice, that they should have the self-same punishment which wrongfully hath objected this to them that they should have had if they deserved it.'
On the 29th of October he was on the point of setting off from London; circulars had gone out to the mayors of the towns informing them of his purpose, and directing them to keep watch and ward night and day, when Norfolk reached the Court with the two messengers.
Nov. 1.Henry received them graciously. Instead of sending them back with an immediate answer, he detained them for a fortnight, and in that interval gained them wholly over to himself. With their advice and assistance he sent private letters among the insurgent leaders. To Lord Latimer and the other nobles he represented the dishonour which they had brought upon themselves by serving under Aske; he implored both them and the many other honourable men who had been led away to return to their allegiance, 'so as we may not,' he said, 'be enforced to extend our princely power against you, but with honour, and without further inconvenience, may perform that clemency on which we have determined.'
By infinite exertion he secured the services, from various parts of England, of fifty thousand reliable men who would join him on immediate notice; while into the insurgent counties he despatched heralds, with instructions to go to the large towns, to observe the disposition of the people, and, if it could be done with safety, to request the assistance of the mayors and bailiffs, 'gently and with good words in his Grace's name.' If the herald 'used himself discreetly,' they would probably make little difficulty; in which case he should repair in his coat of arms, attended by the officers of the corporation, to the market cross, and explain to the people the untruth of the stories by which they had been stirred to rebellion. The poorest subject, the King said, had at all times access to his presence to declare his suits to him; if any among them had felt themselves aggrieved, why had they not first come to him as petitioners, and heard the truth from his own lips. 'What folly was it then to adventure their bodies and souls, their lands, lives and goods, wives and children, upon a base false lie, set forth by false seditious persons, intending and desiring only a general spoil and a certain destruction of honest people, honest wives, and innocent children. What ruth and pity was it that Christian men, which were not only by God's law bound to obey their prince, but also to provide nutriment and sustentation for their wives and children, should forget altogether, and put them in danger of fire and sword for the accomplishment of a certain mad and furious attempt.' They could not recall the past. Let them amend their faults by submission for the future. The King only desired their good. He had a force in reserve with which he could and would crush them if they drove him to it; he hoped that he might be able only to show them mercy and pardon. As to the suppression of the abbeys, the people should learn to compare their actual condition with the objects for which they were founded. Let them consider the three vows of religion—poverty, chastity, and obedience—and ask themselves how far these vows had been observed.
Thus instructed the heralds attempted to discharge their mission, and partially succeeded; but so hot a fever was not to be cooled on a sudden; and connected with the delay of the messengers, and with information of the measures which the King was procuring, their presence created, perhaps, more irritation and suspicion than their words accomplished good. The siege of Skipton continued; separate local insurrections were continually blazing; the monks everywhere were replaced in the abbeys; and Aske, who, though moderate, was a man of clear, keen decision, determined, since the King was slow in sending up his concessions, to anticipate them by calling a Parliament and Convocation of the northern notables, to sit at York. 'The King's treasure,' which had fallen into his hands, gave him command of money; the religious houses contributed their plate; circulars were addressed to every parish and township, directing them to have their contingents ready at any moment to march; and, to insure a rapid transmission of orders, regular posts were established from Hull to Templehurst, from Templehurst to York, from York to Durham, from Durham to Newcastle. The roads were patrolled night and day; all unknown persons in town or village were examined and 'ripped.' The harbour at Hull was guarded with cannon,, and the town held by a strong garrison under Sir Robert Constable, lest armed ships from Portsmouth might attempt to seize it. Constable himself, with whose name we have already become familiar, was now, after Robert Aske and Lord Darcy, the third great leader of the movement. The weather had changed, an early winter had set in, and the rivers either fell or froze; the low marsh country again became passable, and rumours were abroad that Darcy intended to surprise Doncaster, and advance towards Nottingham; and that Aske and Constable would cross the Humber, and, passing through Lincolnshire, would cut off Suffolk, and join him at the same place.
Nov. 9.The King, feeling that the only safety was in boldness, replied by ordering Lord Shrewsbury to advance again to his old position. The danger must have been really great, as even Shrewsbury hesitated, and this time preferred to hold the line of the Trent. But Henry would now hear nothing of retreat. His own musters were at last coming up in strength. The fortification of Hull, he said, was a breach of the engagement at Doncaster; and Yernon, one of the lords of the Welsh Marches, Sir Philip Draycote, and Sir Henry Sacheverell, going to Shrewsbury's assistance, the line of the Don was again occupied. The head quarters were at Rotherham, and a depot of artillery and stores was established at Tickhill.
In Suffolk's camp at Lincoln a suggestion was started that Aske's attack might perhaps be anticipated—that, by a swift, silent enterprise, it might be possible to seize and carry off both him and Sir R. Constable. Two volunteers were found who offered to make the experiment. One of them, Anthony Curtis, a cousin of Aske, 'for private malice, said that if he might have license he would find sureties, and would either kill his kinsman or be killed himself.' Another attempt for Aske's destruction was made by the Duke of Norfolk, who had no objection to a coalition of noblemen against Cromwell, but disdained the dictation of an unknown upstart. He supposed that he might tempt Lord Darcy to an act of treachery, and sent a questionable proposal to him by the hands of a servant of Lord Hussey, a certain Percival Cresswell. The attempt failed; but Cresswell's account of his mission is not a little curious.
Nov. 10.He arrived at Templehurst on Friday, November the 10th, shortly before dinner. Lord Darcy was walking with Aske himself, who was his guest at the time, and a party of the commons in the castle garden. Cresswell gave him a letter from Norfolk, which was cautiously worded, in case it should fall into wrong hands, and said he was charged also with a private message. The danger of exciting suspicion was so great that Darcy had a difficulty in arranging a separate conversation. He took Cresswell into the castle, where he left him in an anteroom full of armed men. They gathered about him, and inquired whether Cromwell, 'whom they called most vilipendiously,' was put out of the King's council. He replied that the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Oxford, Lord Sussex, and Sir William Fitzwilliam were with the King. 'God save the King!' they said; 'as long as noblemen of the true blood rule about the King all will be well. But how of Cromwell? Is he put from the council or no?' Cresswell said that he was still on the council. 'Then, whatsoever the Lord Darcy say to you,' they answered, 'show the King and the lords that until our petitions are granted we will take no pardon till we have our will.' Darcy had by this time secured a private room and a few private moments. He called Cresswell in. 'Now tell your message,' he said. 'The Duke of Norfolk desires you,' replied the messenger, 'to deliver up Aske, quick or dead, but if possible, alive; and you shall so show yourself a true subject, and the King will so regard you.' Darcy answered like a nobleman that he had given his faith, and he would not stain his coat. He wrote a few lines to Norfolk—'Alas, my Lord!' his letter said, 'that you, being a man of so great honour, should advise or choose me to betray any living man, Frenchman, Scot, yea, or even Turk. To win for me or for mine heirs the best duke's lands that be in France, I would not do it to no living person.' Nov. 11.The next morning, after mass, he again called Cresswell to him, and bade him tell the King that he had never done better service either to him or to his father than he was doing at that moment, and if there was to be peace, he recommended that the answer to the petition should be returned instantly.
