News Archive

Monday 12 July 2021

Robert Aske

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Today is the anniversary of the execution of Robert Aske in 1537.

Aske was the younger son of Sir Robert Aske of Aughton near Selby, a scion of an old Yorkshire family. Queen Jane Seymour was also his third cousin through the same line. All that we know of his physical appearance is that he was blind in one eye.

Aske became a lawyer, and was a Fellow at Gray's Inn. A devout man, he objected to Henry's religious reforms, particularly the Dissolution of the Monasteries. When rebellion broke out in York against Henry VIII, Aske was returning to Yorkshire from London. Not initially involved in the rebellion, he took up the cause of the locals and headed the Pilgrimage of Grace. By 10th October 1536 he had come to be regarded as their "chief captain". Most of Yorkshire, and parts of Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland and Westmorland were in revolt.

Nine thousand insurgents marched on York, where Aske arranged for the expelled monks and nuns to return to their houses; the king's tenants were driven out and religious observance resumed.

On 13th November 1536, Aske treated with the royal delegates, including the Duke of Norfolk, and received an assurance of an audience and safe passage to the king. Among the insurgents' requests was the punishment of heretical bishops and of the king's evil advisers, the recall of his anti-ecclesiastical legislation, the prosecution of his "visitors", Lee and Layton, and the holding of a parliament in the North. He travelled to London, met Henry VIII, and received promises of redress and safe passage.

As he began his journey back north, fighting broke out again. This renewed fighting allowed Henry to change his mind, and he had Robert Aske seized and brought to the Tower of London. He was convicted of high treason in Westminster and was taken back to York, where he was hanged in chains on 12th July 1537, on a special scaffold erected outside Clifford's Tower.

In 2018 a plaque was unveiled at Clifford's Tower to commemorate Robert Aske, by Rt Revd Terence Patrick Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough.

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You can read the sermon Fr Richard preached on that occasion here.

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