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At the time of the so-called "Prayer Book Rebellion", England was ruled by Edward VI, the only legitimate son of Henry VIII,  who was still a boy. All the really big decisions were made on Edward's behalf by noblemen who acted as his guardians and advisers. 
King Edward VI
King Edward VI

 

In 1542, the earliest British  encyclopaedia recorded that

 

"In Cornwall is two speches, the one is naughty* Englysshe and the other is Cornishspeche. And there may be many men and women the which cannot speak one word of Englysshe but all Cornysshe."

 

The 1549 edict from London, decreeing that the Latin used in church services must be replaced by English was a double whammy for the Cornish. Not only did it signal the end of the old ways of worship, it spelt the end of the Cornish language. Feelings locally ran high and people said that the young king was just a pawn in a much wider power struggle and everything should go on as before until the young Edward VI was old enough to reign as King outright. Then they would be able to put their case to him and he would surely understand their reasons and exempt them as a special case.

 

A large, angry contingent of farmers, fishermen and miners, led by many local landowners and rallying to the cry  "Kernow Arta!" meaning "Cornwall again!" assembled in Bodmin, determined to march on London to put forward their arguments to the young king and his council. 

Before they left, they issued a statement which said:

"We wyll have oure olde service .... in Latten not in English, as it was before. And so we Cornish men (whereof certen of us understande no Englysh) utterly refuse this new Englysh."

 

St Petroc's Church, Bodmin

Taking the route from Bodmin into Devon, the Cornishmen  reached Okehampton where they began to hear news of the rebellion in Sampford Courtenay.

They sent a messenger on in advance to the Devon men asking them to wait in Crediton so that they could join forces with them and set out behind them on the road to Exeter.

St Petroc's Church, Bodmin

Built between 1469 and 1472

The largest Parish Church in Cornwall

© Richard J Brine

 

* In this age "naughty" meant poor, in the sense of "poor quality".

 

 

 
 
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