Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Occupy (Medieval) London! Part 5 (of 5)

...and he's only 14!


Tens of thousands have damaged London and remain a threat. King Richard goes out to calm them down and promise them he will treat them well, but while he's doing that, they storm the Tower of London and behead the Archbishop of Canterbury (who is also Chancellor) and the Lord Treasurer—and at the same time they hassle the king's mother. But he meets with them the next day anyway—king's word is his bond, right? The rebel leader acts like a jerk (so we're told, by the guys on the opposite side of the argument), and is killed. The front of the line of rebels—standing far back—see him go from his horse to the ground. They suspect treachery, and start to raise weapons and get loud.

The fourteen-year-old king spurs his horse forward, right up to the rebels, alone. He asks them if they really wish to shoot at their king. In the embarrassed confusion that follows, he raises his sword and says "You shall have no leader but me!" He tells them that all is well, Tyler has in fact just been knighted (which pleases the crowd, although it is completely counter to the idea of social equality behind which they marched), and that they should follow Richard to an open area outside of London. The crowd, enthralled that this boy, king by divine right, is willing to be their leader, follows him into open fields, which allows the nobles with 7000 militia (pulled together in the previous 48 hours) to surround them. The rebels are combed through to find the leaders. The followers are easily dispersed. The concessions offered by the king are revoked.

Jack Straw and John Ball are found (according to Froissart) hiding in an old house, thinking they had escaped. John Ball is executed on July 15; presumably, Jack Straw is also executed around the same time.

Other revolts against the upper classes took place in Europe, and statutes intended to restrict workers for the good of society were enacted several times over the next few centuries, but the Peasants' Revolt stands out in England for how quickly it surged, and how easily and quickly it was quelled.

(And then Richard went on to invent the handkerchief.)

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