Rabble Rousers, beware, is the message contained in the Royal Action taken on this day in 1381. King Richard the Second himself came out to watch as Hedge Priest and Rebellion Leader John Ball was executed for inspiring and taking the leadership of the Kentish Rebellion. Execution back then for such a crime was really not something you’d want. He got the full treatment: Hanged by the neck, but only until half dead, then drawn, quartered and beheaded. And the King wanted to see this himself. They figure John Ball was in his early 40′s a more or less priest who had never had a parish, but was famous for being a burr under everyone’s saddle, as he had a way with rousing a crowd of peasants by espousing the violent quest for social equality taught by John Wycliffe. He’d been imprisoned for it on three occasions and had been excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which made it a crime to even listen to him, but people did, particularly in Kent. Ball might have been a part of a rumored conspiracy before the uprising. Chroniclers make note of a pretty cool sign/countersign password exchange for the cabal: You say “John the Miller Grinds Small Small Small” and your co conspirator answers “The King’s Son of Heaven shall pay for all.” Might even be too cool to be true. Anyway rioters excited by the Memory of John Ball’s speeches broke him out of Maidstone Prison, and got him to preach again out on the open Ground near Black Heath, just up from the Bridge at Deptford, if you’re listening closely. Ball urged the Kentish to throw off the yokes of bondage and rise up. Naturally, the great rebellion was rendered an historical footnote in short order, by the heavily armed forces of the king. Ball was arrested and was even allowed to speak at his own trial over in Coventry, which was unusual, but the kings judges didn’t buy the same line that the irate peasants bought, and on this date in 1391, his head was on a pike. Rabble Rousers, Beware, saith the King.
Album Notes: Grateful Acknowledgments to Mike Koenig, and Drum 8. “Rites” Written and Performed by Kevin McLeod, Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 3.0″ http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ and used here by permission, and with appreciation and thanks. Some audio may be used under the Fair Use Doctrine