14th Century Peasant’s Revolt

Most English people worked the land during the 14th century, and produced food for the towns and cities. Then in 1348, the Black Death plague crossed the water’s from Europe into England, bringing with it death on a large scale, no one was immune. This disease took the lives of some fifty percent of the population.

Things had changed in England, and the peasant’s of this land were only too quick to see it. There was plenty of land in need of farming, but limited manpower to carry out the work.

Peasant’s charged for their work, and with manpower shortages, the prices were driven higher and higher, and landowner’s profits were driven lower and lower. Even landowners bartered with peasant’s to get their crops harvested and to market, even if it meant out-bidding fellow farmers.

The authorities had to step in amid growing chaos, and help farmers before it got completely out of control. So it was in 1349, emergency legislation was passed in the form of the “Ordinance of Labourer’s” and the “Statue of Labourer’s” in 1351. These bills were designed to re-set wages paid to peasants at pre Black Death rates. Under these bills it became illegal to refuse work offered or break existing contracts, with fines being imposed for offenders.

By 1361, the legislation of these bills had been strengthened to such an extent, that anyone breaking the rules faced the possibility of branding or imprisonment, for their actions.

The peasant’s were forced to work on church land for up to two days for free, but this meant that no food was grown for their families. They saw the church getting richer and richer, as they returned to olden times as they became one of the poor groups of society.

They wanted to break away from this tradition, for working for free on church land. If landowners paid, why shouldn’t they… John Ball a Priest from Kent backed their actions.

England had been at war with France, and more and more money was needed to take on their powerful armies. Whilst King Edward III of England, pressed home his claims to the French throne, so the long running conflict, known as the “Hundred Years War” would continue.

However, the might of Charles V of France increased in 1369, with cross-channel raids on English coastal towns.

A new King came to the English throne, when in 1377 King Edward III died, only to be replaced by Richard II aged ten.

The young King’s biggest challenge was how to raise the money to pay for his armies battling with the French. Early 14th century taxes were imposed on household’s moveable possessions; goods and livestock.

So Parliament introduced the controversial Poll Tax, where each person aged over 14, would have to pay.

By 1381, the peasant’s had witnessed the Poll Tax charges being rolled out three times over a four year period, and they had reached breaking point… If you were on the tax register, you paid or they took goods to the value.

In May 1381, villagers from the Essex village of Fobbing made a stand against Poll Tax payments. When John Brampton the tax collector arrived, checking why bills had not been paid, he was evicted from the village. In June soldiers arrived to establish law and order, and they too were evicted.

Villagers from Fobbing and many other village’s joined forces and marched on London, taking their grievances to the young King.

Peasant’s from Kent, led by Wat Tyler marched on Canterbury, and entered the walled city and castle on 10th June without resistance. The rebel force deposed the absent Archbishop Sudbury of Canterbury, and forced cathedral monks to swear allegiance to their cause.

The next morning Wat Tyler took his rebel force and marched on London, destroying tax records and burning down government tax houses on route. Upon arrival in London, the city gates were opened for them, by those who believed in their cause.

King Richard II left Windsor Castle by boat, taking up residence at the Tower of London.

Both groups of peasant’s had reached London by the 12th June. The Kent army of rebels camped at Blackheath and the Essex rebels at Mile End, north of the river Thames.

The King agreed to meet them on the afternoon of the 12th at Rotherhithe, but when faced by such a large army, he did not leave the Royal Barge, fearing for his safety and returned to the Tower of London.

On the 13th June rebels attacked the city, prisons were broken into, prisoners set free, and a number of people killed.

As parts of London burnt, Richard II agreed to meet with the rebel forces the very next day at Mile End, believing the looting and ransacking of the city would cease, and many would leave the city.

King Richard II rode out to meet Wat Tyler the leader of the rebel force at Mile End on the 14th June, where their demands were put forward:

  • Land rents were to be reduced to reasonable levels.

  • The Poll Tax was to be abolished.

  • Free pardons for all rebels.

  • Charters would be given to the peasant’s laying down a number of rights and privileges.

  • All traitors were to be put to death.

Richard agreed to their demands, with the added note, that a royal court would decide who is or not a traitor.

Wat Tyler wanted more; he outwitted the King and sneaked off with a group of rebels, and raided the Tower of London. He found the Simon Sudbury the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Hailes the King’s Treasurer and John Legge creator of the Poll Tax. These men were forcibly dragged out onto Tower Hill and beheaded; their heads were paraded around the city, before being fixed to London Bridge.

