Wat Tyler

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Walter Tyler
DeathWatTyler.jpg
Wat Tyler's death (left to right: Sir William Walworth, Mayor of London (wielding sword); Wat Tyler; King Richard II; and Sir John Cavendish, esquire to the King (bearing lance)
Died 15 June 1381
Nationality English
Known for Peasants' Revolt

Walter "Wat" Tyler (died 15 June 1381) was a leader of the 1381 Peasants' Revolt in England. He marched a group of rebels from Canterbury to the capital to oppose the institution of a poll tax and 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.

Early life[edit]

Nothing is known of Wat Tyler's early life. Born with the first name Walter, his original surname is unknown, though "Hugh" and "Helier" have been suggested.[1][2] It is thought that the name "Tyler" comes from his occupation as a roof tiler. Prior to the Peasants' Revolt he lived in Kent, and has been variously represented as coming from Dartford, Deptford, and Maidstone, all within that county.[1]

The Peasants' Revolt[edit]

The Peasants' Revolt began in May 1381, triggered by a recently imposed poll tax of 12 pence from every adult, whether peasant or wealthy. The revolt was not only about money. 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 represented a significant part of English society in those regions, including nobility and wealthy religious establishments.[3] Many 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.[4]

How Wat Tyler became involved with the revolt is unknown, although a much later sixteenth-century source[1] indicates that a man of similar name, John Tyler, was its initiator. This account suggests that a poll-tax collector had indecently assaulted John Tyler's daughter. In revenge he killed the miscreant and triggered the insurgency.[5] Whatever 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.[6][7] In response, the king, Richard II (then 14 years old), met with the rebels on June 14, 1381 and agreed to make many concessions and to give a 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.

Death[edit]

Peasants' Revolt (death of Wat Tyler)

On 15 June, Tyler and his Kentish forces met with 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."[8] 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 his attacker across the neck and head with his sword, and another of the king's servants, possibly John Cavendish, 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.[8][9][10] 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. This effectively ended the Revolt.[11]

In Popular Culture[edit]

Wat Tyler was the main protagonist of the play Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, or, The Mob Reformers (1730) first performed at the St. Bartholomew's Fair in 1730.

Wat Tyler is also the principal protagonist in Robert Southey's Wat Tyler, A Dramatic Poem (written in 1794 but not published until 1813).

Wat Tyler is the principal 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.[12] 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 principal 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.

Wat Tyler is also the principal protagonist in William Harrison Ainsworth's Merry England; or, Nobles and Serfs (1874).

Wat Tyler is also mentioned in Redburn by Herman Melville[13] and in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain.[14] John Gower had a rather harsh view of him in 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." .[15] Wat Tyler is the principal character in the historical novel, Now is the Time (2015) by Melvyn Bragg.[16]

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.

English folk-rock group Fairport Convention wrote a song in tribute called 'Wat Tyler' which appears on their album 'Gladys Leap'.

Tributes[edit]

A section of the A249 road passing through Maidstone is named "Wat Tyler Way" in his honour.

A road on the western edge of Blackheath called Wat Tyler Road.

Wat Tyler Country Park in Essex is named after him.

Swindon Borough Councils 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.

There is a pub in Dartford called the Wat Tyler.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Medieval Period: Politics - Wat Tyler and the peasants' revolt". Dartfordarchiver.org.uk. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Prescott, Andrew. "",Tyler, Walter [Wat] (d. 1381)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  3. ^ Hilton, Rodney (1998). Medieval England An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing. pp. 590–591. ISBN 0-8240-5786-4. 
  4. ^ Smith, George (1973). Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 993. 
  5. ^ Smith, George (1917). Tyler, Wat. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 1347–1348. 
  6. ^ "English Peasants' Revolt, 1381". Retrieved April 24, 2013. 
  7. ^ Smith, George (1973). The Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 1347. 
  8. ^ a b "The Death of Wat Tyler : (Y55) CAC". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  9. ^ Smith, George (1973). Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1347–1348. 
  10. ^ "http://www.historyguide.org/ancient/wat_tyler.html". www.historyguide.org. Retrieved 2016-01-26.  External link in |title= (help)
  11. ^ van Creveld, Martin (1996). The Encyclopedia of Revolutions and Revolutionaries: From Anarchism to Zhou Enlai. Jerusalem, Israel: The Jerusalem Publishing House. p. 422. 
  12. ^ Basdeo, Stephen 'Radical Medievalism: Pierce Egan the Younger's Robin Hood, Wat Tyler, and Adam Bell' in Leeds Working Papers in Victorian Studies Vol. 15: Imagining the Victorians Eds. Stephen Basdeo & Lauren Padgett (Leeds: LCVS, 2016), pp.48-64.
  13. ^ Melville, Herman (1849), in the fictional work Redburn, mentioned in chapter 24.
  14. ^ Mark Twain (1889), in the fictional work A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, chapter 13.
  15. ^ David Aers (2002). "'Vox populi' and the literature of 1381". In David Wallace. The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. 
  16. ^ Bragg, Melvyn. Great Britain: Sceptre. ISBN 9781473614536.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]