[00:13.65]In the summer of 1348,
[00:16.17]the English could be forgiven for thinking themselves unconquerable.
[00:21.97]They had vanquished the old enemies, the Scots and the French.
[00:28.69]Their king, Edward III, seemed the most powerful ruler in Europe.
[00:36.81]But they would be conquered,
[00:39.09]and by a king against whom neither longbows
[00:42.09]nor warships offered any defence...
[00:49.29]His weapon was plague, and by the end of his terrible campaign,
[00:54.13]almost half the people of Britain would be dead.
[01:00.01]The country would survive the trauma,
[01:02.49]but first it had to undergo a purgatory of unimaginable misery,
[01:07.13]because hard on the heels of pestilence
[01:09.61]would come rebellion and civil war.
[01:12.61]The century of plague was a pilgrimage through pain,
[01:16.17]and this is the story of that journey.
[01:55.37]Yersinia pestis, the germ of plague,
[01:58.85]came to Britain in the guts of infected fleas.
[02:04.65]They were hidden away in cargoes of grain,
[02:07.85]bales of cloth and in the fur of black rats.
[02:12.57]The most probable point of entry was Melcombe Regis, near Weymouth.
[02:18.49]By the time it got to the great ports of Southampton and Bristol,
[02:22.61]there were already stories from traumatised cities of Italy
[02:26.05]as to how and where it had begun -
[02:29.13]in the East, on the plains of central Asia,
[02:32.57]another of the horrors carried on the backs of the Mongol hordes.
[02:38.21]The plague cut a swathe of destruction
[02:41.49]eastwards to China and India and westwards into Crimea and Turkey.
[02:47.01]At Caffa, the Tartars had thrown infected bodies over the city walls
[02:52.73]to hasten the surrender of the defending Genoese,
[02:56.73]a first in the annals of biological warfare.
[03:05.17]Once it arrived by sea in Italy, it spread quickly into mainland Europe.
[03:12.17]There had been devastating calamities before visited on Britain -
[03:17.13]countless numbers died in the apocalyptic famine of 1315 -
[03:24.09]but it was the merciless, indiscriminate swiftness of the plague's progress
[03:29.37]which so unhinged the cities and villages caught in its onslaught.
[03:35.17]No one, rich or poor, could escape.
[03:40.45]This is how Welsh poet Jeuan Gethin saw it,
[03:44.01]waiting for his own infection, which, sure enough, came in 1349.
[03:50.61]We see death coming into our midst like foul smoke.
[03:55.29]A plague which cuts off the young,
[03:57.77]a rootless phantom which has no mercy.
[04:03.37]Woe is me of the shilling in the armpit.
[04:07.57]It is of the form of an apple, like the head of an onion.
[04:12.85]Great is its seething, like a burning cinder.
[04:16.09]A grievous thing of ashy colour.
[04:19.33]It is an ugly eruption that comes with unseemly haste.
[04:24.37]They are like a shower of peas, the early ornaments of Black Death.
[04:36.13]It took about six days from the bite of an infected flea
[04:40.49]for the tell-tale swellings, the buboes,
[04:43.53]to appear on a victim's neck, groin or armpit,
[04:47.89]accompanied by violent fever and agonising pain.
[04:52.85]The immune system would be overwhelmed within a week.
[04:58.05]If the infection reached the lungs,
[05:00.49]death came after just a couple of days of bloody coughing.
[05:04.69]Anyone who inhaled even the tiniest droplets of mucus
[05:08.65]would be doomed to suffer in their turn.
[05:18.01]No one knew it at the time, but the tightly-packed streets, alleys
[05:22.05]and houses of a place like Bristol
[05:24.57]made a perfect factory farm for the bacillus.
[05:27.89]Vermin, crawling with fleas,
[05:30.09]lived alongside the crowded population of people and animals.
[05:39.01]The nibble of a flea was a common irritation
[05:42.57]in this lousy, ant-heap world.
[05:45.01]And even when the buboes appeared,
[05:47.29]there was no reason to suppose that fleas or rats were responsible.
[05:51.77]But there was no doubt about what would happen next.
[05:56.89]The youngest, the oldest and the poorest -
[05:59.97]those with least resistance - would be taken first...
[06:04.65]but then everyone else, too.
[06:08.01]In a town this ripe for infection,
[06:10.45]almost half the population would have perished in the first year.
[06:14.65]Among them, 15 of Bristol's 52 city councillors,
[06:18.81]their names struck through as they died.
[06:25.85]Terrified and bewildered, the healthy abandoned the sick to their fate.
[06:35.17]Whole towns, villages, even families,
[06:38.29]were cruelly divided into the living and the dying.
[06:43.37]Husbands would have shunned their wives,
[06:46.49]fathers and mothers recoiled from contact with their children.
[06:53.21]It's almost impossible to imagine the utter desolation and terror,
[06:59.21]the complete collapse of everything you've taken for granted.
[07:02.97]How do you find bread now the bakers are all dead?
[07:06.65]How do you find a physic now that none work?
[07:09.85]And, at last, how do you find someone to cart away the bodies
[07:14.61]that have to be disposed of... somewhere?
[07:30.65]The bigger the city, the greater the shock.
[07:36.21]In 1348, London had a population of close to 100,000.
[07:44.69]In the first wave of the plague, 300 died every day.
[07:59.41]there had long been a medieval hospital with a cemetery attached.
[08:03.01]Within its walls, the dead were dutifully laid to rest
[08:07.01]in their individual graves, pointing east,
[08:10.01]so that come the Day of Judgement, they would rise facing Jerusalem.
[08:17.13]But in the grip of the epidemic, there was no time for such pieties.
[08:22.13]Recent excavations have turned up mass pits
[08:25.37]where bodies were pitch-forked into the dirt
[08:28.17]in obvious haste and desperation.
[08:30.65]Unearthed now the way they were dumped in,
[08:33.73]they look as if they're protesting at the indignity.
