Gold THE GEOFFREY CHAUCER PAGE


 

The Commons' Revolt led by Jack Straw and Wat Tyler.

 

And in this same year was a parliament held at Westminster; and at that parliament was ordained that every man, woman and child, that were at the age of fourteen years and above, throughout all the realm, poor folk and rich, should pay as a tax four pence; wherefore came afterwards great mischief and much distress to all the community of the realm.

And in the fourth year of the reign of King Richard the commons joined together, and arose up in diverse parts of the realm, and did much harm, the which they called "hurling [fighting] time." And those of Kent and of Essex made themselves two chieftains to rule and govern the company of Kent and of Essex: that one was called Jack Straw, and that other, Wat Tyler; and they came and assembled themselves upon the Black-Heath in Kent.

And upon the Corpus Christi day and after, they came down into Southwark, and broke into the prison house, that is to say, the King's Bench, and the Marshalsea, and delivered out all the prisoners. And so the same day they came into London; and there they robbed the people, and slew all aliens that they might find in the city and about the city, and despoiled all their goods, and made havoc.

And on the Friday next after, that was on the morrow, they came unto the Tower of London; and the king being therein, they fetched out of the Tower the Archbishop of Canterbury, Master Symond Sudbery, and Sir Robert Hales, Prior of Saint John's, and a White Friar that was confessor unto King Richard, and brought them unto the Tower Hill; and there they smote off their heads, and came again to London, and slew more people of men of law, and other worthy men in diverse parts of the city.

And then went they to the palace of the Duke of Lancaster, beyond Saint Mary Strand, that was called Savoy. And there they devoured and destroyed al the goods that they might find, and carried them away, and burned up the palace. And then after they went to Saint John's without Smithfield, and destroyed the goods, and burned up that house, and went to Westminster and so to Saint Martin the Great, and made, them go out of the sanctuary, all that were therein for any sort of safety from prosecution.

And than [they] came unto the Temple, and to all other inns of men of law, and despoiled them and robbed them of their goods, and also tore up their books of law; and they came to London, and broke the prison of Newgate, and drove out all the prisoners, felons, and others of both debtors' prisons, and all the people that was within them, and destroyed all the books of both prisons; and thus they continued forth, both Saturday and Sunday, unto the Monday next following, in all their malice and wickedness.

And than, on the Monday, King Richard, with his lords that were with him that time, and with the Mayor of London, William Walworth, the aldermen and the commons of the city, came in to Southwark to hear and know the intention of these rebels and misgoverned people. And this Jack Straw then made an oyes [announcement] in the field, that all the people who agreed with him should come near, and hear his clamor and his cry and his will. And the lords, and the mayor and the aldermen, with the commons, having indignation of his greed and falseness, and his foul presumption; and at once William Walworth, that time being mayor, drew out his knife, and slew Jack Straw, and right away there did smite off his head, and set it upon a spear-shaft; and so it was carried throughout London, and set on high on London Bridge.

And at once all the risers and misgoverned men were voided and vanished, as if they had not been. And the king, of his great goodness, and by prayer of his lords, made there six knights of good and worthy men of the city of London, that is, William Walworth -- who that time was mayor and slew Jack Straw -- and second was Nicholas Brembre, the third was John Plily-pot, the fourth was Nicholas Twyfford, the fifth was Robert Lawndes; the sixth, Robert Gayton. And then the king, with his lords and his knights, returned again unto the Tower of London; and there he rested himself until his people were better calmed down and set in rest and peace.

And than, by process of time, as they might get and take these rebels and risers, they hanged them on the nearest gallows in every lordship through the realm of England, by forties and by thirties, by tens and by twelves ever as they might be gotten and taken in any part of the country.

Back to Geoffrey Chaucer Page | (Or use your browser's back button to return to the previous page.)

Modernized from The Brut or Chronicle of England, ed. Friedrick W.D. Brie, Part II, Early English Text Society, London, 1908, pp. 336-38.

Last modified: Nov, 14, 2002
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Gold Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (ldb@wjh.harvard.edu)