At night in Pontefract Castle a survivor of the Carlisle rout is ushered into the main hall with some commotion. He sits down and tells everyone what happened, that the army is broken, that his two sons are dead and John Constable is captured. While in London, Cromwell is delighted that the wheel has turned and has all sorts of plans.
And fine, when the jaws snapped they snapped hard, and the rebel failure at Carslisle was like a brake being lifted, but the subjugation of the North was far more of a bite by bite affair. In The Tudors it’s one big military collapse followed by Vengeance. In Actual History, as ever, it was all a bit more of a process.
In Actual History Henry had at long last learned caution when he sent Norfolk back up country (without an army this time). The nominal thing was to re administer this new loyalty oath and ensure the truce held, actually to secure the North and trap anyone he could, but there were these new and unfamiliar ideas of ‘If it’s possible’ and ‘When you can’ in those instructions, but then Bigod et al happened, everything remained fine and now they could start leaning on everyone (particularly the Gentry) during the run up to those trials.
In the next episode, Sir Ralph Ellerker is going to get pardoned, apparently largely by chance, and perhaps because they think he’d be the one to genuinely bend the knee. And there was a whole lot of arbitrary punishment in the wrap up of the Pilgrimage of Grace, but not for Young Sir Ralph Ellerker. Young Sir Ralph Ellerker Actually Historically worked for that Pardon hard, and he started that work at our next stop. The after action at Carlisle was brutal, and as a measure of the man that conducted it, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk,
was aware of the attack on Carlisle shortly before it happened, and was going to burn down some villages in Westmorland to distract enemy forces before he brought his own (near 4000 at this point – Mid February 1537)(q) troops into the situation, In the meantime he told Dacre to hold at all costs, until he got there(1). In the end he wasn’t needed, and he could roll right into Carlisle, already victorious.
In The Tudors this is done by Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, (Who also gets to have been instrumental in that battle) and the Not Actually Historically captured Constable remains the truth talker to power, even in defeat.
And the resolution to Brandon’s character for the end of the Pilgrimage is that he’s going to do what the Duke of Norfolk did in Actual History (up to a point, and then weirdly go way beyond it), but be really sodding Emo about everything.
OK, well, let’s start with the fact that the number is right. They took around 800 prisoners and executed 74, (2) but there was no offer to get out of this, or even just to live if you took the oath and renounced. No one died because they were still defiantly holding out (although that certainly wouldn’t have helped your chances, but at Carlisle they just picked them out of the prisoner pool).
The executions at Carlisle were arbitrary by Howard’s own admission, but they were attacking during a truce, and oh, he most definitely had a quota to fill because after Carlisle suddenly Henry and Cromwell were all involved and letters and instructions started flying north one after another. Martial law had been declared and it those days that was close to a carte blanche that he was certainly expected to use.
The marshal for the ‘hearings’ after Carlisle was our Young Sir Ralph Ellerker. He walked those 74 men in, and sent them out to their executions (3).
There’s a focus on the women following the men to be executed once we get to the execution scene and we see it through their reactions. It’s both affecting and historically appropriate.
Henry was very keen to give instructions on just how everyone’s body should be dismembered and how all the parts were to be displayed (4), and then Norfolk had to break it that he had killed 74 men but just hadn’t had the time for dismemberment. He also managed to show a little sympathy for the Northerners, saying the people in the North had been ‘sore handled in times past’ in a letter to Cromwell, where he also said that the prisoners he released after Carlisle were ‘Poor Caitiffs’. He didn’t dismember the executed, but the bodies were still put up for display (4).
Until those women, their women, mostly around 5 weeks later in April, highly illegally and despite considerable danger, took them down and buried them. Sometimes they had to travel for significant distances, and risked infections all the way. They carried them and secretly crept into consecrated ground at night and buried their husbands and brothers and sons.(5)
Henry was furious that his example of Royal Wrath had been stolen, but the women were helped along by the fact that Henry’s poor view of women meant he assumed it had to have been men that did it, and spent a lot of time trying to find out who these men must have been that had involved these women as a cover. Because Cromwell and Henry must have been hearing from somewhere that these women were involved, but, obviously, these common women could not possibly be so daring.