The King had written more than one answer; but m each draught which he had made there was a reservation attached to the promise of a general pardon, excluding in one instance ten persons, in another, six, from the benefit of it; and they were withdrawn all of them in deference to the protests of the Duke of Norfolk. Ellerkar and Bowes were dismissed on the 14th of November, 'with general instructions of comfort.' Norfolk himself, with other commissioners, would return to the North at the end of the month with a final reply.
The ill-humour of the insurgents was meanwhile increasing; division had began to show itself; the people suspected the gentlemen, the gentlemen feared the people, and noisy demonstrations showed Aske that a state of inaction was too dangerous to continue. On the return of Bowes and Ellerkar a hasty council was called at York. The question was put whether they should wait or not for the arrival of the commissioners. Especial exasperation had been caused by a letter of Cromwell to Sir Ralph Evers, in which it was said that, 'unless the commons would be soon pacified, there should be such vengeance taken that the whole world should speak thereof.' Several of the leaders proposed to cut short further parley, and refer the cause to the sword. Darcy had already selected an agent to the Court of Brussels, to beg that arms and ammunition might be sent at once to Hull. Sir Robert Constable declared openly, 'that if his advice might be taken, seeing he had broken one point in the tables with the King, he would yet break another, and have no meeting. He would have all the country made sure from Trent northward; he doubted not they would have joined with them all Lancashire and Cheshire, which would make them strong enough to defend themselves against all men; and then,' he said, he would be content to condescend to the meeting.'
Had this advice been taken, the consequences might have been serious; but the fatal moderation of Aske prevailed over the more audacious but safer counsel. He resolved that the terms offered by the Government should be first discussed, but discussed in security. The musters should reassemble in full force. The northern Parliament and Convocation had been summoned. The two assemblies should sit at Pomfret and not at York, and should meet at the time of the conference.
Nov. 26.Thus, on the 26th. of November, as the King's commissioners approached the borders of Yorkshire, the news reached them that the beacons were again burning, and the force of the commons was again collecting. The conference, if conference there was to be, must be held with their hands on their sword-hilts. The black squadrons, with St Cuthbert's banner, would be swarming on the banks of the Don as before. They had brought down extensive powers, but the King had refused absolutely to grant a complete pardon. Five or six of the worst offenders, he insisted, should be surrendered; and if the rebels were obstinate, Norfolk had been directed to protract the discussion, to win time by policy, that he might himself come to them; and in the mean time to consent to nothing, to promise nothing, and yet do and say nothing 'which might give them warning and respite to fortify themselves.'
But the waters had fallen low; the ground was hard; the sharpest winter had set in which had been known for years. The force which Shrewsbury had with him could not now hold its position in the face of the vast numbers which were collecting. When the number of the rebels who had reassembled was known, Sir John Russell was sent back from Nottingham to tell the King that his conditions could not be insisted upon, and to entreat him not only to grant the full pardon, but to promise also to hold a Parliament in person at York.
Ignorant what the answer would be, Norfolk, with the other commissioners, went on to Doncaster, having prepared his way by a letter to Lord Darcy, to do away the effects of his late overtures. He arrived at the town on the 28th of November. Nov. 27.On Monday the 27th, the northern notables, laity and clergy, had assembled at Pomfret. Thirty-four peers and knights, besides gentlemen and extemporized leaders of the commons, sat in the castle hall; the Archbishop of York and his Convocation in Pomfret church. The discussions of the latter body were opened by the Archbishop in a sermon, in which he dared to declare the meeting unlawful and the insurrection traitorous. He was swiftly silenced: a number of soldiers dragged him out of the pulpit, and threw him down upon the pavement. He was rescued and carried off by a party of his friends, or in a few more moments he would have been murdered. The clergy, delivered from his control, drew up a list of articles, pronouncing successively against each step which had been taken in the Reformation; and other articles simultaneously were drawn by the council in the hall. One by one, as the form of each was resolved upon, they were read aloud to the assembly, and were received with shouts of 'Fiat! Fiat!'
Ten knights were then told off, and ten followers for every knight, to ride down to Doncaster and arrange the preliminaries of the meeting. They saw the Duke on the day of his arrival; Nov. 29.and on Wednesday the 29th, Lord Darcy, Robert Aske, and three hundred of the most eminent of their party, passed the bridge of the Don with a safe-conduct into the town. Wearing their pilgrim's badges, the five wounds of Christ crossed on their breasts, 'they made obeisance on their knees before the Duke and earls, and did humbly require to have the King's most merciful and free pardon for any their offences committed.' This done, they presented their resolutions, on which they had just determined at Pomfret, and the discussion opened. The Duke's hands were tied; he could undertake nothing. The debate continued till Saturday, 'exceeding perplexed,' messengers hurrying to and fro between Doncaster and Pomfret. Dec. 2.At length, on Saturday, Sir John Russell came with the King's revised commission.
Against his judgment Henry had yielded to the entreaties of the privy council. He foresaw that to allow a commotion of such a kind to pass wholly unpunished, was to acknowledge a virtual defeat, and must encourage conduct which would soon lead to a repetition of the same scenes. He refused to admit that Norfolk was justified in his despondency. Skipton still held out. Lord Clifford and Sir William Musgrave had gained possession of Carlisle, and were raising men there. Lord Derby was ready to move with the musters of Cheshire and Lancashire. Besides Shrewsbury's forces, and the artillery at Tickhill, Suffolk had eight thousand men in high order at Lincoln. He 'marvelled that Norfolk should write to him in such extreme and desperate sort, as though the world were turned upside down.' 'We might think,' he said, 'that either things be not so well looked on as they might be, when you can look but only to the one side; or else that ye be so perplexed with the bruits on the one part, that ye do omit to write the good of the other. We could be as well content to bestow some time in the reading of an honest remedy as of so many extreme and desperate mischiefs.' Nevertheless, he said, if the rebels would be contented with the two concessions which Norfolk had desired—a free pardon and a Parliament at York—these, but only these, might be made. No further engagements of any kind should or might be entered into. If more were insisted on, the commissioners should protract the time as skilfully as they could, and send secret expresses to Lord Derby and the Duke of Suffolk, who would advance by forced marches to their support. With this letter he sent a despatch to Suffolk, bidding him hold himself in readiness, instructing him at the same time to use his influence in the West Riding to induce the people to return to their allegiance, and permitting him to make liberal offers and promises in the name of his Government.
The limitation of the new commission was as clear as language could make it. If the Duke of Norfolk committed himself more deeply, it was against the King's express commands, and in the face of repeated warnings.
On the day of Russell's arrival an agreement was made and signed. The pardon and the Parliament were directly promised. It appears, certainly, that further engagements were virtually entered upon, or that words were used, perhaps intentionally vague, which were interpreted by the insurgents through their hopes and wishes. They believed, perhaps they were led to believe, that their entire petition had been granted; they had accomplished the object of their pilgrimage, and they were satisfied.