[08:47.05]By the summer of 1349, the plague had spread
[08:50.49]to the furthest corners of England, Wales and Scotland.
[08:53.69]Now it travelled across the sea to Ireland.
[08:57.89]According to John Clynn, a Franciscan friar writing at Kilkenny,
[09:02.21]14,000 had perished in Dublin alone.
[09:12.69]Since the beginning of the world,
[09:14.93]it has been unheard of for so many people to die in such a short time.
[09:22.17]This pestilence was so contagious
[09:25.93]that those who touched the dead or the sick
[09:29.21]were immediately infected themselves.
[09:32.89]I, seeing these many ills
[09:35.97]and that the whole world is encompassed by evil,
[09:39.81]waiting among the dead for death to come,
[09:43.49]have committed to writing what I truly have heard and examined,
[09:48.57]and I leave parchment for continuing this work
[09:51.85]if, perchance, any man survive,
[09:55.01]and any of the race of Adam escape this pestilence
[09:59.57]and carry on the work which I have begun.
[10:06.93]At this point, another hand has written,
[10:10.05]"Here it seems the author died."
[10:16.49]When the survivors recovered from the first brutal shock of the Black Death,
[10:20.37]they asked, inevitably, "Why us? Why now?"
[10:28.17]The best guess was that the plague was caused
[10:31.09]by a corruption of the atmosphere -
[10:33.57]putrefaction - the mark of men and beasts
[10:36.53]rising from lakes, swamps and chasms.
[10:41.85]This dank smog even had a name - miasma.
[10:49.05]If sickness grew in stench, then sweet smells were an obvious remedy.
[10:54.01]Physicians and herbalists lost no time
[10:56.97]in devising recipes for pomanders and potions
[11:00.13]to guard against infection, or even to act as an antidote for the stricken.
[11:08.21](MAN) Five cups of rue if it be a man.
[11:11.85]If it be a woman, leave out the rue.
[11:15.21]Five little blades of columbine. A great quantity of marigold flowers.
[11:22.77]An egg that is newly laid, and make a hole in one end
[11:27.37]and blow out all that is within, and lay it to the fire
[11:31.45]and roast it till ground to powder, but do not burn it.
[11:36.49]And brew all these herbs with good ale, but do not strain them.
[11:41.33]And make the sick drink it for three evenings and mornings.
[11:47.33]If they hold it in their stomach, they shall have life.
[11:58.49]But if God decided otherwise,
[12:00.73]all the potions in the world would be of no avail.
[12:05.33]The inescapable conclusion
[12:07.49]was that the pestilence was laid on mankind
[12:10.25]as a chastisement for its manifold sins.
[12:17.65]Lewd necklines, lascivious dancing
[12:20.69]and shameless adultery had brought on the plague.
[12:27.01]It would end when the world was contrite,
[12:30.05]but it never seemed contrite enough.
[12:33.65]In the meantime, the country was laid waste.
[12:39.37]Farms were abandoned, whole villages deserted.
[12:47.97]The accounts for the Bishop of Winchester's lands
[12:50.57]at Farnham in Surrey tell the story of a rural society in shock.
[12:56.01]In the first year of the Black Death, 52 households -
[12:59.77]a third of the villagers - were wiped out,
[13:02.85]given the mark "defectus per pestilentum".
[13:09.73]The Farnham rolls put names to the numbers,
[13:12.73]names like Matilda Stikker.
[13:14.89]She died, together with her entire family.
[13:18.09]Or a servant girl, Matilda Talvin,
[13:20.77]who saw her master and his entire household succumb to the plague.
[13:25.77]By the time it ebbed away in 1350, 1,300 had died in Farnham.
[13:32.73]While the plague took, it could also give.
[13:35.25]In the first year of the Black Death, John Crudchate, a minor,
[13:38.89]became an orphan, but an orphan with assets,
[13:41.81]because he could now inherit the lots left to him
[13:45.61]by his father and another relative.
[13:47.93]This must have been the making of a small but serious village fortune.
[13:53.33]In another place in the rolls,
[13:55.61]we learn that the harvest had become twice as expensive to gather in.
[13:59.93]Twelve pence, written in Roman numerals, per acre,
[14:04.37]because, the rolls say, of the plague and the scarcity of labour.
[14:09.65]Workers, it seems, were thin on the ground
[14:12.33]and were beginning to charge accordingly.
[14:22.45]Farnham's story could be repeated all through Britain.
[14:26.73]The countryside after the Black Death was an irreversibly altered world.
[14:32.69]For one thing, there were no more serfs.
[14:36.13]For centuries, being a serf meant being tied
[14:39.61]by custom and by birth to your local lord.
[14:43.05]He gave you a tiny spot of land on which you could farm,
[14:47.37]and in return, you put in hours of grinding toil,
[14:51.41]unpaid, on his very big farm.
[14:54.53]There were other ways, too, in which you were not free.
[14:58.21]You had to ask his permission to marry,
[15:01.09]and you were not, repeat not, ever to leave...
[15:04.09]until, that is, the Black Death.
[15:07.01]Now there was a desperate labour shortage,
[15:09.53]and the simple operation of the laws of supply and demand
[15:13.85]meant that for the first time, you could set the terms of the deal.
[15:18.33]He wanted labour out of you,
[15:20.49]well, you could say, "Why not start by paying me something?"
[15:24.41]He wants you to move into land which otherwise would go to rack and ruin,
[15:30.09]you respond by saying, "OK, cut the rent."
[15:33.37]And if the lord says, "No chance, you impertinent so-and-so,"
[15:37.73]well, you up sticks and find someone who's got a more secure grip
[15:42.73]on the new economic facts of life.
[15:45.81]Well, hundreds of thousands of peasants must have done just that,
[15:49.69]and there was nothing anybody could do about it.
[15:58.41]It was not just the social order that the plague shook loose.
