King Richard 2nd meets the rebels
In June 1381, from the English county of Kent formed behind Wat Tyler,a blacksmithby trade, and joined with rebels from Essex and marched on London. When the rebels arrived in Blackheath on June 12, the renegade Lollard priest, John Ball, preached a sermon including the famous question that has echoed down the centuries: "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?". On june 13th, the rebels, encouraged by the sermon, crossed London Bridge into the heart of the city. Meanwhile the ‘Men of Essex’ had gathered with Jack Straw at Great Baddow and had marched on London, arriving at Stepney. Instead of what was expected from a riot however, there was only a systematic attack on certain properties, many of them associated with John of Gaunt and/or the Hospitaller Order. On June 14, they are reputed to have been met by the young king himself, and, led by Richard of Wallingford to have presented him with a series of demands, including the dismissal of some of his more unpopular ministers and the effective abolition of serfdom. One of the more intriguing demands of the peasants was "that there should be no law within the realm save the law of Winchester". This is often said to refer to the statutes of the Charter of Winchester (1251), though it is sometimes considered to be a reference to the more equitable days of king Alfred the Great, when Winchester was the capital of England. At the same time, a group of rebels stormed the Tower of London, probably after being let in,and summarily executed those hiding there, including the Lord Chancellor (Simon of Sudbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was particularly associated with the poll tax), and the Lord Treasurer (Robert de Hales, the Grand Prior of the Knights Hospitallers of England). The Savoy Palace of the king’s uncle John of Gaunt was one of the London buildings destroyed by the rioters. At this meeting, the Lord Mayor killed Wat Tyler whose death and another promise by Richard to give the peasants what they asked for, was enough to send them home.
The rising is significant because it marked the beginning of the end of serfdom in medieval England. It led to calls for the reform of feudalism in England and an increase in rights for the serf class. By the summer of 1381, the revolt was over. John Ball was hanged. Richard did not keep any of his promises claiming that they were made under threat and were therefore not valid in law. Other leaders from both Kent and Essex were hanged. The poll tax was withdrawn but the peasants were forced back into their old way of life – under the control of the lord of the manor.
What was it these peasants objected to?
|1.||Every able person under the age of 36 who is not a craftsman must work for his lord for the same wages as before the plague.|
|2.||Any worker or servant leaving his lords service without cause or licence should be imprisoned.|
|3.||A man must not pay his servant more than the above wages, on pain of a fine of twice the labourers wage.|
|4.||A Lord of town or Manor must not pay his servant more than the above wages, on pain of a fine of thrice the labourers wage.|
|5.||Any craftsman charging more for his goods or service than pre-plague levels should be imprisoned.|
|6.||Traders and Merchants overcharging for their goods will pay a fine of three times the amount.|
|7.||Anyone giving alms to the poor, or gifts to beggars will be imprisoned. This is to ensure that they carry out rightful employment.|
What a pity that other countries, hide such stories from successive generations.