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Cornish Rebellion of 1497

Cornish Rebellion of 1497

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The Cornish Rebellion of 1497 was a popular uprising
Popular revolt in late medieval Europe
Popular revolts in late medieval Europe were uprisings and rebellions by peasants in the countryside, or the bourgeois in towns, against nobles, abbots and kings during the upheavals of the 14th through early 16th centuries, part of a larger "Crisis of the Late Middle Ages"...

 by the people of Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 in the far southwest of Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. Its primary cause was a response of people to the raising of war taxes by King Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 on the impoverished Cornish
Cornish people
The Cornish are a people associated with Cornwall, a county and Duchy in the south-west of the United Kingdom that is seen in some respects as distinct from England, having more in common with the other Celtic parts of the United Kingdom such as Wales, as well as with other Celtic nations in Europe...

, to raise money for a campaign against Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 motivated by brief border skirmishes that were inspired by Perkin Warbeck
Perkin Warbeck
Perkin Warbeck was a pretender to the English throne during the reign of King Henry VII of England. By claiming to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, the younger son of King Edward IV, one of the Princes in the Tower, Warbeck was a significant threat to the newly established Tudor Dynasty,...

's pretence to the English throne. Tin miners were angered as the scale of the taxes overturned previous rights granted by Edward I of England
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 to the Cornish Stannary Parliament
Stannary Courts and Parliaments
The Stannary Parliaments and Stannary Courts were legislative and legal institutions in Cornwall and in Devon , England. The Stannary Courts administered equity for the region's tin-miners and tin mining interests, and they were also courts of record for the towns dependent on the mines...

 which exempted Cornwall from all taxes of 10ths or 15ths of income.

Background


While the spark and primary focus of the Rebellion was in protest of Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

's tax levy, the unrest of the Cornish
Cornish people
The Cornish are a people associated with Cornwall, a county and Duchy in the south-west of the United Kingdom that is seen in some respects as distinct from England, having more in common with the other Celtic parts of the United Kingdom such as Wales, as well as with other Celtic nations in Europe...

 precedes the actual event by perhaps half a millenia or more. Goographically isolated from the rest of England, the county of Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 is located on the southernmost part of Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. The area is considered to have much in common with the western Romano-British tribes, claiming ancestry to the times of the Saxon invasions. The Cornish are thus sometimes considered a distinct "ethnic" group and even today continue to fight for political recognition within the nation.

Strong Arthurian tradition among the Cornish of the given time period suggests that the people may have viewed the ascendance of the House of Tudor following their success in the Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

 to the throne as a fulfillment of foretold prophecy. The popular theory appeared true at first with Henry appointing loyal Cornish men to high posts in his court, even naming his first son Arthur
Arthur, Prince of Wales
Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales was the first son of King Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York, and therefore, heir to the throne of England. As he predeceased his father, Arthur never became king...

 and bestowing the title of Duke of Cornwall
Duke of Cornwall
The Duchy of Cornwall was the first duchy created in the peerage of England.The present Duke of Cornwall is The Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning British monarch .-History:...

 upon him. However, due to a widening language and culture gap, popular support for the Crown would not persist.

Rebellion


In reaction to King Henry's tax
Tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

 levy, Michael Joseph (An Gof)
Michael An Gof
Michael Joseph and Thomas Flamank were the leaders of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497....

, a blacksmith
Blacksmith
A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal; that is, by using tools to hammer, bend, and cut...

 from St. Keverne and Thomas Flamank
Thomas Flamank
Thomas Flamank was a lawyer from Cornwall who together with Michael An Gof led the Cornish Rebellion against taxes in 1497....

 a lawyer
Lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 of Bodmin
Bodmin
Bodmin is a civil parish and major town in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It is situated in the centre of the county southwest of Bodmin Moor.The extent of the civil parish corresponds fairly closely to that of the town so is mostly urban in character...

, incited many of the people of Cornwall into armed revolt against the King.

An army some 15,000 strong marched into Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

, attracting support in terms of provisions and recruits as they went. Apart from one isolated incident at Taunton
Taunton
Taunton is the county town of Somerset, England. The town, including its suburbs, had an estimated population of 61,400 in 2001. It is the largest town in the shire county of Somerset....

