The Poll Tax Riots and the Peasant's Revolt
A pardon has been found dated 1382AD for Lord Robert Dore of Wadsley (Loxley) otherwise known as Robin Hode. Although we do not know if he was involved in the Poll Tax riots or the Peasant’s Revolt here is the background to those events. From the dates it would appear Robin Hode may have been active when William Langland was writing Piers Plowman. If he was then he became a legend in his own lifetime.
During this time of the “Peasant’s Revolt” and the “Poll Tax Riots” the leaders used code-names to protect their identity. John Ball was "Johon Schep" or "Jak Chep"; Wat Tyler was known simply as “Tyler”; Jack Straw was “Rakstrawe” or “Hob Carter”; there was also Erle of the Plo, "Per Plowman," and more.
John Ball told the leaders in London to permit Piers Plowman to do his work which was to chastise well "Hobbe the Robbere" i.e. the King or his Chancellor the Archbishop of Canterbury. The chancellor Richard Scrope imposed the unpopular tax levy in 1377AD and two years later followed it up with a graduated tax. He was replaced by Simon Sudbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury and within a few months of becoming chancellor the Archbishop imposed a tax of three groats (one shilling) on every man and woman over the age of the fifteen. This was three times higher than previously and taxed rich and poor at the same rate. It was very unpopular with the peasantry.
When news reached York of the peasant’s Revolt in Nottingham, Huntingdonshire, London, and Lynn the situation in York which was already boiling over became even more inflamed. There was unrest surrounding St. Leonard’s and the Dominican and Franciscan friaries who had special "liberties" within the city and which were home not only to monks but also to laymen who had trade privileges without the accompanying civic or gild obligations making the brethren of the hospital unpopular. The resentment that was felt by the citizens inevitably boiled over and the Mayor's followers launched an attack on these establishments from outside the city on Bootham Bar which was the major entrance into the city from the north. Such were the disturbance that the king had to intervene, obliging both sides to keep the peace and forcing the city to pay a large fine for a pardon.
Not only were the general populace unhappy with the Poll Tax and the privileges enjoyed by St. Leonard’s and the Dominican and Franciscan friaries they were also unhappy about the way the mayor was appointed along with the increasing power and financial rewards that came with his office. In 1365 the office of sergeant was created whose duty it was to carry the mayor’s mace of office and then later a second office was created to bear the ceremonial sword that Richard II had allowed to the mayor. In an attempt to curb the power of the mayor, reforms were passed prohibiting re-election to the office until a period of eight years had passed, and forbidding the mayor to be given any financial reward beyond his annual salary. These reforms were ineffective and further attempts were made aimed at curbing the growing mayoral salary and preventing the re-election of the mayor until all the aldermen each had their term of office as mayor.
This resulted in a power-struggle between factions led by John Langton and John Gisburne. The former had been mayor every year between 1350 and 1363 and had blocked the latter's nomination as bailiff in 1357. In 1371 the two men were in direct and heated competition for the mayoralty – so much so that the king had to intervene to prohibit debates and unlawful assemblies and to forbid either man from becoming mayor. Despite that, Gisburne was chosen as mayor, and was re-elected in 1372.
Gisburne was again elected to the mayoralty in 1380, but scandals during his term of office led to dissatisfaction that culminated in a riot, and he had to flee the city. His opponents forced Simon Quixley to accept the mayoralty and again, the king was obliged to intervene to restore Gisburne to office and punish the rioters. When Quixley was elected mayor by legitimate methods the following year, he proceeded to arrest or fine Gisburne supporters.
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