The peasant’s started leaving the city on mass and returning home, believing the charters they had, absolved them from charges, and their demands had been met. What they didn’t know, was that their leader Wat Tyler and a select group of rebels remained behind, to meet with the King at Smithfield. Wat Tyler was wounded by William Walworth, the Lord Mayor of London, at this meeting, and he died at the hands of a squire.

The King wanted his revenge on these peasant rebels. The King so ordered the execution of any man brandishing a charter, for it became a notice of execution. Thousands were slain by Royal Troops or sent to the gallows for their crimes.

Minor rebellions broke out across the country as rebel peasants returned home, and fire still burnt in their hearts. Violence spread like a plague, gaols opened, prisoner’s set free, court records burned, property looted and destruction on a large scale.

Rebel leaders were rounded up, by Royal Troops, to stand trial for their part in the Revolt.

  • Jack Straw was captured in London and executed.

  • John Ball was captured in Coventry, tried for his charges in St.Albans and hung, drawn and quartered in the market place.

  • John Wrawe was tried in London, and gave evidence against his colleagues hoping to be pardoned, but the court still sentenced him to death. He was hung, drawn and quartered on 6th May 1382.

  • Sir Roger Bacon, was tried and imprisoned in the Tower of London, before being pardoned by the Crown.

The King announced that all peasants’ previous conditions of service would come into effect on the 30th June, and that the Royal Charters signed during the uprising would be revoked on the 2nd July.

What was the final outcome of the Peasant’s Revolt?

  • The peasants were crushed by a mightier force, their demands refused, and thousands executed, for taking part.

  • Parliament gave up getting involved; in landowners payment to peasant’s who worked on their land.

  • The Poll Tax was abolished.

  • The peasant class gained respect from landowners and government, and were no longer part of the land, and became free men in their own right.

The 14th Century Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 showed if pushed too far, the working man can rise up and take action. What started as a local revolt centred around Essex spread across the South of England and up the East Coast.

(Image) Peasants Revolt: Wikipedia

St.Mary the Less Church – Norwich

St.Mary the Less Chuch – Norwich

As one gazes, across the Norwich roof tops, suddenly your eyes come to an abrupt halt, when a lowly church tower protrudes above the shops in Queen Street. This being the tower of St.Mary the Less, or more commonly known as the French Church.

Here in this part of the city, close to the cathedral, hidden from the passer-by, we find this church, surrounded by building’s on all sides, has long been forgotten. All that is now visible, is the top of the tower, and the porch situated down a quaint old alley, between building’s, in a busy city street. Back in 1744, this old church was reputed to have a churchyard, and even in those day’s, houses surrounded the south, west and east end of the churchyard, and the stonecutter’s yard occupied the north end. Today, the church is all but hidden, and the churchyard no longer exists.

Now days, we can only see two storey’s of this tall and handsome flint tower, rise above the shop building’s, that have become attached to its southern face. Its openings bricked up many years ago, with patching’s of brick and stone upon its buttresses, with its encircling rods of iron. The buttresses are of diagonal design, and climb to a plain, flat parapet, with a weather vane located above.

Situated behind the buildings, this forgotten church stretches east towards Tombland, with its pair of cast-iron gates marking its entrance in Queen Street, where this old porch is sandwiched between offices and shops. A plain and unassuming porch with its gabled top, of two storey design, with no windows at the front, and all that remains is a shallow niche. As one enter’s the dim interior, of what was once a small aisless church, now redundant and stripped of its fittings. At the entrance, we see two holy-water stoups, set back to back, and overhead a wooden staircase ascends to the parvise.

If we cast our eyes to the west, we see a narrow tower arch, as high as the roof of the nave; and to the east is the nave, whose windows contain fine decorated tracery. Whilst the chancel, slightly lower and narrower contain windows of a later style. The door used in the old north entrance, is a style you expect to see in a house, not in a church, with its plain glass in dazzling Victorian colours.

This old building, is said to have a long and colourful history. It dates from the 13th century, and was better known in those times as St.Mary of the Monastery Gate. At the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the building ceased to be used as a place of worship. In 1544 the Corporation leased it from the Dean and Chapter, and shortly afterwards it was converted to a cloth hall, where the Dutch and Walloon strangers sold their cloth. They continued using the building until 1623, when it was converted for the sale of worsted yarn coming into the city; four years later, the yarn men outgrew the place, and ceased using it.

The Interior of St.Mary the Less

In 1637, St.Mary’s once more became a church, and started its long connection with the French Protestants of the city, and became known as the French Church. The Walloon Company obtained a lease from the Corporation, and restored the church, to its former glory.

