The Book of Common Prayer was meant to unify Anglican services throughout the kingdom. The prayer book contained English language liturgical rites devised by Cranmer, banned religious processions, and ordered communion under both kinds. But its biggest novelty was simply that it mandated Mass be said in English, and authorized inspections by royal officials to ensure its provisions were carried out. Thus, though it was now fifteen years into the Anglican schism, the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer on Whitsunday, 1549 marked the first time most Englishmen had ever heard the Mass said in English.
And what they heard upset them, for it became clear that what they had was no longer the Mass. Still, fifteen years of royal propaganda had done its work throughout much of the kingdom, and though there was some grumbling about certain aspects of the new rite, most of England was disposed to grudgingly accept it. That is, except the districts of Devon and Cornwall.
As this post from History Today explains, once the rebellion began, it spread and the Tudor government of Edward VI, headed by Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, soon responded with the customary Tudor thoroughness:
The protest soon spread to the Devonshire village of Sampford Courtenay, where, the day after the new prayer book came into force, the villagers demanded that their priest wear his old garments and read from the old service book. The minister swiftly reverted to “his old popish attire and sayeth mass and all such services as in times past accustomed”, while a local yeoman who tried to oppose the protestors was killed.
The events at Sampford Courtenay had a snowball effect and soon many other local people were demanding that their traditional ways of worship be restored. In fact, such was the strength of the opposition to the book that a powerful force of Cornish rebels were soon marching over the Devon border to join forces with those of Sampford Courtenay.
In July 1549, the combined force of Cornish and Devon rebels – by now some 4,000–6,000-strong – made the fatal decision to besiege Exeter, the regional capital, whose inhabitants remained loyal to the crown. The siege dragged on for six weeks “until the famine was so sore, that the people [of Exeter] were fain to eat horse-flesh”.
“The rebellion was the outcome of an accumulation of grievances, some of which dated back to before Edward came to the throne”, says Professor Mark Stoyle of the University of Southampton. “The revolt was primarily fuelled by religious conservatism, but a desire to protect Cornish cultural distinctiveness also played its part.”
Read the rest there.