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'Lord Saye and Sele brought before Jack Cade 4th July 1450, painting by Charles Lucy
|Died||12 July 1450
Cade Street, Sussex
|Other names||John Cade, John Mortimer|
|Known for||Jack Cade Rebellion|
Jack Cade was the leader of a popular revolt in 1450 during the reign of King Henry VI of England. The revolt arose from local grievances linked to the weakness and corruption of the king's regime. Cade's power-base was Kent, from which he led an army of as many as 5,000 against London, causing the King to flee to Warwickshire. After taking and looting London, the rebels were defeated in a battle at London Bridge and scattered. Promised pardons and reforms, many of the rebels were instead declared traitors, and Cade died in Sussex or Kent as the consequence of a small skirmish on 12 July 1450. There is long-standing tradition that this clash took place at a small hamlet near (old) Heathfield in East Sussex, at a place that came to be known as Cade Street. There is a roadside monument at Cade Street announcing that Jack Cade was killed here by Alexander Iden, the Sherriff of Kent. However, it is possible that he was captured or wounded in the parish of Hothfield near Ashford in Kent and that Cade Street was named in error. Some historians say that Cade was not actually killed in the armed struggle but that he was mortally wounded and died in a cart by which he was being taken to London.
According to Mark Antony Lower, John (or Jack) Cade was probably born in Sussex between 1420 and 1430. In the years preceding the rebellion, the animosity of the lower classes in England towards Henry VI grew. He was surrounded by advisers whom they considered ineffectual, and corruption grew throughout the Kent area while taxes were continually raised to fund the Hundred Years' War in France. Henry VI favoured peace with France, and ignored advice from nobles to continue the war. Internecine fighting in court eventually led to the banishment of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk and his execution at sea when his ship was intercepted on the way to France.
In the spring of 1450, Cade organized the issuing of The Complaint of the Poor Commons of Kent, a manifesto listing grievances against the government — grievances not only of the people but of several MPs, lords and magnates. Because Cade was the man organizing the common people’s complaints and trying to induce the King to fix the problems, he acquired the nickname “John Mend-all” or “John Amend-all,” although it is not known whether he himself chose the name.
The first complaint was that Cade’s followers from Kent were being unjustly blamed for the death of the Duke of Suffolk. Despite the well-known anger of the peasants towards the Duke, and their efforts to rid England of corrupt high officials, the Bill of Complaints dismissed the idea that the rebels were responsible.:176 Cade’s list of complaints goes on to charge King Henry VI of injustice, in choosing not to impeach his underlings and Lords even though they were guilty of treason or unlawful acts. In essence, the rebels were angry about the injustices in the government and intended to revolt against the King unless he agreed to remedy them.:179
A cause of the rebellion that was not listed in Cade’s bill of complaints was the anger many Englishmen felt over the fighting against France in Normandy. Norman soldiers, French armies, and even roaming English soldiers were attacking the coastal areas in England such as Kent and Sussex as the battles overseas continued. After the final loss of Normandy, rumours emerged in the coastal regions of England that France intended to attack England. These fears and continuous unrest in the coastal counties inspired many Englishmen to rally in an attempt to force the King to address their problems or abdicate his throne in favour of someone more competent.:673
These assemblies and rallies started to take shape in May 1450, when the rebels began to join together in an organized fashion and prepare to force themselves upon London.
In early June, about 5,000 rebels gathered at Blackheath, south-east of London. They were mostly peasants but their numbers were swelled by shopkeepers; craftsmen; a few landowners (the list of pardoned shows the presence of one knight, two MPs and eighteen squires); and a number of soldiers and sailors returning via Kent from the French wars. On 29 June William Ayscough the unpopular Bishop of Salisbury was murdered by a mob in Wiltshire. While the King sought refuge in Warwickshire the rebels advanced to Southwark, at the southern end of London Bridge. They set up headquarters in The White Hart inn before crossing the bridge on 3 July 1450.
They stopped at the London Stone, which Cade struck with his sword, declaring himself Lord Mayor in the traditional manner (thereby also symbolically reclaiming the country for the Mortimers to whom he claimed to be related). He then led them on to the Guildhall and then to the Tower to present their demands. James Fiennes, 1st Baron Saye and Sele, the Lord High Treasurer, was captured and beheaded, along with a few other favourites of the King—including his son-in-law William Crowmer, a previous High Sheriff of Kent—and their heads put on pikes and made to kiss each other. Many of the rebels, including Cade himself, then proceeded to loot London, although Cade had made frequent promises during the march to the capital not to do so.
When his army returned over the bridge (which was regularly closed at night) to Southwark, the London officials made preparations to stop Cade re-crossing into the city. The next day, at about ten in the evening a battle broke out on London Bridge and lasted until eight the next morning, when the rebels retreated with heavy casualties.
