What caused the Wyatt rebellion?

The Wyatt rebellion broke out for a variety of reasons. It is difficult to get to the heart of the causes due to the unreliability of the historical evidence surrounding the events; for instance, contemporary propaganda or varying motives of the rebels. Despite this, it is easy to establish three main causes of the rebellion: political, economic and religious motives.

For some of the rebels, as with most of the Tudor risings, religion would have been a driving force. Fears of the revival of the Catholic faith in England among those who championed the Protestant faith were perpetuated by fears of the Spanish marriage producing an heir, signifying the long term return of Catholicism. Regional leaders of the four-pronged risings had Protestant sympathies and there is no evidence of Catholic leaders at all in the rebellion. Moreover, the only area where the conspiracy had turned into revolt was Kent which was in itself a religiously radical area. Also, Wyatt had received advice from Ponet, the recently deprived Bishop of Winchester and, just as importantly, the only real evidence of violence once the rebels reached London was an attack on the property of Stephen Gardiner, the man who had replaced Ponet as Bishop of Winchester. Hoever, it is difficult to judge the significance of religion in the rising because religion was such a divine issue in England that both Mary and Wyatt wanted to play down its importance. Although, it was convenient for Mary to say that religion was a cause of revolution so she could persecute Protestants following the rebellion.

Historian David Loades has argued that ‘the real reasons which lay behind the conspiracy were secular and political’. The Wyatt rebellion may have broken out due to a factional struggle. Mary had recently come to power causing a shake up in office; those struggling to keep their place were worried that Mary’s marriage to Philip would create an alliance to Spain giving Spaniards favour in court. Furthermore, England’s alliance with Spain meant that England’s long-term independence was under threat and Britain’s nationalists favoured this. The English were fearful of a Spanish takeover and the House of Commons petitioned against the marriage. The marriage would link England to Spain possibly seeing the introduction of policies they didn’t want or need. Wyatt declared publically that he was only motivated by the marriage. However, this could simply be propaganda because in such a religiously divided nation an appeal to nationalism would have proved more effective.

There are also some economic reasons for the break out. Frustration at the economic decline of the textile industry and rising unemployment led to annoyances at the time. The decline of the textile industry in Kent and rising unemployment in the area since 1551 were unlikely to have been the trigger for the rebellion, however, these tensions may have been a factor enabling Wyatt to more easily win over supporters. This is supported by the fact that many of those who took part came from the Cranbrook area of Weald, an area that had suffered particularly from this crisis. On the other hand, it is difficult to be certain whether there was an economic pattern due to the array of trades shared by the rebels.

Overall, there are many different causes concerning the Wyatt rebellion including significant political and religious factors. It is, however, less likely that economics played a great part in the causation, instead this was a factor of its growth.

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