Yorkshire, England, 1537. His Majesty King Henry VIII finally has his heir, Prince Edward, however that does very little to help us poor families in the north.
I am nine years old with four brothers and sisters. My older sister, Mary, serves a nobleman’s wife and brings back a wage that barely supports us all. My older brother spends most of his time helping my father grow, sell and trade the produce we grow. Most Yorkists are farmers, so most of our trading is done elsewhere, or with the Scots, if we are lucky.
We are a deeply religious Catholic family, despite the huge changes made to the English church over the past ten years. King Henry is now head of the ‘Church of England’, allowing him to falsely annul his marriage to Queen Katherine and marry the Boleyn woman. “Catholicism will never be the same,” my father always tells us.
He is right. One rainy morning when my mother and I went to buy some cloths and fabrics for clothes, we found our small town’s monastery deserted.
“It wasn’t like this last week,” my mother muttered with confusion.
It was then the fabric seller explained that the heretic Thomas Cromwell and his men are going through the country claiming bad things about religious houses and destroying them, giving all the money to the King.
“Somebody should do something about it,” I say.
“You’ll be executed on the spot if you try to start an uprising,” the seller says with a shake of her head, "Remember last year?"
The previous year a rebellion had began to form; others hated this new religion as well. However, it was soon put to rest.
And yet... a few weeks later when my mother and I go again to get some supplies, we find the monastery is a pile of rubble and many conversations we overhear are of a proposed uprising.
We ignore it all and keep away from the activity. That is, until one evening, my father and brother come back after a week's trading in the west to tell us we are to join the uprising.
Father takes us to the centre of our town, where there is a gathering. I am told it is only a fraction of those participating in this event; much of the north is too.
Robert Aske, the leader of our uprising, talks to us about what he wishes we shall achieve. "We shall bring back the mass, restore religious houses, stop the Bible being read in English," he lists many more things. He even suggests that we will restore Princess Mary to her place in the succession. She is now declared illegitimate by King Henry, titled Lady Mary, but she is a devout Catholic, and will certainly bring back our religion if she ever becomes Queen.
After his inspiring speech, he hands out, to those of us who do not have it, a square of fabric containing the five wounds of Christ. He tells us to sew them onto our clothing, to show our support for the revolution, as he calls it. Others begin to call it the Pilgrimage of Grace. I, personally, prefer the latter.
I assign myself to the task of sewing on the squares, all but Mary's, who wishes to hide it from her heretic mistress, who will surely have her hanged if she finds out. I use our best clothes, which weren't difficult to find; they were the clothes that weren't torn, dirty, too small, or worn out by some other method.
Our Pilgrimage sets off by restoring the mass. We bring Catholic priests to the chapels and abbeys that remain to tell us the mass, in Latin, for while most of us uneducated farmers do not speak it, it is their language, and that is how we shall hear it.
After the mass has been openly re-established in Yorkshire, we find the religious houses that still stand and bring back the monks and nuns and return them to a place of safety. We aren't surprised at all to find that our pilgrimage has attracted some attention by the nobles in London. However, that does not bother us; we continue.
Within a few weeks, we have a visit by a group of noblemen from London. They tell us the King is willing to negotiate peace. Our excitement is clear and Robert Aske travels to London to meet the King.
The King promises many things; a special parliament to be held for it. However, a few days later, people start to say the King has gone against his word. I don't understand how, but father says he certainly has, blaming it on Thomas Cromwell.
Before we are able to realise what is happening, news spreads that Robert Aske and other leaders have been arrested for treason and are to be executed. Not long after we hear that people participating in the Pilgrimage are to be hanged also.
I panic and rip the piece of cloth off my dress, "I don't want to be hanged!" I cry.
My mother hugs me, "Don't worry, they may not come here."
She was wrong. Only a few days later, two men come to our home and search through it. They find one of the squares and arrest us for participating in the Pilgrimage.
They take us to large open area in the centre of the town. It used to be an area where us children would play during the day, but now nooses were lined up and dead bodies were being dragged away.
My family are pushed up to one line of nooses and helped up onto the bench underneath it. The ropes are adjusted to our heights, and our hands are tied behind our backs.
Panic surges within me. It is all happening faster than I can process it.
I start to murmur in prayer. I hear a man call out and the bench is pushed out from underneath us, hanging us by our necks.