For almost two centuries, the French Protestants worshipped here. Gradually the congregation dwindled away, and the language once spoken by their descendants ceased to be used. Until finally, the heirs of the last deacon (P.M.Martineau), appointed trustees to manage the estate. They leased the building to the Swedenborgians in 1832, who had their own set of ideas, that the natural and spiritual world were linked according to their Swedish visionary, Emanuel Swedenborg. This led to the remaining congregation turning to Unitarianism, and attending the Octagonal Chapel.

The Swedenborgians, carried out restoration to the church, this involved removal of the old pews from the west gallery, raising of the sanctuary, restoring the parvise, and the construction of a staircase leading to it. They continued using the church until 1869, when it was leased to the Scottish Divine, and St.Mary’sbecame a Catholic Apostolic Church and remained so until 1953.

As the years have passed by, the Church of St.Mary the Less, has been forgotten by time, hidden away from sight.

(Image) St.Mary the Less Church: Norfolkchurches

(Image) St.Mary’s Interior: Norfolkchurches

The Origins of Poetry

Quill – Scroll – Ink

The Ancient Greek timeline of poetry lasted from the 7th to 4th century BC, and are believed to be the first civilisation to commit their poems to the written word. They went on to produce most of the classic forms of literature, drama and poetry, and their great poets handed down their observations to the next and next generations.

Hesiod the 7th century Greek poet who wrote of a farmer’s life and Theogony, a genealogy of the God’s.

Pindar a 5th – 6th century lyric poet credited with writing ode’s to their victorious athlete’s.

Sappho a 7th century poet and she wrote of passionate love songs in a lyrical form.

The Ancient Greek’s period of culture ended when they were conquered firstly by Alexander the Great between (356-323 BC) and then again by the might of Rome in (250-150 BC).

The Romans went on to develop their own style of literary and poetic works, using the Greek form as their base. From these humble beginnings the creation of a modern style of literature so began.

During the 11th – 13th centuries, the mighty Popes of the Holy Roman Empire and the Middle Ages banned creative and artistic expression.

People wanted to express themselves, and so in the mid 11th century a group of troubadour musicians in Southern France sang and wrote lyrics. They were much influenced by the ways and lifestyle of the Arabic civilisation and Omar Khayyam and Rumi, having been inspired by Latin and Greek poets, and not of this land. With an understanding, the musicians and poets went forth and created a refreshingly new style by the 13th century.

Early troubadours started life as singing poets, but the true masters included the likes of Bertrand de Born, Arnaud Daniel, and Marie de France, and their style of works influenced the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and Dante Alighieri. It was not uncommon to see the delivery of news, and performance styled sketches in a lyrical manner.

This has been referred to as the Provencal Movement of the 13th century and by the mid 14th century; most troubadours had fled to Italy and Spain to join the Sicilian School of poets.

For Frederick II let it be known he required poets to write about courtly love, and so it was between 1230 and 1266 many canzone’s (An Italian lyrical form of varying lengths, intended to be set to music, mainly based on romantic themes) were written.

A group of Sicilian poets in the court of Frederick II, were able to turn verses of love into a spiritual heartbeat, a style that would show its face during the Elizabethan and Shakespearean times.

With the 12th century, Sicily integrated the languages and cultural influences of Arabic, Greek and Latin, creating the perfect form for their lyrical poetry.

It all started with Cielo of Alcamo, a court poet, who created a form of lyrical poetry. From these early beginnings, the court poets used lyrical poetry and the canzone style which became the standard verse of the day. Yet like all new styles, someone was waiting in the wings to change it, and in this case it was Giacomo de Lentini, who re-invented it into a sonnet.

Giacomo de Lentini, proved himself to be more than that of a poet, for it was he who went on to create a new language: Italian.

With the help of Sicilian poets, they abolished repetitive and what has become known as interchangeable lines. They also believed poetry was for reading, not as an accompaniment to music and created a 14 – line sonnet structure, which is still used by many poets to this day.

The works and styles of Sicilian poets came to the attention of Dante as the 14th century loomed, who spread them through Florence, and the literary heartlands.

As the Renaissance period burst into existence, shining its light upon a new era in time. Scholars from many European countries keenly watched with interest, as a cultural awakening was taking place across Europe.

As the Italian Renaissance waned, its greatest poetic export was that of ballad and sonnet, which found their way to England with the assistance of Thomas Wyatt.

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) was responsible for the creation of the unrhymed verse, as used by him for his plays. He died early, and so William Shakespeare fashioned the style of the blank verse in a form which would meet the requirements of his plays.

Sonnets swept through England during the latter part of the 16th and early 17th century, through the writings of Edmund Spenser, Philip Sydney and William Shakespeare, each adding their own individual touches.

