On June 13, 1381, a large mob of 70,000 English peasants marched towards London and started looting and killing the elites in the city. But who was the brain behind the operation?
Several peasants from all across England revolted against their lords. They were led by a farmer, by the name of Wat Tyler. Their rebellion was caused by the long-term impact of the plague, unfair labor practices, and unreasonable taxes on the poor.
Who was Wat Tyler?
Not much is known about Wat Tyler’s childhood. There are conflicting information about his birth. One source says he was born in January 1341, while another source claims he was actually born in 1320. Most historians presume that he was born in Kent or Essex due to his name that may have been derived from the Old English name of Watt or Walter. It is thought that his last name Tyler was actually from his occupation as a roof tiler, but this is yet to be confirmed. Prior to the rebellion, he represented Dartford and Maidstone in Kent.
Tyler started what is now known to be the first great popular rebellion in English History. His leadership proved to be one of the main reasons for the almost successful revolution against the elites of their time. (Source: Britannica)
What Caused the Peasants’ Revolt?
The reason for the Peasants’ Revolt originated from the bubonic plague, where nearly a third of the English population had been wiped out. This eventually led to the scarcity of labor and higher wages. However, this change caused the parliament to decide to pass laws to control the increase in salaries and keep the peasants in their place. In 1380, the peasants reached a breaking point when they were not allowed to vote. The rebels from Kent chose Wat Tyler to be their leader, and they eventually made their way to London. (Source: History)
What Happened During the Peasants’ Revolt?
Wat Tyler led the Army of Peasants towards London. They captured the towns of Maidstone, Rochester, and Canterbury along the way. After being denied a meeting with King Richard II, he led his army of 70,000 to London on June 13, 1381. They burned and plundered the city, killing elites they met along the way. The very next day, the 14-year-old king met with the rebellion leaders at Mile End. Both parties reached an agreement. Despite this, the fighting continued elsewhere at the same time. The Tower of London was captured, and the archbishop of Canterbury was executed.
On June 15, 1381, Tyler and the king met again. Tyler had new demands that included the abolishment of church property. Tyler’s disrespect of the king angered the mayor of London that he stabbed him with a sword. Tyler was fatally wounded and dying. King Richard managed the mob until the mayor came back with armed troops. Hundreds of rebels were killed on that day, and Wat Tyler’s head was displayed on a spike in a London field. King Richard II revoked all the concessions he had agreed upon at the Mile End. (Source: History)