Throwback Thursday: John Ball & The Peasants’ Revolt 1381

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John Ball Wat Tyler Wikipedia Image
Medieval drawing of John Ball
Image Credit: British Library
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

John Ball was an English priest who took a prominent part in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Ball […] actively [preached] “articles contrary to the faith of the church” […]. Ball trained as a priest in York and referred to himself […] as “Seynte Marie priest of York”. [During his time], England was exhausted by death on a massive scale and crippling taxes. The Black Death was followed by years of war, which had to be paid for. The population was nearly halved by disease, and overworked, and onerous flat-rate poll taxes were imposed.

Ball was imprisoned in Maidstone, Kent, at the time of the […] Revolt. He […] gained considerable fame as a roving preacher without a parish or any link to the established order […] and [was known] especially [for] his insistence on social equality. He delivered radical sermons in many places […]. His utterances brought him into conflict with Simon of Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, and he was thrown in prison on several occasions. He also appears to have been excommunicated […] and, in 1366, it was forbidden for anyone to hear him preach. These measures, however, did not moderate his opinions, nor diminish his popularity, and he took to speaking to parishioners in churchyards after official services.

Shortly after the Peasants’ Revolt began, Ball was released by the Kentish rebels from his prison. He preached to them at Blackheath in an open-air sermon that included the following:

“When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman? From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, He would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty.”

When the rebels had dispersed, Ball was taken prisoner at Coventry, given a trial in which, unlike most, he was permitted to speak. (Six hundred, forty years ago) [he] was hanged, drawn and quartered at St Albans in the presence of King Richard II on July 15, 1381. His head was displayed stuck on a pike on London Bridge and the quarters of his body were displayed at four different towns. Ball, who was called […] “the mad priest of Kent” seems to have possessed the gift of rhyme. He voiced the feelings of a section of the discontented lower orders of society at that time, who chafed at villeinage and the lords’ rights of unpaid labour, or corvée.

Wikipedia Summary

Hmmm…it appears that we are still in bondage all these centuries later and censorship still reigns supreme from the overlords. There are a lot of parallels to today in the above. And, there are those that would like to see others cancelled (or, hanged, drawn & quartered) for refusing to be poisoned. ~Vic