The Pilgrimage of Grace

The Pilgrimage of Grace

1536AD - 1537AD

To justify closing the monasteries and seizing their assets, Henry VIII sent out church commissioners to seek out ‘manifest sin, vicious carnal and abominable living’.  They reached York in 1536.

Soon afterwards the commissioners published a damning report allowing Parliament to pass an Act to dissolve religious houses worth less than £200 a year.  Both Clementhorpe Nunnery and Holy Trinity Priory in Micklegate fell victim in summer 1536.

Monks expelled from religious houses led a revolt from the Yorkshire town of Beverley in October 1536 which became known as the Pilgrimage Of Grace.  Yorkshire lawyer and landowner Robert Aske gave it that title, and led around 5,000 horsemen through York to the Minster, where he posted an order restoring banished monks and nuns to their religious houses.

Soon after Aske left York, Sir Thomas Percy and the Abbot of St Mary’s rode through York with 10,000 men on their way south to join him at Pontefract.  Here, negotiations averted a battle between these forces and a royal army.

In December York sent a delegation to the Pontefract conference between the pilgrims and the Duke of Norfolk, who represented the king.  A royal pardon brought the rebellion to an end.

But fresh uprisings in the new year broke the fragile peace. Aske was arrested on new charges of treason and he was sent back to York for execution.  He was hanged from Clifford’s Tower on July 12 1537.

The king came to York four years later, and the city did all it could to make amends for its association with the rebels.  On September 15 the Mayor, aldermen and councillors gathered alongside a crowd of commoners at Fulford Cross to meet Henry and his new bride Katherine Howard.

The crowd knelt before their king as the Recorder confessed to the most heinous offence of traitorous rebellion. They “from the bottoms of their stomach repentant”, promised to spend their all in the royal service.

After this fulsome speech, the king was presented with of cups of “silver double gilt”, that contained £100 in gold for the king and £40 for the queen.

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