December.As the conference closed, Aske again fell upon his knees, 'and most humbly required the Duke of Norfolk and all the earls and lords of his part, to desire the lords of the north part to relinquish and refuse thenceforth to nominate him by the name of captain; and they promised: which done, the said Aske, in the presence of all the lords, pulled off his badge crossed with the five wounds, and in a semblable manner did all the lords there, and all others there present, saying all these words, 'We will wear no badge nor figure but the badge of our sovereign Lord.'' A fine scene … yet, as we sometimes witness with a sudden clearance after rain, leaving hanging vapours in the sky, indicating surely that the elements were still unrelieved.
The King had resolved on concession, but not on such concession as the Pomfret council demanded and Norfolk had seemed to promise. He would yield liberally to the substantial interests of the people, but he would yield little to their imaginative sympathies, and to the clergy and the reactionist lords he would not yield a step. The enclosures he intended should be examined into, the fines on renewals of leases should be fixed, and the relations of landlord and tenant so moderated that 'rich, and poor men might live together, every one in his degree according to his calling.' The abbey lands would not be restored to the monks, but he saw the inconvenience of attaching them to the domains of the Crown. They should be disposed of rapidly on terms favourable to the people and unfavourable to himself. In this direction he was ready to do all that he was desired to do; but undo the Reformation—never.
A remarkable state paper, in Cromwell's handwriting, indicates the policy which the King then intended. The northern Parliament was to meet the following summer. There is not the smallest doubt that Henry meant to observe his own promises. He would be present in person. The Queen would accompany him, and the opportunity would be taken for her coronation. Meanwhile, to clear up all misunderstandings, every nobleman and gentleman who had taken part in the insurrection was to be sent for, and should learn from the King himself the bearing of the measures against which they had clamoured, the motives which had led to the adoption of such measures, and the extent to which they would be further carried. A similar invitation should be sent to the principal persons in all other English counties, to come to London and give their advice on questions of social and local reform; and, further, to receive directions to try various experiments in such matters before the meeting of Parliament, 'that his Grace might see what fruit should succeed of them, and so alter and change as he should think meet.' To do away with the suspicion that the Government were favouring heresy, copies of the 'Articles of Faith' were to be scattered liberally through England; select preachers were to be sent in sufficient numbers into the North to explain their meaning; and next there follows a passage which, as written by Cromwell, was a foreshadowing of his own fate.
'Forasmuch as the rebels made the maintenance of the faith one of the chief grounds and causes of the rebellion, it shall be necessary that the King's Highness, in the mean season, see his laws, heretofore taken for the establishment of an unity in the points of religion, put in such experience and execution in those parts as it may appear that his Grace earnestly mindeth and desireth an agreement specially in those things; which will not be done without his Highness do some notable act in those quarters for that purpose.'
Finally, a lieutenant-general and a council were to be permanently established at York as a court of appeal, empowered to hear and decide all local causes and questions. That the Government might not again be taken by surprise, garrisons were to be established in the great towns, 'in such order as they might be continued without hatred of the people.' The ordnance stores should be kept in better preparation, and should be more regularly examined; and, above all, the treasury must be better furnished to meet unforeseen expenses, 'experience showing that princes be not so easily served save where there is prompt payment for service rendered, and the honest labourer is not kept waiting for his hire.
These well-considered suggestions were carried at once into effect. By the end of December many of the gentlemen who had been out in the insurrection had been in London; in their interviews with the King they had been won back to an unreserved allegiance, and had returned to do him loyal service. Lord Darcy and Sir Robert Constable had been invited with the rest; they had declined to present themselves: the former pretended to be ill; Constable, when the King's messenger came to him, 'using no reverend behaviour nor making any convenable answer such as might have tended to his Grace's satisfaction,' shut himself up in a remote castle on the Yorkshire coast. Of the three leaders who had thrown themselves into the insurrection with a fixed and peremptory purpose, Aske alone, the truest and the bravest, ventured to the King's presence. Henry being specially desirous to see a man who had shaken his throne, paid him the respect of sending his request by the hands of a gentleman of the bedchamber. He took him now, he said, for his faithful subject, he wished to talk with him, and to hear from his own lips the history of the rising.
Aske consulted Lord Darcy. Darcy advised him. to go, but to place relays of horses along the road, to carry six servants with him, leaving three at Lincoln, Huntingdon, and Ware, and taking three to London, that in case the King broke faith, and made him prisoner, a swift message might be brought down to Templehurst, and Darcy, though too sick to pay his court to Henry, would be well enough to rescue Aske from the Tower. They would have acted more wisely if they had shown greater confidence. Aske went, however. He saw the King, and wrote out for him a straightforward and manly statement of his conduct—extenuating nothing—boasting of nothing—relating merely the simple and literal truth. Henry repeated his assurance to him that the Parliament should meet at York; and Aske returned, hoping perhaps against hope, at all events, exerting himself to make others hope, that the promises which ihey supposed to have been made to them at Doncaster would eventually be fulfilled. To one person only he ventured to use other language. Immediately that he reached Yorkshire, he wrote to the King describing the agitation which still continued, and his own efforts to appease it. He dwelt upon the expectations which had been formed, and in relating the expressions which were used by others, he indicated not obscurely his own dissatisfaction.
'I do perceive,' he said, 'a marvellous conjecture in the hearts of the people, which is, they do think they shall not have the Parliament in convenient time; secondly, that your Grace hath by your letters written for the most part of the honourable and worshipful of these shires to come to you, whereby they fear not only danger to them, but also to their own selves; thirdly, they be in doubt of your Grace's pardon by reason of a late book answering their first articles, now in print, which is a great rumour amongst them; fourthly, they fear the danger of fortifying holds, and especially because it is said that the Duke of Suffolk would be at Hull, and to remain there; fifthly, they think your Grace intendeth not to accomplish their reasonable petitions by reason now the tenths is in demand; sixthly, they say the report is my lord privy seal is in as great favour with your Grace as ever as he was, against whom they most specially do complain;
'Finally, I could not perceive in all the shires, as I came from your Grace homewards, but your Grace's subjects be wildly minded in their hearts towards commotions or assistance thereof, by whose abetment yet I know not; wherefore, sir, I beseech your Grace to pardon me in this my rude letter and plainness of the same, for I do utter my poor heart to your Grace to the intent your Highness may perceive the danger that may ensue; for on my faith I do greatly fear the end to be only by battle.'
These were the words of a plain, honest man, who was convinced that his conduct had been right, that his demands had been wise, and who was ready to return to rebellion when he found his expectations sliding away. Here, as so often in this world, we have to regret that honesty of purpose is no security for soundness of understanding; that high-hearted, sincere men, in these great questions, will bear themselves so perversely in their sincerity, that at last there is no resource but to dismiss them out of a world in which they have lost their way, and will not, or cannot, recover themselves.
But Aske, too, might have found a better fate, if the bad genius of his party had not now, in an evil hour for him and for many more, come forward upon the scene.
END OF VOL. II.
