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Wat Tyler's death

Walter "Wat" Tyler (January 4, 1341 – June 15, 1381) was the leader of the English Peasants' Revolt of 1381.


Early life

Knowledge of Tyler's early life is very limited, and derives mostly through the records of his enemies. Historians believe he was born in Essex, but are not sure why he crossed the Thames Estuary to Kent, whence he led the revolt.
(See also: Fobbing and Wat Tyler country park, Pitsea)

The Peasants' Revolt

With news of rebellions of the lower classes in France and Flanders, the English readied for an insurrection. John Ball, Jack Straw and others advocated for the destruction of the hierarchical feudal system. Ball, like Tyler, held egalitarian values, though the medieval historian Jean Froissart describes Ball as insane. Other contemporaries suggest that he was involved with the Lollard movement. Such harsh, often unfounded attitudes toward the rebels are common among chroniclers as they belonged to the educated upper classes, usually the targets of rebellion and not supporters of it. Thus, it is difficult to get an accurate sense of the actual aims and goals of rebels as their side of the story is not represented in historical accounts. Richard II ascended to power after the death of Edward III; he was only 14 at the time of the rebellion. Since he was a minor, the Dukes of Lancaster, York, and Gloucester governed in his name. These officials were the main targets of the rebels, who held that they were traitors to the king and undermined his authority. Several unsuccessful expeditions against France added to the burden on the English working class. The government resolved on a poll tax of three groats, which outraged the people because it was the same for rich and poor.

Reacting to the introduction of the oppressive poll tax, which the king had imposed because not enough income had been collected the previous year, Tyler led a force of peasants in taking Canterbury, before advancing on to Blackheath, outside London. Tyler then entered the city of London at the head of a peasant army estimated at numbering over 50,000 men. After crossing London Bridge without resistance, the rebels then gained entry to the Tower of London and captured Simon Sudbury, the unpopular Archbishop of Canterbury, before proceeding to behead him and several of his followers. The rebels also destroyed the Savoy palace during subsequent rioting and killed the king's uncle. Richard of Wallingford presented a charter to King Richard II on behalf of Tyler. The king met the rebel army at Mile End and promised to address the peasants' grievances, which included the unpopular taxes.

Twenty thousand people assembled at Smithfield. Richard II, who was 14 years old at the time, agreed to meet the leaders of the revolt, and listen to their demands. Wat Tyler decided to ride out alone and parlay with the King. What was said between Wat Tyler and the King is largely conjecture and little is known of the exact details of the encounter; however, according to one popular account it would appear that the Lord Mayor of London, Sir William Walworth, took exception to Wat's attitude, because the Mayor quickly drew his sword, and slashed the unarmed Wat Tyler to the ground. In the next instant, the body was stabbed by one of the King's esquires, Ralph de Standish.

Consequences of the Revolt

A red dagger symbol seen in the coat of arms of the City of London and the City of London Corporation is believed by some to represent the dagger of the Lord Mayor and thus celebrate the killing of Tyler. It is more likely, however, to represent the martyrdom of St Paul, London's patron saint.

A country park next to the Thames Estuary in Basildon, Essex is named Wat Tyler Country Park. There is also a public house in Dartford, Kent named the Wat Tyler, reputed to have been used by the eponymous rebel when the peasant army camped on East Hill, Dartford en route to Blackheath. At least two roads are named for him: a road in Maidstone named Wat Tyler Way, and one on the western edge of Blackheath called Wat Tyler Road.


