This Day in History: 1536-10-21
On 21st October 1536, 40,0000 protesters under Robert Aske marched on Pontefract Castle during the Pilgrimage of Grace. On the same day, Sir Thomas Percy, Recorder of Lincoln and a leading figure in the Pilgrimage of Grace, arrived at Pontefract Castle with nearly ten thousand men from the north-east (Percy was also a participant in the Bigod Rebellion the following year and was to be hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor at Tyburn on 2nd June 1537). Lord Darcy, who was sheltering the Archbishop of York, Sir Robert Constable and some forty other gentlemen, later surrendered the castle without a fight. He later claimed that there was not enough gunpowder to fill a walnut shell and no firewood for cooking for his men. The Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular uprising that began in Yorkshire in October 1536 (but was pre-dated by a Lincolnshire rebellion), before spreading to other parts of Northern England including Cumberland, Northumberland and north Lancashire, under the leadership of lawyer, Robert Aske. The “most serious of all Tudor rebellions”, it was a protest against Henry VIII‘s break with the Roman Catholic Church, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the policies of the king’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, as well as other specific political, social and economic grievances. A list of “24 Articles”, sometimes called “The Commons’ Petition”, was given to the Duke of Norfolk at Doncaster on December 6th. The rebels agreed to disband if the king reviewed the demands: a freely elected parliament at York acting on the same, and if the rebels received parliamentary pardon for taking part in the rebellion and for all acts committed during such. Norfolk received the articles with promises to present them to the king. He also promised a parliament at York and a general pardon to the rebels. Robert Aske announced these promises to the Pilgrims, and the rebels disbanded. Aske visited the king in London, but returned to York in January with nothing more than vague promises. In January 1537, rebels under Sir Francis Bigod, who had realized the king had no intention of respecting either the Pilgrims’ demands, or the promises made to them, started a new uprising. This gave the king an excuse to violently stamp out the rebellion in the North and to renege on the promises made on his behalf by Norfolk.