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The Pilgrimage of Grace was the most threatening rebellion or plot to Tudor government in the years 1525 to 1605. Assess the validity of this view.
The Tudor period was rife with rebellion throughout, with some rebellions having a greater impact than others. While no rebellion actually toppled government, monarchs were forced to make several changes to meet the demands of the rebels. A combination of factors contribute to how threatening they actually were, such as the proximity to London, the number of rebels, and whether or not there were any court members who were likely to sympathise with rebel demands based on their factional roots. In terms of number, the Pilgrimage of Grace come out tops, but in terms of organisation and planning, it falls short.
The historians in this essay require introduction. Geoffrey Elton was anti-Marxist; admiring Churchill and Thatcher.
Elton’s views on the Pilgrimage of Grace suggest a top-down approach, stating that the rebellion had been planned in years prior, and had been caused by Lords Darcy and Hussey.
Richard Hoyle does not have an official biography, but the University of Reading states that he is one of the leading experts in the UK on rural history, specialising in early modern economic and rural history. He also studied acutely the history of agriculture, and since he seems concerned with lower powers as the cause of rebellion, he can be viewed as a bottom-up historian, which is why he thinks that the Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular rebellion. Hoyle is also considered a left-wing historian, so with this comes some inevitability of a Marxist approach. Directly comparing two different historians coming from opposite approaches is useful as it shows how personal politics influence views on history, however, two historians taking opposing views on the cause of the Pilgrimage of Grace coming from a similar political standpoint could be equally useful as it eliminates personal politics and focuses more on the actual contemporary evidence available.
The Pilgrimage of Grace began in 1536 for grievances surrounding the move towards Protestantism the Church had taken, around 40,000 men assembled. Assessing the degree of threat revolves primarily around whether this was a planned rebellion; R. Hoyle believes it was not, whereas G.R. Elton believes it was “Not a spontaneous combustion caused by discontent”. If it was a planned rebellion, it would be more dangerous. Five years previously, Darcy wrote to Hussey, looking to rebel against Cromwell. Also, Hussey had been communicating with the Imperial Ambassador Chapuys, another sympathiser with the Conservative faction. Darcy was detained in London in 1534 and set free in 1536 - the same year the rebellion started.
Eustace Chapuys had also conspired with Charles V, and if he arrived when the North of England was up in arms, trouble would ensue, and the same year Darcy was released, a rebellion broke out in his home county. The view of Elton is correct; Darcy and Hussey kickstarted it, which is menacing.
The Pontefract Articles were written up by the better educated of the rebels. This may mean that the demands made were unrepresentative of the majority of the rebels, as commons would most likely not have had an adequate level of education. The Pontefract Articles do give a reasonable example, so it is still relevant and any threat the rebels brought about would still be significant. They demanded the return of the Church to “The see of Rome as before”, strengthening their power was Norfolk; suspected to be sympathetic with the rebels, pardoning them. They demanded Cromwell “To have condign punishments as subverters of the good laws of the realm”, calling for his attainder. An attack on Henry VIII’s leading advisor was a bold move. Their demands included regimes such as the “Statutes of handguns and crossbows to be repealed”, attacking many laws. The response was damning; the King referred to the rebels as “Ignorant” and was not willing to accept any demands, despite the rebels outnumbering any army he had easy access to. This shows that the King had confidence in his commanders.
Norfolk was a Conservative; he was against the move towards Protestantism. He was sent to meet the rebels at Pontefract, and Norfolk showed sympathy to them. This did not only anger the King but increase tensions between him and Cromwell. With the commander of 7,000 men sitting on the fence, the King was in danger. With tensions between Norfolk and Cromwell on the rise already, this matter only made things considerably worse. The situation at Court was undoubtedly dangerous, however, Norfolk most likely did not want to turn against the King so he turned on the rebels. Since he was sympathetic, it did add malice to the situation and contributed to the fall of Cromwell in 1540. While this was not a direct result of this rebellion, it is certainly linked.
The rebellion was diplomatic, as Hoyle states, “There was no song or ballad written to commemorate a notable victory since there was no victory”, which gives the impression of a lack of fighting and shows Hoyle’s bottom-up approach with reference to social culture. They had the numbers to cause some serious damage though, so careful negotiation was needed to avoid a bloodier conflict without backing down on religious policy.
York is 200 miles away from London; a group of horses carrying one knight each would take around a week to reach London. A messenger could have done it in one day. This gave the King around five days to prepare with several strategic points on the way to intercept.
