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Sean on Robert Aske


Robert Aske was a very passionate promoter of the Roman Catholic faith in England who commanded a lot of respect from the people of the country. Henry sees Aske as a threat, which he obviously was as he got together an army of 50,000 against him following the burning of the monasteries and the mass murder of monks and priests. Aske genuinely believed in what he was fighting for and that passion made him quite a formidable enemy. Even though he is not around for too long, he makes quite an impact in history. He was an influential and notable character as far as his threat to the monarchy was concerned.

I think you must admire someone who is so committed and courageous that they would give their life for the cause, which he did. It takes great courage to confront a king. And his were all very altruistic demands. He didn't gain anything personally from them. He simply couldn't stomach what was happening in England -- this random brutality, cruelty and destruction -- and had to put a stop to it. Monks and nuns dying in the street, monasteries burning, icons smashed to pieces... it's offensive to his beliefs and he's very much sickened by that. That is his main drive.

I've done a few death scenes before but I guess the pain in each death is reflected in different ways. I can only imagine how painful Aske's was! To be left to die over a period of days with various wounds must've been horrific. I wanted that scene to be as real and gruesome as possible. If someone was left hanging by their arms over an archway in public, festering, there's no point trying to ignore that. I don't think it should be minimized in any way as it could seem acceptable then and you don't die a death like that in a peaceful manner.

I only had a few scenes with Ray Winstone; I think they'll be nail-biting stuff. When I first heard he was playing Henry, I thought it was a genius bit of casting. I can imagine him being all of the things Henry VIII was as he's such a larger than life character!

It really depends on the role and the script but I do really enjoy working on period dramas. It's more magical to me. They are fascinating generally -- not only am I having a great time acting, but it's great to learn about the past and the costumes, the horses, the swords... everyone gets quite excited about it all no matter how old they are! Everyone loves a sword fight!

Aske was quite a physical part. I was doing a bit of everything -- horse riding, fighting and being hung up to die! I loved the atmosphere too with all the castles with the fires burning... to experience all that helps create the whole world and you can just immerse yourself in it.

Robert Aske and the Pilgrimage of Grace 1536

A historical view on Robert Aske, written by Annbax !

Robert Aske was no peasant soldier leading a rebellious mob, he was in fact a soldier, scholar and lawyer. He was the second son of Sir Robert Aske of Aughton, near Selby in Yorkshire.
His cousin was non other than Henry Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, a man whose ancestral home was Skipton Castle in North Yorkshire. He was seen as a man of substance, intelligent and coherent a good communicator and, as a lawyer in the Inns of Court in London, a man able to parley with kings and courtiers.

Skipton Castle

It was on his return to Yorkshire that he came into contact with the discontented citizens of that county. Yorkshire’s wealth was threatened by the closure of the monasteries. Yorkshire had more monastic communities than any other county. The monks had helped foster education and the development of the wool trade, one of England’s main sources of international trade. There were over fifty monastic communities in the county, many of them some of the largest monasteries in England and Europe. Henry, with the encouragement of the Protestant clerics and nobles, wished to destroy any papal power and opposition to his reforms. Some of the arguments revolved around the fact that many monastic institutions had grown lax and no longer kept the vows of poverty, obedience or chastity. They were certainly very wealthy institutions and Henry always needed money.
In 1536, Henry and Parliament ordered Thomas Cromwell to send out commissioners to investigate each institution, thus the smaller institutions were closed first. Lead was stripped from the roofs, land and buildings sold. Monks, nuns and friars evicted and told that their vows were no longer valid. Often this was done in a brutal way.
This is what angered the people of the North of England.
It would seem that Aske sought, at first, to dissuade them from any foolish action, but finally he appears to have accepted that they needed a spokesman. In 1536 some 30,000 men, from Yorkshire, Lancashire, Durham, Northumberland, Westmoreland and Cumberland marched south, from York, with the blessing of some of the northern noblemen. With them marched two powerful abbots from Fountains and Reveaulx Abbey.

They were met by 10,000 men of the King’s Army, led by Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.
Norfolk met the leaders and offered to take Aske, with promises of safe conduct to Windsor to meet the king. This was agreed. Aske asked the King to restore the monasteries, to end the use of inheritance taxes, to reduce taxes in time of need, to punish the commissioners, to punish Thomas Cromwell and to remove the Protestant Bishops from their ‘cathedra‘. It seemed that Henry was willing to accept at least some of the demands.
Aske remained, as a guest of the king over the Christmas of 1536. He was allowed to leave for home. Sadly some of his followers created problems. Aske was arrested, imprisoned in the Tower of London, tried for High Treason and returned to York for execution. He is said to have died hung on a special scaffold over the door of Clifford’s Tower in 1537. He was as old as the century.
Clifford's Tower

Many others were executed including the Abbot of Fountains. Ironically, at Selby Abbey, the abbot and monks were pensioned off and the Abbey church still stands as the Parish Church of Selby.

Selby Abbey

Caps from the Extra's interview with Sean

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Robert Aske was a high-ranking soldier in Henry VIII's army, a landowner and a lawyer from East Yorkshire who had powerful connections in London. On hearing of the closure of 55 monasteries and nunneries in his home county he gathered support for a protest against the Reformation.

The 30,000 'Pilgrims' used the banner of the five wounds of Christ as their symbol and demanded an end to the destruction of the Catholic Church in England.

Aske was also angered at the economic impact of the dissolution of the monasteries - the poor and the sick had been helped a great deal by the church in the North of England.

 

Robert Aske

 Robert Aske
Sean Bean

Robert Aske was a high-ranking soldier, lawyer, and landowner from Yorkshire who led 'the Pilgrimage of Grace,' a Roman Catholic uprising against the Protestant Reformation of the English Church following Henry VIII's divorce of Katherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn. In 1536 Thomas Cromwell established commissions to assess and collect taxes, dissolve the lesser monasteries, and investigate the clergy. The Pilgrimage of Grace aimed to restore the monasteries and nunneries that the crown had evacuated and plundered. Using the banner of the five wounds of Christ as their symbol, the pilgrims spread their rebellion across five northern counties and found sympathizers all over England. In October 1536, Aske traveled to London and met with Henry VIII, who promised him reparations. As Aske began his journey, fighting broke out again. Henry's men seized Aske and brought him to the Tower of London. He was condemned for high treason and hanged in York in July 1537.

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