The Kildare Rebellion and the Early Henrician Reformation
Steven G. Ellis (The Queen’s University, Belfast)
The Historical Journal, 19, 4 (1976), pp. 807-830
In the 1530s, Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell carried out fundamental changes in the Tudor state. These changes amounted to a revolution in which three elements may be distinguished: the erection of the common-wealth into a sovereign empire, the king’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon, and important alterations to the nature and structure of the English cJmich. Because of the fundamental nature of the issues involved and the threat to the established order, the revolution very soon provoked widespread discontent among all sections of society. Nevertheless, opposition was spasmodic and uncoordinated, with each group of conspirators relying on another to rise, and all looking to the emperor, Charles V, to rectify the evils which, it was thought, the king’s policies had brought about. Lack of effective leadership and failure to agree about what constituted the major grievances enabled the government to deal with the dissidents one by one. Cromwell was allowed to use parliament to ratify the government’s programme and to manipulate public opinion.
By constant vigilance and an intelligent use of the constraints placed on the populace by the penal clauses in the statutes, he secured the observance of the more unpopular measures. In spite of the overall success of this policy, the difficulties were many, and the final outcome always in doubt. Its enforcement was thus ‘a political task of some magnitude’ for the government. Probably the most determined challenge to the revolution was presented in Ireland where rebellion broke out in June 1534.