[16:02.73]It also ate away at the sense of security offered by the Church,
[16:08.41]especially since the regular clergy seemed powerless
[16:11.85]to provide help for the afflicted... or even for themselves.
[16:20.25]In 1349, the Bishop of Bath and Wells,
[16:23.37]seeing that there was a serious shortage of priests,
[16:26.29]authorised laymen to hear the confession of the dying.
[16:30.09]"Or," he wrote, "even a woman, if no man is available."
[16:36.93]The most daring took matters into their own hands,
[16:40.49]seeking redemption directly from the Scriptures.
[16:45.09]The Lollards- or Mumblers -
[16:47.53]took their name from their mouthing out loud of the Bible,
[16:51.17]and encouraged others to do the same by translating it into English,
[16:56.33]liberating it from the obscurity of Latin.
[17:02.57]As few as they were, the Lollards were a dramatic threat
[17:06.17]to the authority of the Church.
[17:08.41]They were only saved from persecution
[17:10.73]by the protection of their most powerful patron,
[17:13.53]King Edward III's son John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster.
[17:18.53]Men like him were drawn to new forms of piety and penance
[17:22.65]because the plague made them acutely aware
[17:25.21]that King Death was no respecter of rank or wealth...
[17:30.41]and that should he strike, they had better be ready for a reckoning.
[17:36.37]They all knew the cautionary tale of the three living and the three dead.
[17:46.29]A trio of handsome young kings out for a decent day's sport
[17:51.05]suddenly find themselves confronted by three not-so-handsome cadavers,
[17:56.45]each in a different state of decomposition -
[17:59.89]the Marx Brothers from hell.
[18:04.37]The three living pipe up - "I'm afraid," "Lo, what I see"
[18:08.85]and "Methinks these devils be."
[18:12.33]Back come the other three - "Such shall you be,"
[18:17.77]"I was well fair" and "For God's love, beware."
[18:24.01]The furthest gone of the gruesome threesome then makes a little speech.
[18:29.41]"Know that I was head of my tribe, princes, kings and nobles,
[18:34.41]"royal and rich, rejoicing in wealth,
[18:37.49]"but now I am so hideous and bare that even the worms disdain me."
[18:51.09]This was an invasion that Plantagenet England had not prepared for -
[18:56.01]the invasion of the space of the living by the dead.
[19:00.33]The sense that the borders between backyards and boneyards had collapsed
[19:04.73]produced a sudden nervousness.
[19:07.09]In the face of King Death, neither riches nor earthly fame
[19:11.29]could buy salvation or guarantee immortality.
[19:19.97]This insecurity found expression in a very peculiar kind of tomb -
[19:25.77]the transi, which means, appropriately enough, "gone off".
[19:31.97]In transi tombs, like this one at Canterbury Cathedral,
[19:35.33]you got remembered twice over.
[19:37.61]They were double-decker affairs.
[19:39.81]In the top deck, you were seen in the guise the world expected,
[19:44.13]as a knight in armour or a bishop in full Episcopal rig.
[19:51.05]In the lower deck, though, there you were, a naked skeleton,
[19:55.57]the flesh fallen away from the bone.
[20:18.89]The mindset that produced the transi tomb was a kind of reverse envy;
[20:24.21]a determination to fall behind the Joneses,
[20:27.57]to bow to no one in your painful awareness
[20:31.53]that however grand you were, pretty soon you'd be reduced
[20:34.85]to a heap of dust and maggots.
[20:39.49]The idea was to contrast, as shockingly as possible,
[20:42.89]two sorts of self-consciousness.
[20:45.73]On one hand, how we'd like to be remembered - in splendour and piety.
[20:52.29]And on the other hand, the way we really are -
[20:57.17]pathetic in our cadaverous mortality.
[21:05.09]"I was pauper-born,"
[21:07.25]reads the inscription on Archbishop Chichele's tomb,
[21:11.37]"then to primate raised.
[21:14.17]"Now I am cut down and served up for worms.
[21:18.89]"Behold my grave."
[21:26.09]Only the highest office in the land seemed to have survived unscathed.
[21:31.53]Edward III, once the glamorous, invincible warrior,
[21:35.41]was now an ageing father to a fragile nation.
[21:40.53]Still, the royal succession seemed secure.
[21:43.61]Edward's son, the Black Prince, the heir to the throne,
[21:47.09]was already a legendary hero.
[21:50.45]But then, against all expectation, the picture changed.
[21:55.01]The Black Prince succumbed to dysentery in 1376,
[21:58.33]and a year later, the old king himself finally expired.
[22:05.77]And so the crown passed to Edward's grandson, Richard of Bordeaux.
[22:10.93]A boy-king, called upon before his time, Richard was ruler in name only.
[22:17.81]Everyone knew that his uncle, John of Gaunt, worked the levers of power.
[22:28.01]Richard's coronation was orchestrated by John of Gaunt
[22:31.85]as a festival of loyalty,
[22:34.25]a statement of faith in the undimmed future of England's glory.
[22:41.77]There had been no coronation for half a century,
[22:45.05]but the mix of solemnity and festivity
[22:47.61]never failed to work its spell.
[22:50.05]Knights of the shire rode in from all over England
[22:53.33]to witness the spectacle.
[22:59.81]The next day in the Abbey,
[23:01.97]little Richard had his shirt taken off him behind a golden screen
[23:05.57]and his face, hands and chest touched with the holy oil.
[23:12.17]As they listened to him in his little boy's voice
[23:15.29]promise to protect the Church, do justice
[23:19.21]and respect the laws and customs of his ancestors,
[23:22.53]the assembly of nobles and priests must have imagined him growing
[23:27.25]to fit the huge throne of his ferocious great great grandfather Edward I.
[23:34.49]Inevitably, as the long ceremony droned on in the darkness,
[23:38.41]Richard fell asleep.
