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Bigod's rebellion
Part of the English Reformation
Date16 January — 10 February 1537
LocationCumberland and Westmorland, England
Result Royal victory; execution of many rebels
English Roman Catholics Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg Kingdom of England
Commanders and leaders
Sir Francis Bigod
Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy
John Hussey, 1st Baron Hussey of Sleaford
King Henry VIII
Casualties and losses
216 executed

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 was 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.

The circumstances of their trial and execution were recorded by the author of Wriothesley's Chronicle:[5][6][7]

Also the 16 day of May [1537] there were arraigned at Westminster afore the King’s Commissioners, the Lord Chancellor that day being the chief, these persons following: Sir Robert Constable, knight; Sir Thomas Percy, knight, and brother to the Earl of Northumberland; Sir John Bulmer, knight, and Ralph Bulmer, his son and heir; Sir Francis Bigod, knight; Margaret Cheney, after Lady Bulmer by untrue matrimony; George Lumley, esquire;[8] Robert Aske, gentleman, that was captain in the insurrection of the Northern men; and one Hamerton, esquire, all which persons were indicted of high treason against the King, and that day condemned by a jury of knights and esquires for the same, whereupon they had sentence to be drawn, hanged and quartered, but Ralph Bulmer, the son of John Bulmer, was reprieved and had no sentence.

And on the 25 day of May, being the Friday in Whitsun week, Sir John Bulmer, Sir Stephen Hamerton, knights, were hanged and headed; Nicholas Tempest, esquire; Doctor Cockerell, priest;[9] Abbot quondam of Fountains;[10] and Doctor Pickering, friar,[11] were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and there hanged, bowelled and quartered, and their heads set on London Bridge and divers gates in London.

And the same day Margaret Cheney, ‘other wife to Bulmer called’, was drawn after them from the Tower of London into Smithfield, and there burned according to her judgment, God pardon her soul, being the Friday in Whitsun week; she was a very fair creature, and a beautiful.


  1. Cross 2004.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 'Henry VIII: January 1537, 16-20', in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, vol. 12, part 1: January–May 1537 (1890), pp. 50-78 online
  3. Dated from Baynton, "where in the morning your servant shall find me or else at Beverley"
  4. 'Henry VIII: February 1537, 26-28', in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, vol. 12, part 1: January–May 1537 (1890), pp. 239-254
  5. Hamilton 1875, pp. 63–4.
  6. Dodds & Dodds 1971, p. 214.
  7. Cross 2013.
  8. Father of John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley.
  9. James Cockerell, Prior of Guisborough.
  10. William Thirsk.
  11. John Pickering of Bridlington.


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