The issue of the rebellion being planned was extremely likely, considering the evidence mounting against Lord Darcy, which would “make headway for a foreign invasion by the Holy Roman Emperor”, Charles V, as says G. R. Elton, showing his top-down approach. This would no doubt make it hugely threatening, however, the opportunity was not seized, indicating a lack of planning by Darcy’s conspirators.
Their demands would make significant changes to government, and pushed for the deposition of Cromwell, causing instability. The King would not even consider them; The demands of the rebels were perhaps too bold.
York is 200 miles away from London, however, so any threat to the King would take possibly weeks to even arrive, giving plenty of time. However, time is not the greatest resource when planning for an attack. With 40,000 people against him, the King had to make several strategic moves including reminding Norfolk where his loyalties were and pretending to appease the rebels. With Norfolk’s ‘on the fence’ stance, the King’s government obviously felt threatened.
The Exeter Conspiracy was a plot that began in 1538 with the intent to make Courtenay heir apparent after Henry VIII took control of the Church. J.A Froude, a mid-19th-century top-down historian concerned with ecclesiastical affairs believed the conspiracy was exaggerated; used as “a political tool by Thomas Cromwell”, allowing him to gain control of the religious side over Conservatives including Courtenay, thus the rebellion posed little to no threat. However, the opposing view is more likely, argues Anthony Fletcher, a late 20th-century bottom-up historian.
Pole was a Knight, and his wife Countess of Salisbury, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, with a strong claim to the throne. Although not as strong as Courtenay’s claim, the Poles were a considerable threat, and it is no wonder the King chose to spy on them. Courtenay was arguably the most powerful man in Devon, owning Powderham Castle which resisted a huge siege in 1455, and also the King’s first cousin, so his claim would make him the leading figurehead in opposition. He undoubtedly became dangerous to Henry VIII, as even before his trial, Courtenay’s goods were inventoried which showed that the King was deeply afraid of his position along the South Coast. If he had been conspiring then the potential for foreign invasion would be a key factor.
If successful, Courtenay would have made significant changes to the Tudor government. However, he had shown loyalty to Henry VIII and may have been reluctant to openly oppose him. He had the means to raise arms for the rebels in 1536, but he chose not to. People in Cornwall would have sympathised with this cause, as is shown in the rebellion in 1547 when the people of Cornwall were against the imposition of Protestantism. Courtenay was accused of supporting Princess Mary, and his wife was an open supporter of Aragon. His main quarrel though was with Cromwell.
The interrogations of Pole, scribed by the interrogator in the dungeon, are reliable - although it is commonly mistaken that interrogations are fabricated, Fletcher believes that “A study of various confessions shows that a prisoner often began by intending to say very little, and ended by blurting out everything he knew”. This viewpoint is characteristic of Pole’s interrogation. Geoffrey Pole admitted to liking at first “The well-doings of his brother the Cardinal and misliked the proceedings in this realm”, and to give evidence for Henry Courtenay’s reluctance to oppose the King, wanted to “Change... This world without meaning any hurt to the King” with “whom he has conferred”. This was indeed significant as it showed that Pole had conferred with Courtenay, meaning that the Conspiracy was not just an empty threat by “Petty sovereigns in Devonshire and Cornwall” as is taken in the view of J.A Froude, but an actual threat to Tudor government. A rebellion along the coast, especially one encapsulating ports such as Exmouth, would have been dangerous, emphasised by the fact that the figurehead had a strong claim to the throne.
Overall, there was certainly a large degree of threat here. To have leading nobles like Pole, Salisbury, and even Courtenay directly opposing the laws, there is a serious problem. It could have lead to Courtenay assassinating Cromwell, maybe the King himself, in order to reverse the religious changes. Courtenay’s wife had openly supported the accession of Mary, a staunch Catholic. Exeter may have had the means to facilitate this, and this would have made huge changes to government. Since no arms were raised, though, it can’t be called a direct threat. What made this plot mildly threatening to Tudor government was the involvement of Courtenay.
The Western Rebellion was an uprising in 1549, in response to the new Act of Uniformity as well as the introduction of a poll tax on sheep. Frances Rose-Troup, a bottom up historian writing in 1913, believes that people “Do not consider that many men resented the changes… England, from one end to the other, was permeated with sedition”, giving the impression of a popular uprising. He also believes that the rebellion was in response to “Henry VIII’s action in suppressing the monasteries”, whereas Anthony Fletcher, believes that “To interpret the rebellion as solely religious would be a vast oversimplification”, being more likely as there was evidence of non religious bodies participating, which adds more threat as it shows opposition from multiple classes.