Poets of the Elizabethan era had more freedom in their writings, and so the human side became the new genre in writing. One could say that the Elizabethan times, showed a slight resemblance to the early works of Ancient Greek.

The Greatest Renaissance poet would have to be John Milton (1608-1674) who wrote Paradise Lost, which was published in 1667. An interesting fact though, by 1652 he was blind and worked as a Latin Secretary to one Oliver Cromwell, assisted by Andrew Marvel (1621-1678) a Metaphysical Poet.

Nearly a century later, a new breed arose, the Metaphysical Poets who wrote of nature, philosophy and love, starting with John Dryden. They were known as men of learning, and they wanted to show off their abilities to one and all.

Metaphysical Poetry concluded when William Blake bridged the gap between it, and that of romantic poetry. Poets were known to look beyond the obvious, a style which would influence the American Transcendentalism, like those of Samuel Cowley, Andrew Marvell and Katherine Philips.

England’s time had arrived with the dawning of the Romantic Poets era, a period which lasted between (1790-1824), yet went on to produce many works written by the masters which we still read to this day.

These poets included the likes of:

William Blake (1757-1827) An English painter and poet, who enhanced his work with illustrations as can be seen in his works “Songs of Innocence.”

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) An English poet, whose heart showed much support for the French Revolution, which shows through his works, and a love for the English countryside.

Lord Byron (1788-1824) A romantic poet, who supported Italian Independence and the Greek revolt against Turkey. Often remembered for his sexual scandals, which saw the English society turn their backs on him.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) Writer of romantic poems, and remembered for; “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) Writer who got himself expelled from Oxford University for co-writing “The Necessity of Atheism.” Yet he went on to write “Ode to a skylark,” and other poems which reflected his idealism and radical thoughts on politics.

John Keats (1795-1821) Another of the English poets who wrote “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “Ode to a Grecian Urn.”

They wrote together, travelled together and lived together.

They made nature a more important part of their works, with more expression and passion, as to challenge the minds and imaginations of their readers … in so doing they planted a seed, which would flourish into a relationship.

Another poet who would be remembered for his works would be Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) for “The Lotus Eaters.”

A new era replaced the Romantic Movement in 1836; the American Transcendentalists, for they believed in expression of their thoughts through the written word.

They changed people’s ideas on poetry, and studied utopian values, spiritual exploration, and into the artistic side. Their ideals brought authors, poets and social leaders to their door, and so they grew.

The 19th century saw the American; Gerald Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), put forward natural speech and Walt Whitman (1819-1892) create the free-verse style of poetry.

French poet; Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) put forward the idea that poetry should contain an air of vagueness and music within poems.

The first Surrealist Movement manifesto was drawn up by Andre Breton the French poet in 1924, asking poets to explore the world of dreams, sub consciousness and hallucinations in their works.

American poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) promoted the works of W.B.Yeats (1865-1939) and T.S.Elliot (1888-1965).

In 1948, with the Second World War over, we saw the emergence of what became known as the Beat Movement. The style was based on characters and interests, who desired to live life, as they wished to.

It was the beginning of the narrative free verse written by Allen Ginsberg, it was all about free expression. In 1956 he published a collection of works entitled “Howl.” So it was that these beat poets as they had been referred to, created a new appreciation in the love of poetry.

As the interest grew, more beat poets surfaced, like; Joanne Kyger, Herbert Huncke, LeRoi Jones, to move the art of poetry further forward.

The history of poetry has had a long and mixed relationship with the reader as the styles have changed. For in the early days, the definition of poetic writings focused on nature, love, drama and song and later concentrated on repetition and rhyme and how it would read and sound.

Poetry has been used to expand the literal meaning of words, to evoke an emotional feeling or a sensual response…

Poetry has often been referred to, as a way a poet, can create poems as a need to escape the logical side of life.

(Image) Quill, Scroll and Ink: MP3 Designs


Christopher Marlowe versus William Shakespeare

Christopher Marlowe 1585

Christopher Marlowe, considered by many learned scholars some 150 years later, could have been the writer of some of William Shakespeare plays.

There are some similarities in their early years; Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564, and his father was a shoemaker. William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 as well, and his father worked with leather among other things.

Marlowe attended the Kings School in Canterbury, Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, and received a Batchelor of Arts degree in 1584. Whilst Shakespeare attended King’s New School in Stratford-upon-Avon, studying grammar and Latin classical works, and in 1582 married Anne Hathoway.

It is believed, whilst Marlowe attended the University of Cambridge, that he was recruited as a government spy, as suggested by Charles Nicholl. Records indicate that he had long absences from the university, and had money to spend when he was there.

