The Pilgrimage of Grace

Robert Aske: The Pilgrim's Oath

[Click on image to enlarge] Opponents of the English Reformation included not only lofty figures like Thomas More but thousands of ordinary people of all social classes, appalled by changes which included the dissolution of monasteries and abbeys and the seizure of church property. They were horrified as well by the removal or defacement of religious images. (The screen of Saint George shown here was one of thousands of venerated images defaced by Protestant iconoclasts determined to root out what they regarded as idolatry.)

Popular resistance to Protestantism was especially strong in the north and west of the country, far from the center of government. In October 1536, the determination of the townsfolk of Louth in Lincolnshire to defend the treasures of their church from confiscation blossomed into an uprising of twenty thousand men. This disorganized revolt collapsed as swiftly as it had begun, but not before inspiring similar uprisings in the counties to the north. Led by the eloquent lawyer Robert Aske, the rebels took control of York and other cities in the north. They called their movement "The Pilgrimage of Grace." By the end of October the government was forced to negotiate a truce, promising to seriously consider the rebels' grievances, and peace was restored. The next year, however, Henry VIII moved suddenly to have the leaders of the rebellion arrested and executed.

The Pilgrims' Oath, devised by Robert Aske, was issued after the rebels entered York. Copies were swiftly distributed throughout the north of England.


Ye shall not enter into this our Pilgrimage of Grace for the commonwealth, but only for the love that ye do bear unto Almighty God his faith, and to Holy Church militant and the maintenance thereof; to the preservation of the King's person and his issue, to the purifying of the nobility, and to expulse all villein >> note 1 blood and evil councillors against the commonwealth from his Grace and his Privy Council of the same. And that ye shall not enter into our said Pilgrimage for no particular profit to yourself, nor to do any displeasure to any private person, but by counsel of the commonwealth, nor slay nor murder for no envy, but in your hearts put away all fear and dread, and take afore you the Cross of Christ, and in your hearts His faith, the restitution of the Church, the suppression of these heretics and their opinions, by all the holy contents of this book.

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