Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Jack Cade's Rebellion of 1450$

I. M. W. Harvey

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780198201601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198201601.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 25 February 2017

(p.186) Appendix A The Bills of Complaint of 1450

(p.186) Appendix A The Bills of Complaint of 1450

Jack Cade's Rebellion of 1450
Oxford University Press

THERE can be no certainty about the dating or the sequence of the three different lists of grievances which were written during the course of Cade's rising: only one of them carries a date of composition. Each of the three bills survives in at least one fifteenth-century copy and in at least one sixteenth-century copy. At present knowledge the total number of copies of all three versions is eight. The content and tone of the bills do, however, suggest a probable, if unproven, order of production during the events of the rising. It is in that order (discussed above in Chapter 4) that they are printed here.


(a) The fifteenth-century copy of what may have been the first bill of complaint to be drawn up by the insurgents is a previously unpublished manuscript: BL Cott. IV 50. It is written on a single sheet of paper in an even, legible hand which is finer and more professional than the fifteenth-century copy of the second bill (ii (b) below). It carries almost identical wording as the sixteenth-century copy listed below as i (b). However, it is probably not the document from which i (b) was made: just occasionally a word or phrase is absent from one or the other and the articles appear in a different order in the two copies.

(b) In the sixteenth century John Stow (?1525–1605) included a copy of this version in his Chronicles of England (1580), 654–6. (The manuscript from which he printed is among his own historical collections: BL Harleian 545, fos. 136v–13v.)1

Bl Cott. Roll IV 502

The compleyntys & causes of the assemble on blake hethe Fyrst hit is opynly noysyd that Kent shuld be dystroyd with a ryall power & made a wylde fforest for the dethe of the duke of Suffolk of wyche the commones there was nevyr dede doer

(p.187) Item that the kyng is steryd & mevyd to lyve only on his comyms & other men to have the revenues of the crown whyche harth causyd porete in his excellence & grete paiements of the peple nou late to the kyng grauntyd in his parlements

Item that the lordys of his ryall blode beyng put from his dayly presence & other mene persones of lower nature exaltyd & made cheyff of privy counsell the whiche stoppyth materys of wronge done in his realme from his excellent audiens & may not be redressyd as lawe wull but yf brybys & gyftys be messager to the handys of the seide counsell

Item the peple of his realme be not payd of dettys owyng for the stuff & purvyance takyn to the use of the kyng to the undoyng of the seyde peple

Item his menyall men of housold & other personys askyn dayly godys & londys of peple enpechyd or endytyd of treson the wyche the kyng grauntyd a non or [before] thei so endangeryd be convycte the wyche causith the resseyvours thereof to enforge labours applied to the dethe of peple be sotell menes of coveityse of the seyde graunte

Item the peple so enpechid & attachid thawgh hit be undrwe [i.e. untrue] may not be committyd to the lawe for here delyveraunce but holde styll in person to here utteryst undoyng for coveytyse of good

Item hit is notyd be the comyne voyse that the kyngis landys in Fraunce beyn alyenyd & put a wey from the croune & his lordys & peple there dystroyed be untrewe menys of treson of wyche nou hit is desyryd enquyryes to be made thorows all the realme hou & be whom and yf suche traitours may be founde gylty than to have execution of lawe with oute eny pardon in example

Item thou diverse of the peple have never so gret ryght to here lond yet be untrew clayms enfeffements be made to diverse astats & gentils in maintenance so that the trewe ounere of hit dare [not]3 purseu his ryght

Item the collectours of the xv peny in kent beyng gretly vexid & hurt in paying gret somes of money in the Eschekyr to sewe out a wryt callyd quorum nomina for the allowance of Barons of the [Cinque] portes whiche nou is desyryd that here aftyr in re [lief]4 of the seid Collectours the barons aforeseyd may seve hit out for here ease at here ovyn coste

Item the Sherevys & undirsherevys lete to ferme here offices & baylywykys takyng gret sevrete therefore the wyche causith extorcons to be done to the peple

Item simple peple that usith not huntyng be gretly oppressyd be endytements faynede & done be the sayde undyrsherewys & baylyes & other of here assent to cause here fees encrese for payement of the seyd ferme

Item they retourne in names of enquestys be wrytyng in to diverse courtes of the kynges not Somenyd ne warnyd where thorou the peple lese dayly gret sommes of money or the value to here undoyng

Item they make leve [i.e. levy] of amerciements callyd the grene wexe in more sommes of money than can be founde dewe of record in the kyngis bokys

Item the peple may not have here fre eleccion in chesyng knyghtys of the Shyre but lettres be sent from diverse astates to the gret reulers there the whyche embrase here tenantes & other peple to chese other personys than hem lykyth