[23:42.61]As he was carried from the Abbey, his legs dangling,
[23:46.21]one of his oversized slippers fell off,
[23:48.85]but who'd think that an ill omen?
[23:51.13]He was, after all, only ten.
[23:57.89]How was the child marked by all this? 22 years later,
[24:02.85]did he remember this moment of anointing as a kind of apotheosis,
[24:07.81]a magical transformation from a little man into a little god?
[24:14.89]Perhaps it was as well that Richard mistook himself for a messiah,
[24:19.97]since only someone with that kind of innate self-confidence
[24:23.29]could have faced down, at the tender age of 14,
[24:26.81]the most violent upheaval in the history of medieval England.
[24:33.37]It happened with astounding, terrifying swiftness,
[24:36.65]and it started where you'd least expect it -
[24:39.97]not some destitute mud-hole in the back of beyond,
[24:43.21]but in the most economically developed region of rural England,
[24:47.05]the belt of rich, fertile country stretching from Kent,
[24:50.77]over the Medway and Thames, to Essex and southern East Anglia.
[24:55.13]The thing about the Peasants' Revolt
[24:57.29]is that the people who started it weren't really peasants at all.
[25:01.33]At any rate, they certainly weren't the straw-chewing,
[25:04.77]pitchfork-waving yokels of legend.
[25:08.09]No, they were people with something to lose - the village elite,
[25:11.77]men who'd served as constables and stewards and jurors,
[25:16.05]men who'd moved into those vacant lots
[25:18.93]that had been left behind by victims of the plague.
[25:22.65]They'd made some money and weren't about to see it go down the drain
[25:27.37]to line the pockets of some pen-pusher in Westminster.
[25:35.85]What's more, they knew how to make an army
[25:39.09]out of those one rung down on the social ladder,
[25:43.29]families just above the poverty line,
[25:46.01]who had to sell their labour to make ends meet.
[25:50.49]They were already angry at government attempts
[25:53.21]to peg back their steadily rising wages to pre-plague levels.
[25:58.01]The balance had tipped in favour of the survivors
[26:01.33]and they were determined to keep it that way.
[26:06.33]In their different ways, all these people were -
[26:09.29]or thought they were - up-and-comers.
[26:12.09]They would fight, if necessary, to prevent themselves
[26:14.89]from sinking into the down-and-outers.
[26:17.85]Was this a class war, then -
[26:20.25]a phrase we're not supposed to use since the official burial of Marxism?
[26:25.53]Yes, it was.
[26:29.33]The suspicion in village England was that the real power behind the throne -
[26:34.77]John of Gaunt, the Queen Mother, the Chancellor -
[26:37.49]were gathering in fresh taxes, not to finance a patriotic war in France,
[26:42.41]but to lavish on their own palaces and private estates.
[26:47.73]So when, in November 1380, parliament approved a new poll tax,
[26:52.81]one which for the first time took no account of individual wealth,
[26:56.97]the yeomen farmers must have imagined the awful prospect
[27:00.37]of all their hard-won gains being snatched back by a greedy government.
[27:07.37]There was outrage, bloody-minded fury and mass evasion,
[27:11.05]which quickly escalated into outright rebellion.
[27:16.49]Tax collectors and sheriff's men were attacked, a few killed.
[27:24.85]In Maidstone, they elected Wat Tyler,
[27:27.65]a yeoman craftsman, as their general and captain,
[27:31.17]and freed a Lollard anti-cleric called John Ball,
[27:34.21]who'd been imprisoned in the bishop's palace.
[27:38.65]John Ball is a recognisable type, a preaching friar
[27:42.81]who pushes Black Death radicalism to its logical extreme.
[27:47.01]"Get rid of the priesthood and the property owners," Ball argued,
[27:50.81]"and Christ's embrace of the poor will once again be honoured."
[27:56.81]Are we not descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve?
[28:01.21]What reason can they give why they should be more masters than we?
[28:06.89]They are clothed in velvet and rich ermine,
[28:09.57]while we are forced to wear poor clothing.
[28:12.69]They have wines and fine spices and fine bread,
[28:15.93]while we have only rye and the refuse of the straw,
[28:19.45]and when we drink it must be water.
[28:23.33]We are called slaves,
[28:25.49]and if we do not perform our services, we're beaten.
[28:28.81]Let us go to the king and remonstrate with him.
[28:32.73]We may obtain a favourable answer.
[28:35.73]And if not, we must seek to amend our conditions ourselves.
[28:45.17]And so they marched,
[28:47.33]the levelling fever of the Black Death buzzing in their brains,
[28:51.53]slogans of equality and retribution in their mouths.
[28:56.09]After all, who were Wat Tyler, John Ball
[28:59.73]and Robert Cave of the Dartford Baker
[29:01.93]but the three dead confronting the spoiled, rich and mighty
[29:06.61]with their day of judgement.
[29:13.09]On the morning of the 12th June, 1381, an enormous army, at least 5,000,
[29:18.25]perhaps as many as 10,000 strong,
[29:20.61]was camped here on the fields of Blackheath,
[29:23.45]right on the edge of London.
[29:25.61]Below them, they could see the city -
[29:28.53]old St Paul's, the bridges crowded with shops and Westminster beyond,
[29:33.25]all seemingly at their mercy.
[29:40.33]This was not a rabble. From the outset of the revolt,
[29:43.97]its targets had been selected carefully to make a point -
[29:48.01]rich abbeys, estates belonging to tax collectors.
[29:51.69]Any document bearing the seal of the Exchequer
[29:54.45]was marked out for destruction.
[29:57.21]Manorial accounts were thrown on the fire.
[30:00.37]They knew what they were doing.
[30:03.61]Paradoxically, the rebels remained fervently loyal to the Crown.
[30:07.97]Though they had made themselves outlaws,
[30:10.21]they were fired by the certainty that their cause was just.
[30:14.05]Surely it would be seen that they were not mobilised
[30:17.49]to threaten the king, but to rescue him,
[30:20.25]and through him, themselves.