Once things had calmed down a bit Henry and Cromwell even put Norfolk onto the body snatching case as a priority and some of the women were arraigned for examination in three local towns. And there the unenthusiastic Norfolk appears to have left it, because he had actual military shit to do, to the pointed disappointment of both of his backseat Generals (6).
Trials and arraignments were springing up everywhere, come mid February – March 1537 and no one in power was talking about that Parliament any more. Aske got a note from Henry thanking him for his work keeping the peace during Bigod’s rebellion-
“We thank you, but would be glad to hear of some special deed in answer to our expectation.”(7)
Because just joining up against fresh insurgencies wasn’t enough. Henry was certainly expecting help with the trials if you weren’t going to give him an assassination, Aske. Time for everyone to turn on former allies and rejoin in loyalty to the King. Seeing the condition the rebellion was in, Norfolk was finding a lot of recruits from the gentry (which in turn netted him 4000 men by the time of Carlisle). And anyone who saw the what direction the wind was blowing now had cover to start moving, like Sir Ralph Ellerker. The blame, as is often the case in failed rebellions, was getting very sticky to the people it had settled on.
The rebels weren’t the only ones rattling the truce, but when the Royalists did it it somehow didn’t count. Trying to secure two fugitives Royalist commander Sir Thomas Clifford sent a group of the notorious Border Reivers into the town of Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria. When the Reivers couldn’t get to those fugitives (church towers used to be great for improvised fortressing in a pinch) they started to plunder the town. At which point the townsfolk of Kirkby Stephen laid hands to every weapon they could find and threw them the hell out and defeated them (8).
And given that Norfolk had apparently told Clifford to only use disciplined troops if going near towns, the news that Clifford just set the Reivers on them, and then lost, probably got plenty of this treatment.
But it was all just very regrettable, and had the town not been harboring fugitives, well, none of this unpleasantness might have happened. And the biggest consequence was that Clifford was not relied on again as a commander. On the other hand, General Brandon that goes back north in The Tudors, Well, he finds this all really, really upsetting, and, just as he’s working through his judicial murder regrets, he gets the news that he is to technically arrest the big remaining three (Darcy, Ellerker and Aske) and then accompany them to London while not letting them know they are certainly going to die.
When the trials started in the North (with actual juries) Henry was all up in it. Particularly for one case, where a guy called Levening, one of the test cases was, against all expectations (and hints, and veiled warnings, and at least one ringer juror, and stealing everyone’s coat so they’d deliberate faster)(10), and somewhat astoundingly, acquitted.
Henry was furious and wanted the names of the jury. He wanted that jury sent south, where he would deal with them. And Norfolk had to point out as politically as he could manage that blatant overturning of the law they were using and imprisoning a jury might just be a step beyond what they could manage in the North right now.
What had turned Henry incandescent was that Levening had, at one point, gone to Aske, Darcy and Constable for advice. For Henry, Levening was supposed to be the sprat that caught the three leaders:
“The matter must be bolted out, as it may reveal other important matters.”(10)
Through Norfolk’s ringer we know that some of the jury believed that the fact that some of Levening’s land had already been granted to the main witness for the prosecution was, you know, somewhat prejudicial. And who was that witness/beneficiary?
In the scramble to get other convictions though Henry forgot that Jury. In the end the cases against Darcy, Aske and Constable were basically made up. They got convicted for involvement in Bigod’s rebellion when they had clearly and obviously been on the other side for that one. Had Levening’s trial turned for Henry, the charges might have had an apparent shred of substance in them. He had really wanted that fig leaf, but in the end went forward nude.
The royal side was still just a little bit unsure, so Aske, Darcy and Constable (who had not been captured) were summoned to London in a reasonably friendly way. They were at varying levels of suspicious, but they went. In The Tudors it is Darcy that seems most concerned, and that warm royal reception has given Aske a case of Henry blindness. It’s somehow still all Cromwell’s fault.
In response Brandon agrees to write letters of recommendation for them, making clear his support. Actually Historically Norfolk did that, (11) he was also, clearly, way better at fake reassurances than Brandon, who, still in his feelings about all this, convinces no one. There follows a scene where they all leave Pontefract together (they didn’t) and Aske says a loving farewell to his fictional family while being way more convincing than Brandon. It’s lovely, particularly when he gently gets his daughter to pull herself together.
