Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Peasants' Revolt

Edward III. was succeeded on the throne of England by his grandchild Richard II., the son of the valiant Black Prince. The new king was then only ten years old, so his uncles wondered how he would behave during the long coronation services. But he was so handsome and obedient that they had no trouble with him. He did everything they bade him; still, the tedious ceremonies tired him so much that he had to be carried off to bed. Little kings cannot take their ease and lie abed as long as they choose; so the men soon roused Richard again, to preside over a grand banquet, where his health was drunk, and where he had to listen to long speeches.

Windsor Castle, from the Thames.


As the king was far too young to reign himself, his three uncles, the Dukes of York, Lancaster, and Gloucester, had all the power, but unfortunately they did not always agree.

The wars in France and in Scotland still required much money, and Parliament was called upon to supply it, and also to pay for the expensive coronation festivities. As the existing taxes were not enough to meet all these demands, it was decided that every person over fifteen should pay a shilling to the king. For the rich this was a mere trifle; but there were many poor who earned so little that it was impossible for them to pay it.

The news of this tax, therefore, caused great dismay and indignation among the working classes; and when the tax-collectors came, roughly demanding their money, they were received with scowls and threats. They finally came to the house of a blacksmith named Wat Tyler. He had a daughter of fourteen, who was so tall and womanly-looking that the men insisted upon her paying one shilling too.

In vain she protested that she was only fourteen. The tax-collector not only refused to believe her, but actually began to ill-treat her. The girl's screams, however, were heard by her father, who rushed out of his forge, hammer in hand, and in his anger killed the collector.

When the tax-collector's friends came to arrest Wat Tyler, they found him surrounded by his poor neighbours, who swore they would protect him because he had killed the man in defending his child. Excited by this event and by the speeches of another workman, Jack Straw, and of a poor preacher, John Ball, these men, with nearly one hundred thousand others from many parts of England, finally decided to march to London. They wanted to tell the king that they could not pay the tax, and to beg him to make new laws so they should no longer be forced to work for their lords without receiving wages.

The mob entered London, and after wandering about the streets helplessly, burned a few houses, and destroyed all the papers and records which the lawyers kept in the Temple. They also declared that strangers had no business in England; so they stopped all the passers-by, and killed those who could not pronounce "bread and cheese" with the proper English accent.

Their clamours terrified the Londoners, and for a while no one knew what to do. Strange to relate, the young king, who was but fifteen years old, was the only one who kept his presence of mind. As his uncles were all away, Richard made a proclamation, saying he would meet the rebels on a plain outside the city, on the next day, to hear their complaints.