Item thereas knyghtys of the Shyre shold chese the kyngis collectours indeferendy with oute eny brybys takyng nou late thei have notyd certayn persones in feynyng to be collectours where upon some have made fyne with hem to be dyschargyd & so the collectours offices is bought & solde extorcionysly as hem lust

Item the ministres of the Courte of dovyr in Kent vexe & areste the peple there thorou all the Shyre oute of castelwarde passyng here boundys usede of olde tyme & take gret fees of the peple at here lust extorcionysly to gret hurt of hem

Item the peple be sore vexid in costys & labours callyd to the cessions of pees [i.e. (p.188) sessions of the peace] apperyng from the ferthest parts of the West in to the East the wyche causyth ν day jornay to some peple wherefore they desyre that apparance to be devydyd in two partyes of wyche on part to apere in oon place & another part in a nother place of the Shyre in relevyng of the vexacion of the peple


(a) MS Lambeth 306 is a sixteenth-century copy, made by John Stow, of a manifesto dated 4 June 1450 in which the bills listed here as nos. ii and iii are written as a single bill.5 However, it is clear that this manifesto must have been transformed shordy afterwards into two separate bills: a longer document reciting grievances against ‘false traitors’ and asserting the loyalty of the insurgents, and a shorter document made up of demands. It is this longer first portion which is discussed here as the second of the bills of complaint.

(b) The fifteenth-century copy of the bill is Magdalen College, Oxford, MS 306. It could be the copy which was brought from Blackheath by John Payn for Sir John Fastolf.6

(c) BL Harleian MS 543 is a sixteenth-century copy of the bill written in the hand of John Stow. It is he who adds as marginalia here the information that these articles were also employed by the commons of Kent at the time of the arrival of the Yorkist earls in Kent in 1460, shortly before the battle of Northampton. Stow is the only source for this claim. On the other copy he made—MS Lambeth 306 (ii (a) above)—the date has been erased from 1460 to 1450 and Stow's marginal note that another copy, i.e. this, Harleian 543, ‘hathe 1460 at ye comynge of ye Erles’, etc. has been struck out.7 Presumably Stow saw that the Harleian version was only a part of the much fuller text of the Lambeth document and that it was this pruned Harleian version which had been used (if indeed it had) in 1460, not the long Lambeth edition.

(d) There is a late sixteenth-century copy of the bill, Bodleian MS Eng. Hist. C 272, which follows very closely, although not identically, upon the wording of the Magdalen document.8

Magdalen College, Oxford, Ms Misc. 306

These ben the poyntes, mischeves and causes of the gederynge and assemblynge of us zyoure trew legemene of Kent, the weche we trist to God for to remedye with helpe of (p.189) hym oure Kynge oure Soveraigne lorde and alle the comyns of Inglond and to dye therefore.

I. Furst, we consyderynge that the Kynge oure Soveraygne lord by the satiables covetises melicious pompuses in false and noughte brougthe up dayly and nyghtely abowte his hyghnesse, the same dayly and nyzthly is enformed that good is evulle and evulle is good azenst Scripture seyithe, Ve vobis qui facitis de bono malum.

II. Item, they sey that oure Soveraigne lorde is above his lawe and that the lawe is made to his plesure, and that he may make breke hit as ofte as hym lyst withouten any distucsione: the contrarie is trew and elles he schuld not have beene swerune in his Coronacione to kepe hit, the weche we conceyve for the higheste poynt of tresone that anny subgecte may do azenst his prynse for to make hym reygne in perjurie.

III. Item, they seye the Kynge schuld lyve upon his Comyns, and that her bodyes and goodes ern his; the contrarie is trew, ffor than nedid hym nevur to set parlement and to aske good of hem.

IV. Item, they enforme the kynge that the Comyns wolde ffurst destroye the Kynges ffreends and aftur hymeselfe, and thenne brynge in the Duke of Yorke to be Kynge, so that by there false menes and lesynges they make hym to hate and dystroye his verrey ffreendus and to cherysche his ffalse traytours that callen hem selfe his ffreendes. And zif ther were no more resoune to know a freend by he may be know by his covetyse.

V. Item, they seyne hit were a grete reprofe to the Kynge to resume that he hath zevune of his lyvelode, so that they neythur wulle suffur hym to have his owne nor to kepe londes or tenementes fforfetid nor non odur goodes but that they aske hit from hym, or elles they take money of odre to gete hyt hem.

VI. Item, yt is to remembre that thees false traytours wulle suffer no mane to coome to the Kynges presense for noe cause withoutune brybe whereas ther owte no brybe to bee but that every mane myghte have his dewe comynge in dewe tyme to hyme to aske justyse or grace as the cause requirethe.

