Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Peasants Revolt: John Ball meets Wat Tyler 1381

The priest John Ball ("Jehã Balle") on a horse encouraging Wat Tyler's rebels ("Waultre le tieulier") of 1381
From a ca. 1470 manuscript of Jean Froissart's Chronicles in the British Library
John Ball's popular sermons brought him into conflict with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he was thrown in prison on several occasions. He also appears to have been excommunicated; owing to which, in 1366 it was forbidden for anyone to hear him preach. These measures, however, did not moderate his opinions, nor diminish his popularity; his words had a considerable effect in fomenting a riot which broke out in June 1381. The chroniclers were convinced of widespread conspiracy implanted before the spontaneous uprising occurred, with the watchword "John the Miller grinds small, small, small" and the response "The King's son of heaven shall pay for all."

At the time that the uprising began, Ball was imprisoned at the Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone, Kent. He was released by the Kentish rebels. He preached to them at Blackheath (the insurgents' gathering place near Greenwich) in an open-air sermon that included the following:

When Adam delved and Eve span
Who was then the gentleman?

From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty.

1 comment:

graynomad said...

Beautiful manuscript!
cheers Scarlettx