Pilgrimage of Grace is the name given to a series of rebellions that broke out in Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire in 1536 and quickly spread to other parts of the north of England. They were sparked off by popular discontent about Henry VIII’s religious policies, especially the dissolution of the monasteries.
However underlying causes also included social and economic unrest caused by rising prices, changes to the laws of land ownership, and a general opposition to the regime of Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell.
In what was actually quite a severe threat to Henry’s government, a large army marched south from York under the leadership of a Yorkshire gentleman and lawyer called Robert Aske. The rebels were met at Doncaster by the Duke of Norfolk who, acting on behalf of the King, promised that if they dispersed there would be no reprisals against them and that their grievances would be discussed in Parliament.
Hearing this, the rebels duly returned home but further outbreaks of trouble in 1537 gave Henry the opportunity to renege on these promises. Around 200 people were executed for their parts in the rebellion, including Robert Aske who was hung in chains from Clifford’s Tower in York.