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Wat Tyler

richard, london, rebels, john, sir and insurgents

TYLER, WAT (or WALTER) (d. 1381), English rebel, 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. 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 June 4, and at Dartford; on June 6 a mob several thousand strong seized the castle of Rochester and marched up the Medway to Maidstone. Here they chose Wat Tyler to be their leader, and the rising spread over Kent. 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 (q.v.), whom the mob had liberated from the archbishop's prison. Reaching Blackheath on the i2th, 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 coun cillors 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 treas urer, Sir Robert Hales, and the prisons of Newgate and the Fleet. On the 14th Richard II., a boy of fourteen, rode out to confer with the rebels beyond the city wall. At Mile End the

king met Wat Tyler; Tyler demanded the immediate abolition of serfdom and all feudal services, and the removal of all re strictions on freedom of labour and trade, as well as a general amnesty for the insurgents. Charters were immediately drawn up to give effect to these demands. Meanwhile Tyler with a small band of followers returned to the Tower, and dragged forth Arch bishop Sudbury and Sir Robert Hales from the chapel and mur dered them on Tower Hill. During the following night and day London was given over to plunder and slaughter. Meantime the people of property began to organize themselves for the restora tion of order. On June 15 Richard rode to Smithfield for a further conference with the rebels. Wat Tyler 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 was killed by the mayor, Sir William Walworth (q.v.), and John Standwick, one of the king's squires. 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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.-The best original account of the rebellion of Wat Tyler is the "A nominalle 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, 1874) ; Froissart, Chron icles (edited by G. C. Macaulay, London, 1895) ; Andre Reville, Le Soulevement des travailleurs d'Angleterre en 1381 (1898) ; C. Oman, The Great Revolt of 1381 (Oxford, 5906), and The Political History of England, vol. iv. (ed. by W. Hunt and R. L. Poole, 1906).