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- 'The Lord Darcy declared unto me that the custom among the Lords before that time had been that matters touching spiritual authority should always be referred unto the Convocation house, and not for the Parliament house: and that before this last Parliament it was accustomed among the Lords, the first matter they always communed of, after the mass of the Holy Ghost, was to affirm and allow the first chapter of Magna Charta touching the rights and liberties of the Church; and it was not so now. Also the Lord Darcy did say that in any matter which touched the prerogative of the King's crown, or any matter that touched the prejudice of the same, the custom of the Lords' House was that they should have, upon their requests, a copy of the bill of the same, to the intent that they might have their council learned to scan the same; or if it were betwixt party and party, if the bill were not prejudicial to the commonwealth. And now they could have no such copy upon their suit, or at the least so readily as they were wont to have in Parliament before.'—Examination of Robert Aske in the Tower: Rolls House MS. A 2, 29, p. 197.
- 'The said Aske saith he well remembereth that the Lord Darcy told them that there were divers great men and lords which, before the time of the insurrection, had promised to do their best to suppress heresies and the authors and maintainers of them, and he saith they were in number fifteen persons.'—Rolls House Miscellaneous MSS. first series, 414.
- Richard Coren to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. i. p. 558.
- 'The abbeys were one of the beauties of the realm to all strangers passing through.'—Examination of Aske: Rolls House MS. A 2, 29.
- Examination of Aske: MS. ibid. I am glad to have discovered this most considerable evidence in favour of some at least of the superiors of the religious houses.
- 'Strangers and buyers of corn were also greatly refreshed, horse and man, at the abbeys; and merchandise was well carried on through their help.'—Examination of Aske: ibid.
- 27 Henry VIII. cap. 10.
- Among the unarranged MSS. in the State Paper Office is a long and most elaborate explanation of the evils which had been created by the system of uses. It is a paper which ought to find its place in the history of English landed tenure; and when the arrangement of these MSS. now in progress is completed, it will be accessible to any inquirer.
- 'Masters, there is a statute made whereby all persons be restrained to make their will upon their lands; for now the eldest son must have all his father's lands; and no person, to the payment of his debts, neither to the advancement of his daughters' marriages, can do nothing with their lands, nor cannot give to his youngest son any lands.'—Speech of Mr Sheriff Dymock, at Horncastle: Rolls House MS. A 2, 29.
'They want the Statute of Uses qualified, that a man be allowed to bequeath part of his lands by will. It will invade the old accustomed law in many things.'—Examination of Aske: MS. ibid. 'Divers things should be reformed, and especially the Act of Uses. Younger brothers would none of that in no wise.'—Earl of Oxford to Cromwell: Miscellaneous MSS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. i.
- The depositions of prisoners taken after the rebellion are full of evidence on this point. George Gisborne says: 'We were in mind and will to meet for certain causes, the which concerned the living of the poor people and commons, the which they say be sore oppressed by gentlemen, because their livings is taken away.'—Rolls House MS. miscellaneous, first series, 132.
Wm. Stapleton says: 'Among the causes of the insurrection were pulling down of villages and farms, raising of rents, enclosures, intakes of the commons, worshipful men taking yeomen's offices, that is, becoming dealers in farm produce.'—Rolls House MS.
I am tempted to add a petition sent from one of the discontented districts to the Crown, which betrays great ignorance of political economy, although it exhibits also a clear understanding both of the petitioners' sufferings and of the immediate causes of those sufferings.
'Please it your noble Grace to consider the great indigence and scarcity of all manner of victual necessary to your subjects within this realm of England, which doth grow daily more and more, by reason of the great and covetous misusages of the farms within this your realm; which misusages and the inconveniences thereof hath not only been begun and risen by divers gentlemen of the same your realm, but also by divers and many merchant adventurers, cloth makers, goldsmiths, butchers, tanners, and other artificers and unreasonable covetous persons, which doth encroach daily many farms more than they can occupy in tilth of corn; ten, twelve, fourteen, or sixteen farms in one man's hands at once; when in time past there hath been in every farm of them a good house kept, and in some of them three, four, five, or six ploughs kept and daily occupied to the great comfort and relief of your subjects of your realm, poor and rich. For when every man was contented with one farm, and occupied that well, there was plenty and reasonable price of everything that belonged to man's sustenance by reason of tillage; forasmuch as every acre of land tilled and ploughed bore the straw and the chaff besides the corn, able and sufficient with the help of the shakke in the stubbe to succour and feed as many great beasts (as horses, oxen, and kine) as the land would keep: and further, by reason of the hinderflight of the crops and seeds tried out in cleansing, winnowing, and sifting the corn, there was brought up at every barn-door hens, capons, geese, ducks, swine, and other poultry, to the great comfort of your people. And now by reason of so many farms engrossed in one man's hands, which cannot till them, the ploughs be decayed, and the farmhouses and other dwelling-houses; so that when thero was in a town twenty or thirty dwelling-houses they be now decayed, ploughs and all the people clean gone, and the churches down, and no more parishioners in many parishes, but a neatherd and a shepherd instead of three score or four score persons.'—Rolls House MS. miscellaneous, second series, 854.
- Abbot of York to Cromwell—Miscellaneous MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. lii.
- See a very remarkable letter of Sir William Parr to Cromwell, dated April 8, 1536, a few months only before the outbreak of the rebellion: Miscellaneous MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xxxi.
- It was said that the visitors' servants had made apparel, doublets, yea, even saddlecloths, of the churches' vestments.—Examination of John Dakyn: Rolls House MS. miscellaneous, first series, 402.
- Rolls House MS.
- Ibid. miscellaneous, first series, 402.
- Aske's Deposition: Rolls House MS.
- Depositions on the Rebellion, passim, among the MSS. in the State Paper Office and the Rolls House.
- George Lumley, the eldest son of Lord Lumley, said in his evidence that there was not a spiritual man in the whole north of England who had not assisted the rebellion with arms or money.—Rolls House MS.
- The parish priest of Wyley, in Essex, had been absent for three weeks in the north, in the month of August, and on returning about the 2nd of September, said to one of his villagers, Thomas Rogers, 'There shall be business shortly in the north, and I trust to help and strengthen my countrymen with ten thousand such as I am myself; and I shall be one of the worst of them all. The King shall not reign long.'—Confession of Thomas Rogers: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xxx. p. 112.
- Deposition of Thomas Brian: Rolls House MS. A 2, 29.
- We find curious and humorous instances of monastic rage at this time. One monk was seen following a plough, and cursing the day that he should have to work for his bread. Another, a Welshman, 'wished he had the King on Snowdon, that he might souse his head against the stones.'—Depositions on the Rebellion: Rolls House MS.
- Sir Robert Dighton and Sir Edward Dymmock said they heard many of the priests cry, 'Kill the gentlemen.' The parson of Cowbridge said that the lords of the council were false harlots; and the worst was Cromwell. 'The vicar of Haynton, having a great club in his hand, said that if he had Cromwell there he would beat out his guts.' 'Robert Brownwhite, one of the parsons of Nether Teynton, was with bow and arrows, sword and buckler by his side, and sallet on his head; and when he was demanded how he did, he said, 'None so well;' and said 'it was the best world that ever he did see.' My story, so far, is taken from the Miscellaneous Depositions, Rolls MS. A 2, 28; from the Examination of William Moreland, MS. A 2, 29; and from the Confession of John Brown, Rolls House MS. first series, 892.
