|Born||c.1320/4 January 1341|
|Died||15 June 1381|
|Known for||Peasants' Revolt|
WatTyler (c. 1320/4 January 1341 – 15 June 1381) was a leader of the 1381 Peasants' Revolt in England. He led a group of rebels from Canterbury to London to oppose the institution of a poll tax and to demand economic and social reforms. While the brief rebellion enjoyed early success, Tyler was killed by officers loyal to King Richard II during negotiations at Smithfield, London.
Not much is known of Wat Tyler's early life. There are varying sources of his birth. One claims that he was born on January 4, 1341, while another source claims he was born around 1320. Most historians agree that he was born around 1341. He was fascinated by John Ball, his group having broken the radical priest out of jail. He was probably born in Kent or Essex. “Wat” may have been his given name (derived from the Old English name Watt), or a diminutive form of the name Walter; his original surname was unknown.It is thought that the name "Tyler" came from his occupation as a roof tiler, but this is not confirmed. Prior to the Peasants' Revolt, it is probable that he lived in Kent or Essex; he has variously been represented as coming from Dartford and Maidstone in Kent, from Deptford, which was in Kent at the time, and from Colchester in Essex.
The Peasants' Revolt began in May 1381, triggered by a recently imposed poll tax of 4 pence from every adult, whether peasant or wealthy. The revolt was not only about money, as the peasants also sought increased liberty and other social reforms. They demanded that each labourer be allowed to work for the employer of his choice and sought an end to serfdom and other rigid social demarcation. There were uprisings across England, with much of the unrest focused on Essex and Kent. The uprising was opposed by a significant part of English society in those regions, including nobility and wealthy religious establishments.Many peasants and labourers were inspired by the teachings of John Ball, a radical priest who preached that all humans should be treated equally, as descendants of Adam and Eve, and who asked: "When Adam delved and Eve span/Who was then the gentleman?"
How Wat Tyler became involved with the revolt is unknown, although a much later sixteenth-century sourceindicates that a man of a similar name, John Tyler, was its initiator. This account suggests that a poll-tax collector had indecently assaulted John Tyler's daughter. It is suggested the poll tax collector "pulled up his daughter's clothes to see if she arrived at the age of puberty". In revenge he killed the miscreant and triggered the insurgency. Regardless of the basis of that story, by June 1381, when groups of rebels from across the country began a coordinated assault on London, Wat Tyler had emerged as a leader of the Kentish forces.
On 13 June, the rebels reached the capital and crossed London Bridge. Once in the city, they attacked civil targets, destroying legal records, opening prisons, sacking homes, and killing individuals they thought were associated with the royal government.In response, the king, Richard II (then 14 years old), met with the rebels on 14 June 1381 and agreed to make many concessions and to give full pardons to all those involved in the rebellion. While some of the rebels were satisfied by the king's promises and dispersed, Tyler and his followers were not.
On 15 June 1381, Tyler and his Kentish forces met King Richard at Smithfield, outside London. There, Tyler spoke personally with the king and put forward his demands. At first, the meeting seems to have gone well, with Tyler treating the king in a friendly, if overly familiar, manner, and Richard agreeing the rebels "should have all that he could fairly grant".
However, tensions quickly rose. According to a contemporary chronicler, Tyler acted contemptuously, calling for a flagon of water to rinse his mouth "because of the great heat that he was in" and when he received the water "he rinsed his mouth in a very rude and disgusting fashion before the King's face". Sir John Newton (a servant of the king) insulted Tyler by calling him "the greatest thief and robber in all Kent". Tyler attacked Newton, but was restrained and arrested by the Lord Mayor of London, William Walworth. Tyler then attempted to stab the mayor, who was saved by his armour. Walworth slashed Tyler across the neck and head with his sword, and another of the king's servants, possibly Ralph de Standish, stabbed Tyler again, severely wounding him. Tyler managed to ride thirty yards before he fell from his horse.
In the disorder that followed, he was taken to a hospital for the poor, but was tracked down by the mayor, brought back to Smithfield and publicly decapitated. Tyler's head was placed atop a pole and carried through the city, then displayed on London Bridge.In the wake of their leader's death, his followers were driven from London and the movement was shattered. Subsequently, Richard II revoked all the concessions he had made to the rebels and many were hunted down and executed. That effectively ended the revolt.