[30:26.17]The discipline of the march, however,
[30:28.77]did not survive contact with the big city.
[30:32.21]Prisons were broken open, churches looted, palaces put to the torch.
[30:38.81]Thirty-five Flemish merchants were decapitated on the same block,
[30:43.09]one after the other.
[30:48.09]Archbishop of Canterbury Simon Sudbury was captured
[30:51.49]while at his prayers in the Chapel of St John.
[30:55.05]The rampaging rebels hacked his head off,
[30:57.61]stuck it on a spike and paraded it triumphantly through the streets.
[31:07.61]On the evening of Thursday 13th June,
[31:10.85]the teenage king climbed one of the turrets in the tower,
[31:14.61]and what he saw ought to have broken him in terror...
[31:20.81]the sky red with flames, London crumbling into smoking ruins.
[31:31.49]But hostage to a nightmare, Richard doesn't seem to have panicked.
[31:36.17]When counsellors asked him to negotiate with the rebels,
[31:39.17]he evidently showed no hesitation.
[31:42.05]It was the boy who was the man of the hour.
[31:48.73]It was a brave front. For Richard must have thought
[31:51.97]there was a chance he might not survive.
[31:54.57]Before the meeting, he prayed at the shrine of Edward the Confessor,
[31:58.81]the patron saint of all the Plantagenet kings.
[32:03.81]Then he rode through the jostling crowds
[32:06.65]to meet Wat Tyler and the rest of the leaders at Smithfield.
[32:16.25]When he got to Smithfield, the king could see the rebels
[32:19.45]camped on the west side and the royal party on the east.
[32:23.97]Wat Tyler rode over to Richard, got off his little horse,
[32:28.09]knelt very briefly, not very convincingly,
[32:31.49]but then shakes his hand and calls him brother.
[32:35.09]"Why will you not go home?" Asked the king, plaintively,
[32:38.93]to which Tyler responded with a loud curse and a set of demands.
[32:43.97]The most important was for a new Magna Carta,
[32:47.21]this time for the ordinary people.
[32:49.77]It would abolish serfdom, it would liquidate the property of the Church,
[32:53.93]it would offer a general pardon to all outlaws,
[32:57.53]and if all this wasn't radical enough,
[33:00.37]it would make every man equal below the level of the king.
[33:05.97]Now, to all this, Richard answered, "Yes,"
[33:09.09]perhaps crossing his fingers behind his back,
[33:11.73]and maybe Wat Tyler was so amazed by the concession,
[33:15.13]he didn't quite know what to do next.
[33:17.77]So an eerie silence settles over everybody on the field,
[33:22.33]broken only by Tyler asking for a flagon of ale.
[33:26.45]He gets it, he downs it, he gets back onto his mount -
[33:30.85]a big man on a little horse -
[33:33.77]and at that moment, history changed.
[33:40.37]There was someone on the king's side who had not been reading the script,
[33:45.05]or perhaps was just unable to take the humiliation any longer.
[33:51.05]It was a young esquire, someone Richard's own age,
[33:54.37]who shouted at Tyler that he was a thief.
[33:59.33]It broke the strange spell.
[34:03.13]Walworth, the mayor, who had always taken a hard line,
[34:06.41]tried to arrest Tyler.
[34:12.17]There was horseback fighting,
[34:14.01]Walworth getting in the decisive blow,
[34:17.97]cutting Tyler through the shoulder and neck.
[34:22.17]As soon as he was down, the king's men surrounded him, finishing him,
[34:27.41]but making sure the rebel camp could not see what was going on.
[34:36.65]One way or another, this was the moment of truth.
[34:40.45]It was also the moment when Richard himself acted,
[34:43.73]decisively and with amazing courage.
[34:47.13]He rode straight at the rebels, shouting famously,
[34:51.29]"You shall have no captain but me."
[34:57.09]The words were brilliantly chosen
[34:59.25]and were, of course, deliberately ambiguous.
[35:02.49]To the rebels, it seemed that Richard himself was now their leader,
[35:06.37]just as they'd always wanted.
[35:08.53]But the words could have been meant
[35:11.09]as the first reassertion of royal authority.
[35:15.77]Either way, it defused the immediate crisis
[35:19.13]and gave Mayor Walworth the opportunity to get back to London
[35:23.41]and mobilise armed men.
[35:27.01]Now the process of breaking up the leaderless rebellion could begin -
[35:31.37]cautiously at first, with offers of pardons and mercy,
[35:34.69]but then with implacable resolution.
[35:38.25]Just a week after the apparent concessions at Smithfield,
[35:41.53]another group of rebels met with Richard at Waltham in Essex,
[35:45.41]but they found a very different king.
[35:52.65]You wretches, detestable on land and sea,
[35:56.57]you who seek equality with lords, are unworthy to live!
[36:00.57]Give this message to your colleagues.
[36:03.29]Rustics you were and rustics you are still.
[36:07.29]You will remain in bondage not as before, but incomparably harsher.
[36:11.97]For as long as we live, we will strive to suppress you,
[36:16.17]and your misery will be an example in the eyes of posterity.
[36:20.77]However, we will spare your lives if you remain faithful.
[36:25.09]Choose now which course you want to follow.
[36:30.77]The rebels took the only option that was realistically open to them.
[36:35.13]They fell to their knees. It was all over.
[36:38.53]The king was literally the only one left standing.
[36:43.21]But what was the effect of all this on Richard?
[36:46.97]What did he now think he was capable of?
[36:51.17]My master, God omnipotent,
[36:54.69]is mustering in his clouds on our behalf armies of pestilence,
[36:59.77]and they shall strike your children yet unborn and unbegot
[37:04.17]that lift your vassal hands against my head
[37:07.41]and threat the glory of my precious Crown.