Although Henry VI had pardoned Jack Cade and his followers, the King put out the "Writ and Proclamation by the King for the Taking of Cade" shortly after the rebellion was over. This document voided the previously issued pardons. The King claimed that he revoked these pardons because the letters of pardon had not been approved by the Parliament. Furthermore, the document accused John Cade of murdering “a woman with child” while he was in Sussex, which the King used to discredit Cade.:181 The King’s proclamation charged Cade with deceiving the people of England to assemble with him in his rebellion and stated that none of the King’s subjects should join Cade or help him in any way. A sum of 1,000 marks was promised for the body of Cade, dead or alive, delivered to the King.:182 Jack Cade fled towards Lewes, but was overtaken by Alexander Iden, a future High Sheriff of Kent, who killed him in a garden in which he had taken shelter and went on to claim the reward.
Cade was not the only one prosecuted, but rather all of his followers and all the participants in his rebellion were sought out in a royal commission led by the Duke of Buckingham. This search for Cade’s rebels occurred in and around the area of the revolt: Blackheath, Canterbury — which was on the road leading to London — and also the counties in which Cade had found many of his followers, such as the coastal areas of Isle of Sheppey and Faversham. The inquiries about the hidings of Cade’s rebels, performed by the many bishops and justices, were so thorough that in Canterbury (the first area searched by the commission) eight followers were quickly found and hanged.:157
The Jack Cade Rebellion was quieted and dismissed shortly after Cade’s death, but the feeling of rebellion in England did not die down so easily. It inspired ideas of revolt in many other counties in England besides Kent. Many of Cade’s followers from the county of Sussex, such as the yeomen brothers John and William Merfold, organized their own rebellion against King Henry VI. Unlike Jack Cade’s revolt, however, the men in Sussex took Cade’s ideas a step further by making much more radical and aggressive demands of reform.:663–664 Their animosity could have arisen from the King's reneging on his proclamation of pardon for Jack Cade.
The suspicion that the King wanted all followers of Cade dead was one factor inspiring rebels to take a more drastic view of the reformation of English rule. An indictment following the rebellion stated that the men of Sussex planned to kill the King and all his Lords, replacing them with twelve of the rioters’ own men. These revolts, organized by the young Sussex men, rallied smaller numbers of followers than that of the Cade rebellion. But they demonstrated longstanding class animosity among both labourers and artisans, and perhaps gave some an excuse to loot for their own personal gain.:665–666
The unlawful behaviour of these later rebels can be seen as having been directly inspired by Jack Cade: he participated in similar behaviors during the initial riot. These minor revolts did produce a number of deaths and caused a shifting atmosphere of peace and then rebellion in England for years after the initial Jack Cade Rebellion. Also, the larger battles over the crown of England, known as the Wars of the Roses, were clearly inspired by views of Cade’s rebels, especially since one of the requests in Cade’s manifesto, the Requests by the Captain of the Great Assembly of Kent, outright informs the King that the mass of rebels and followers wished for the Duke of York to be returned from exile and to take the place of the corrupt Dukes under King Henry VI’s rule.:179
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Alexander L. Kaufman. The Historical Literature of the Jack Cade Rebellion (2009). Pp. 231
- Alison Weir, "The Wars of the Roses", Ballantine Books, Trade Paper back edition July 1996, p. 147 ISBN 0-345-40433-5
- Edward Vallance, A Radical History of Britain Abacus books, 2009; 2010 ISBN 978-0-349-12026-3
- I.M.W. Harvey, Jack Cade's Rebellion of 1450, Oxford UP, 1991. ISBN 0-19-820160-5
- R.A. Griffiths, The Reign of Henry VI 2nd ed, Stroud, 1998
- M. Mate, 'The economic and social roots of medieval popular rebellion: Sussex in 1450 to 1451', Economic History Review 45 (1992), 661-676.
- M. Bohna, 'Armed force and civic legitimacy in Jack Cade's revolt, 1450', English Historical Review 118, 2003, 563-582.
- I.M.W. Harvey, 'Was There Popular Politics in Fifteenth Century England?' in R.H. Britnell and A.J. Pollard, eds, The Macfarlane Legacy: Studies in Late Medieval Politics and Society Stroud, 1995, 155-174.
- Jack Cade's Rebellion on britainexpress.com
- "The second Part of Henry the Sixth", Project Gutenberg
- Lower, Mark Antony (1865). The Worthies of Sussex: biographical sketches of the most eminent natives or inhabitants of the county, from the earliest period to the present time. p. 55.
- British History Online www.british-history.ac.uk
- Carroll, D. Allen. “Johannes Factotum and Jack Cade.” Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989): 491-492. Web.
- Simons, Eric N. Lord of London. London: Frederick Muller Limited, 1963. Print.
- Mate, Mavis. Economic History Review. Vol. 45 No. 4. New York: Blackwell, 1992. Print.
- Bohna, Montgomery. “Armed Force and Civic Legitimacy in Jack Cade’s Revolt, 1450.” English Historical Review vol. 118, no. 477 (2003): 563-582. Web.