Were the changes in religious policy the reason for the rebellions of 1549

Length: 813 words

Both the Western Rebellion and the Kett Rebellion of 1549 were partially caused by a lack of satisfaction with the changes to religious policy, and it must be noted that the overall religious opinion was greatly divided. The Western Rebellion, otherwise known as the Prayer book Rebellion, took an anti-protestant attitude, whereas the Kett Rebellion showed a great support for the protestant reforms, and as mentioned in Source 1, desired for these to be taken further. These, however, are not the only motives for the rebellions.

Sources 1-3 support this, illustrating other issues which are political, social, and economic, in particular relating to the Kett rebellion and grievances with ‘enclosures’ and ‘rent’. Arguably, religious grievances were the primary motive behind the Western Rebellion. It began in Cornwall, where in the mid-16th Century, society was somewhat isolated and also devoted to the ‘old ways’ in religion. Essentially, they remained Catholic despite the Protestant reforms which had begun to sweep throughout England.

Source 3 speaks of the ‘revolutionary changes’ which were in the process of being enforced by Edward and his council, most of which were pushing for an entirely Protestant Reform. The prayer book was a part of it, and the rebellion took off

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fully on the release of this Prayer Book, which was enforced by the Act of Uniformity of 1549. As Source 2 supports, people were told that if they continued ‘ceremony or manner of Mass’ or spoke ‘against the said book’, they would be punished accordingly, either loosing profit of risking imprisonment.

It was these demands which triggered the full uprising, also known by the ‘Prayer Book Rebellion’, as its primary motive was distaste for the religious changes which prevented people from practising the Catholic traditions they were so used to. There was 24 demands made in total, and of these 24, the large majority were religious. They essentially wanted to revert back to the Catholic ways, as supported by the large presence of the clergy within the rebellion, demonstrating their passion for the Catholic faith. This in itself proves that the changes in religious policy were the main reason behind the Western Rebellion of 1549.

The same cannot be said for the Kett Rebellion. This originated in Norfolk, a primarily protestant area, and the people of Norfolk supported the direction in which the reforms were going. In fact, they believed that they were not rigorous enough, and in their demands, they requested that the policies were taken further and made even more protestant. Their demands dispute the claim made by D. Loades in Source 3 that the reforms were the ‘most revolutionary changes which had ever taken place in the worship and doctrine of the English Church’.

Yet it would support his theory of ‘confused ideology’ being the cause of the problems of 1549. The reforms were simply not protestant enough, and although this would have been a cause for concern with those who were more dedicated to the Protestant faith, it would not have been a motivator for a rebellion. This is backed up in source 1, which sees the demands for religious changes more as suggestions for improvement, and the true issue being social, economic and political problems, such as ‘enclosures’ and ‘rent’.

Economic and social issues simply were not seen as a problem associated with the Western Rebellion, especially as land use was not argued over often, and ‘intruded’ gentry was comparatively rare. Political issues were also small, and did not even feature on their final demands. They showed a loyalty to the government despite frustration with the religious changes. This is further enforcing my point made earlier, that the changes in religious policy were the main reason behind the Western Rebellion of 1549. However the Kett rebellion was primarily motivated by the other issues, problems which are social, economic, and political.

Despite the majority of the demands outlined in Source 1 relating to religious grievances, the most important are the ones reflecting economic and social problems. In particular, rebels show issue with the ‘enclosures’ and ‘rent’, requesting that rent of meadow ground and grassland be ‘as they were in the first year of King Henry VII’. These problems override those of religious nature, proving that for the Kett Rebellion, changes in religious policy were not the reason for it. In conclusion, I believe that the difference in religious belief is the background for the difference in motivation for the rebellions of 1549.

As the Western rebellion took place in a predominantly Catholic area, it is only natural for their issue to be with the protestant changes preventing them from practising their rituals as they would have previously. This is enforced by a lack of social, economic and political issues. Whereas the Kett rebellion could not have been against changes to religion, as it is going in the same way as them, towards total Protestantism. However, they did have the economic and social problems, which were their motivator for rebellion.

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