, where a tax commissioner was killed, their march was 'without any slaughter, violence or spoil of the country'.

From Taunton
Taunton
Taunton is the county town of Somerset, England. The town, including its suburbs, had an estimated population of 61,400 in 2001. It is the largest town in the shire county of Somerset....

, they moved on to Wells
Wells
Wells is a cathedral city and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somerset, England, on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills. Although the population recorded in the 2001 census is 10,406, it has had city status since 1205...

, where they were joined by their most eminent recruit, James Touchet
James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley
Sir James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley was born in the Heleigh Castle, Staffordshire, England to John Tuchet, 6th Baron Audley and Ann Echingham....

, the seventh Baron Audley
Baron Audley
The title Baron Audley was first created on 8 January 1313 by writ in the Peerage of England for Nicholas Audley of Heighley Castle a member of the Audley family of Staffordshire.....

, a member of the old nobility and an accomplished soldier. Despite this welcome and prestigious acquisition of support, An Gof, the humble blacksmith, remained in command of the army. Audley joined Thomas Flamank
Thomas Flamank
Thomas Flamank was a lawyer from Cornwall who together with Michael An Gof led the Cornish Rebellion against taxes in 1497....

 as joint 'political' leader of the expedition.

From Wells to Winchester and Kent


After issuing a declaration of grievances, the army left Wells
Wells
Wells is a cathedral city and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somerset, England, on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills. Although the population recorded in the 2001 census is 10,406, it has had city status since 1205...

 and marched to Winchester
Winchester
Winchester is a historic cathedral city and former capital city of England. It is the county town of Hampshire, in South East England. The city lies at the heart of the wider City of Winchester, a local government district, and is located at the western end of the South Downs, along the course of...

 via Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 and Salisbury
Salisbury
Salisbury is a cathedral city in Wiltshire, England and the only city in the county. It is the second largest settlement in the county...

, remarkably unopposed as they progressed across the south of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. At this point, having come so far, there seems to have been some questioning of what exactly should be done. The King had shown no sign of willingness to concede the issue and, far from home, there must have come to the leadership the belated cold realisation that only force of arms would resolve the matter one way or the other. Flamank conceived the idea of trying to broaden the rising; to force the monarch into concessions by mobilising wider support for the Cornishmen. He proposed that they should head for Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, 'the classic soil of protests', the home of the Peasants' Revolt
Peasants' Revolt
The Peasants' Revolt, Wat Tyler's Rebellion, or the Great Rising of 1381 was one of a number of popular revolts in late medieval Europe and is a major event in the history of England. Tyler's Rebellion was not only the most extreme and widespread insurrection in English history but also the...

 of 1381 and Jack Cade
Jack Cade
Jack Cade was the leader of a popular revolt in the 1450 Kent rebellion during the reign of King Henry VI in England. He died on the 12th July 1450 near Lewes. In response to grievances, Cade led an army of as many as 5,000 against London, causing the King to flee to Warwickshire. After taking and...

's rebellion, to rally the volatile men of Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 to their banner. It was a subtle and ambitious strategy—but sadly misinformed. Although the Scottish War was as remote a project to the Kentishmen as to the Cornish, they not only declined to offer their support but went so far as to offer resistance under their Earl. Sadly disillusioned, the Cornish army retreated and some of the fainter hearts (and wiser heads) quietly stole away back to their homes. The remainder, let go the pretence of acting against the King's ministers alone - they were prepared to give battle against the King himself.

In Surrey


Moving back west, by Tuesday 13 June 1497 the Cornish army arrived at Guildford
Guildford
Guildford is the county town of Surrey. England, as well as the seat for the borough of Guildford and the administrative headquarters of the South East England region...

. Although shocked by the scale of the revolt and the speed of its approach, Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 had not been idle. The army of 8000 men assembled for Scotland under the command of Giles, Lord Daubeney
Baron Daubeny
The title Baron Daubeny was an ancient one in the Peerage of England. It was created in 1295 when Elias Daubeny was summoned to parliament. The eighth baron was again created Baron Daubeny in 1486; the status of that creation is unclear...