The rebellion was confined to the South of England, never coming within 150 miles of London. Since the rebels’ main motives were to enter Exeter before moving ahead with more supporters, the King had time to hear of the uprising and better prepare. However, given the close proximity to Yorkist strongholds like Powderham Castle, noble support facilitating the move into Exeter was possible, the most likely outcome being that the rebels would have gained more arms. However, Exeter kept their gates shut to avoid treason. The rebels managed a siege, but this only made their own weaker and many rebels gave up, lowering the threat and making a successful domination by Edward possible.
These rebels were obviously passionate as they shot negotiators with longbows at Fenny Bridge. Since they could draw up a list of demands, Arundell had a good level of education and it can be assumed to be organised, which adds threat. A rebel leader gives an insight into what the rebels wanted; the demands included “The lawes of our sovereign Lord Kyng Henry the VIII concerning the Six Articles, to be used as they were in his time”, showing religious motives. Interestingly, there was a lack of respect for Edward; instead of beginning the demands with “We humbly beseech your majesty”, they started “item we will have”, which provoked a negative response, encouraging harsher treatment.
The rebels felt that Carew and Russell’s men would be unsympathetic; no particular threat of a division at Court as with the Pilgrimage of Grace. This significantly dampens the levels of threat as there would be no nobles on the side of the rebels that could persuade the King to adhere, or that could cause a division for the rebels to advance against the King, which in the case of Norfolk’s troops in the Pilgrimage of Grace, would have been very bad for the King.
With 6000 at Woodbury Common, this required the help of all of Bedford, Carew, Russell and Francis’ troops. It wasn’t just the numbers, but the fact that the rebels just wouldn’t give up that made this significantly threatening. These were mainly Cornish and extremely determined. In the Pilgrimage of Grace, only a few leaders had to be executed before the rest of the rebels dispersed, not the case here. The nature of the Cornish fighters meant that over 5500 of them were executed to silence the cries to translate the prayer book. Doing so in this way would have been seen as tyrannical, adding anti-Edward VI sentiment. This shows that there was real threat, the number of deaths being so high shows that the rebels had true fire in them towards the Act of Uniformity.
In summary, although the rebel forces never came within 150 miles of London, they required a large army and a great political decision regarding how they would deal with them, with a lot of backlash from killing them. Classifying this rebellion as medium threat to government seems adequate.
The 1525 rebellion was in response to both four subsidies collected from the people across a financially demandingly short period of four years from 1522-1525 totaling £250,000, and then a further grant totaling 800,000 due to be imposed on the impoverished commons called the Amicable Grant. This rebellion was a popular uprising that began in Devon and Cornwall, centred around ports that felt the demands of the Grant the most as they were the most heavily taxed. Many felt since the tax wasn’t imposed by Henry VIII, they didn’t have to pay. This caused resentment to Wolsey, allowing rebellion without treasonous grounds. Classes united against supporting nobles; Suffolk a key example.
The rebellion was menacing in the South and localised Northern areas, almost surrounding London, within 30 miles in Kent, and 80 miles in Suffolk. This was of great significance, coming closer than any other rebellion of the period. 10,000 rebels converged on London from multiple angles, making the King nervous. However, the rebels lacked any form of organisation. The rebels did not attack London because they were not working together as a unit; although the rebels were close to London, communication was poor.
10000 rebels were obviously very threatening. However, they came from different class backgrounds which makes this different from other rebellions. Had the rebels been united in motive, a ringleader could have been established, who could have organised the main body of the force, but the rebels lacked direction and were gathered in small, localised clumps that were weaker. However, this rebellion carried great potential; with a larger force than could be easily mustered by the King, the rebels had the potential to do serious damage, and with a leader, they could have divided and conquered royal advances by attacking in different directions.
In the source, to Wolsey from Suffolk and Norfolk, with a letter being sent to inform and not bend the truth, there were a large number of rebels that had “Committed this offense only for lack of work”, indicating the rebels were struggling with unemployment. In addition to this, inflation was 60% in 1525, wages reduced by 12% since 1515. This affected the commons and the Royal army. As a result, Suffolk’s army refused to fight as they sympathised with the rebels. This was significant, as no Royal army assembled by the King was likely to fight the rebels, so it left them an open path. Norfolk and Suffolk chose to comply with the rebels, writing to Wolsey that “a small rate should be paid throughout the realm… to the number of 20,000.” Also, the King was forced to abandon the war with France and drop benevolences. He ended up paying out more than he received, causing tensions with Wolsey.
