Jack Cade’s uprising

On  6th June 1450 an inquiry was commissioned in relation to some ringleaders’ actions of the Kentish uprising led by Jack Cade.

“It is to be enquired for our Sovereign Lord the King that if John Merfeld of Brightling in the shire of Sussex husbandman and William Merfeld of Brightling the shire foresaid husbandman at Brightling in the open market the Sunday in the feast of St Anne in the 28th year of our said Sovereign Lord falsely said that the King was a natural fool and would oft times hold a staff in his hands with a bird on the end playing therewith as a fool and that another king must be ordained to rule the land saying that the King was no person able to rule the land.

Also, the said John of Brightling the Sunday next afore Saint Luke’s day the 29th year of our said Sovereign Lord the King in the open alehouse there…said to William Durford said that the charter that our said Sovereign Lord made of the first insurrection was false…Also the said John at Brightling on St James even the 28th year above said…that he and his fellowship would arise again and when they were up they would leave no gentleman alive but such as them list to have”.

Establishing an inquiry into the uprising is a precursor to the trial of those believed to be involved in provoking it. This is a crucial element of the justice system at the time.

The appointment of commissioners to lead the inquiry is also essential. The crown could appoint people based on politics. For example, the crown looked to appoint the Duke of York and other ‘loyal opponents’ as commissioners. This suited the Queen’s favourites as it would force the nobles who the rebels looked to for support at the highest levels to dispense justice. As it happened, the trials were undertaken by the King and many nobles from both factions.

In this year, also, being the year from the Incarnation of  our Lord, 1448, upon Saint George’s night, towards day break, there happened a violent and terrible earthquake, respecting which, some teachers, remarkable for their knowledge, publicly prophesied that it was a prognostic of sinister events. Nor were they deceived in this presage. For, in the following summer, there was an extensive rising of the commons throughout nearly all England, and a most dreadful commotion. But the common people of Kent, who had become quite used to attempts at change, showed much greater violence than all the rest: For, having first appointed over them a captain and leader, they encamped upon the plain of Blackheath, and, in warlike form, fortified their position with pitfalls and embankments, and stakes driven into the ground. After this, presuming to make still further rash attempts, they assaulted the citizens upon London Bridge, and, by force, entered the city ; upon which, their said captain became elated to a pitch of extreme vanity, and being honored by the frantic mob as though he had been a king, fancied that there was no one to resist him, and that he was at liberty to do just as he pleased ; and, accordingly, dragged the prisoners forth from the Tower, And, at the prompting of the clamorous multitude, had them beheaded, without any form of trial whatever. Besides this, turning his hand to rapine, and attended by a band of his satellites, he stripped one of the* richest citizens to his utmost farthing, and plundered him of the whole of his property and goods; upon. which, the rest of his fellow-citizens were greatly apprehensive for themselves, and, conjecturing for certain that he would be guilty of the like conduct towards, them speedily collected troops of armed men from every quarter and manfully drove him out of the city. After the lapse of a short space of time he was caught, and, in conformity with the laws of the realm, was condemned to he beheaded and quartered as a traitor ; and thus did he unhappily terminate an unhappy existence.

From the Croyland (Crowland) Chronicle

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