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 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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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