- Very opposite stories were told of the behaviour of the gentlemen. On one side it was said that they were the great movers of the insurrection; on the other, that they were forced into it in fear of their lives. There were many, doubtless, of both kinds; but it seems to me as if they had all been taken by surprise. Their conduct was that of men who wished well to the rising, but believed it had exploded inopportunely.
- The plough was to encourage the husbandmen; the chalice and host in remembrance of the spoiling of the Church; the five wounds to the couraging of the people to fight in Christ's cause; the horn to signify the taking of Horncastle.—Philip Trotter's Examination: Rolls House MS. A 2, 29.
- Examination of Brian Staines: Rolls House MS. A 2, 29. la the margin of this document, pointing to the last paragraph, is an ominous finger , drawn either by the King or Cromwell.
- Compare the report of Lancaster Herald to Cromwell, MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xix.: 'My especial good lord, so far as I have gone, I have found the most corrupted and malicious spiritualty, inward and partly outward, that any prince of the world hath in his realm; and if the truth be perfectly known, it will be found that they were the greatest corrupters of the temporalty, and have given the secret occasion of all this mischief.'
- Lord Hussey to the Mayor of Lincoln: Cotton. MS. Vespasian, F 13.
- Rolls House MS. first series, 416. Cutler's Confession: MS. ibid. 407. Deposition of Robert Sotheby: ibid. A 2, 29.
- Lord Shrewsbury to the King: MS. State Paper Office. Letter to the King and council, vol. v. Holinshed tells a foolish story, that Lord Shrewsbury sued out his pardon to the King for moving without orders. As he had done nothing for which to ask pardon, so it is certain, from his correspondence with the King, that he did not ask for any. Let me take this opportunity of saying that neither Holinshed, nor Stow, nor even Hall, nor any one of the chroniclers, can be trusted in their account of this rebellion.
- MS. State Paper Office, first series.
- 'My lord: Hugh Ascue, this bearer, hath shewed me that this day a servant of Sir William Hussey's reported how that in manner, in every place by the way as his master and he came, he hath heard as well old people as young pray God to speed the rebellious persons in Lincolnshire, and wish themselves with them; saying, that if they came that way, that they shall lack nothing that they can help them unto. And the said Hugh asked what persons they were which so reported, and he said all; which is a thing as meseemeth greatly to be noted.'—Sir William Fitzwilliam to Lord Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. vi.
- Richard Cromwell to Lord Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. vii.
- 'Nothing we lament so much us that they thus fly; for our trust was that we should have used them like as they have deserved; and I for my part am as sorry as if I had lost five hundred pounds. For my lord admiral (Sir John Russell), he is so earnest in the matter, that I dare say he would eat them with salt.'—Richard Cromwell to Lord Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office.
- Henry VIII. to the rebels in Lincolnshire: State Papers, vol. i. p. 463, &c.
- Confession of Thos. Mayne: Rolls House MS. first series, 432.
- Confession of Thos. Mayne: Rolls House MS. first series, 432.
- Henry VIII. to the Duke of Suffolk: Rolls House MS. first series, 480.
- Wriothesley to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. i. p. 471. Examination of the Prisoners: Rolls House MS.
- Henry VIII. to the Duke of Suffolk: Rolls House MS. first series, 480.
- The captain and the Earl of Cumberland came of two sisters.'—Lord Darcy to Somerset Herald: Rolls House MS.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 523.
- Manner of the taking of Robert Aske: Rolls House MS. A 2, 28.
- 'There was a letter forged in my name to certain towns, which I utterly deny to be my deed or consent.'—Narrative of Robert Aske: Rolls House MS. A 2, 28. This is apparently the letter which is printed in the State Papers, vol. i. p. 467. It was issued on the 7th or 8th of October (see Stapleton's Confession: Rolls House MS. A 2, 28), the days on which, according to Aske's own confession, he seems to have been in the West-Riding.
- The oath varied a little in form. In Yorkshire the usual form was, 'Ye shall swear to be true to God, the King, and the commonwealth.' Aske's Narrative: Rolls House MS. The tendency of the English to bind themselves with oaths, explains and partly justifies the various oaths required by the Government.
- Deposition of William Stapleton: Rolls House MS.
- Henry VIII. to Lord Darcy, October 8th: Rolls House MS. first series, 282.
- Letters to and from Lord Darcy: Rolls House MS. first series, 282.
- Henry had written him a second letter on the 9th of October, in which, knowing nothing as yet of the rising in Yorkshire, he had expressed merely a continued confidence in Darcy's discretion.
- Stapleton's Confession: Rolls House MS. A 2, 28.
- Examination of Sir Thomas Percy: Rolls House MS. Demeanour of Sir Thomas and Sir Ingram Percy: MS. ibid, first series, 896.
- 'The said Aske suffered no foot man to enter the city, for fear of spoils.'—Manner of the taking of Robert Aske: Rolls House MS. A 2, 28.
- Earl of Oxford to Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. iii.
- Henry VIII. to Lord Darcy, October 13: Rolls House MS.
- Lord Darcy to the October 17: MS. ibid.
- Lord Shrewsbury to Lord Darcy; Rolls House MS. first series, 282. Darcy certainly received this letter, since a copy of it is in the collection made by himself.
- Manner of the taking of Robert Aske: Rolls House MS. A 2, 28.
- I believe that I am unnecessarily tender to Lord Darcy's reputation. Aske, though he afterwards contradicted himself, stated in his examination that Lord Darcy could have defended the castle had he wished.—Rolls House MS. A 2, 29. It was sworn that when he was advised 'to victual and store Pomfret,' he said, 'there was no need; it would do as it was.'—Ibid. And Sir Henry Saville declared that 'when Darcy heard of the first rising, he said, 'Ah! they are up in Lincolnshire. God speed them well. I would they had done this three years ago, for the world should have been the better for it.''—Ibid.
- Aske's Deposition: Rolls House MS. first series, 414.
- Examination of Sir Thomas Percy; Rolls House MS.
- Stapleton's Confession: Rolls House MS. A 2, 28.
- Examination of Christopher Aske; Rolls House MS. first series, 840.
- Examination of Christopher Aske: Rolls House MS. first series, 840.
- Henry VIII. to the Duke of Suffolk: Rolls House MS.
- Wriothesley to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. i. p. 472.
- The Marquis of Exeter, who was joined in commission with the Duke of Norfolk, never passed Newark. He seems to have heen recalled, and sent down into Devonshire, to raise the musters in his own county.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 493.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 519.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 495.
- This particular proclamation—the same, apparently, which was read by Christopher Aske at Skipton—I have been unable to find. That which is printed in the State Papers from the Rolls House Records, belongs to the following month. The contents of the first, however, may be gathered from a description of it by Robert Aske, and a comparison of the companion proclamation issued in Lincolnshire. It stated briefly that the insurrection was caused by forged stories; that the King had no thought of suppressing parish churches, or taxing food or cattle. The abbeys had been dissolved by Act of Parliament in consequence of their notorious vice and profligacy. The people, therefore, were commanded to return to their homes, at their peril. The commotion in Lincolnshire was put down. The King was advancing in person to put them down also, if they continued disobedient.