The rebels had a significant impact on government considering the effect their demands had, with them likely to find support closer to London, their force would have met little resistance. However, there were few deaths and too little communication between the groups occurred to establish a figurehead and coordinate an attack on London. The rebellion was also not aimed at replacing the monarch, which would have made it more menacing, however, there was still the potential to overthrow Wolsey, a key figure in Tudor Government.
Kett’s rebellion was particularly dangerous as it was a popular uprising against enclosures that occurred during the same time as the Western Rebellion in 1549. The rebels captured and secured England’s second largest city, Norwich. The new council displayed excellent military tactics when defending the city against Northampton.
The number of rebels outnumbered the inhabitants of Norwich, 16,000 to 12,000. A force this strong would cause great discomfort, especially since they held Norwich. This was incredibly significant; it indicated that many people were against Enclosures, and a force this great equaled serious threat.
The rebels were able to defeat with ease a skilled Royal army sent by Northampton. They showed superior skill in battle, as well as adaptability and terrain knowledge. This shows many of the rebels had experience in fighting so these rebels were more threatening than any so far. Most of Northumberland’s army was assassinated stealthily and Sheffield was put down after he fell from his horse, showing they were ruthless, which meant that their motive was likely to replace the monarch, making it more dangerous to Government. A larger force with military experience had to be dispatched under Warwick, which was not just expensive, but also dangerous when you consider that the Western Rebellion was ongoing.
At this stage, distance to London is less significant since they occupied Norwich. It would not have been impossible to govern the country from this location or overrule London’s authority with the numbers they had. A council was established for this very purpose; in terms of organisation, no other rebellion comes close. There was definitely an overwhelming threat to Government because of how organised they were as diplomats and soldiers.
In terms of how the rebellion was dealt with, Somerset’s letter to an Italian friend sums it up in its entirety. Since it’s a letter wrote for leisure rather than for politics, it’s safe to assume that Somerset wouldn’t be attempting to twist the truth or lie. He refers to them as “All vile persons, held to receive what they truly deserve” inferring the rebels had caused a great deal of annoyance, and required a lot of effort to vanquish them - an army totalling 14,000 had to be scraped together during “The Year of the Many Headed Monster”, which was not only a great nuisance but also extremely dangerous due to the current climate of unrest, which summarises its threat to Government.
Wyatt’s rebellion in 1554 was in response to Mary’s plan to marry Philip of Spain, where many high-up figures conspired to overthrow her from several counties.
Although the original plot was intended to occur in 4 different counties and converge on London, all ringleaders apart from Wyatt were neutralised and so only a force of 4500 men were assembled with Norfolk’s help. However, even this number would have posed a significant threat for Mary; with her life at danger she assembled a council to discuss Wyatt’s terms due to large rebel support in London and an inability to assemble troops.
The rebellion was also not a rising of the commons; Wyatt was an extremely influential landowner in Kent and was an excellent leader. This meant that predominantly the rebels began with purpose, rather than the disorganised rabble seen in occasions such as the Amicable Grant. Further adding to this is the fact that the rebellion was planned, adding significant threat, although the plans fell through quickly due to the chance of being discovered.
Unlike the majority of other rebellions, Wyatt’s rebels advanced to Kingston, just downriver from London. This brought the threat to Mary’s doorstep and she was forced to act. Even though Wyatt had gotten to London, he also managed to turn the people against him by demanding “he would have the Queen in custody, and the Tower of London in keeping”. This was written by a London merchant, indicating how well known Wyatt had made himself. This was also a personal diary and so is most likely truthful as it is written as a record rather than a propaganda document. Without support, the threat of the rebellion quickly dissipated and Wyatt had to surrender, which reduced the threat very significantly.
The result of this rebellion was overall mildly threatening. A few thousand men marched to London and immediately dispersed due to the mistakes of Wyatt. If the plot hadn’t been discovered purely by chance, four counties would have moved to London, making it heavily more threatening.
The Northern Rebellion of 1569 was more based on central government than any other rebellion so far in the period, with the disputed accession of Elizabeth over Mary, Queen of Scots, and the questionable legitimacy of Boleyn. With Earls of Westmorland and Northumberland involved, it was not an uprising of the commons. The aim of the rebellion was to restore Catholicism to England during Elizabeth’s protestant reforms through her deposition.
