The 1450 English Rebellion
In 1450, most people in England were fed up with extremely high taxes, and a recent huge hike in the cost of living. That came on the heels of a recent loss of most English territory in France, due to a disastrous royal marriage negotiation to wed England’s hapless king Henry VI to a French princess. The preceding, combined with widespread corruption and abuse of power by royal advisors and officials, brought things to a boil. Jack Cade, an Irishman residing in Kent, England, of unknown occupation or background, organized and led an uprising of peasants and small proprietors. The rebellion gathered steam, and soon became a major popular revolt that shook England and terrorized its government and aristocracy.
Cade had been living in Sussex until 1449, when he fled to France to escape a murder charge. He returned to England under an assumed name in 1450, and settled in Kent. By June, he had emerged as the ringleader of an uprising. Calling himself John Mortimer, Cade aligned his rebellion and identified it with the king’s rivals, the York branch of the royal family.
The rebels issued a manifesto listing their grievances, in which they demanded the removal of several royal ministers, and the recall of Richard, Duke of York, from Ireland, where he was a virtual exile. A royal army was dispatched to snuff out the uprising, but it was crushed by the rebels in Kent. After that victory, the rebels’ numbers ballooned, and their rapidly increasing host marched on London, which they captured on July 3rd, 1450. They also captured the hated royal treasurer, James Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele, whom the rebels blamed for most of their grievances. After a summary trial, he was convicted, sentenced to death, and executed.
Cade, however, failed to maintain discipline among his followers, and once they entered London, many rebels began looting. That lawlessness led Londoners to turn on the rebels, and after a battle at London Bridge on July 6th, expelled them from the city. To end the uprising, officials convinced most rebels to disperse by issuing royal pardons. With his host melting away, Cade fled, but was tracked down a week later. After a brief skirmish with his pursuers, he was wounded and captured. He was to be taken to London, but died of his wounds en route, his death marking the end of the rebellion.