If you ever want a giggle, check out the House of Commons Early Day Motions for a laugh. Most are sensible, but quite often a howler is lodged and this morning I found the following EDM proposed by Ian Gibson MP.

That this House praises Robert and William Kett who were both executed on 7th December 1549 for being leaders of the Norfolk Rebellion under the reign of King Edward VI; recognises these courageous leaders for their contribution to the long struggle of the common people of England to escape from a servile life into the freedom of just conditions; and calls on the Government to recognise that both men were not traitors as charged.

I am not a huge expert on the Norfolk Rebellion (also known as Kett’s Rebellion), but that EDM just didn’t sound quite right, so I Google’d around a bit and my suspicions were confirmed.

Far from being an uprising by poor serfs who were seeking equal rights, it was a religious battle organised by a very rich man.

The rebellion started in July 1549, when the town of Wymondham illegally celebrated the life of St Thomas Becket – and this turned into a riot. The crowd attacked a nearby landowners estate and he bribed the mob to attack his neighbour. The mob being both rightous and filled with religious anger actually decided that the bribe was most generous and proceeded to Robert Kett’s estate instead.

However, rather than turfing them off his land as most landowners would have done – he actually joined the rebellion and lead it thereafter.

A week later the mob had reached Norwich and the mayor realising that bribes seemed to work on this lot promptly tried the same trick again – but alas it failed.

In late July (or August), the King sent 14,000 men to attack the rebels – and they won the battle. So the King sent battle hardened commanders, lead by the Earl of Warwick and the next battle was won by the King’s men.

Kett fled but was later caught and charged with High Treason in the Tower of London.

He was convicted and his body was hung over the walls of Norwich Castle, while his brother shared a similar fate and his body was dumped over the side of  Wymondham Abbey.

Now, were the two men traitors – absolutely, they attacked a city and defied the King. However, the key is that these were rich land owners and their motivations seemed to have nothing to do with the claims in the Early Day Motion about freedom and just conditions. I also think the EDM would do better next year – which would be the 460th anniversary of the rebellion.

An irony to finish off with – is that despite fighting for the King, the Earl of Warwick was himself executed for treason just four years later when he was involved in the plot to prevent Queen (Bloody) Mary from taking the throne.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi,
    I am a writer working on a book on Robert Kett and I was involved with Dr Ian Gibson MP EDM.
    I enjoyed reading your article, but would like to add that Robert Kett did what he did in the name of the King. He refusd a royal pardon as he stated that you can only be pardoned for a crime that you comitted, and as Robert Kett did what he did in the name of the King, he could not accept the pardon.

    Many thanks
    Michael Chandler

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