- In explanation of his refusal, Aske said afterwards that it was for two causes: first, that if the herald should have declared to the people by proclamation that the commons in Lincolnshire were gone to their homes, they would have killed him; secondly, that there was no mention in the same proclamation neither of pardon nor of the demands which were the causes of their assembly.—Aske's Narrative: Rolls House MS. A 2, 28.
- Lancaster Herald's Report: State Papers, vol. i. p. 485.
- Stapleton's Confession; Rolls House MS. A 2, 28.
- 'We were 30,000 men, as tall men, well horsed, and well appointed as any men could be.'—Statement of Sir Marmaduke Constable; MS. State Paper Office. All the best evidence gives this number.
- Not the place now known under this name—but a bridge over the Don three or four miles above Doncaster.
- So Aske states.—Examination: Rolls House MS., first series, 838. Lord Darcy went further. 'If he had chosen,' he said, 'he could have fought Lord Shrewsbury with his own men, and brought never a man of the northmen with him.' Somerset Herald, on the other hand, said, that the rumour of disaffection was a feint. 'One thing I am sure of,' he told Lord Darcy, 'there never were men more desirous to fight with men than ours to fight with you.' Rolls House MS.
- 'Sir Marmaduke Constable did say, if there had been a battle, the southern men would not have fought. He knew that every third man was theirs. Further, he said the King and his council determined nothing but they had knowledge before my lord of Norfolk gave them knoweledge.'—Earl of Oxford to Cromwell; MS. State Paper Office.
- 'I saw neither gentlemen nor commons willing to depart, but to proceed in the quarrel; yea, and that to the death. If I should say otherwise, I lie.'—Aske's Examination: Rolls House MS.
- Rutland and Huntingdon were in Shrewsbury's camp by this time.
- 'They wished,' said Sir Marmaduke Constable, 'the King had sent some younger lords to fight with them than my lord of Norfolk and my lord of Shrewsbury. No lord in England would have stayed them but my lord of Norfolk.'—Earl of Oxford to Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office.
- The chroniclers tell a story of a miraculous fall of rain, which raised the river the day before the battle was to have been fought, and which was believed by both sides to have been an interference of Providence. Cardinal Pole also mentions the same fact of the rain, and is bitter at the superstitions of his friends; and yet, in the multitude of depositions which exist, made by persons present, and containing the most minute particulars of what took place, there is no hint of anything of the kind. The waters had been high for several days, and the cause of the unbloody termination of the crisis was more creditable to the rebel leaders.
- Second Examination of Robert Aske: Rolls House MS. first series, 838. It is true that this is the story of Aske himself, and was told when, after fresh treason, he was on trial for his life. But his bearing at no time was that of a man who would stoop to a lie. Life comparatively was of small moment to him.
- Uncle of Marjory, afterwards wife of John Knox. Marjory's mother, Elizabeth, to whom so many of Knox's letters were addressed, was an Aske, but she was not apparently one of the Aughton family.
- Aske's Narrative: Rolls Home MS. A 2, 28.
- Instructions to Sir Thomas Kilton and his Companions; Rolls House MS.
There are many groups of 'articles' among the Records. Each focus of the insurrection had its separate form; and coming to light one by one, they have created much confusion. I have thought it well, therefore, to print in full, from Sir Thomas Hilton's instructions, a list, the most explicit, as well as most authentic, which is extant.
'I. Touching our faith, to have the heresies of Luther, Wickliffe, Huss, Melancthon, Œcolampadius, Bucer's Confessio Germanica, Apologia Melancthonis, the works of Tyndal, of Barnes, of Marshal, Raskall, St Germain, and such other heresies of Anabaptists, clearly within this realm to be annulled and destroyed.
'II. To have the supreme head, touching cura animarum, to be reserved unto the See of Rome, as before it was accustomed to be, and to have the consecration of the bishops from him, without any first-fruits or pensions to him to be paid out of this realm; or else a pension reasonable for the outward defence of our faith.
'III. We humbly beseech our most dread sovereign lord that the Lady Mary may be made legitimate, and the former statute therein annulled, for the danger if the title might incur to the Crown of Scotlaud. This to be in Parliament.
'IV. To have the abbeys suppressed to be restored—houses, lands, and goods.
'V. To have the tenths and first-fruits clearly discharged, unless the clergy will of themselves grant a rent-charge in penalty of the augmentation of the Crown.
'VI. To have the friars observants restored unto their houses again.
'VII. To have the heretics, bishops and temporals, and their sect, to have condign punishment by fire, or such other; or else to try the quarrel with us and our partakers in battle.
'VIII. To have the Lord Cromwell, the lord chancellor, and Sir Richard Rich to have condign punishment as subverters of the good laws of this realm, and maintainers of the false sect of these heretics, and first inventors and bringers in of them.
'IX. That the lands in Westmoreland, Cumberland, Kendal, Furness, the abbey lands in Massamshire, Kirkbyshire, and Netherdale, may be by tenant right, and the lord to have at every change two years' rent for gressam [the fine paid on renewal of a lease; the term is, I believe, still in use in Scotland], and no more, according to the grant now made by the lords to the commons there under their seal; and this to be done by Act of Parliament.
'X. The statute of hand-guns and cross-bows to be repealed, and the penalties thereof, unless it be on the King's forest or park for the killing of his Grace's deer, red or fallow.
'XI. That Doctor Legh and Doctor Layton may have condign punishment for their extortions in the time of visitation, as bribes of nuns, religious houses, forty pounds, twenty pounds, and so to —— leases under one common seal, bribes by them taken, and other their abominable acts by them committed and done.
'XII. Restoration for the election of knights of shires and burgesses, and for the uses among the lords in the Parliament house, after their antient custom.
'XIII. Statutes for enclosures and intakes to be put in execution, and that all intakes and enclosures since the fourth year of King Henry the Seventh be pulled down, except on mountains, forests, or parks.
'XIV. To be discharged of the fifteenth, and taxes now granted by Act of Parliament.
'XV. To have the Parliament in a convenient place at Nottingham or York, and the same shortly summoned.
'XVI. The statute of the declaration of the Crown by will, that the same be annulled and repealed.
'XVII. That it be enacted by Act of Parliament that all recognizances, statutes, penalties under forfeit, during the time of this commotion, may be pardoned and discharged, as well against the King as strangers.
'XVIII. That the privileges and rights of the Church be confirmed by Act of Parliament; and priests not to suffer by the sword unless they be degraded. A man to be saved by his book; sanctuary to save a man for all cases in extreme need; and the Church for forty days, and further, according to the laws as they were used in the beginning of this King's days.
'XIX. The liberties of the Church to have their old customs, in the county palatine of Durham, Beverley, Ripon, St Peter's at York, and such other, by Act of Parliament.
'XX. To have the Statute of Uses repealed.
'XXI. That the statutes of treasons for words and such like, made since anno 21 of our sovereign lord that now is, be in like wise repealed.
'XXII. That the common laws may have place, as was used in the beginning of your Grace's reign; and that all injunctions may be clearly decreed, and not to be granted unless the matter be heard and determined in Chancery.
'XXIII. That no man, upon subpœnas from Trent north, appear but at York, or by attorney, unless it be upon pain of allegiance, or for like matters concerning the King.
'XXIV. A remedy against escheators for finding of false offices, and extortionate fees-taking, which be not holden of the King, and against the promoters thereof.'
