Robert Aske was a charismatic lawyer from Yorkshire who played a vital leadership role in the Catholic Northern Rebellion against King Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell(also known as the Pilgrimage of Grace). Appearing in the first half of Season Three, he is played by Irish actor Gerard McSorley. Despite his genuine loyalty to the king, Aske's sympathy for his persecuted fellow Catholics compells him to lead the march of protest. Ultimately, despite his negotiations with Henry himself, the rebellion goes beyond Aske's control; when it is ultimately crushed, Aske is condemned by the King's court and executed along with thousands of other Northerners.
Aske is a barrister and respected, educated gentryman in Yorkshire in episode 3.01. Despite King Henry's new Queen, Jane Seymour, showing favor for the Catholic Church, Thomas Cromwell's reforms and repressions continue against Catholic monasteries, outraging many of the people in the North. Aske's fellow gentrymen, including his common-born friend John Constable, pressure him to join them in rebellion, as they know he sympathizes with them and they need educated, cool-headed leaders. At the end of the episode, Aske finally-and reluctantly- agrees, but only as long as they swear to uphold their loyalty to the king; he stresses they intend to petition their greivances to Henry and negotiate, not take up arms against him. Though some of the rebels are angry with Aske's continued loyalty to Henry, they meet his terms, and at the end of the episode Aske and his friends (Constable and another gentryman, Sir Ralph Ellerker) are leading a force tens of thousands strong out of York, heading for Lincoln.In London, King Henry is incensed by the rebellion; he orders the rebellion to be crushed by the Royal Army under Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk, and blames Cromwell for provoking it in the first place. In episode 3.02, Aske and his followers capture Pontifract Castle without real resistance, since Lord Darcy(the garrison commander) knows he is unable to hold out against such a massive force and holds some sympathy for them. After taking Pontifract and using it as headquarters, Aske heads south with some of the rebels to meet the advancing Royal Army, which is not yet mobilized or equipped enough to attack his forces. When he meets with Charles Brandon, Aske explains that he has no desire to fight the King but only to speak to him and negotiate concerning the goals of the Pilgrimage. Convinced, Brandon arranges for a successful ceasefire (although Henry's unwillingness to negotiate angers Constable), and later requests for Aske to come to London for an audience with Henry. Henry is still vengeful towards the rebels and angry that Charles didn't crush them, but fearful of their numbers he allows it.
Aske explains the rebel's primary terms to Charles; they want their rights to Catholic practices recognized, they want many of the King's advisors (including Cromwell and Cranmer, their main opponents) investigated for heresy and they want Henry's daughter Mary Tudor recognized as an heir. However, the 'sticking point', according to Aske, is that the sacking of the Northern Abbeys be stopped and those which were destroyed be restored. Aske, the moderate mind among the Pilgrimage leaders, seems especially devoted to these abbeys, which are the only source of real charity for the poor in England. Unlike Constable and Sir Ralph Ellerker, who want radical political change and show a real hatred for Protestantism, Aske simply wants to have this system of charity renewed and Catholic rights restored.
When Aske arrives in London at Christmas in 3.03, he is treated with hostility by the court, although the only person he shows anger towards is Cromwell. He meets with Henry and explains that the people of the North only want to see the restoration of what was taken from them by force, asking if the matter can be taken up by Parliament. Seemingly mollified by Aske's deference and honesty, Henry assures him they can set up a meeting of Parliament in York to discuss the matter once the rebels are dispersed and returned home. In the meantime, Henry will issue a pardon of all rebels as long as they immediately lay down their arms, and his wife Jane Seymour (who shows Aske sympathy) will be officiall crowned Queen at York. Very moved by this generous offer, Aske assures the King that the Northerners will be delighted to meet Henry's terms, and he rushes back to Lincoln after a brief meeting with his other great supporter at court, Princess Mary Tudor. He instructs the leaders that they shall wait at Pontifract Castle for Brandon to bring them the King's written terms.However, the rebel leaders in Lincoln have grown impatient and do not place any value in the King's promises, since the Royal Army is still mobilizing; they are right not to trust the King, as while Henry is willing to pardon his Northern subjects, he has no intention of meeting their demands. Though most of the rebels obey Aske's instructions to disperse, a few of the other leaders- including John Constable- rally the remaining ones despite Aske's pleas for them not to provoke the King. A brief clash between these rebels and the Royalist troops gives Henry an excuse to rescind all his promises, returning to his original plan of brutal repression; all Northerners bearing arms are siezed, many of them killed in the process. Aske, still at Pontifract with Lord Darcy, is ordered to return with Brandon to London and explain the new rebellion, despite truthfully insisting that he and Darcy had nothing to do with it; once he gets there, however, he is placed in the Tower, with Brandon apologizing and saying he did everything he could for Aske. Henry visits him there; despite expressing his admiration for Aske, Henry does nothing to save him. Cromwell later questions Darcy and Aske respectively, while Constable (a commoner) is tortured by Edward Seymour; at the end of the episode, both Darcy and Constable have been beheaded. Although Cromwell tells Aske he has good reason to spare his life despite their emnity (probably because Cromwell wanted to use him as a puppet to pacify any future Catholic rebellions) Aske is later tried before the Solicitor-General, Richard Riche, and sentenced to death.
In episode 3.04, Henry's repression against the North begins in earnest; nearly all the Pilgrimage leaders are condemned to death for treason, and thousands of Northern civilians are hanged by Charles Brandon's soldiers despite Charles' horror of what he is being ordered to do. Aske, meanwhile, is visited by a priest who asks for his final confession, revealing he is secretly a member of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Aske expresses his regret of 'sinning' against his King, as well as his anger that he must beg the pardon of Cromwell before his death (to prevent reprisals against his family). He then gives the Priest a diamond ring he received from Princess Mary, asking him to give it to his family to help support them. Aske is also visited one more time by his tearful wife and children.Later in the episode, Aske is taken to be hung in chains in York; the only one attending his execution is Charles Brandon, who feels sympathy for him and regret over betraying the rebels. Strung with chains and stained with blood where the manacles have cut into his flesh, Aske staggers up the the scaffold and stares down at Charles, who is visibly suppressing his emotions. Recognizing that the Duke of Suffolk tried to help him, Aske tearfully apologizes to everyone he has ever offended and forgives Brandon his sins, then steps off the ledge once the noose is put around his neck. Princess Mary and Ambassador Eustace Chapuys later converse about Aske, showing sympathy for his cause and regret for Henry's vengeance against him.
- "Look what they've done, John. Just look at it."
- "Lady, you must know how beloved you are by the people... as was your mother before you, God rest her soul."- to Princess Mary Tudor.
- "I assure you, you shall find no people more loving and loyal to Your Majesty in the Kingdom than in Yorkshire." - after receiving Henry's 'promises'
- Final Words: "...And most of all, I ask forgiveness of my Lord Suffolk (meets Charles' eyes) whose trespassers against me... I forgive with a free heart. I love all the world."
Quotes about Aske Edit
- "This man loves his King. What he does not love is the kind of butchery that's taking place in the King's name"- Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, King Henry's actor, in a Season Three interview.