In 1381, on this day, emboldened by the Labour shortages caused by the Plague, urban rioters laid waste to their own capital city, besieging the royal court in the Tower of London and burning down the Palace of Savoy.
The Peasants Revolt, 1381Peasant rebels from Essex and Kent overthrew the incompetent minority government of fourteen year old King Richard II who had travelled downriver to meet the rebels, with Archbishop Sudbury and the Treasurer Sir Robert Hales on board alongside him. But when the rebels saw the royal barge approach they went berserk. Fearing the bloodthirsty rage of of the rebels, the royal ministers had retreated to the Tower of London with the King, wrongly believing that fortress built by William the Conqueror was impregnable.
Yet the regicide in the Tower was but a violent climax to a "summer of blood", a political crisis caused by a natural disaster. "There are three things of such a sort that they produce merciless destruction when they get the upper hand. One is a flood of water, another is a raging fire and the third is the lesser people, the common multitude; for they will not be stopped by either reason or discipline". ~ John Gower, 1378.Because the Black Death had profoundly changed the lower orders in the country. During the months of April and May, England had witnessed a series of assassinations including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Treasurer of England, one of the two chief justices of the royal courts and numerous foreigners, merchants, lawyers and royal servants.
From his apartment in Aldgate, the poet and royal servant Geoffrey Chaucer chronicled the end of the rebellion. And beneath Chaucer's first floor apartment, a dangerous, fast-moving mob led by Abel Ker, Thomas Baker and maverick priest John Ball gripped the city with fear, establishing the new order that would become the Peasant's Republic of England.