[37:13.29]Though Shakespeare's tragedy starts years after the Peasants' Revolt,
[37:17.41]it's hard not to believe that in his portrait of a petulant,
[37:21.37]self-admiring Richard II,
[37:23.65]there is the sense of someone trapped
[37:26.33]in an adolescent fantasy of indestructibility.
[37:31.01]There's no denying that, especially at times of crisis,
[37:34.25]he was subject to unpredictable mood swings,
[37:37.97]between adrenaline-rush feelings of omnipotence and abject fatalism.
[37:44.05]But it is easy to exaggerate his unfitness to rule,
[37:49.09]as though he were somehow suspiciously unsound.
[37:55.49]He was built the usual Plantagenet way,
[37:58.21]six foot tall, with long, flowing, blond hair.
[38:02.01]But unlike his grandfather, he failed to keep mistresses
[38:05.49]and seemed, oddly enough, to want to be faithful to his wife Anne.
[38:10.97]Real Plantagenets tore at their meat and slurped the drippings.
[38:15.33]Richard not only insisted on using a spoon,
[38:17.97]but inflicted it on the rest of the court.
[38:20.85]Real Plantagenets brought you blood-soaked victories
[38:24.21]over the ancestral enemies in France and Scotland,
[38:27.09]Richard brought England the pocket handkerchief.
[38:32.41]Real Plantagenets built fortresses.
[38:35.37]Richard instead wanted a great ceremonial space in Westminster Hall
[38:40.29]with a spectacular hammer beam roof.
[38:45.21]The rows of angels symbolised the king's divine right to rule.
[38:57.73]The angels, in turn, are supported by carved stone plinths
[39:01.81]bearing Richard's own emblem, the white hart.
[39:07.21]But the alien strangeness attributed to Richard
[39:10.37]seems a lot less strange if you think of him as a Renaissance prince
[39:15.13]for whom the civilised life
[39:17.29]was not necessarily a mark of being un-English.
[39:23.01]The Wilton diptych is the clearest illustration
[39:26.41]of his exalted vision of kingship.
[39:30.73]Richard instinctively felt he belonged in the company of saints,
[39:35.41]so here he is with three of them:
[39:39.65]John the Baptist, Edward the Confessor
[39:42.53]and the Saxon martyr king Edmund.
[39:50.57]The other panel shows him in the even more exalted company of angels,
[39:55.61]the Christ child and the Virgin.
[40:01.49]He is her appointed lieutenant.
[40:04.21]She is receiving his kingdom as her dowry
[40:07.49]and in return will bestow on it her special protection and favour.
[40:14.97]Ceremonial style was not, the king decided, just an affectation -
[40:19.13]the window dressing of power -
[40:21.45]it was at the heart of its mystery, its capacity to make men obey.
[40:28.61]Richard had this in mind
[40:30.77]when, for the first time in the history of the British monarchies,
[40:35.69]the king asked to be addressed as "Majesty" and "Highness",
[40:40.45]a kind of mystical elevation.
[40:46.81]But what seemed like refinement to Richard,
[40:49.77]to the barons was evidence that the king had lost touch
[40:53.65]with their common interests.
[41:00.29]Richard's refusal to continue the war with France
[41:03.57]was an obvious source of irritation for the nobility.
[41:07.17]They had positively prospered from foreign campaigns
[41:10.41]and built spectacular castles, like this one at Bodiam,
[41:13.81]to guard against a French invasion.
[41:17.37]But it was the king's high-handedness that finally stung them into action.
[41:23.29]By issuing royal decrees, Richard could bypass parliament,
[41:27.05]and he went out of his way to lavish favours on friends and advisers,
[41:32.53]men like Sir Simon Burley and Robert de Vere,
[41:35.65]who was absurdly promoted to be Duke of Ireland.
[41:40.25]The lords retaliated with their only available weapon - parliament.
[41:44.77]In February 1388, five of the king's favourites
[41:48.57]were charged with abusing his youth and innocence
[41:51.57]to promote their own ambitions.
[41:55.01]All were found guilty of treason
[41:57.17]by what became known as "the Merciless Parliament".
[42:01.17]Robert de Vere, the most hated of the king's confidants,
[42:04.53]escaped before sentence of execution could be carried out,
[42:08.17]but Simon Burley was not so lucky.
[42:12.57]Richard's queen pleaded on her knees for Burley's life, but to no avail.
[42:21.41]Richard may have crushed the Peasants' Revolt,
[42:24.25]but peers of the realm were another matter.
[42:26.97]Chastened by the humiliation,
[42:29.17]the king withdrew into autocratic solitude,
[42:33.37]and yet he had enough of the Plantagenet about him
[42:36.73]to harbour desires for retribution.
[42:39.81]He held his peace for nearly ten years,
[42:42.41]but when his beloved Anne died of plague,
[42:45.13]Richard lost his only restraining influence
[42:48.29]and he reasserted himself in an extraordinary storm of revenge.
[42:56.41]Using the pretext of an aristocratic plot,
[42:59.53]he brutally disposed of the ringleaders
[43:01.97]of the Merciless Parliament a decade earlier.
[43:07.29]The Earl of Arundel was executed.
[43:10.53]The Earl of Warwick was exiled,
[43:12.93]and the Duke of Gloucester, Richard's own uncle, was murdered,
[43:17.09]smothered in his bed on the king's orders.
[43:22.25]The old scores had been settled at last.
[43:26.93]Well, you would think, that Richard could contain his sense of triumph,
[43:32.53]if only in the interests of self-preservation.
[43:35.65]But now that Richard II discovered that people were, for the first time,
[43:40.29]frightened of him, he also discovered he rather liked it.
[43:44.49]He drank it in and lashed out at anybody he thought to be disloyal,
[43:50.01]replacing them with yes-men and toadies,
[43:53.81]eating, sleeping and travelling surrounded by a private army,
[43:57.25]as if he were some Roman emperor.
[44:01.93]Beneath these delusions of omnipotence, though,
[44:04.85]Richard remained neurotically insecure.
