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Tudor Minute July 8: Kett's Rebellion Begins

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for July 8. Today was the start of Kett’s Rebellion, which was a rebellion based around the growing land enclosures.

During the early 16th century, the wool trade became a Really Huge Deal for Tudor England.  Wealthy aristocrats began to enclose lands so graze their sheep. There was an ancient right to graze the common land, and more and more of the nobility started enclosing it. This gave them opportunities to make a great deal of money with more sheep having grazing space.  But it also cost the common people their own space and those ancient rights. This actually really bothered a lot of the members of Parliament.

Thomas Cromwell himself had tried to draft legislation to make enclosures illegal.

In 1549, several common people became frustrated at some new enclosures, which many actually believed to be illegal. The rebels believed they had the right to tear down the enclosures because they were illegally raised.  Robert Kett owned one of the illegal enclosures, being an upper middle class farmer. The rebels had initially gone to another enclosure, John Flowerdew. Flowerdew persuaded them to go to Kett instead. Kett listened to the rebels and found that he favored their position.  He helped them to tear down his own fences, and then acted as their spokesperson.

Edward VI was a minor at the time, and the Protector Somerset actually was really sympathetic to the problems that came from illegal enclosures.  The commons, though, blocked 3 bills in 1548, and so instead, Somerset set up commissions to look into the abuses of enclosures. There was a commission in the Norfolk area, which is why the rebels thought they would be supported by the government early on.

Soon Kett’s rebellion grew to 16,000 men. 

People came from all over East Anglia and several camps had set up and took Norwich by force.  The Earl of Warwick sent 12,000 men and eventually defeated Kett outside Norwich, killing 3000 men in the process.

Kett himself wasn’t able to avoid capture, and he found himself in the Tower. He was accused of Treason, then taken back to Norwich where he was hung in chains, and allowed to starve to death (not pleasant). 

That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com.

Episode 051: Rebellions One