John Gower commented on Wat Tyler in his 14th-century poem Vox Clamantis :: I:IX "The jay's voice is wild and he has only learnt the art of speaking from the classes with whom the Latin poet is identified." A number of works in the post-medieval period have featured Wat Tyler as protagonist. Tyler was the protagonist of the play Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, or, The Mob Reformers (1730) first performed at Bartholomew Fair in 1730. Wat Tyler is represented in Robert Southey's Wat Tyler, A Dramatic Poem , which was written in 1794 but not published until 1813. The first novel to feature Wat Tyler is Mrs O'Neill's The Bondman: A Story of the Days of Wat Tyler (1833). He is the protagonist in Pierce Egan the Younger's novel Wat Tyler, or the Rebellion of 1381 (1841), a highly radical text published at the height of the second phase of the Chartist movement that argued for republican government in England. Egan's novel was subsequently abridged and plagiarised and published as The Life and Adventures of Wat Tyler: The Good and the Brave (1851). Wat Tyler is the protagonist of the penny dreadful serial novel Wat Tyler; or, The King and the Apprentice which appeared in weekly parts in The Young Englishman's Journal in 1867, and appears as a main character in William Harrison Ainsworth's Merry England; or, Nobles and Serfs (1874). In Charles Dickens' Bleak House (1853), his name is invoked by Sir Leicester Dedlock as an example of what would happen if any concessions were made to "some person in the lower classes". Tyler features as a sympathetic hero in the novel A Dream of John Ball (1888) by William Morris. Wat Tyler is also mentioned in Redburn by Herman Melville and in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain. Tyler features briefly in the historical fiction The Mediation of Ralph Hardelot (1888) by William Minto. The juvenile novel A March on London (1897) by G. A. Henty, depicts Tyler briefly as a "sullen and resentful" demagogue. Henty's book was illustrated by W.H. Margetson. Long Will (1903), a novel by Florence Converse, depicts a meritorious Wat Tyler. The 1921 play Wat Tyler by Halcott Glover interprets Tyler as a sympathetic protester against feudal tyranny, who is driven into violence by John Ball's preaching. Riot at Gravesend (1952), a novel by William Howard Woods, focus on the combats between the rebels and the authorities. Who Then Was The Gentleman? (1963) is a novel by Charles E. Israel, that renders a courageous and charismatic Wat Tyler. A Summer Storm (1976), a novel by Jane Lane, depicts Tyler as a villain. The novel The Confession of Jack Straw (1991) by Simone Zelitch features Tyler as a central character. The children's novel Fire, Bed, and Bone (1997) by Henrietta Branford has Wat Tyler as one of its characters. Wat Tyler is the principal character in the historical novel, Now is the Time (2015) by Melvyn Bragg.
English composer Alan Bush wrote an opera, Wat Tyler, about Tyler's life. Bush's opera was premiered at the Leipzig Opera in 1953.
Singer-songwriter Martin Newell references Wat Tyler and the Peasant's Revolt in his song "The Jangling Man" from the 1990 album Number Thirteen, in reference to the poll tax riots.
English folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner references Wat Tyler's negotiations at Smithfield in "Sons of Liberty" from the 2009 album Poetry of the Deed , and again mentions Tyler by name in "One Foot Before the Other" from 2011 album England Keep My Bones .
Provisional IRA member and Irish political prisoner Bobby Sands referenced "Wat the Tyler" and his poor in one of his wider-known poems written while in prison, "The Rhythm of Time".
A cultural history survey of Wat Tyler's portrayals in post-medieval literature down to the modern period has been written by Stephen Basdeo who argues that most of Tyler's appropriations in popular culture appear at times of political excitement.
A section of the A249 road passing through Maidstone is named "Wat Tyler Way" in his honour.
"Tyler's Causeway" running from Newgatestreet Village towards the A1000 in Hertfordshire named for the route taken by some of his followers fleeing the capital following his death.
A road on the western edge of Blackheath is called Wat Tyler Road
Wat Tyler Country Park in Essex is named after him.
Swindon Borough Council's Offices are in Wat Tyler House.
A memorial commemorating Wat Tyler and the Great Rising of 1381 was unveiled on 15 July 2015 in Smithfield, London.
Year 1381 (MCCCLXXXI) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar.
Richard II, also known as Richard of Bordeaux, was King of England from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. He was the son of Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Wales, and Joan, Countess of Kent. Richard's father died in 1376, leaving Richard as heir apparent to his grandfather, King Edward III; upon the latter's death, the 10-year-old Richard succeeded to the throne.
