Wat Tyler

Wat Tyler

Leader of the largest peasant uprising in medieval England in 1381.
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of Wat Tyler
  2. The Ideology of Rebellion
  3. The Peasant Revolt

Biography of Wat Tyler

Wat Tyler was the leader of the largest peasant uprising in medieval England in 1381. Born in 1320 in the village of Broxley, Kent, to a family of roofers, little is known about his early years. Historians have reconstructed the events of Tyler's youth in the book "Life and Adventures of Wat Tyler, the Brave and Good" (1851). According to the book, after a failed romance, Tyler enlisted in the English army and fought in several battles of the Hundred Years' War in France. His courage and bravery caught the attention of King Edward, who praised him. Upon returning to his hometown, Tyler married and worked as a village blacksmith. However, unrest began to brew in England with news of uprisings among the lower classes in France and Flanders.

The Ideology of Rebellion

One of the ideologists of the uprising was the priest John Ball, who preached resistance against the oppression of the peasants by the state. Ideas about the destruction of feudal relations and serfdom began to circulate among the people, creating an unstable situation in the country. After the death of Edward II, his 11-year-old grandson Richard II ascended the throne. The external political situation worsened, with the last expeditions to France ending in failure and causing financial difficulties. The government decided to impose a poll tax of 3 groats (a silver coin equal to 4 pence), which sparked outrage among the masses.

The Peasant Revolt

Tyler led a peasant march from Kent to London, and peasants from other counties as well as the poor and urban lower class joined them along the way. The rebels captured Canterbury and then London. They stormed the Tower of London, killing the Lord Chancellor and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury. On June 14, 1381, King Richard II met with the rebels at Mile End, promising to fulfill all their demands, including the abolition of serfdom. The next day, on June 15, another meeting took place at Smithfield, near the city walls of London, with a massive crowd in attendance. The rebels now demanded equal rights for all classes and the return of communal lands to the peasants. However, during the meeting, Tyler was killed by the Mayor of London, William Walworth, who stabbed him in the neck with a dagger. One of the knights then finished him off with a sword. This caused confusion and disarray among the rebels, which Richard II took advantage of. The uprising was quickly suppressed by the forces of the knightly militia.