, Henry's chief general and Lord Chamberlain was recalled. Then, by a curious paradox, the Earl of Surrey (the very area under occupation), was sent north to conduct a defensive, holding operation against the Scots until such time as the King had quelled his domestic difficulties. The Royal family (and the Archbishop of Canterbury) moved to the Tower of London for safety whilst in the rest of the City there was a feeling akin to panic. It is said there was a general cry of 'Every man to harness! To harness!' and a rush of armed citizenry to the walls and gates. Then, the same day that the Cornish arrived at Guildford, Daubeney and his men took up position upon Hounslow Heath
Hounslow Heath
Hounslow Heath is a public open space and local nature reserve to the west of Hounslow, a London borough. It now covers about , the residue of the historic Hounslow Heath that covered over .-History:...

 and were cheered by the arrival of food and wine dispatched by the Lord Mayor of London.

The Crown decided to take the offensive and test the strength and resolve of the Cornish
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 forces. Lord Daubeney sent out a force of 500 mounted spearmen and they clashed with the Cornish at 'Gill Down' outside Guildford on Wednesday 14 June 1497.

The Cornish army left Guildford and moved via Banstead
Banstead
Banstead is a town in the borough of Reigate and Banstead in the county of Surrey, England, on the border with Greater London. It lies south of London, west of Croydon and of the county town of Kingston-Upon-Thames. Banstead is on the North Downs and is protected by the Metropolitan Green Belt;...

 and Chussex Plain to Blackheath
Blackheath, London
Blackheath is a district of South London, England. It is named from the large open public grassland which separates it from Greenwich to the north and Lewisham to the west...

 where they pitched their final camp, looking down from the hill onto the Thames and City of London. Somehow An Gof held his army together, but faced with overwhelming odds, some Cornish deserted and by morning there remained only some 9-10,000 Cornish stalwarts left in arms.

Battle of Deptford Bridge


The Battle of Deptford Bridge (also known as Battle of Blackheath) took place on 17 June 1497 on a site in present-day Deptford
Deptford
Deptford is a district of south London, England, located on the south bank of the River Thames. It is named after a ford of the River Ravensbourne, and from the mid 16th century to the late 19th was home to Deptford Dockyard, the first of the Royal Navy Dockyards.Deptford and the docks are...

 south-east London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, adjacent to the River Ravensbourne
River Ravensbourne
The River Ravensbourne is a tributary of the River Thames in South London, England. It flows into the River Thames on the Tideway at Deptford, where its tidal reach is known as Deptford Creek.- Geography :...

 and was the culminating event of the Cornish Rebellion. Henry VII had mustered an army of some 25,000 men and the Cornish lacked the supporting cavalry and artillery arms essential to the professional forces of the time. After carefully spreading rumours that he would attack on the following Monday, Henry moved against the Cornish at dawn on his 'lucky day' - Saturday (17 June 1497). The Royal forces were divided into three 'battles', two under Lords Oxford, Essex and Suffolk, to wheel round the right flank and rear of enemy whilst the third waited in reserve. When the Cornish were duly surrounded, Lord Daubeney and the third 'battle' were ordered into frontal attack.

Cornish force at the bridge


At the bridge at Deptford Strand, the Cornish had placed a body of archers (utilising arrows a full yard long, 'so strong and mighty a bow the Cornishmen were said to draw') to block the passage of the river. Here Daubeney had a hot time of it before his spearmen eventually captured the crossing with some losses (a mere 8 men or as many as 300 depending on one's source). The 'Great Chronicle of London' says that these were the only casualties suffered by the Royal forces that day but, in view of the severity of the later fighting, this seems most improbable.

Through ill-advice or inexperience, the Cornish had neglected to provide support for the men at Deptford Strand bridge and the main array stood well back into the heath, near to the top of the hill. This was a mistake since a reserve force charging down from the high ground might have held the bridge bottleneck and made the day a far more equal contest. As it was, Lord Daubeney and his troops poured across in strength and engaged the enemy with great vigour. Daubeney himself was so carried away that he became isolated from his men and was captured. Astoundingly enough, the Cornish simply released him and he soon returned to the fray. It would appear at this late stage, the rebels' hearts were no longer in the battle and they were already contemplating its aftermath and the King's revenge.