The rebellion started in Durham, 260 miles from London. This distance is quite substantial, and would have taken 3 days by horse to reach London. It was a fairly large city, with a major port. Any invasive forces could dock since it had a medium sized harbour, which added some threat, as it could facilitate a foreign invasion. The rebellion commenced abruptly; roughly 4600 people came. Durham was the centre of many pilgrimages due to its large cathedral; many bishops and clergymen in favour of Catholicism showed, which is why this rebellion gathered momentum so quickly. Since it was a way from London though, the three days it took for a messenger to arrive made sure that the Queen was notified fairly quickly. However, these numbers were assembled quickly, and the messenger returned with urgency. Elizabeth found herself struggling to muster support before they further increased in number. This was Elizabeth’s first ever rebellion too; it made it that very difficult to find support, which added a lot of malice. The distance didn’t really matter too much, in fact, it favoured the rebels as they gathered support where Elizabeth wasn’t finding any.
While the Royal army was scarce, Sussex had no trouble raising 7000 troops to attack the rebels at Clifford Moor. The rebels were heavily outmatched and outnumbered. A further 12000 of Clinton’s men cut off the rebels and captured Northumberland. This whole escapade showed how the Queen would have fared without her key noble support and if the nobles had failed to muster troops. This made her position quite weak; if a more powerful noble like Clinton had rebelled, she would most likely have been overthrown. This was not by itself a huge direct threat to Tudor Government, but it opened up how weak her support from commons was, allowing for subsequent attacks with increased confidence by the rebels.
The second Desmond Rebellion in 1579 was a followup to the 1569 rebellion, with James Fitzgerald, brother of the Earl of Desmond, landing in Munster with Papal troops, a counter-reformation activist.
The rebellion began in Munster, which was over 300 miles away. This dampened the threat, as it was nowhere near London. However, the Pope had sent a small force of Spanish and Italian troops. With the endorsement of the Pope, Philip II would have been close if he wasn’t momentarily preoccupied with the Dutch Revolt. This did add a large element of threat, as the Spanish were very formidable at this time. As the rebellion progressed, Desmond took charge, and being a key influential noble in the South Ulster, this became very significant to Elizabeth.
It wasn’t necessarily England’s government that was under threat by this revolt, but its position in Ireland. Troops under the Lord Deputy of Ireland attempting to resist the counter-reformation were ambushed and slaughtered, which, like a few other dangerous rebellions, showed how relentless and reckless the rebels became, a prime example of what could happen if you are too quick to label a powerful noble as a traitor as was done with Gerald Fitzgerald. This force became more dangerous, but the rebel numbers never grew over 1200, and in the end there were few deaths directly caused by Gerald and the rebels’ actions. However, the rebellion and resistance to it by the English forces caused over 30,000 deaths due to famine.
Due to the fact that this rebellion was not fully supported by Philip II and that the rebels never set foot on English soil, it can’t be called at all threatening. All this rebellion accomplished was the destruction of a few Gaelic villages, and in fact in the long term it was counterproductive, causing the deaths of a great many Irish people due to famine.
The Nine Years War was largely clan-based warfare fought in Northern Ulster in resistance to increasing English rule and encroaching Protestantism. Hugh O’Donnell, later joined by O’Neil, the most powerful man in Northern Ireland, won a series of battles against the English in the North, South, and West, however, cities remained loyal to the English Crown.
The main forces of this rebellion, controlled by Philip II, landed over 300 miles away from London. However, once again, the main threat of this rebellion was not to Government, just to English troops in Ireland. This dampened the significance of this rebellion, but some 18,000 English soldiers under Lord Mountjoy were at risk, given the malice of a Spanish invasion. However, any threat here was suppressed immediately with a siege on Kinsale, and the rebellion petered out after 9 long years of fighting.
The rebellion resulted in the destruction of most English settlements in the North, indicating that the Irish hated Elizabethan reformation a lot. However, there are no sources which indicate that the Irish at this stage were prepared to invade England, and it seems more likely that they were more concerned with protecting their own. This fact dampens the threat, as if there was no reason to invade England, there would of course be no threat to government directly.
Although the Nine Years War consumed a lot of English resources and expelled a lot of Englishmen pushing reformation from Ireland, the only invasion force was sent to assist the Irish against Lords Mountjoy and Carew. No document indicates that the rebels intended to overthrow Elizabeth as had been the case in 1579, so this significantly dampens the threat. Although it didn’t affect government, it did affect the movement of Elizabethan protestantism throughout Ulster.
