Jack Straw

Today, the character in the spotlight is Jack Straw. Little is known about him, or the other leaders involved in the Peasant Revolt. Some say he was a real person, others say he was simply a pseudonym for Wat Tyler (the main leader of the rebellion), and still others believe he never existed at all. No matter how you look at it though, he still left his mark on English history and culture.

Several chroniclers of the revolt mention Straw, and Thomas Walsingham stated that Straw was a priest and second-in-command of the Suffolk contingent of the rebels. However, this is probably a result of confusion with a man named John Wrawe, an unbeneficed priest who actually led the Suffolk uprising. This same historian claims that Straw and his followers murdered notable local figures in Bury (a market town in the county of Suffolk, England), but other historical sources refer to him as the leader of the men of Essex (However, this disproves the claim that he and Wat Tyler were the same person, since Tyler led the rebels from Kent).

People generally agree that Straw (or Tyler depending on how you look at it) was executed in 1381 along with the other revolt leaders. Historian Jean Froissart says that the king’s men found Straw hiding in an old house, and was promptly beheaded along with another leader, John Ball. Additionally, Thomas Walsingham states that Jack Straw gave a confession in which Straw said that the plan was to kill the king, all landowners, bishops, monks, etc… Straw also said that they were going to set up their own laws and burn London.

So was all of that a little bit confusing? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Historians today are still uncertain as to how the lives of the Peasant Revolt leaders went, with some chroniclers saying one thing and other chroniclers saying another. We’ll sort it all out this year at the Sarasota Medieval Fair!

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Published in: on July 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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