The truce held throughout the month of November, although there are numerous references to Henry’s contempt for the rebels and his correspondence is suggestive that he was biding his time, waiting for the rebels to slip up. On 21 November the Pilgrims’ council met at York, where Robert Bowes gave an account of his visit to the king at Windsor and reassured them as to the king’s mercy. Henry was willing to pardon all but ten ringleaders. There were many among the Pilgrims who hated and distrusted Cromwell and Aske was of the view that there were many in the south of the country who longed for the Pilgrims to arrive there. Heresy was deeply unpopular in the North and Cromwell was perceived as its principal advocate and the main provider of evil counsel. By making Cromwell the author of their misfortunes, the Pilgrims were seeking to frame their movement as not being against royal authority.
The Pilgrims representatives were summoned to a second appointment to discuss the situation with the Duke of Norfolk. In the lead up to the meeting, the issue of a free and general pardon for all rebels was a major part of the debate. The meeting took place at Pontefract between 2 and 4 December and Norfolk had been advised by the Privy Council that it would not be honourable for Henry to grant a free pardon: the king was of a view that his honour would be gravely diminished. However, the rebels’ military strength and resolve obliged Norfolk to grant the free and general pardon, and it reserved no one for punishment.
The Pilgrims based their negotiating position on the original five articles given to Norfolk on 27 October and produced the twenty-four Pontefract Articles on 4 December. Of these, ten are undoubtedly exclusively religious grievances and are discussed in detail in Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace. Heresy, heretical bishops, the Dissolution of the monasteries and the Royal Supremacy were all criticised and the Pilgrims petitioned that the king’s daughter by Katherine of Aragon be declared legitimate (she had endured the demotion from princess to ‘Lady Mary’ following her father’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and the subsequent Act of Succession, 1534). The rebels also wished to have a parliament convened in either Nottingham or York in the near future.
Things seemed to go the Pilgrims' way, as Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, knew the king did not have the requisite forces to fight them:
On 6 December it was agreed that these twenty-four articles were to be taken to the king and a general pardon be granted. In addition, the restored abbeys were allowed to remain.
Two days later, Lancaster Herald brought the general pardon and confirmation that a parliament would convene at York (although no date was specified). The gentlemen met with Norfolk at Doncaster and tore off their Pilgrim badges (of the Five Wounds of Christ) and dispersed.
The question is, did Henry VIII ever intend to follow through on these promises?