A Case of Quail
Back in London at lunchtime Queen Jane’s looking pleased, and maybe even a little confident today.
Queen Jane has been trying on some confidence in private and she’s starting to think it might fit. Well, you go, Queen Jane. She delivers a very subtle pregnancy announcement, all centered around her food cravings. I’m not sure I buy how observant Henry is at this moment, but I certainly buy the mood change in the marriage.
And with that Jane bounces from ‘Queen that never had the honeymoon period’ to flat out, knee bent, adoration from Henry. If she produces a boy she might become ‘entirely beloved’.
Actually Historically it wasn’t the eggs that Queen Jane loved, it was the actual quail which was a noted favorite of hers, along with red buck venison(13). They were procured for her, but at considerable expense.
So the gift of a substantial number of quail by Lady Lisle when Jane was six months pregnant was noted, appreciated, and, along with the help of the Countesses of Rutland and Sussex, already in service to Queen Jane, finally got this persistent lady (she had also been trying most of the time Anne was Queen – that little dog Porkoy that died in Wolf Hall? Another gift from Lady Lisle)(14) her long worked for prize: A place for one of her daughters at court. (15)
And, in the spirit of The Tudors’ Jane Seymour, everything is going to be alright.
It really is.
Now, before we get into the truly horrifying turn The Tudors is about to subject us to I just need you to remember three things.
First, I don’t gif gratuitous violence.
Second, Robert Constable, upon whom John Constable is based, did not die like this.
No one in the Pilgrimage of grace died like this.
Third, if I weren’t doing the thing with the titles, I really want you to know that “Wrecked him? I barely knew him” was a hard to put aside second choice. But I am, so…
I don’t like riddles.
Yeah. Like the riddle of why and for what viewer this scene exists.
The ‘Agonizing death by red hot poker to the anus scene’. Great.
I knew there was something I liked less than the ‘marital rape’ scene.
This wasn’t how it happened, but Robert Constable‘s death was pretty grim. He and Aske were taken back north and hanged in chains, but while sources differ on Aske’s method of execution (q2) we know that Constable got a classic ‘Hanging in chains’.(16)
Getting hanged in chains was kind of a Mad Max/Hardcore Roman punishment kind of deal. They got their best chains, or if they weren’t purists, maybe a gibbet. And you just got hung against the wall like some kind of hood ornament for the town until you died, most likely of dehydration or something caused by exposure. As long as it lasted your suffering was kind of a bonus but as an execution method it was really all about the visual of the utter crushing of an enemy where everyone could see.
For Constable they waited until market day to do it. When asked to confess his treason at his execution, Robert Constable declined. (16) The inspiration from history for this travesty The Tudors’ insists I must sit through, (should there have been one) came from rumours about the death of Edward II(d.1327). Those rumours were quite contemporary, starting within 10 years of his killing but they look to have had roots far more in the violent homophobia of the age than any remaining fact about this notoriously gay King’s death. Even in a 14th century autopsy, the injuries for such a death would be so severe they would have been noticed and if he was killed (He did die incredibly conveniently for everyone else) it was supposed to be an assassination.
This scene also gives Edward Seymour’s character a weird and disturbing turn he never returns to. So I don’t know who this dredging of history for the worst rumoured deaths from multiple centuries earlier is for, but I believe I am done with it.
At the Actual Historical show trial for Robert Constable there were three witnesses for the prosecution. One of them would gain stewardship of Constable’s lands (17). Would you care to guess, do you think you could imagine, who that person could be?
Hey Sir Ralph Ellerker, you sneaky bastard! Ha ha. Well what are you doing here?
Witness and beneficiary again? Wow.(18)
Meanwhile, it has come time for the jaws to slam shut on Robert Aske, who is concerned about Lard Darcy, but should also be concerned for himself, because Sir Francis Bryan just showed up and we know he always gets the shit work.
Aske is clearly looking to Brandon for salvation, but suddenly all Brandon can offer him is a very terse excuse.
Aske, who has been figuring out the score since he saw Sir Francis appear in front of him, walks away to his arrest, and Aske was arrested pretty much on his arrival in London.
