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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > April 2017 > The Peasants’ Revolt

The Peasants’ Revolt

Medieval London descended into anarchy when an army of angry citizens rose up against the ruling elite, recounts Dan Jones
BLOOD-STAINED GLASS This decorative window in Mansion House, London, depicts the stabbing of rebel Wat Tyler
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On the morning of Friday 14th June 1381, a mob gathered outside the Tower of London. Some were citizens and apprentices from the square mile of the city. Many came from outside of London, in the villages of Essex and Kent that spread out from the estuary of the River ames. They included men and women, old and young, bakers, blacksmiths, farmhands, roofers, brewers and churchmen. All had come to England’s capital to protest against the government that ruled in the name of the fourteen-year-old King Richard II.

Inside the fortress, holed up behind high stone walls and the huge, four-sided White Tower, were the king’s ministers. The noise they heard outside was terrifying. The crowd had been rampaging through London for over 24 hours, waving rusty swords and agricultural tools. They had come for justice and they would not be dispersed until they had it.

For the first time in England’s history, the rulers of the realm were under siege by the ordinary people – and the results would be spectacular. By the end of that tumultuous Friday, the chancellor and treasurer of England would be dead, their heads cut off and paraded through the streets on poles, before being put on display on spikes above London Bridge.

BOY KING Richard II was just ten years old when he succeeded to the throne
ALAMY X2, GETTY X2

TIME TO TAKE A STAND

The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 is badly named. Certainly it was an uprising of ‘the people’, in which England was convulsed for a whole summer by rioting against unfair taxes, an unpopular war and an unloved political elite. But to call all the people ‘peasants’ is misleading. The participants included knights and local gentry, landowners, parish priests, village constables and wealthy inhabitants of towns from Yorkshire to Somerset. Their grievances had been growing for years and varied from region to region. is was far more than mere pitchfork-waving.

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About History Revealed

This might well be our most-packed issue ever, and we’ve got pretty much every time and place imaginable covered. Our section in the centre pages looks at those archaeological discoveries that make our understanding of the past possible – from buried kings to mysterious writings.
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