The Gunpowder Plot, potentially the most well-known excursion of the Tudor Period, was an attempt on not just the life of King James I of England, but his closest relatives and members of the Privy Council. The rebels, including Robert Catesby and the Duke of Northumberland, lined the undercroft of the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder, with the intent to blow them up on the long anticipated reopening of Parliament, on the 5th November 1605.
Before delving into the major details, the feasibility of this plot must be considered. Research concludes that on explosion, gunpowder (a mixture of charcoal 15%, potassium nitrate 75% and sulphur 10%) generates around 2x the area of effective obliteration that the gas evolved occupies. Combusting gunpowder gives 526100cm3 of nitrogen and carbon dioxide gas. The radius of this explosion will be 88.3m. Since Parliament stood around 40m tall, this would have undoubtedly killed everyone inside. This information is crucial because if there was any chance that the King might have been able to escape with his life, the whole plot would have been less threatening to Tudor Government.
The anonymous letter Lord Monteagle, albeit quite vague, served as the immediate downfall of the plot. The gunpowder was discovered quickly not long before the reopening of Parliament, which was significant both because it had got so close, but also because it was actually discovered. If the letter hadn’t been sent, or the King had failed to interpret its true meaning, the story would be completely different. The amount of planning that went into this plot was undoubtedly huge, but for it to be foiled so quickly indicates that the plotters were not careful enough, which dampens the threat a lot.
The source, the letter to Monteagle, tells of a force unseen , the King “Shall not see who hurts them” - this was perhaps the key piece of information that caused the plot to be discovered, which dampens the effect of chance on their discovery - since King James I’s father was blown up by gunpowder, it perhaps caused links to be formed and the undercroft to be searched.
Overall, the Gunpowder Plot had huge threat to Tudor Government. With Spain’s support overshadowed by a looming Peace Treaty, it was too weak to be considered a huge threat, but from inside, one cannot deny that 36 barrels of gunpowder with more than enough explosive force to completely obliterate Parliament including the House of Lords only being discovered the night before the reopening was extremely significant. If the King had not searched the undercroft then he would have been blown up, and so would most of government - this is undoubtedly the greatest threat to Tudor government overall as there was no room for negotiation with the plotters - the plotters literally were going to destroy Tudor government while other rebellions at most served to depose the monarch.
Assessing the largest threat to Tudor Government of all these plots and rebellions relies on a number of factors, including proximity to London, the numbers involved, the level of planning and organisation, and the support of nobles and the gentry. In terms of number alone, the Pilgrimage of Grace is the clear winner with 45,000 rebels, topping the second largest, Kett’s Rebellion, of 16,000. A number of rebels this large could not just be slaughtered, as no standing army came close in number, and in fact, some standing armies assembled by Conservatives such as Norfolk were sympathetic and refused to fight. This is a very significant factor when considering the threat.
In terms of proximity to London, no plot or rebellion came close to being directly underneath the House of Lords, as was achieved in the Gunpowder Plot. Such a feat was incredibly significant, as without access to this area the plot would have carried no threat at all. The King was very close in terms of chance to being blown up, and this level of threat in terms of distance is not comparable with any other rebellion.
In terms of planning and organisation, the main rebellion that springs to mind is The Gunpowder Plot, however, on further analysis this rebellion could be considered poorly prepared due to the leak of information to Monteagle. Kett’s rebellion, on the other hand, started off as a small unorganised force but by the end, Norwich had been captured, a major port city, thanks to the superb leadership of Robert Kett. The rebels successfully fought off a Royal army using superior military tactics, indicating a great level of organisation on the battlefield. This rebellion was superior in terms of organisation, as they could have governed from Norwich if they wished with their council.
Even if the Pilgrimage of Grace was a planned rebellion, the fact cannot be ignored that no fighting took place. If Darcy and Hussey were leading the rebels, they were doing a bad job of it. With a number that large it would be more effective to just march to London - the rebellion was in no hurry to get there, and this gives the impression that it wasn’t very well organised. The Pilgrimage of Grace, even carrying that large a number, can’t be considered the most threatening when there were other, far more skillful rebels that actually showed interest in fighting for their cause.
Overall, the most threatening rebellion to Tudor Government has to be The Gunpowder Plot. This was well planned, with 36 barrels of gunpowder successfully planted in the Undercroft of the House of Lords - however, there was an information leak, but even still, the King could have quite easily been blown up if he had not successfully interpreted the already cryptic letter. It was very close cut and there was only one variable, being whether he interpreted correctly or not. With Kett’s rebellion, there were multiple variables including any further attacks from the King, the journey to London and resistance on the way, and loss of rebel interest.