His rejected first wife, Katherine of Aragon, had died in the first months of the year; his second, Anne Boleyn, he had executed on false charges of adultery, incest, and treason; and he had just married his third, Jane Seymour.
On top of this, trouble was brewing in the north of the country and in Lincolnshire, an area he would later describe as “the most brutal and bestial county”.
So what had our earldom done to deserve such harsh words from the married king?
It was the period in history called the Lincolnshire Rising, or the start of the Pilgrimage of Grace, which saw the market towns of Louth, Market Rasen, Horncastle and others come together to riot which would see thousands descend on London to protest against the destruction of their places of worship.
We teamed up with historians from the Rase Heritage Society and author Nick Fox, who has written a book on the subject, to learn more about the Lincolnshire Rising and where the most important events in the Wolds took place.
The origins of the insurrection lay in the changes King Henry was making at the time to the way the church was organized and run in England.
These changes involved investigating the jurisdiction of the clergy and the confiscation of church property as a means of recovering funds that were running out due to the end of Henry of France’s pension.
The king sent commissioners around the country to carry out this investigation and they were in Lincolnshire in 1536, which resulted in the closure of Louth Park Abbey in September 1536, its property being taken by the king.
Some of the monks expelled from the abbey remained in the region, others in Louth itself.
The abbey itself was completely dismantled and some of its stones were used in the construction of the nearby Priory Hotel by mathematician and architect Thomas Espin, some of these stones still existing today at the rear of the building.
At that time the people of Louth were very proud of their church, St James’. Just 20 years previously a beautiful new spire had been completed on the church – the tallest spire of a parish church in all of England – and there were many fine church properties.
King Henry had renounced the Catholic faith and introduced the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Treason, the former announcing Henry as supreme head of the Church of England and the latter to make it an offense of treason for anyone who contradicts that – or anything else the king said.
This obviously posed a problem for the clergy, as they had always considered the Pope to be the head of the church, and the King’s Chancellor Thomas More and Bishop Fisher had only been executed two years previously for refusing to accept Henry as head of the Church of England and his marriage to Anne Boleyn.
The rebellion is believed to have been sparked by an incendiary sermon given by William Kendell, the vicar of Louth, who warned the congregation of what was to come as the church would also be taken by the crown – although he later claimed that his words were only a warning and did not incite rebellion, as he was no longer involved in the uprising.
Nicholas Melton, a town cobbler, then took the keys to the church, along with a few others, and decided to march to Lincoln and pass through Caistor. The crowd numbered over 3,000 men by the time they descended on the town.
Officials from the King’s office were surrounded by mobs at Caistor Hill, and some managed to escape on horseback, including Lord Burgh – although his servant was not so lucky and was beaten to death by the mob.
A former monk at Louth Park Abbey, William Moreland, was among the rebels and was said to have been horrified by the servant’s treatment and heard the man’s last confession as he lay dying.
On October 4, Dr Raynes, the Chancellor of the Bishop of Lincoln, who was staying nearby at Bolingbroke, was dragged from his sickbed and taken to Horncastle by the rebels.
It is then said that Dr Raynes was snatched from his horse and beaten to death with wooden poles – this is believed to have happened at The Wong in Horncastle opposite the police station, where there is now a car park.
Thomas Wolsey, one of Thomas Cromwell’s men, was also captured and lynched by the mob on the same day.
The Leach brothers, Nicholas and Robert of Fulletby, were also involved in the uprising and traveled to Spilsby to recruit more men for the rebellion.
William Leach came to Horncastle and, with another man, Philip Trotter, stole armor from St Mary’s Church in the town with the banner of the Dymoke family, as Edward Dymoke, of Scrivelsby, was the Sheriff of Lincolnshire at the time.
The rebels made Dymoke a de facto leader of the rebellion and erected the family banner in front of the crowd.
This is where the Dymoke banner was dropped as the family wanted to appear favorable to the king and having their family seal at the front of the rebellion would not have reflected well – a decision that would later prove to be happy for the family. later as Sheriff Dymoke. joined the royal forces and escaped punishment for their part.
And so the iconic banner representing the five wounds of Christ and the Holy Trinity was created instead.
This caused concern among the clergy during the uprising as religious icons made it clear that this was a religious war and it was known that King Henry had no qualms about executing clergymen, as the fate of Thomas More and Bishop Fisher had proved.
On October 5, the rebels arrived at Market Rasen where they were joined by the townsmen. The rebel host – estimated by some at 40,000 men – spent that night at Hambledon (now Hamilton) Hill, near Market Rasen, with the nobility spending the night in the town.
The next day the rebels went to Lincoln. They were told to wait in Lincoln to hear news of the King’s response to their request to cease the seizure of churches and Catholic property – and also in order to keep them in one place to facilitate the gathering of “traitors “.
The king’s response was that the rebels dispersed and ordered the nobility to take control and arrest the leaders of the rebellion and hand them over to the king’s lieutenant, who was with the king’s army heading towards the north from London.
In mid-October, the King’s forces began to arrive in Lincoln, then rounded up the rebels from Louth, Market Rasen and the other rebel towns – those who remained at least, as many simply returned home when they heard the king’s advisers. were on their way.
One hundred men, 13 from Lincolnshire, were eventually tried for their part in the rebellion and executed at Tyburn by being hanged, drawn and quartered, William Kendell the vicar of Louth being among them, along with the monk William Moreland who was trying to calm the violence at Caistor Hill, Philip Trotter and the Leach brothers.
Another 40 men from Louth, Horncastle and Market Rasen were taken home and executed.
A member of the nobility, Sir John Hussey of Sleaford, a former close friend of King Henry, was another who lost his life for his role in the rebellion.
Henry wanted to punish all of the Lincolnshire gentry involved, but that would have left a political vacuum in the earldom, so Henry decided to make an example of Hussey to show the other gentry what would happen to those who rebelled against the crown.
Lord Hussey’s lands and titles were stripped from him and he was beheaded.
What happened to Nicholas Melton is however unknown, as he is not among those executed at Tyburn – which one would think he would be as he was the instigator of the uprising.
Some believe he died of torture after his arrest.
William Leech of Fulletby somehow escaped punishment for his role in the uprising, but his luck ran out when he was arrested for killing a messenger from King James of Scotland in 1543 and hanged at York.
Today there is a blue plaque on the wall opposite St James’s Church to pay tribute to the origin of this significant period of civil unrest in the country.
In the end, all of this was in vain as Henry VIII’s religious overhaul continued long after the Lincolnshire Rising.
The King would later visit Lincoln Cathedral as part of his march north with his fifth wife, Katherine Howard, in 1541 and pardoned the earldom for rising against him.
Today we celebrate Lincolnshire Day on October 1 to honor the day our county stood against Henry VIII.