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1549 was undoubtedly a massive year for Tudor rebellion – with almost every county in England taking part in some kind of uprising. It is not therefore surprising that 1549, in the case of English rebellion, can be seen as a turning point, but this does not take the Irish rebellions into consideration. In this respect, 1549 is by no means a turning point, as there is no significant Irish rebellion between the years of 1534 and 1558.
The first aspect which would give an indication as to whether 1549 was a turning point or not is the frequency of size of the rebellion; the number of rebels which took part. In the period leading up to 1549 ie. 1486 onwards, of the nine rebellions which took place (including 1549), seven of these had a support size of 6000 or more rebels, which indicates the growing fury associated with the socio-economic problems which were particularly evident in the Ketts rebellion on top of the religious changes which Henry had introduced in his reign.
However, after 1549, of the eleven rebellions that take place, just four of these reached a support of 6000 or more, which is indicative of the fact that many felt 1549 was their one chance to voice their grievances, and after that many decided against rebelling. Therefore, in this respect 1549 was most certainly a turning point. However, in Ireland the situation was very different, with four rebellions after 1549, of which Tyrone managed a record support of 6000 men. This highlights the growing Irish anger at English control and policy, and as these rising were much further away, it was difficult to send a royal army, meaning these risings often had substantial support (when you take into account a much smaller population than in England). Henceforth, with regard to Irish rebellions, 1549 was not a turning point.
It is not just the number of rebels that count of course though, it is the quality of the rebels and the quality of leadership – in other words, did the rebels/leaders have any power in the Tudor society, and did this lessen after 1549? In short, the answer is yes, as it does seem that the nobles after 1549 which took part in the rebellions were of not much consequence – at least not as important as the nobles before this date. Furthermore, the gentry after 1549 realized that they did not want to rebel anymore, as they did not see positives outweighing the probable negatives – death. For example, both Simnel and Warbeck had great noble support; Lord Fitzwater, Sir Simon Mountfort, and Sir Thomas Thwaites, made little secret of their inclination towards him; Sir William Stanley, King Henry’s chamberlain, who had been active in raising the usurper to the throne, was ready to adopt his cause whenever he set foot on English soil, and Sir Robert Clifford and William Barley openly gave their adhesion to the pretender. These were all powerful nobles of the era.
There was also frequent gentry support leading up to 1549, with the Yorkshire and Cornish rebellion benefitting from gentry support, as well as the Western and Ketts rebellion. The 1536 pilgrimage of grace is famed for it’s diverse range of support, varying from powerful nobles such as John Neville, Lord Latimer, Lord Lumley, Lord Darcy and Lord Neville, whilst it’s leader was Robert Aske, a lawyer and part of the lower gentry himself. After 1549, there was no such powerful support. On the face of it, this doesn’t seem to be true, with noble supporting and of course leading the Northern Earls and Essex rebellions. However, there is a marked difference in the power that these nobles possessed and the significance of the nobles before 1549.
The Earls of Westmoreland and Northumberland, leaders of the rebellion of the Northern Earls actually rebelled due to the fact that they had lost so much power under Elizabeth, and the nobles that led the Essex rebellion were also disgruntled because of Cecil’s power and influence and ultimately failed to get popular support because of the fear of reprisal, hence they didn’t have the authority that the nobles that took part in the rebellion before 1549 did. Therefore, 1549 can once again be seen as a turning point in terms of English rebellion, whereas in Ireland, 1549 again had no major impact on its support, with the Irish clan leaders leading the rebellions before and after 1549, and so this year had no major impact on the rebellions within Ireland.