Little Bits of History

June 13

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 13, 2017

1381: The Savoy Palace is destroyed. The palace was built on the Strand, the road leading from crowded, fetid, turbulent London to Westminster and the royal abode. It runs parallel to the Thames and makes access to the waterway possible while upriver of the city’s pollution which was rampant in the Middle Ages. While there were many palaces built in London in the Middle Ages, in 1246 King Henry III granted some land to his wife’s uncle, the Count of Savoy and gave him the title of Earl of Richmond. The house built there eventually came into the possession of Edmund, Earl of Lancaster and his descendants who would become the Dukes of Lancaster, resided there. By the 14th century, the house was the residence of John of Gaunt, the younger son of King Edward III.

John was the power broker of the nation. He had his father’s power bolstered by the wealth of his wife’s family, the Lancasters. John was the richest man in the kingdom and his house was the most magnificent in all the lands. He had collections of tapestries, jewels, and other art. Wat (Walter) Tyler led a Peasants’ Revolt (aka Wat Tyler’s Revolt) beginning on May 30, 1381 until it was successfully suppressed by November of that year.  The peasants had suffered greatly during the Black Plague decades before. The Hundred Years’ War was in progress and needed funding and the tax base lessened with the death of so many workers. A poll tax, a per person tax issued across the board, was the last straw. When an official came to Essex to collect the tax, the populace took up arms in protest.

Some rebels, led by Tyler and John Ball, eventually made their way to London. King Richard II, then 14 years old, fled to the Tower of London for safety. Most of the royal forces were overseas, due to war efforts. On this day, the rebels broke into the jails and released the prisoners and were joined in their advance by townspeople. They attacked Savoy Palace and destroyed everything within it. What couldn’t be burned or smashed, was thrown into the Thames. They blamed John of Gaunt for the introduction of the poll tax. He survived this assault on his property and flourished.

Wat Tyler did not have the same luck. His refusal to pay the 12 pence per adult tax (regardless of wealth or status) was just part of his discontent with the government. He wished for the unpaid labor of serfdom to be discontinued and wanted all to be able to choose career paths and bosses. Richard II met with rebels on June 14 and agreed to some concessions and full pardons upon dispersal. Tyler refused to accept the proposal and on June 15, he and his Kentish followers met with the King, insulted him, and then got into a fight with courtiers. Tyler tried to stab the Mayor of London while being arrested. Although stabbed in the fight, Tyler attempted to escape and only made it a few yards before he fell from his horse. He was decapitated the following day and his head displayed on London Bridge. All concessions were revoked and the entire uprising fell within months.

Masses are always breeding grounds of psychic epidemics. – Carl Jung

Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda. – Hannah Arendt

The mob is the mother of tyrants. – Diogenes

What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet. No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled or uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people. – Robert Kennedy