10. The Obscure Rebel Who Shook Medieval England
Jack Cade was an Irishman of unknown occupation and little known background, who lived in Kent, England, in 1450. That year, he organized a rebellion among peasants and small proprietors. He and they were upset with oppressively high taxes and a recent steep rise in prices, coupled with widespread corruption and abuse of power by the royal advisors and officials of the weak and hapless king Henry VI. The rebellion gathered steam, and soon became a major popular revolt and peasant uprising that shook medieval England, captured London, and terrorized its government and aristocracy.
Cade had lived 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. That June, he emerged as the leader of a rebellion against the royal government, and calling himself John Mortimer, identified with the king’s rivals, the York branch of the royal family. Cade issued a manifesto that demanded the removal of several royal ministers, and the recall of Richard, Duke of York, from Ireland, where he resided in virtual exile.