Edward answers Western rebels

Privy Council response to some of the grievances made by the rebels in the Western Rising, July, 1549 (SP10/8/6, f.17r-19r)

In this long and lively letter, ‘the king’ – that is, the Privy Council – responded to some of the grievances made by the rebels in the Western Rising.  Note the rather cutting way in which the councillors respond to those grievances, undermining the rebels’ concerns and satirising their claims to know better.


The king’s Majesty’s answer to the supplication [petition] made in the name of his highnesses subjects of Devon and Cornwall

… We have answered to a great part of your supplication by a message sent to our people of Devonshire, to which the intent it might be more common and seen of many, we have caused to be put in print. There ye shall learn how much ye be deceived in many points and how they abuse you with lies that would have you thus in this confusion.

First of Baptism ye are put in fear that your children should not be christened but upon the holy day.  There [be?] no day, time nor hour but by our order the priest may christen the child if it be brought unto him even as he might before this time.

The order of confirmation ye seem not to dislike but you think your children shall not learn it except [if] they go to school. The curate is appointed to teach it them without going to school.  And it is not so long, and again it is so godly, that one child once having learned it will soon teach it twenty. How did ye all learn before the Pater Noster, Ave, and Credo, in Latin which were a strange language, and which ye did not understand: And cannot your children learn so much in English which is no more but the belief in effect and the ten commandments, the which all men must know upon pain of damnation?  And here in the bishop and curate must have discretion if such impediment be in the church that he cannot answer distinctly if it do not come of malice but of infirmity of wit or nature he shall not therefore deny the children of full age either confirmation or the holy sacrament: Ever heretofore and ever here after discretion in such cases must rule and not straight laws and yet so to do according to wise discretion is not against the law but with it.

The six articles and the statutes that made words treason and other such severe laws ye seem to require again that which all our whole parliament almost on their knees required us to abolish and put away.  And when we condescended there to with a whole voice gave us most humble thanks.  For they thought before that no man, was sure of his life lands or goods, when for every light word or gesture he was in danger of death, and within the pain of the law.  And would you have those laws again?  Will you that we shall resume the scourge again and hard snaffle for your mouths if all the realm consent and ye require to have our sword again awake and more nearer your heads ye may soon have it by us and by parliament restored to his old power. But we fear us they that most desire it will soonest and sorriest repent it.

When we are content to rule like a father with all mercy and clemency, do you call for the bridle and whip? Ah, our

loving subjects, who be these that put this into your heads?  Ye know what ye demand, and what then would be of that request?

Where ye complain of the blindness and unwillingness of your curates to the setting forth of our proceedings we do not think your complaints much untrue in that behalf and so fear that a great part of this dangerous stir cometh of them.  But what blind heads they be; how ungodly and untoward your own supplication doth declare.

Doth receiving of the Communion either make matrimony or give authority and licence to whoredom? Did not men and women always heretofore go to god’s table and receive together and all at time as they do now?  And did ever men think then that they that did so should be in communion? They did then eat all of some bread as they do now, and in sacrament receive one body which is the body of Christ as they do now and so that body is made common unto them and therefore it is called the communion.  But this they did to increase purification, cleanse, and holiness of life not to licence filthiness or whoredom, to their salutation and ghostly comfort they ought to take it, and not to damnation.

Where the same curates abuse Baptism, and refuse burial contrary to our orders, and will do no divine service in church for frowardnes [go against what is expected] and voluntary lacking of books, these be just causes which they deserve punishment, not which ye should rise against us.  We could have seen this reformed without any such enormity committed upon your parties.

And where ye said certain Cornishmen be offended because they have not their service in Cornish for so much as they understand no English.  Which should they now be offended more when they understand it not in English then when they had it in Latin and understood it not?  And which should not you all rest than be glad and well pleased that have it in English that ye do understand? If they have just cause to be grieved that have it in the tongue the which they do not understand. But we are informed to be very few or no towns in Cornwall but ye shall find more in them that understand

English then that understand Latin and therefore, they be yet in better care now than they were before.

Ye object unto us as though these things were done us not knowing.[1]  But we do declare unto you that there was nothing but at our consent and knowledge, nor nothing passed in parliament, but our consent is at it.  And for that our book of orders of the churches, we know nothing is in it but according to the scriptures and the word of god, and that we ourselves in person although as yet young in age are able to justify and prove who we trust by scriptures and good learning against who so ever will defend the contrary.

Lastly of all ye require to have the relief granted unto us by parliament of cloth and Shore shepe [sheep i.e. wool trade] to be remitted unto you affirming that we have no need thereof.  And ye do reckon up all such things as our dearly beloved father had granted unto him for the maintenance of his wars, and otherwise for the keeping and defence of the state of the Realm.  And ye do not consider what infinite charges it is to keep such wars as hath been both towards France and Scotland now continued in short space.  And our said most dear father and we have been constrained to keep divers [several] armies both by land and by sea.  You do not reckon how many thousand pounds Boulogne doth stand us in money beside the other peces [places?] which be there. Now how many thousand pounds we are fain monthly to send northwards to maintain the garrisons against the Scots and Frenchmen. And we do know our father [Henry VIII] was at no less charge, who you do account to have left us so rich.  We do much marvel, what occasion you have to think so seeing he was constrained to take so many loans, subsidies and benevolences and also sell his land which were no tokens of abundant riches.   And how rich so ever you think he left us, we know he left us above three hundred thousand pound in debt.  Now guess you whether we have need of relief or no.  And where ye instruct our

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officers and magistrates and those whom ye say were appointed to rule by our said most dear father’s will, do you not fear but if any thing was to be had that ways we could call our officers well enough to account without you, and also do as time is and look as nearly unto them as need or reason is, And that some of them should be rich and wealthy which is the gift of god and rejoice of princes to have wealthy subjects so have they it by truth and do us no wrong, what cause have me against them? We do wish you all riches, and wealthy and do what lies in us to keep your enemies from you and in quiet that ye might be so. And war and your defence do consume and waste our treasure…

[1] i.e. that the reforms were made without the king’s knowledge.  Some councilors, such as Stephen Gardiner, had argued that no major religious changes should be enacted until the king reached his majority but he was overruled.

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