In 1587, the Privy Council ordered the University of Cambridge to award Marlowe a Master of Arts degree.

Theories abound about Marlowe. One was that in 1589 he became tutor to Arabella Stuart, the niece of Mary Queen of Scots and cousin to James VI of Scotland, later James I of England.

In 1592, he was arrested in Flushing in the Netherlands for alleged counterfeiting, but no trial took place, and no prison sentence followed.

On the 30th May 1593, Christopher Marlowe was killed, and buried in an unmarked grave at St.Nicholas Church, Deptford.

Many theories exist to the manner of his death. It has been put forward that his death may have been faked to save the government, of a trial for subversive atheism, against one of their own spies. Could it be, the reason he professed atheism, had more to do with his work as a government spy.

Christopher Marlowe’s first play was “Dido, Queen of Carthage,” performed by Children of the Chapel, a company of boy actors between 1587-1593, and published in 1594, listing authors as Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe.

In 1587, his play “Tamburlaine the Great” was performed in London, and in 1588 part two was released. It told the story of the rise from shepherd tp war-lord. Then in 1590, both parts were published.

“The Jew of Malta,” written between 1589-1590 and first performed in 1592, and published in 1594. The storyline is of a Maltese Jew’s barbarous revenge against the city authorities.

“Edward the Second,” was published in 1594, a year after Marlowe’s supposed death. The story is about the deposition of King Edward II by his barons and the Queen.

“The Massacre at Paris,” was about the events which took place at the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572, which involved English Protestants and Catholics. It features an English Agent, and one believes this has to be Marlowe himself, with his connections to the English secret service.

One would have to say, this was a most dangerous play to have written, for it brought into play, agitators in London who seized on its theme to advocate the murders of refugees from the low countries, and it warns Elizabeth I of this possibility in the final scene.

Marlowe was admired by his critics, as an influential artist of the timer who sadly died before his time.

William Shakespeare portrait dated 1609

William Shakespeare paid tribute to Christopher Marlowe in his play, “As You Like It.” The quote read: “When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with the forward a child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.”

Shakespeare was heavily influenced by Marlowe in his works, as can be seen in Anthony and Cleopatra, The Merchant of Venice, Richard III and Macbeth. There are poignant speeches in Hamlet, which echo the style of Marlowe.

Both men lived and worked in the same timeline, yet their lives differed so much. We could not in all honesty consider anything other than we were privileged that these two authors wrote many plays during their lifetimes.

Shakespeare continues to be considered one of the greatest writers the world over. Portraying characters; from our history. Showing situations which we would experience at one time or another during our lives. He does this with great understanding of humanity, tolerance and wisdom.

His plays were designed to be performed in such a way, that we understand what it is to be human, and cope with the problems of life.

(Image) Marlowe portrait 1585: Wikipedia

(Image) William Shakespeare 1609: Wikipedia

A Mythical Question of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s Monument

Some one-hundred and fifty years after the death of William Shakespeare, in the mid 18th century, questions were being asked about the man and his collections of plays and sonnets.

How could one with no more than a basic education, write with such an educated hand and mind, or were they in fact the works of educated writer’s of the time, like Christopher Marlowe. This idea was put forward by learned scholars and critics which has now spiralled out of control … seeking the truth about William Shakespeare.

So follow me, as we try to delve into the facts about William Shakespeare, and separate fact from fiction.

Was William Shakespeare Gay?

William Shakespeare married Anne Hathoway, and had two children who survived childhood and married. He was known to work in London, whilst Anne raised their family at home, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets during his lifetime, of those he dedicated 126 to that of a fair youth; his lover. We have no concrete evidence as to who he was referring to, but Oscar Wilde wrote “The Portrait of Mr.W.H.” published in 1889. It was a short story referring to a conversation about William Shakespeare’s love for a young actor and his sonnets. The man in question according to Oscar Wilde was one “William Hughes.”

Another candidate could be Christopher Marlowe, who was known to openly flaunt his homosexuality, and worked along with Shakespeare at times.

If we look at the question of terminology as to whether an Elizabethan was gay or homosexual, he would come under the titling of anachronistic (the representation of something in a historical content in which it could not have occurred or existed – a person that belongs to another timeline). For the Elizabethans, what is often termed homosexual or bisexual was more likely to be recognised as a sexual act, rather than an exclusive sexual orientation and identity.

There is no true way to answer the question, but based on historical content, and had he lived in a different time, he may have been considered gay… I leave you to answer the question based on facts of the time.

Of the remaining 26 sonnets he dedicated them to the mysterious “Dark Lady” could it have been nothing more than a friendship, or was it more?

(Image) William Shakespeare’s Monument: Wikipedia



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