By Pamela Stanton
Past Imperfect, Vol. 7 (1998)
Abstract: The questioning of “the English Reformation” as both a definable entity and a usable term by revisionist scholars, provides a timely platform from which to engage in a re-examination of one event which occurred daring that period of profound religious change in sixteenth-century England. The 1549 rebellion in the south-west of England has been studied using ‘traditional’ analytical categories of religion, politics, economics, and militarism. However, a new perspective on the rebellion is possible when the kinship ties of a group of leading gentry families in the south-west are examined. Although some historians recognize the close relationships which existed within the group, the focus is on the men of the families as local government officials without placing them in the wider context of their families. A close examination of the connections between the Arundell, Edgecombe, and Grenville families reveals a confused genealogical picture; one that suggests, however, that close kinship ties may have played an important part in the participation or lack of involvement of the family members in the rebellion.
Introduction: In 1549 rebellion occurred in the south-west of England during the period of significant religious change historians have traditionally called “the English Reformation.” By suggesting that family ties should not be ignored with respect to this important period in English history, it is possible to propose new perspective on the rebellion.
“The English Reformation” has long been an important area of research and debate for historians and current revisionist scholarship challenges “the English Reformation” as both definable entity and a usable term. Vigorous deconstruction results in an unclear and highly contentious picture ofreligious reform in sixteenth-century England. It is picture that reflects important questions about the continuity of traditional religion versus dramatic change to ‘Protestantism,’ and of change imposed by the government, as an act ofstate, as opposed to change initiated “from below.” Howmuch change to religious beliefs and practices was supported or opposed and by whom raises the topic of rebellion, an important issue because it leads to the ultimate question ofthe seriousness ofthe threat of religious reform to both the stability of the nation and the Crown.