[44:08.85]On the merest suspicion of treason,
[44:11.17]he rashly condemned John of Gaunt's son, Henry Bolingbroke,
[44:14.77]to ten years in exile without even the pretence of a show trial.
[44:20.57]If such summary justice made the English nobility uneasy,
[44:24.29]what happened next left them stunned.
[44:28.85]When John of Gaunt finally died,
[44:31.13]Richard decided to increase Bolingbroke's sentence
[44:33.69]to banishment for life, and seized the young Duke's inheritance,
[44:38.57]the valuable Lancastrian estates, in the name of the Crown.
[44:45.53]The magnates of England must have looked at this and said,
[44:49.77]"He's got to be stopped or it's my turn next."
[44:55.29]Richard was one blunder away from disaster.
[44:59.25]The final, fatal distraction was Ireland.
[45:04.49]He had decided to bring the Irish princes to heel,
[45:08.21]but he took just enough soldiers to leave himself defenceless at home
[45:12.73]and not enough to cow the Irish nobles.
[45:17.25]And before he could finish his business there,
[45:20.17]he heard that Bolingbroke had landed with an army on the Yorkshire coast,
[45:25.65]and the alienated English lords had flocked to his banner.
[45:32.01]By the time Richard returned, Bolingbroke was already in command
[45:35.53]of the southern and eastern heartland of England.
[45:40.21]The odd thing is that Richard actually seemed
[45:43.09]to be one step ahead of his enemies in fatalistic pessimism,
[45:47.73]so that when he got the bad news
[45:50.45]that many of his most trusted supporters and allies
[45:53.45]had switched to the other side,
[45:55.61]his reaction was not to dig in his heels, make a fight of it,
[46:00.45]but rather to flee at night across the country,
[46:03.57]disguised as a priest, bewailing his misfortunes
[46:07.01]and as usual blaming them on everybody else.
[46:11.17]At some point in his uncontested march towards Richard,
[46:15.21]Bolingbroke's aims changed, from simply getting his lands back
[46:19.09]to overthrowing the king.
[46:22.05]"Now I can see my end," Shakespeare has Richard say -
[46:26.53]a neat little piece of Lancastrian propaganda,
[46:29.61]which solved the embarrassing problem of a deposition
[46:33.81]by making Richard seem as though he had resigned the crown,
[46:38.37]rather than having it snatched from his desperate grip.
[46:46.01]In fact, it took a month of painful negotiations to get Richard,
[46:50.61]now a prisoner in the Tower, to give up the throne.
[46:54.41]Three times they asked him to surrender, three times he refused,
[46:59.01]before finally bowing to the inevitable.
[47:03.45]On 30th September,
[47:05.61]a report of the king's renunciation was read to parliament,
[47:09.49]gathered under the angels of Richard's magnificent roof.
[47:13.81]The lords were asked to acclaim Henry Bolingbroke,
[47:16.73]Earl of Hereford, Duke of Lancaster, as King Henry IV,
[47:20.57]which they did to cries of, "Yes, yes, yes."
[47:36.21]Richard, the divine prince no longer, was spirited away
[47:40.85]and imprisoned in Pontefract Castle.
[47:43.49]Most likely he was starved to death, a horrible way to end,
[47:47.85]but one which ensured no compromising marks of assault on his body
[47:52.73]when it was given a public burial.
[47:55.09]Now, oddly enough, it was Henry who orchestrated this big funeral,
[48:00.41]a pre-emptive strike against any conspirators out there
[48:04.09]who might imagine that Richard could be rescued
[48:07.01]and restored to the throne.
[48:11.09]It was Bolingbroke's son, Henry V,
[48:13.69]who had the body of King Richard buried in Westminster Abbey.
[48:18.65]Perhaps Henry wanted to put the charge of murder,
[48:21.69]as well as its victim, to rest.
[48:24.41]He must have hoped that in his reign,
[48:27.29]the wounds of the contending parties might be healed,
[48:31.57]but it was not to be.
[48:35.93]Despite his famous victory at Agincourt,
[48:38.65]Henry V remains a might-have-been,
[48:41.09]dead at 35 from dysentery.
[48:43.97]So neither he nor his son, Henry VI,
[48:46.73]could prevent what the stealing of Richard's crown had made inevitable -
[48:51.05]a long, bloody war between competing wings of the Plantagenet family.
[48:58.37]For 30 years, the houses of York and Lancaster slogged it out
[49:02.57]in a roll call of battles we know as the Wars of the Roses.
[49:11.77]There are only two ways to feel about them.
[49:15.13]Either the endless chronicle of violent seizures of the Crown
[49:18.49]makes you thrill to a great English epic,
[49:21.65]or else it leaves you feeling slightly numbed.
[49:26.93]If you're in the dazed and confused camp,
[49:29.69]the temptation is to write off the whole sorry mess
[49:33.33]as the bloody bickering of overgrown schoolboys,
[49:36.17]whacking each other senseless
[49:38.33]on the fields of Towton, Barnet and Bosworth.
[49:44.33]But there was something at stake in all the mayhem,
[49:48.01]and that was the need to make the English monarchy credible again;
[49:52.53]to re-solder the chains of allegiance,
[49:54.89]which had once stretched all the way from Westminster
[49:57.93]out to the constables and justices in the shires,
[50:01.61]and which had been so badly broken by the fate of Richard II.
[50:09.53]To understand the way in which lawlessness, violence and chaos
[50:13.17]did make an impact on the not-so-rosy world of 15th-century England,
[50:18.25]we have something incomparably richer
[50:20.81]than the list of battlefields and barons,
[50:23.41]kings and kingmakers.
[50:26.45]We have, in the letters of the Paston family of Norfolk,
[50:30.17]the very first private correspondence in English,
[50:33.09]the authentic voice of middling folk -
[50:35.97]farmers, lawyers, would-be gentry, social climbers.