Continuation of the battle


The two other Royal divisions attacked the Cornish precisely as planned and, as Bacon succinctly put it: being ill-armed and ill-led, and without horse or artillery, they were with no great difficulty cut in pieces and put to flight. Estimates of the Cornish dead range from 200 to 2000 and a general slaughter of the broken army was well under way when An Gof
Michael An Gof
Michael Joseph and Thomas Flamank were the leaders of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497....

 gave the order for surrender. He fled but only got as far as Greenwich
Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

 before being captured. The less enterprising Baron Audley
James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley
Sir James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley was born in the Heleigh Castle, Staffordshire, England to John Tuchet, 6th Baron Audley and Ann Echingham....

 and Thomas Flamank
Thomas Flamank
Thomas Flamank was a lawyer from Cornwall who together with Michael An Gof led the Cornish Rebellion against taxes in 1497....

 were taken on the field of battle.

Aftermath


By 2pm, Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 had returned to the City
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 in triumph, knighting deserving parties on the way, to accept the acclamation of the Mayor and attend a service of thanksgiving at St Paul's
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

.

In due course, severe monetary penalties, extracted by Crown agents, pauperised sections of Cornwall for years to come. Prisoners were sold into slavery and estates were seized and handed to more loyal subjects. The remaining rebels that escaped went home ending the rebellion.

An Gof and Flamank were both sentenced to the traitor's death of being hanged, drawn and quartered. However they "enjoyed" the king's mercy and were allowed to hang until dead before being decapitated. They were executed at Tyburn
Tyburn, London
Tyburn was a village in the county of Middlesex close to the current location of Marble Arch in present-day London. It took its name from the Tyburn or Teo Bourne 'boundary stream', a tributary of the River Thames which is now completely covered over between its source and its outfall into the...

 on 27 June 1497. An Gof is recorded to have said before his execution that he should have "a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal". Thomas Flamank was quoted as saying "Speak the truth and only then can you be free of your chains".

Audley, as a peer of the realm, was beheaded on the 28th June at Tower Hill. Their heads were then displayed on pike-staffs ("gibbet
Gibbet
A gibbet is a gallows-type structure from which the dead bodies of executed criminals were hung on public display to deter other existing or potential criminals. In earlier times, up to the late 17th century, live gibbeting also took place, in which the criminal was placed alive in a metal cage...

ed") on London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

.

Quincentennial


Keskerdh Kernow (Cornish: Cornwall marches on!) was a commemorative march which retraced the original route of the Cornish from St. Keverne to Blackheath, London, to celebrate the Quincentennial—500th anniversary—of the Cornish Rebellion.

A statue depicting the Cornish leaders, "Michael An Gof" and Thomas Flamank was unveiled at An Gof's home town of St. Keverne and a commemorative plaque was also unveiled on Blackheath common.

Cultural references


The rebellion is referred to several times in Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall is a multi-award winning historical novel by English author Hilary Mantel, published by Fourth Estate. Set in the period from 1500 to 1535, Wolf Hall is a fictionalized biography documenting the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex in the court of Henry VIII of...

, the 2009 Man Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe. The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured of international renown and...

 winner written by Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mary Mantel CBE , née Thompson, is an English novelist, short story writer and critic. Her work, ranging in subject from personal memoir to historical fiction, has been short-listed for major literary awards...

. The protagonist of the book, Thomas Cromwell, is a young boy in London during the panic caused by the approach of the rebels; he also remembers the events later in the book.

See also

  • Second Cornish Uprising of 1497
    Second Cornish Uprising of 1497
    The Second Cornish Uprising is the name given to the Cornish uprising of September 1497 when the pretender to the throne Perkin Warbeck landed at Whitesand Bay, near Land's End, on 7 September with just 120 men in two ships...

  • List of topics related to Cornwall
  • Cornwall portal
  • Prayer Book Rebellion
    Prayer Book Rebellion
    The Prayer Book Rebellion, Prayer Book Revolt, Prayer Book Rising, Western Rising or Western Rebellion was a popular revolt in Cornwall and Devon, in 1549. In 1549 the Book of Common Prayer, presenting the theology of the English Reformation, was introduced...


External links