Bigod's Rebellion

Bigod's Rebellion of January 1537 was an armed rebellion by English Roman Catholics in Cumberland and Westmorland against King Henry VIII of England and the English Parliament. It was led by Sir Francis Bigod, of Settrington in the North Riding of Yorkshire.

Following the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536, the King had made promises which had not yet been kept[1] and, in January 1537, a new rising began to take shape, although Robert Aske (a leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace) tried to prevent it.

An undated letter from Aske to the Commons, probably early in 1537, tells them: "Neighbours, I do much [marvel] that ye would assemble yourselves with Bigod [seeing how] earnestly the King's highness extendeth general pardon to all this North". He goes on that the king intends to hold a parliament at York and to have the new Queen crowned. Bigod had intended to destroy the effect of previous petitions, but "as I hear you were forced to assemble by his threats and menaces, I shall declare this to the King, and fear not but that you shall have his Grace's pardon notwithstanding".[2]

Lord Darcy wrote to Aske and Robert Constable on 17 January
Of Sir Fras. Bigod I heard, this day at dinner, as you wrote; and more, that Hallum was taken at Hull yesterday with a letter in his purse from Sir Francis Bigod promising that he and all the West Countries would rise and come forward. This day with my servant, Alan Gefreyson, I sent you my news which are of such bruits, rages, and furies as the like I have not read nor heard of. I sent to my cousin Ellerker and Whartton for the premises concerning Hull. My advice is that you stay the people till the coming of my lord of Norfolk, which, I hear, shall be shortly, and all the gentlemen that is above of the North with him. He brings gracious answers of the Parliament and petitions. Good Mr. Aske, where you write desiring me to stay my quarters; there has yet been no stir in my rooms and lands, but what was caused by other wild countries and dales. I shall do my duty, and play my part therein, though I lie in my bed. I hear my lord of Cumberland is likely to have business for two prisoners he keeps.[2]
Bigod himself wrote to Constable on 18 January:
"Though the commons at first had me in suspicion for my learning and conversation with such a lewd one as they judged were enemies both to Christ's Church and the commonwealth, and I was even in danger of my life at Pountefrett, they have now the greatest confidence in me. Now messengers come from Bishopric, Richmondshire, and the West, for me to go forward with the commons, especially to bring John Halom, whom the mayor of Hull has imprisoned, to their great offence. I have sworn to go with the commons having good reason to doubt the Duke of Norfolk is coming rather to bring them to captivity like those of Lincolnshire than to fulfil our petitions. There is no man they trust so much as Constable whom Bygott would gladly join and follow his advice, if he will be true to them." He begs an answer and sends a copy of their oath.[2][3]

William Todde, prior of Malton in Ryedale, later gave evidence that on the Tuesday before the uprising, Bigod had dined with him at Malton on his way to York. Bigod had showed him part of the King's pardon, saying it would enrage the Scots, known in the North as "our old ancient enemies", while Todde showed Bigod a copy of the articles given at Doncaster, Bigod asked for a copy, and one was sent after him. On leaving, Bigod said he had to go to Settrington to meet his brother Ralph.[4]

The rebellion's outcome was that, after its failure, Henry arrested Bigod, Aske and several other rebels, such as Darcy, John Hussey, 1st Baron Hussey of Sleaford, the Chief Butler of England, Sir Thomas Percy and Sir Robert Constable. All were convicted of treason. During 1537 Bigod was hanged at Tyburn, Lords Darcy and Hussey both beheaded, Thomas Moigne, M.P. for Lincoln hanged, drawn and quartered, Sir Robert Constable hanged in chains at Hull and Robert Aske hanged in chains at York. In total 216 were executed: several lords and knights (including Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Stephen Hamerton, Sir William Lumley, Sir John Constable and Sir William Constable), 6 abbots (Adam Sedbar, Abbot of Jervaulx, William Trafford, Abbot of Sawley, Matthew Mackarel, Abbot of Barlings and Bishop of Chalcedon, William Thirsk, Abbot of Fountains and the Prior of Bridlington), 38 monks, and 16 parish priests. Sir Nicholas Tempest, Bowbearer of the Forest of Bowland was hanged at Tyburn, Sir John Bulmer hanged, drawn and quartered and his wife Margaret Stafford burnt at the stake. In late 1538 Sir Edward Neville, Keeper of the Sewer was beheaded.



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