A careful perusal of these articles will show that they are the work of many hands, and of many spirits. Representatives of each of the heterogeneous elements of the insurrection contributed their grievances; wise and foolish, just and unjust, demands were strung together in the haste of the moment.
For the original of this remarkable document, see Instructions to Sir Thomas Hilton, Miscellaneous Depositions on the Rebellion: Rolls House MS.
- Aske's Narrative: Rolls House MS.
- Lord Darcy to Somerset Herald: Rolls House MS.
- The following letter was written by some unknown person to the Regent of the Low Countries. The original is in the Archives at Brussels.
——to Her Majesty the Queen Regent.
[MS. Archives at Brussels.]
London, October, 1536.
Most Noble Lady, I am instructed to inform your Majesty that on Monday, the 2nd of this present October, in the northern counties in the diocese of Lincoln, the King's officers and commissioners were proceeding with the demolition of four abbeys, when certain peasants, by God's will, commenced a riot under the conduct of a brave shoemaker named William King.[*] The chief commissioner, Doctor Lee, who was especially obnoxious to the people, as the summoner who cited the late Queen, your aunt, now in glory, before the Archbishop of Canterbury, contrived to escape; but his cook was taken, and, as a beginning, the people hanged him. A gentleman belonging to the Lord Privy Seal, otherwise called Master Cromwell, tried to stop them; and he too was immediately laid hands on, wrapped in the hide of a newly-killed calf, and worried and devoured by dogs; the mob swearing they would do as much for his master. The people went next to the house of the Bishop of Lincoln, whom they could not find; but they caught his chancellor, and to spite the Bishop, who is said to have been the first person to advise the King to divorce your aunt, they killed him.
The next day, being Tuesday, there were more than ten thousand of them in arms; and they proceeded to take the gentlemen of the neighbourhood, and swear them to be true to their cause. The cobler assumed a cloak of crimson velvet, with the words embroidered in large letters upon it,
FOR GOD, THE KING, AND THE COMMONWEALTH.
When these news reached London, the King called a council; and immediately after the meeting, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and the other lords, dispersed in different directions, as it was said, to prevent the insurrection from spreading. The admiral and Sir Francis Brian went down to Ampthill, and collected about ten thousand men out of Northamptonshire and the counties adjoining. On Sunday the King was said to be going to Ampthill also, and the royal standard was expected to be displayed. Sunday afternoon I saw thirty-four of the falconets which the King has been making during the last year leave the Tower of London. There was no shot or powder, however, that I could see, and they were badly provided with artillerymen. The next day, when they were drawn out of the City, the horses were found so bad, that, for want of better, thirteen of the guns went but a mile, and then returned to the Tower; while the remainder were taken but a small distance. Men are hired, as many as can be obtained, in Kent and elsewhere; but the chances are that when in face of the enemy they will turn their coats, and join the rebels in their good quarrel. Those who have risen say they will live like their forefathers; they will maintain the abbeys and the churches, and pay no more imposts and subsidies. They demand the repayment of the sums which they have been forced to contribute already, especially the great loan exacted from them in the Cardinal's time; and, finally, they will have surrendered into their hands the wool-comber (by whom they mean Cromwell), the tavern-keeper (which is their name for the Archbishop of Canterbury), and divers other bishops and lords of the council.
It was reported in London on Monday that the Earl of Northumberland's brother had joined the Commons with thirty thousand men. He wanted lately to be declared the Earl's heir; the King made difficulties, and he now means to be revenged. It was also said that a number of other lords and great men had been forced to join, by a threat that they should have their houses pillaged; this has been done already with the houses of those who, after taking the oath, have deserted to the King. A priest and a shoemaker were stated to have been hanged the same morning for merely saying it was a pity to collect an army to put down such poor people. The King declared that they cared more for a set of rascals than for him.
Thursday morning a knight went down to the coast to fetch off the workmen employed by the King. The town of Sandwich also has provided sixty poorly furnished men-at-arms. The frontiers are now unprotected, and a landing can bo easily effected. Even the French tailors in London are pressed to serve. They give them harquebusses and two groats a-day, making four ducats the month, for their pay, with a groat to drink for every five leagues they march. The Flemish shoemakers are made to go on the same terms. To the English they give but sixpence a-day, with the same drink money as they allow the French. Madame, it appears to the person who has been sent to me by your Majesty, that it is good fishing in troubled waters; and that now, in these disturbances, there is an opportunity such as there has not been these hundred years, to take vengeance upon the schismatic for the wrongs which he has done with his French alliances to his Majesty the Emperor, for the injuries of your late aunt, his lawful wife, and for the iniquitous treatment of his patient daughter the Princess. A portion of the army now in readiness in Zealand would suffice to restore the Princess to her place and rank. Two thousand harquebuss men (it is of those that the need is greatest) should be landed at the mouth of the river which runs from York.
^ Nicholas Melton was the name of the man who was called Captain Cobler.
- Richard Cromwell to Lord Cromwell: MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. vii.
- Devices for the Quieting of the North: Rolls House MS. first series, 606.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 507–8.
- Bundle of unassorted MSS. in the State Paper Office.
- Rolls House MS., second series, 278
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 476, and compare p. 500. The instructions varied according to circumstances. There were many forms of them, of which very few are printed in the State Papers. I extract from several, in order to give the general effect.
- The King's words are too curious to be epitomized. The paper from which I here quote is written by his secretary, evidently from dictation, and in great haste. After speaking of the way in which the vow of chastity had been treated by the monks, he goes on—
'For the point of wilful poverty they have gathered together such possessions, and have so exempted themselves from all laws and good order with the same, that no prince could live in that quiet, in that surety, in that ease, yea, in that liberty, that they lived. The prince must carke and care for the defence of his subjects against foreign enemies, against force and oppression; he must expend his treasures for their safeguard; he must adventure his own blood, abiding all storms in the field, and the lives of his nobles, to deliver his poor subjects from the bondage and thrall of their mortal enemies. The monks and canons meantime lie warm in their demesnes and cloysters. Whosoever wants, they shall be sure of meat and drink, warm clothing, money, and all other things of pleasure. They may not fight for their prince and country; but they have declared at this rebellion that they might fight against their prince and country. Is not this a great and wilful poverty, to be richer than a prince?—to have the same in such certainty as no prince hath that tendereth the weal of his subjects? Is not this a great obedience, that may not obey their prince, and against God's commandment, against their duties of allegiance, whereto they be sworn upon the Holy Evangelists, will labour to destroy their prince and country, and devise all ways to shed Christian blood? The poor husbandman and artificer must labour all weathers for his living and the sustentation of his family. The monk and canon is sure of a good house to cover him, good meat and drink to feed him, and all other things meeter for a prince than for him that would be wilfully poor. If the good subject will ponder and weigh these things, he will neither be grieved that the King's Majesty have that for his defence and the maintenance of his estate, so that he shall not need to molest his subjects with taxes and impositions, which loiterers and idle fellows, under the cloke of holyness, have scraped together, nor that such dissimulers be punished after their demerits, if they will needs live like enemies to the commonwealth.'—Rolls House MS. first series, 297.
