The Prayer Book Rebellion
The oldest example of the Three Hares in England is in a church in Devon. There are 17 churches and 28 roof carvings of the Three Hares in Devon. The dating, though not very exact and not given in the church guides, is estimated to be from the early to mid 1500's. Let's take a look at the historical events of that time.
While religion was presented as a reason for these wars, there were many other factors as well, such as land, money, economics, political power, natural resources, and more.
Prior to the Reformation, people had had twenty years of oppression. The social gap between rich and poor had become more extreme. Common lands were confiscated and privatized. No longer could the peasants chop wood from the open woodlands. They were no longer allowed to hunt game for their food in the commonly shared meadows. And their cattle could no longer roam and feed on these lands.
Population pressures caused inflation and people revolted as prices increased. Two years prior to the Prayer Book Rebellion, the cost of wheat had quadrupled. It was the nobles who fixed the prices and they had developed a high standard of living. The nobles illegally raised rents, cheated, stole, and sometimes resorted to outright violence to take what they wanted.
The kings needed money to finance wars and further increased the tax burden on those who were already poor.
The introduction of the Common Prayer Book in 1549 was the straw that broke the camel's back. The people revolted against the changes caused by the theology of the English Reformation.
The people of Cornwall and Devon were rioting and then set out to march to the king's throne. At first it was a peaceful protest march, designed to make demands on the young king.(The king was only 9 years old, and actually he was being manipulated by an archbishop.) The protesting crowd increased as more joined in from each town they passed through. As they moved closer, the king deployed military forces.
What was perceived as government attacks on the traditional religion (but was actually orchestrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury) angered the people and they became defiant. Because it was a display of power and a challenge against religious unity, the religious processions, holidays, and pilgrimages were banned. The Act of Uniformity was established as law and religious shrines were removed. Those who carried out the royal orders were often murdered by supporters of the Catholic church. Church silver was beaten into daggers for the military.
The few peasants who did support the new changes were often killed by their brethern. One story tells of a pro-supporter of the new changes who was gored through with a pitchfork (by devout Catholics) on the church steps.
The Lord Proctor Duke ordered an army of mercenaries to massacre thousands of opposers and their allies during the suppression of the Prayer Book Rebellion.
Perhaps those few who were far sighted and saw this coming were responsible for the placement of the Three Hares in the church as a warning signal to flee.