Peasants Revolt *30 May 1381

Background of Peasants’ Revolt

Richard ll was king of England during the peasant revolt, however, he was only 10 years of age at his coronation which was brought about by the untimely death of Edward III and his son the Black Prince a year earlier.

Richard ll did not have the knowledge to run a kingdom at that time and needed assistance from his uncle John of Gaunt who effectively ruled the country from this point in time

John Gaunt English King

John Gaunt King of England and cause of the peasant revolt

Cause of the Peasants’ Revolt

John Gaunt was a very unpopular ruler with medieval peasants and the peasants’ revolt was due to the shoddy treatment of all levels of society at that time especially the poor and a combination of factors led to the revolt.

Heavy taxes were introduced that nobody liked and were used to pay for the war with France, in 1381 a totally unfair poll tax was introduced, which demanded that everyone in the land paid a set amount to the king.

Medieval Peasants Clothes

Early riots

When medieval officials tried to collect the unpopular taxes that had been issued by John Gaunt, Richard II’s uncle who was running the kingdom from both the rich and poor, small riots started to break out all over England, this was the start of the great uprising that became known as the peasant revolt.

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Reasons for the Peasants’ Revolt

Although the new poll tax was one of the main factors for the peasants’ revolt there were also bigger reasons, underneath the surface people’s anger had been bubbling away for centuries as many people believed that the social system in place in England was wholly unfair.

People everywhere resented the feudal system, people now saw a chance for freedom and even the poorest worker saw that they finally had an opportunity to win their freedom

Feudal System Cartoon

Feudal System

Peasants’ Revolt 1381

In Kent in the south of England, a large crowd was gathering that was organised by a craftsman called Wat Tyler, the angry mob had decided to march on London with the aim of getting the King to abolish the unfair taxes on the poor that had to be paid to their landlords.

Wat Tyler

Original image of Wat Tyler who led the peasant revolt

Wat Tyler

Not much was known about Wat Tyler’s early life but it is thought that he was a roof tiler in medieval England.

He lived in Kent in the south of England and was one of the ringleaders of the 1381 uprising and the peasants’ revolt, it is believed that he led the march on London in which there was an attack on John Gaunt’s palace and in which the Bishop of Canterbury was killed.

It is not 100% known what led Wat Tyler to become the leader of the peasants’ revolt or what triggered his anger, some accounts suggest that John Tyler’s daughter was indecently assaulted by a collector of hatred and it is believed that he killed him in revenge on this triggered the peasants’ revolt and march on London.

The March on London

The angry mob marched on London led by Wat Tyler and When they arrived in the capital all hell broke loose, the mob people went crazy and set ablaze John Gaunt’s palace and the Archbishop of Canterbury was killed in the events that followed.

Medieval London Image

London City and The Tower of London

Peasants’ Revolt *The young King

King Richard although he was still only young at 14 years of age agreed to meet the rebels even though all his advisers were panicking and he patiently listened to their demands and concerns at the meeting that took place at Smithfield where he met with the leader of the peasants’ revolt Wat Tyler.

King Richard II Portrait Medieval Kings

King Richard II

Wat Tyler’s Death

The peasants did not realize it but this meeting would not go very well, as King Richard spoke with the rebel leader Wat Tyler he was attacked and killed by the Mayor of London who stabbed him to death. The mayor of London claimed that he was protecting the King but it is more likely that he set out to kill the rebel leader.

Peasants revolt - KIng Richard II

A peasant’s revolt against King Richard II was crushed

King Richard betrays the Peasants

King Richard convinced the peasants after the murder of Wat Tyler that he was now on their side willing to be their captain.

The peasants gave up and went home believing that they had secured a great victory, in fact, they were being double-crossed by king Richard who did nothing to help them in the future and had the leaders of the revolts quickly rounded up and executed.

John Gaunt English King

John Gaunt King of England and cause of the peasant revolt

The peasants’ revolt | Black Death

Although the peasants’ revolt was defeated by King Richard there was a major change victory coming for them which was just around the corner and would give the peasants more power than they could ever have imagined.

The Black Plague and Rats

The Black Death

The Black Death or bubonic plague as it is also known would change life in Britain and put the power back into the hands of the peasants, as there would soon be a shortage of labour throughout the kingdom

Peasants’ Revolt Fast Facts

        • John Gaunt really ruled England during the era of the peasant’s revolt as king Richard was too young
        • When King Edward was dying John Gaunt took over the King’s Council
        • John Gaunt had a reputation for bribery and corruption
        • 19-year-old Richard ruled England after the peasants’ revolt
        • Peasant revolts started because of the unfair treatment of the population

John Gaunt English King

        • An unpopular poll tax and other heavy taxes were imposed on the people due to the war with France
        • Peasants set fire to John Gaunt Palace & killed the Archbishop of Canterbury
        • The Lord Mayor of London killed Wat Tyler the peasant revolts, leader
        • King Richard had the peasant revolts leaders executed
        • The Duke of Canterbury was killed in the Peasants Revolt

Medieval Peasants Clothes

        • The peasants were defeated and their leaders killed under the command of King Richard
        • King Richard II ruled England after the peasants’ revolt at the age of 19
        • The Black Death put the power back into the hands of the people due to a shortage of labour