- Sir Brian Hastings to Lord Shrewsbury; Rolls Home MS. first series, 268.
- Sir Brian Hastings to Lord Shrewsbury: Rolls House MS. first series, 268.
- He was a bad, violent man. In earlier years he had carried off a ward in Chancery, one Anne Grysanis, while still a child, and attempted to marry her by force to one of his retainers.—Rolls House MS. second series, 434.
- Sir Brian Hastings to Lord Shrewsbury: Rolls House MS, first series, 636.
- Shrewsbury to the King: MS. State Paper Office; Letters to the King and Council, vol. v.
- MS. State Paper Office, second series, vol. xxxvi.
- Suffolk to the King: MS. State Paper Office; Letters to the King and Council, vol. v.
- It is to be remembered that Deircy still professed that he had been forced into the insurrection by Aske. This is an excuse for Norfolk's request, though it would have been no excuse for Darcy had he consented.
- Deposition of Percival Cresswell: Rolls House MS. A 2, 29.
- MS. State Paper Office, first series. Autograph letter of Lord Darcy to the Duke of Norfolk. It is unfortunately much injured.
- One of these is printed in the State Papers, vol. i. p. 506. The editor of these Papers does not seem to have known that neither this nor any written answer was actually sent. Amidst the confusion of the MSS. of this reign, scattered between the State Paper Office, the Rolls House, and the British Museum, some smothered in dirt and mildew, others in so frail a state that they can he scarcely handled or deciphered, far greater errors would be pardonable. The thanks of all students of English history are due to Sir John Romilly for the exertions which he has made and is still making to preserve the remnants of these most curious documents.
- Henry VIII. to the Earl of Rutland Rolls House MS. first series, 454.
- Aske's Narrative: Rolls House MS.
- Rolls Home MS. first series, 1805; and see State Papers, vol. 1 p.588.
- Deposition of John Selbury: Rolls House MS. A 2, 29.
- Sir Anthony Wingfield to the Duke of Norfolk: Rolls House MS. first series, 692.
- The Duke of Norfolk, Sir William Fitzwilliam, Sir John Russell, and Sir Anthony Brown.
- The Duke of Suffolk feared an even larger gathering: where heretofore they took one man, he warned Norfolk, they now were taking six or seven. State Paper Office MS. first series, vol. iii. Lord Darcy assured Somerset Herald that they had a reserve of eighty thousand men in Northumberland and Durham—which, however, the herald did not believe. Rolls House MS.
- The King to the Duke of Norfolk: Rolls House MS. first series, 278.
- MS. State Paper Office
- The names of the thirty-four were Lords Darcy, Neville, Scrope, Conyers, Latimer, and Lumley; Sir Robert Constable, Sir John Danvers, Sir Robert Chaloner, Sir James Strangways, Sir Christopher Danby, Sir Thomas Hilton, Sir William Constable, Sir John Constable, Sir William Vaughan, Sir Ralph Ellerkar, Sir Christopher Heliyarde, Sir Robert Neville, Sir Oswald Wolstrop, Sir Edward Gower, Sir George Darcy, Sir William Fairfax, Sir Nicholas Fairfax, Sir William Mallore, Sir Ralph Bulmer, Sir Stephen Hamarton, Sir John Dauncy, Sir George Lawson, Sir Richard Tempest, Sir Thomas Evers, Sir Henry Garrowe, and Sir William Babthorpe.
- Examination of John Dakyn: Rolls House MS. first series, p. 402.
- They have been printed by Strype (Memorials, vol. ii. p. 266). Strype, however, knew nothing of the circumstances which gave them birth.
- Henry VIII. to the Duke of Norfolk: State Papers, vol. i. p. 511. The council, who had wrung these concessions from the King, wrote by the same courier, advising the Duke to yield as little as possible—'not to strain too far, but for his Grace's honour and for the better security of the commonwealth, to except from pardon, if by any means he might, a few evil persons, and especially Sir Robert Hardwicke State Papers, vol. i. p. 27.
- 'You may of your honour promise them not only to obtain their pardons, but also that they shall find us as good and gracious lord unto them as ever we were before this matter was attempted; which promise we shall perform and accomplish without exception.'—Henry VIII. to the Duke of Suffolk: Rolls House MS. first series, 476.
- Aske, in his Narrative, which is in the form of a letter to the King, speaks of 'the articles now concluded at Doncaster, which were drawn, read, argued, and agreed among the lords and esquires' at Pomfret.—Rolls House MS.
- Aske's Narrative: Rolls House MS. A 2, 28.
- Instructions to the Earl of Sussex: Rolls House MS. first series, 299
- Scheme for the Government of the North: Rolls House MS. first series, 900. In connection with the scheme for the establishment of garrisons, a highly curious draft of an Act was prepared, to be submitted to the intended Parliament.
Presuming that, on the whole, the suppression of the monasteries would be sanctioned, the preamble stated (and the words which follow are underlined in the MS.) that—
'Nevertheless, the experiencewhich we have had by those houses that are already suppressed sheweth plainly unto us that a great hurt and decay is thereby come, and hereafter shall come, to this realm, and great impoverishing of many the poor subjects thereof, for lack of hospitality and good householding that were wont in them to be kept, to the great relief of the poor people of all the counties adjoining the said monasteries, besides the maintaining of many smiths, husbandmen, and labourers that were kept in the said houses.
It should therefore be enacted
1. That all persons taking the lands of suppressed houses must duly reside upon the said lands, and must keep hospitality; and that it be so ordered in the leases.
'2. That all houses, of whatsoever order, habit, or name, lying beyond the river of Trent northward, and not suppressed, should stand still and abide in their old strength and foundation.
'3. That discipline so sadly decayed should be restored among them; that all monks, being accounted dead persons by the law, should not mix themselves in worldly matters, but should be shut up within limited compass, having orchards and gardens to walk in and labour in—each monk having forty shillings for his stipend, each abbot and prior five marks—and in each house a governor, to be nominated by the King, to administer the revenue and keep hospitality.
'4. A thousand marks being the sum estimated as sufficient to maintain an abbey under such management, the surplus revenue was then to be made over to a court, to be called the Curia Centenariorum, for the defence of the realm, and the maintenance in peace as well as war of a standing army; the said men of war, being in wages in the time of peace, to remain in and about the towns, castles, and fortresses, within the realm at the appointment of the lord admiral, as he should think most for the surety of the realm.'
A number of provisions follow for the organization of the court, which was to sit at Coventry as a central position, for the auditing the accounts, the employment of the troops, &c. The paper is of great historic value, although with a people so jealous of their liberties, it was easy to foresee the fate of the project. It is among the Cotton. MSS. Cleopatra, E 4, fol. 215.
- Hardwicke State Papers, vol. i. p. 38.
- State Papers, vol. i. p. 523.
- Confession of George Lascelles Rolls House MS. first series, 774.
- And for another reason. They were forced to sue out their pardons individually, and received them only as Aske and Lord Darcy had been obliged to do, by taking the oath of allegiance and binding themselves to obey the obnoxious statutes so long as they were unrepealed.—Rolls House MS. first series, 471.
- Robert Aske to the King: MS. State Paper Office, Royal Letters.