VII. Item, hit is an evy thynge that the good Duke of Gloucestir enpechid of tresone by on ffalse traytour alone was so sone merderud, and nevur myzt come to onswere. And the ffalse traytour Pole enpechid by all the comynealte of Ynglond, wyche nombur passyd a quest of xxiiii mill. [i.e. 24,000], myghte not be suffred to dye as lawe wolde, but rather these sayde traytours of Poles assent that was alse ffalse as ffortegere, wolde that the Kynge oure Soveraygne lorde wolde batayle inn his owne realme to the destructione of all his pepulle and of hymself therto.

VIII. Item, they sey when the Kynge wulle, schalle be traytours, and when he wulle none schalle be none; and that aperuthe wele hiddurto. Ffor ziff enny of the traytours aboute malygnne azenst eny mane hyghe or low they wulle ffynde ffalse menes that they may dye as a traytoure, to have londes and goodes, but they wulle not in suche case to suffur the Kynge to have hem to paye eyther his dettes or for his vitayles therwhit, nor to be the rycher of on penny.

IX. Item, the law serveth of ryghte and noughte elles in this dayes for to do wronge whyche for no thynge almest is spedde but ffalse maters by coloure of the lawe for mede, drede, or favoure, and no remedye is hadde in the Court of Consyens nor otherwyse.

X. Item, we sey that our Soveraygne lorde may wele undurstand that he hath hadde ffalse counsayle, ffor his lordez ern lost, his marchundize is lost, his comyns destroyed, the see is lost, ffraunse his lost, hymself so pore that he may not [pay] for his mete nor drynk; he oweth more than evur dyd kynge in Inglond, and zit dayly his traytours that beene abowte hyme waytethe whereevur thynge schudde coome to hyme by his law, and they aske hit from hyme.

XI. Item, they aske gentille mennys landys and godis in Kent, and calle us risers and treyturs and the kynges enymys, but we schalle be ffounde his trew lege mene and his best freendus with the helpe of Jesu, to whome we crye dayly and nyzdy, with mony thousand moe, that God of his ryztwysnesse schall take vengaunse on the ffalse treytours of his ryalle realme that have brouzt vs in this myschieff and myserie.

(p.190) XII. Item, we wulle that alle men know that we wulle neythur robbe nor stele, but these fawtes amendid we schall go hoom, wherfore we exorte all the Kynges trew loge mene to helpe vs, ffor so whatever he be that wulle not thees fawtes were amendyd, he is ffalser then Jew or Sarsone, and we schall with a good wulle lyve and dye vpone hyme as vpone eyther Jew or Sarsone; whoso is azenst this, we wulle merke hyme, ffor he is not the Kynges trew lege mane.

XIII. Item, we wulle it be knowne that we blame not alle the lordes nor alle that biene aboute the Kynges persone, nor alle gentilmene, nor alle men of lawe, nor alle byschoppes, nor alle preestes, but such as maye be ffounde gilty by a just and a trew enquere by the lawe, whereto we mow and desyre that somme trew juge with serteyne trew lordez and knyztes may be sent into Kent for to enquere of alle suche traytours and brybours, and that justyse may be done vpon hem who so evur they be; and that our Soveraigne lorde derecte his lettres patentes to alle his pepulle there openly to be redde and cried that hit is our Soveraigne lorde his wille and he desyrethe alle his pepulle trewly to enquere of every mannys governaunse and of the defantes that reigne, not lettynge for love, for drede, ne for hate, and that justyse be done forthe with; and ther vpone the Kynge to kepe in his owne handis theyre landes and goodes and not zeve hem to any mane but for to kepe hem for his owne richesse, or elles to make his enarmye into ffraunce, or elles to pay therwhit his dettes. By oure wryttinges ze may conseyve we be the Kynges ffrends or his enemyes. Those forseyd myschieffes thus dewly remedyed, and that from hens foorthe no mane vpone peyne of dethe beynge aboute the Kynges persone take enny brybe for any bille of supplicacione or repetacione or cause spedynge or lettynge, oure Soveraigne lorde schall regne with great worschip, love of God and his pepulle, that he schall be able with God his helpe to conquere where he wille; and as for vs we schall be redy to defende oure contrey from all nacions and to go with oure Soveraigne lord where he wulle comaunde vs.

XIIII. Item, he that is gylty wulle wrye azenst thus but schall brynge hem downe, and theye schulle be aschamed to speke azenst resone; they wylle peraventure say to the Kynge that and they be takune from hyme that theye wulle then put downe the Kynge, for the theves wolde lyve lenger; and we were disposyd azenst oure Soveraigne lorde, as Gode forbede, what myzt his traytours helpe hyme?

  • God be oure gyde, and then schull we spede,
  • Who so evur say nay, ffalse for ther money reulethe.
  • Trewth for his tales spellethe.
  • God seende vs a ffayre day! Awey, traytours, awey!


(a) The fifteenth-century copy of this petition is MS BL Cott. II 23.9

(b) Stow in his Chronicles of England (1580), 656–8, has a copy of this list of demands which carries a number of slightly variant readings, but these differences are not significant.10 (The manuscript from which he printed is found among his collection of historical documents: BL Harleian 545, fos. 137v–138r.)

