Henry VIII's attacks on the Church, his assumption of supremacy over it and the dissolution of the monasteries outraged many of his people.
In the autumn of 1536, he faced the worst crisis of his reign - the rebellion that became known as the 'Pilgrimage of Grace'.
That old-time religion
The first uprising was in Lincolnshire, and the revolt then spread quickly across the north of England. Under their banner of the Five Wounds of Christ, noblemen and peasants joined together, demanding the return of the old religion, the restoration of the monasteries and the sacking of Thomas Cromwell, whom they thought (rightly) was behind much of what they objected to. A number of monks and priests played leading parts, preaching incendiary sermons and even wearing armour.
The rebellion was led by Robert Aske, a London barrister with Yorkshire roots. He and a band of 9,000 followers occupied York, and by the time they reached Doncaster, the insurgents held much of the north.
Success and betrayal
On 26 October 1536, at Scawsby Leys near Doncaster, the rebels halted. They numbered 30,000, with another 12,000 in reserve at Pontefract - the largest army that England had seen since the Wars of the Roses. They faced a mere 8,000 not-very-willing southern recruits, captained by the aged duke of Norfolk, who had only arrived at 2am. The pilgrims were overwhelmingly strong - yet they chose to negotiate.
And that was their undoing. Norfolk managed to broker a deal and the northern army dispersed, with promises from Henry that their demands would be met and all the rebels pardoned. But within weeks, Henry reneged on his promises, arrested the ringleaders and exacted a savage retribution. All across the north of England, hundreds of men and women were dragged from their homes and hanged on the slightest suspicion of having been involved.
Henry's supremacy of the Church, which had begun in the name of freeing England from the papal yoke, was turning into a new royal tyranny, to be enforced by bloodshed.