Brandon goes in to see Cromwell, whence he has been summoned, and Cromwell is really leaning in to the whole ‘making them wait’ power play. Apparently the 74 prisoners he has executed were too few. Brandon justifies his actions and points out that Cromwell was not there, saying he hanged the leaders…
Cromwell decides to push Brandon back out the door with a personal threat, with an apparent royal seal of approval. And he looks pretty smug when Brandon stalks out. I guess being able to throw your weight around against the previously untouchable Brandon must feel pretty good. Also, he reminds me of Anne a little in this moment, the way she used to push forward after she felt her position get weaker.
It also forces Brandon go to back north and slay, because we know he’d never volunteer for that. The scene gives a lot for character, and it needs to, because it’s got no toehold in history.
Actual Historical Brandon was based in Lincolnshire for most of the rebellion and Norfolk never came south with the three prisoners. He needed no encouragement for going after the rebels and was hunting them down in the north with gusto and eyeing up spoils and agreeing them with Henry. (19) This scene is all for the drama.
In the Tower we get an interrogation scene that cuts back and forth from Cromwell to Aske and Cromwell to Darcy. The whole way through you see Cromwell trying to construct his case. There is no right answer to his questions, but Aske’s wistfulsness and regret gets a better audience than Darcy’s arguments.
These words of Darcy are pretty actual historical. And a lot of his and Cromwell’s back and forth comes from his interrogation documents. They’re refined down a bit but for example, Lord Darcy actually said this (with a few more thou woulds’t and hereto’s in there) to Cromwell at his interrogation.(20)I like his expression at the end. He’s a man that knows he has nothing left to lose and is just going to tell his truth. And it fits with the caustic humour he showed at the end. Like in his final will, sarcastically forgiving the King a debt of £4400 which he said the treasury owed him. Henry, feisty to the end about Darcy’s insult to what he thought was his honour (When he tried to get him to kill Aske, and Darcy looked right down his nose at him) posthumously stripped Darcy of the order of the Garter, and gave his place and his stall in St George’s Chapel Windsor to Thomas Cromwell.(21)
Aske, instead of his historical interrogation (which was pretty straightforward) gets a lament, the final testament of the religious houses and way of life he tried to save. Cromwell leaves with a pretty unconvincing offer of some kind of mercy to Aske. It’s weird and unconvincing, but it’s one of the things Aske would make a point of saying in his final statement before his execution. He said that Cromwell offered him his life, several times. (22)
Where men believe it resides.
Well finally, something pleasant.
But this time the unpleasant duty he has to perform is a spot of genocide. His wife tries to get him to talk about it. He says that he has been ordered to go North and prosecute the rebels but this will be different.
And part of the trouble here is that Brandon’s character has been given the historical actions of a man who stole the coats of a jury to get them to the right verdict, and who in actual history was at this moment hunting down rebels in the North. Wait, what? No one ordered wholesale slaughter including children. Cromwell said 74 wasn’t enough, not decimate the general population. Jesus, brandon, can comeone sit this guy down? Did he just say thousands? Well, yes that is more than 74. Duchess Catherine, perhaps wondering who she married asks a serious hypothetical. And when she gets his incredibly dumb answer, peaces out.
Meanwhile, in the Tower, Robert Aske gets an unexpected (and not historical) visit.
Henry has come to tell Aske that he’s wrong about those abbeys and monks. Because he can’t be right about them. Well, he does make good points, but first, apparently membership of Henry’s base is aggressively mandatory and includes agreeing with him on everything and second, he invented a commandment in that monologue. Henry’s ego is doing fine, but his conscience is having a bit of a tickle. Particularly with the personal loyalty he sees in Aske. Of course, it’s not going to stop him. But he’s having a moment, there.
No more moments left for the other rebel leaders.
Lord Darcy got beheaded on Tower Hill. He was very brave.
While there is nothing but the future on the mind of Henry, who has just taken delivery of expensive delicacies for the lady gestating it. And yeah, Actually Historically it should look like a lot of dead tiny chickens in there, but close enough, The Tudors, close enough. Let the lady eat tiny eggs.
It’s not going to be the worst thing you did this week, is it?