[50:40.33]Like many an anxious wife and mother,
[50:43.09]the Wars of the Roses worried Margaret Paston
[50:45.97]because they were making England a bad place
[50:48.65]to make and keep a little fortune.
[50:52.29](WOMAN) God, for his mercy, give grace,
[50:55.05]for I never heard say of so much robbery and manslaughter
[50:58.49]in this country as is now.
[51:00.89]And as for gathering of money, I never saw a worse season.
[51:07.33]Seen through Margaret's eyes, England might be up for grabs,
[51:11.61]but the real disaster was shopping.
[51:15.37]As for cloth for my gown,
[51:17.53]I pray that you will buy for me three yards and a quarter
[51:21.29]of such as it pleaseth you that I should have.
[51:24.17]For I have done all the drapers shops in this town,
[51:27.65]and here is right feeble choice.
[51:31.45]The founder of the Paston dynasty was Clement.
[51:35.05]Clement's described as a plain husbandman,
[51:38.21]which is to say a peasant,
[51:40.41]but a peasant who took advantage of the Black Death
[51:43.77]to scramble right up the social ladder of the village.
[51:47.73]Clement Paston was shrewd enough to send his son William to law school,
[51:53.17]clever enough to understand that it was going to be through learning,
[51:58.53]as much as through land, that the fortunes of the Pastons
[52:02.25]would be utterly transformed.
[52:06.73]Clement's son did indeed become a lawyer and married into money.
[52:11.29]So did his grandson John, who acquired Caister Castle,
[52:15.53]completing the meteoric rise of the Pastons
[52:18.65]from peasantry to landed gentry in just two generations.
[52:25.41](MAN) John Jenney informed me, and I've verily learned since,
[52:29.69]you're to be made a knight at this coronation.
[52:32.57]Considering the comfortable tidings aforesaid,
[52:35.33]to attain the necessary gear be prayed for.
[52:39.77]But nothing's ever this easy, is it?
[52:43.09]As the Pastons became influential and rich,
[52:46.41]so they also were bound to attract enemies.
[52:49.97]As long as they were obscure nobodies,
[52:52.73]the bloody tides of the Wars of the Roses would happen somewhere else.
[52:57.49]But now that they became owners of lands and manors and castles,
[53:01.49]they also became prime targets for the heavies,
[53:05.13]and no one was heavier than the Duke of Norfolk.
[53:08.77]He'd always coveted Caister Castle, and now, in September 1469,
[53:13.13]he came to get it.
[53:15.37]Margaret wrote in some anguish to her son...
[53:19.41]"I greet you well, letting you know that your brother and his fellowship
[53:23.97]"stand in great jeopardy at Caister."
[53:27.65]Well, she was clearly desperate, but she was also extremely angry,
[53:32.37]and she lets her son John feel the rough edge of her tongue,
[53:38.05]which is extremely rough indeed.
[53:41.01]Every man in this country marvels that you suffer them
[53:44.53]to be for so long in great jeopardy.
[53:47.73]They be like to lose both their lives and the place,
[53:51.45]the greatest rebuke to you that ever came to any gentleman.
[53:57.25]John immediately writes back.
[54:00.77]Mother, if I had need to be woken up by a letter,
[54:04.45]I would indeed be a sluggish fellow.
[54:07.17]I have heard ten times worse tidings since the siege began
[54:10.77]than any letter that you wrote me,
[54:13.29]but I assure you that those within have no worst rest than I have,
[54:18.29]nor fear more danger.
[54:25.57]Faced with the might of the Duke of Norfolk's army,
[54:28.89]the Pastons had no choice but to surrender their castle.
[54:34.09]But once again, the law would transform their fortunes.
[54:39.93]It took a seven-year legal battle and an appeal to the king,
[54:44.05]but they were, eventually, rightfully reinstated at Caister,
[54:48.37]although for the eldest of Margaret's brood, the triumph was short-lived.
[54:53.69]Three years later, John Paston died of the plague.
[55:01.29]The Pastons got over these bumps in the road
[55:04.41]to become a settled presence in their county,
[55:07.93]and that would be true for countless other English people just like them.
[55:12.57]Essentially, they were survivors.
[55:14.97]They'd survived the plague, they'd survived dethronement,
[55:17.93]they'd survived civil war.
[55:20.09]Kings came and went, but the village men -
[55:23.21]the same sort of men who'd marched on London in 1381,
[55:27.25]who'd been revolutionaries and desperados -
[55:30.37]were now on their way to becoming squires of the village.
[55:33.93]These people knew what the worst could be.
[55:36.49]They knew that the plague could carry off babies and children.
[55:40.53]They knew that local knights might go on a rampage,
[55:44.17]but they also knew that with an equal measure of prudence and prayer,
[55:49.09]they would get through it.
[55:56.73]So come to an English village like this, far from the mayhem,
[56:01.29]say around 1480, and you'd see what you'd expect -
[56:05.21]a church built in the economic elegance of the perpendicular style...
[56:10.53]For the first time, an ale house called "The Swan" or "The Frog".
[56:16.13]And at the heart, a handsome dwelling
[56:19.17]for the biggest tenant farmer in the area.
[56:22.81]No longer just a wattle and daub single-roomed glorified hut,
[56:26.53]but a miniature manor with its own hall
[56:29.73]and servants to wait on the master and mistress.
[56:33.41]A buttery, a cellar and private retiring chambers.
[56:42.73]One shouldn't be too complacent about the condition of Britain
[56:46.81]at the end of its first century of plague.
[56:50.21]The end of the road through trauma was not all buttercups and beer.
[56:54.57]There was still grinding poverty alongside plenty.
[56:58.97]But all the same, the improbable had happened.
[57:02.37]Out of the fires of pestilence and bloodshed
[57:06.05]had emerged that most unlikely example of survivor -
[57:10.45]the English country gent.
5 King Death（1348——1500）
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