(p.191) Bl Cott. II 23

These ben the desires of the trewe comyns of your soueraign lord the Kyng.

First the Chapteyn of the same Comyns deserith the welfare of oure soueraign lord the Kyng, and of all his trewe lordes spirituall and temporall, desiryng of our soueraigne lord and all his trewe counseill to take ageyn all his demaygnes, and he shall then raign lyke a Kyng Riall as he is born our trewe cristen Kyng anoynted. And who saith the contrary we woll all lyue and dye in that quarell.

Also desiryng his trewe Comyns that he woll voyde all the false progeny and afynyte of the Duke of Southefolke, the whiche ben opynly knowyn traitours, and they to be ponysshed affter custome and lawe of the lond. And to take abowte hym a nobill persone, the trewe blode of the Reame, that is to sey the hye and myghty prince the Duke of Yorke, late exiled from our soueraigne lordes presens of the false traitour Duke of Southfolke and his affinite, and take to yow the myghty prince the Duke of Excetter, Duke of Bokyngham, Duke of Northefolke, Erlys and barons of this londe: and then shall he be the Richest Kyng cristen.

Also desirith his trewe Comyns punysshement of the fals traitours, the which contreuyd and ymagyned the deeth of our excellent prince the Duke of Glowcetter, the whiche is to myche to reherse, the whiche Duke was opynly proclamyd at the Parlement of Bury a traytour, vpon the which quarell we purpose to lyue and dye that it is false.

Also the Duke of Exceter, and our holy fader the Cardenall of Wynchester, the nobill princes the Duke of Somersett,11 the Duke of Warrewike, delyuered and distroyed by the same meanys.

Also the Realme of Fraunce, the Duchie of Normandy, Gasguyn, and Guyen, Angoy, and Mayn lost by the same traytours, and our trewe lordes and knygtes, Squyers and good yemen lost and sold or [i.e. before] they went ouer the See, which is gret pite and gret losse to our soueraigne lord and distruccion to his Realme.

Also desirith the Capteyn with the commons of Kente, that all the extorcions may be leid down, that is to sey, the grete extorcion of grene wex, that is falsly vsed to the perpetuall distruccion of the Kynges liege men and the Comons of Kente with out provision. [Also the King's bench, the which is greefefull to the shire of Kent without prouision of]12 our Soueraigne lorde and his trewe Counsell.

Also in takyng whete and other Grayne, Beeff, Moton, and other vitaill, the whiche is vnportable to the said Commons, with oute breff provision of our soueraigne lorde and his trewe counseill, they may no longer bere hit: and also vnto the statute of laborers and grete extorcioners beyng in Kente, that they be punysshed, and that is to say, the traytours, Slegge,13 Crowmere,14 Ysele,15 and Robert Est.16


(1) This version, taken from a later edition of Stow, Annales or a Generall Chronicle of England, ed. E. Howes (London, 1631), is printed in R. B. Dobson (ed.), The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 (London, 1970), 338–41. A slightly shortened edition of Stow's version is printed in S. B. Chrimes and A. L. Brown (eds.), Select Documents of English Constitutional History, 1307–1485 (London, 1961), 290–1.

(2) Without modernizing the spelling or supplying punctuation, I have, for the sake of clarity, extended words which in the MS are contracted; in addition, I have supplied ‘th’ where the MS has the letter thorn.

(3) There is a tear in the MS here.

(4) Paper worn away. Stow's copy reads ‘in the lieue of the Collectors’.

(5) MS Lambeth 306 is printed in Short English Chron., 94–9. The MS is also printed, paraphrased into modern English, in B. Wilkinson, Constitutional History of England in the Fifteenth Century, 1399–1485 (London, 1964), 82–6.

(6) The Magdalen MS is printed in HMC, 8th Report (1881), 266–7, which supplies the text printed here.

(7) BL Harleian MS 543, fos. 165r–166v, is printed inaccurately and with important omissions in The Chronicles of the White Rose of York, ed. J. A. Giles (London, 1845), pp. lxxiv–lxxvi.

(8) I am grateful to Dr R. W. Hoyle for drawing this MS to my attention.

(9) The MS is printed in EHL, 360–2, which supplies the text printed here.

(10) Stow's copy is printed in Dobson, The Peasants' Revolt of 1381, 341–2.

(11) The duke of Somerset is not named in Stow's copy of this petition.

(12) There is an apparently accidental omission here of the first part of the sentence which, however, is found in full in Stow's version. EHL, 362 n. 2.

(13) Stephen Slegge, for whom see Ch. 2, sect. IV, above.

(14) William Crowmer, for whom see ibid.

(15) William Isle, for whom see ibid.

(16) For whom see ibid.