  • Froissart, Jean, Froissart's Chronicles, New York, J. Winchester, pp. 283–290.
  • Life and Adventures of Wat Tyler, the Brave and Good, London, Collins Publishing, 1851.
  • "Historical, Biography of Wat Tyler", New York Daily Times, October 28, 1852, page 3.
  • Hanawalt, Barbara A. The Middle Ages, New York, Oxford University Press, 1998, page 139.
  • Robinson, John J. Born in Blood: The lost secrets of Freemasonry New York, M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1989.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WAT TYLER [or ]] (d. 1381), English rebel, a man of obscure origin, was a native either of Kent or of Essex. Nothing definite is known of him previous to the outbreak of the peasant revolt in 1381, but Froissart says he had served as a soldier in the French War, and a Kentishman in the retinue of Richard II. professed to identify him as a notorious rogue and robber of Kent. The name Tyler, or Teghler, is a trade designation and not a surname. The discontent of the rural labourers and of the poorer class of craftsmen in the towns, caused by the economic distress that followed the Black Death and the enactment of the Statute of Labourers in 1351, was brought to a head by the imposition of a poll tax in 1379 and again in 1381, and at the end of May in the latter year riots broke out at Brentwood in Essex; on the 4th of June similar violence occurred at Dartford; and on the 6th a mob several thousands strong seized the castle of Rochester and marched up the Medway to Maidstone. Here they chose Wat Tyler to be their leader, and in the next few days the rising spread over Kent, where much pillage and damage to property occurred. On the Loth Tyler seized Canterbury, sacked the palace of Archbishop Sudbury, the chancellor, and beheaded three citizens as "traitors." Next day he led his followers, strengthened by many Kentish recruits, on the road to London, being joined at Maidstone by John Ball, whom the mob had liberated from the archbishop's prison. Reaching Blackheath on the 12th, the insurgents burnt the prisons in Southwark and pillaged the archbishop's palace at Lambeth, while another body of rebels from Essex encamped at Mile End. King Richard II. was at the Tower, but neither the king's councillors nor the municipal authorities had taken any measures to cope with the rising. The drawbridge of London Bridge having been lowered by treachery, Tyler and his followers crossed the Thames; and being joined by thousands of London apprentices, artisans and criminals, they sacked and burnt John of Gaunt's splendid palace of the Savoy, the official residence of the treasurer, Sir Robert Hales, and the prisons of Newgate and the Fleet. On the 14th Richard II., a boy of fourteen, undertook the perilous enterprise of riding out to confer with the rebels beyond the city wall. At Mile End the king met Wat Tyler; a lengthy and tumultuous conference, during which several persons were slain, took place, in which Tyler demanded the immediate abolition of serfdom and all feudal services, and the removal of all restrictions on freedom of labour and trade, as well as a general amnesty for the insurgents. Richard had no choice but to concede these demands, and charters were immediately drawn up to give effect to them. While this was in progress Tyler with a small band of followers returned to the Tower, which they entered, and dragged forth Archbishop Sudbury and Sir Robert Hales from the chapel and murdered them on Tower Hill. During the following night and day London was given over to plunder and slaughter, the victims being chiefly Flemish merchants, lawyers and personal adherents of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. Meantime the people of property began to organize themselves for the restoration of order. On the 15th of June, Richard, after confession and receiving the Sacrament, rode to Smithfield for a further conference with the rebels. Close to St Bartholomew's Church he met Wat Tyler, who advanced from the ranks of the insurgents and shook the king's hand, bidding him be of good cheer. Tyler then formulated a number of fresh demands, including the confiscation of ecclesiastical estates and the institution of social equality. Richard replied that the popular desire should be satisfied "saving the regalities of the Crown." Tyler thereupon grew insolent, and in the altercation that ensued the rebel leader was killed by the mayor, Sir William Walworth, and John Standwick, one of the king's squires. The rebels now handled their bows in a menacing fashion, but at the critical moment the young king with great presence of mind and courage spurred his horse into the open, crying, "Sirs, will you shoot your king? I will be your chief and captain, you shall have from me all that you seek." Richard then led the mob to a neighbouring meadow, where he kept them in parley till Walworth, who had returned within the city to summon the loyal citizens to the king's aid, returned with a sufficient following to overawe and disperse the rebels. With the death of Wat Tyler the rising in London and the home counties quickly subsided, though in East Anglia it flickered a short time longer under the leadership of John Wraw and Geoffrey Litster until suppressed by the energy of Henry Despenser, bishop of Norwich. About 1 io persons were executed for the rebellion in Kent and Essex, including John Ball, and Jack Straw, Tyler's chief lieutenant.' The enfranchisement of villeins granted by Richard at the Mile End conference was revoked by parliament in 1382, and no permanent results were obtained for the peasants by Wat. Tyler's revolt.


The best original account of the rebellion of Wat Tyler is the "Anonimal Chronicle of St Mary's, York," printed by G. M. Trevelyan in the Eng. Hist. Rev. (1898). See also Thomas Walsingham, Chronicon Angliae (Rolls series, 1814); Froissart, Chronicles (edited by G. C. Macaulay, London, 1895); Andre Reville, Le Soulevement des travaillers d'Angleterre 1381 (Paris, 1898); C. Oman, The Great Revolt of 1381 (Oxford, 1906), and The Political History of England, vol. iv. (ed. by W. Hunt and R. L. Poole, London, 1906). (R. J. M.)

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Simple English

Wat Tyler (January 4, 1341 – June 15, 1381) was the leader of the English Peasant's Revolt of 1381. He died on June 15, 1381 at the meeting at Smithfield with the fourteen year old King Richard II. Firstly he was hit by William Walworth, mayor of London, and then one of the king's squires stabbed him in the stomach, killing him.[1]


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