The Peasants' Revolt, also named Wat Tyler's Rebellion or the Great Rising, was a major uprising across large parts of England in 1381. The revolt had various causes, including the socio-economic and political tensions generated by the Black Death in the 1340s, the high taxes resulting from the conflict with France during the Hundred Years' War, and instability within the local leadership of London.
Jack Straw was one of the three leaders of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, a major event in the history of England.
Jack Cade's Rebellion was a popular revolt in 1450 against the government of England, which took place in the south-east of the country between the months of April and July. It stemmed from local grievances regarding the corruption, maladministration and abuse of power of the king's closest advisors and local officials, as well as recent military losses in France during the Hundred Years' War. Leading an army of men from south-eastern England, the rebellion's leader Jack Cade marched on London in order to force the government to reform the administration and remove from power the "traitors" deemed responsible for bad governance. Apart from the Cornish rebellion of 1497, it was the largest popular uprising to take place in England during the 15th century.
John Ball was an English priest who took a prominent part in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. Although he is often associated with John Wycliffe and the Lollard movement, Ball was actively preaching 'articles contrary to the faith of the church' at least a decade before Wycliffe started attracting attention.
Sir Simon de Burley, KG was holder of the offices of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle between 1384–88, and was a Knight of the Garter.
Sir William Walworth was an English nobleman and politician who was twice Lord Mayor of London. He is best known for killing Wat Tyler during the Peasants' Revolt in 1381.
Nine Worthies of London is a book by Richard Johnson, the English romance writer, written in 1592. Borrowing the theme from the Nine Worthies of Antiquity, the book, subtitled Explaining the Honourable Excise of Armes, the Vertues of the Valiant, and the Memorable Attempts of Magnanimous Minds; Pleasaunt for Gentlemen, not unseemly for Magistrates, and most profitable for Prentises, celebrated the rise of nine famous Londoners through society from the ranks of apprentices or ordinary citizens.
Giltspur Street is a street in Smithfield in the City of London, running north–south from the junction of Newgate Street, Holborn Viaduct and Old Bailey, up to West Smithfield, and it is bounded to the east by St Bartholomew's Hospital. It was formerly known as Knightsriders Street, from the knights riding at the tournaments in Smithfield.
Fire, Bed, and Bone by Henrietta Branford is a historical novel for older children set at the time of the Peasants' Revolt. It was published by Walker Books in 1997. Branford won the annual Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime book award judged by a panel of British children's writers.
This article covers the history of London from the Norman conquest of England in 1066 to the late 15th century.
Richard of Wallingford, constable of Wallingford Castle and landowner in St Albans, played a key part in the English peasants' revolt of 1381. Though clearly not a peasant, he helped organise Wat Tyler’s campaign, and was involved in presenting the rebels’ petition to Richard II. The petition called for an end to feudal serfdom, the ending of services to a feudal lord, to abolish market monopolies and restrictions on buying and selling goods. Tyler refused to accept a charter offered by the king, despite Richard of Wallingford's encouragement.
Events from the 1380s in England.
Henry le Despenser was an English nobleman and Bishop of Norwich whose reputation as the 'Fighting Bishop' was gained for his part in suppressing the Peasants' Revolt in East Anglia and in defeating the peasants at the Battle of North Walsham in the summer of 1381.
A Dream of John Ball (1888) is a novel by English author William Morris about the Great Revolt of 1381, conventionally called "the Peasants' Revolt". It features the rebel priest John Ball, who was accused of being a Lollard. He is famed for his question "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?"
The Battle of North Walsham was a medieval battle fought on 25 or 26 June 1381, near the town of North Walsham in the English county of Norfolk, in which a large group of rebellious local peasants was confronted by the heavily armed forces of Henry le Despenser, Bishop of Norwich. The battle is significant for being the last occurrence of any major resistance during the English Peasants' Revolt.
Sir Richard Lyons (1310–1381) was a prosperous City of London merchant, financier, and property developer, who held a monopoly on the sale of sweet wine in London, during the 14th century. He was a Privy Counsellor, an Alderman of the City, and a member of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, and served as both as Sheriff of London and MP for Essex.
John Wrawe was a rebel leader during the English Peasants' Revolt. He was executed in 1382.
William Grindecobbe or William Grindcobbe was one of the peasant leaders during the English Peasants' Revolt of 1381. A Townsman of St Albans, he was a substantial property owner there and has been described as a 'hero' of the revolt.