The King Intervenes
The united rebels of Essex and Kent made their way to negotiate with the 15-year-old king, with Wat Tyler telling the royal messengers that he and his men were coming to save King Richard and the land from traitors. They gathered at Blackheath, an area lying behind the current Royal Observatory. The mood was jubilant amongst the masses of rebels, who numbered 100, 000 according to the chronicler Thomas Walsingham’s count. Tyler had wisely brought Sir John Newton, the captured keeper of Rochester Castle, with him, and brazenly sent the knight to inform the king that the rebels had arrived.
While they waited, the rebels joined up with London’s dissidents, and set about causing mayhem in Southwark, releasing prisoners from the jail, storming Lambeth Palace (owned by the hated Archbishop of Canterbury), and burning legal records. As the palace burned, the rebels’ chant of ‘A revel! A revel!’ was heard across the river at Westminster, spreading fear through the city. As such, when Richard arrived to negotiate the following morning, he opted to stay on his barge and address his subjects from relative safety. Stirred by Ball’s famous speech (see above), the rebels now demanded that traitors be executed.
Reading through the hastily-scrawled list, Richard was shocked by the demands to execute his closest advisors. He then made the imprudent decision to turn tail and sail away, informing the rebels that they could come to negotiate again the following week at Windsor. The rebels, having been overjoyed by the prospect of speaking to the king and having their demands met, were initially stunned, and then furious. The restraint the rebels had shown was now at an end, and they entered the city by London Bridge, its guards wisely realizing the futility of resisting so large a crowd.