Aske was a lawyer (Grey’s Inn) and landowner in Northern England (Yorkshire).

Henry VIII (pictured, left) had begun his land grab from the Roman Catholic Church, and made known his support for a Church of England, a Protestant religion – to better divorce or annul the marriages to his wives.

This tyrant's grip on England shines from this extract of Oman's History of England:

"... what was most fatal to the unfortunate queen was that (Henry VIII)'s eye had caught another face (Jane Seymour) about the court, which now seemed more attractive than his wife's. Suddenly, and unexpectedly the storm burst. On May 2, 1536, the king sent Anne to the Tower and charged her with misconduct....

"Her own father and uncle sat on the bench ... which declared her an adulteress."

Anne Boleyn was beheaded on on May 19, 1536.

Henry VIII had enacted An act Against Papal Authority in 1536 which called the Pope:

"... the pretended power and usurped authority of the Bishop of Rome by some called the Pope ... to his worldly and carnal affections as pomp, glory, avarice, ambition and tyranny, covering and showering the same with his human and politic devices, traditions and inventions...."

Henry VIIIIf nothing else, Henry VIII was thorough. He made himself the supreme leader of the new church, thus exposing any person critical of him to the severe punishments of heresy.

Aske, a devout Catholic, was appalled that the Royal reform included the harassment of Catholic monks, expropriation and closing of monasteries and rampant rumours of taxation on bread, weddings and funerals.

More importantly to Aske, as he later described during his trial, was the closing of the monasteries which served as keepers of the poor in the North. The abbeys had also organized public works such as cnstruction and maintenance of bridges and canals.

In October of 1536, Aske took the reigns of the rebellion then known as the Church Army, and renamed it the Pilgrimage of Grace and called himself Chief Captain.

Aske was very outspoken about the protection of the monasteries but also careful to constantly express his loyalty to the King (lest he join the lot of Thomas More, executed in 1535).Pilgrimage of Grace

Aske gave the rebels focus and legitimacy, writing it the name of Pilgrimage of Grace, and writing the manifesto and overseeing the design of an official banner.

Their primary demand was:

"That the suppressed abbeys . . . be restored to their houses, lands, and goods.

By October of 1536, the pilgrim army had reached about 35,000 men although Aske prided himself in non-violence - only one man was killed during the whole Pilgrimage.

Henry VIII needed to play for time while he mustered his army and moved them North.

Aske constituted a rebel government and reinstated the monks and nuns.

On December 6, even though historians believe he could of then overwhelmed the royal army, presented the petition for change to the king's emissary John Howard (the Duke of Norfolk), who accepted it and promised a general amnesty for the Pilgrimage adherents, including Aske.

Aske, who never hid the fact that he was a loyal subject to Henry VIII, and only harbored political objections, was delighted and forthwith disbanded his army and dissolved the Pilgrimage.

Henry VIII asked Aske to come to London for Christmas and meet him which Aske did. Aske argued the case both in person and in writing. The King allowed him to return to Yorkshire even giving him a new jacket.

In January 1537, the public protest against the King stirred up again in the North and even though Aske tried to suppress it, Henry VIII and Norfolk seized the opportunity to plot his arrest.

Henry VIII had his first minister Cromwell summons Aske to London with a promise of a pardon.

In April of 1537, Aske was arrested and put in the Tower of London, tried for treason on May 17, and sentenced to death.

Henry VIII ordered that the rebel leader be put to death at the very venue of the rebellion and accordingly, Aske was hanged in chains at York in July of 1537, a process that takes several days to kill - it was either that or be drawn and quartered.

The lawyer's rebellion continued the people’s protest and kept alight the fragile flicker of democracy moved back even more by the tyranny of Henry VIII.

Ironically, Aske's lawyer-like trust in the word of his king ultimately did him in but also hilighted for the world the shortcomings of the rule of man or monarchy.


  • An Act Against Papal Authority, 1536 Statute 28 Henry VIII, Chapter 10
  • Kinney, A. and others, Tudor England: An Encyclopedia (London: Garland Publishing, 2001), page 44
  • Oman, Charles, History of England
  • Richardson, M., The Royal Book of Lists (Oxford: Dundurn Press, 2001)

► The Law Museum ► Duhaime's Timetable of World Legal History ► The Law's Hall of Fame