After the ordeal at Rochester castle, Tyler and the rebels moved westwards towards the capital. Another radical by the name of John Ball, a religious man who preached against the lavish spending and wealth of the church, wanting a return to the 'good old days' of a simpler Christianity. During early June, Tyler’s band continued to add to their ranks, releasing Ball from his imprisonment in Maidstone continuing to ransack their way towards the king and London.
Richard II was a teenage king whose father died well before he could teach his young son how to rule and, was under the influence of his much-hated royal uncle, John of Gaunt. The chips were stacked against the young king who by June of 1381, was confined behind the walls of the Tower of London, likely the single safest place in the whole kingdom surrounded by his advisors, save John of Gaunt who was away in the north. The Kent rebels camped at Blackheath, where John Ball delivered his now famous sermon stating:
"Good people, things cannot go right in England and never will, until goods are held in common and there are no more villeins and gentlefolk, but we all are one and the same. In what way are those whom we call lords greater masters than ourselves? How have they deserved it? Why do they hold us in bondage? If we all spring from a single father and mother, Adam and Eve, how can they claim or prove that they are lords more than us, except by making us produce and grow wealth which they spend?"
In simple terms, Ball was preaching a medieval version of collectivisation, with elements of primal communism (i am using a modern term to describe the loose collection of ideas held by Ball and the rebels) to go with it. A removal of titles and a return to a 'simpler time' was all Ball really wanted but it was attached to the list of demands from the rebels that also included fairer wages and much more of a say in local and national politics, all the while remaining completely loyal to King Richard.
With the rebels full of pep and Righteous fervour, the king's men decided to attempt to reach some kind of agreement, meeting the rebels on the shores of the Thames and, from the safety of boats, simply asked the rebels to go home and return to their villages. The rebels refused and demanded not only a meeting with the king but the heads of his closest advisors.
A capital ablaze
By 13th June, the rebels camped at Blackheath were ready for a fight, marching over London Bridge attacking, burning and destroying anything that belonged to the king's 'evil advisors' taking special care to dismantle the landed wealth of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury, Sir Robert Hales, the lord chancellor and John of Gaunt.
Gaunt's lavish palace, the Savoy was high on the list of places to destroy for the rebels, and with the Essex rebels coming from the north, the Kent rebels under Tyler quickly set about destroying virtually everything they could get their hands on. Drinking the wine sellers dry, destroying fine plate and burning the Duke of Lancaster's fine clothes but, the rebels looted virtually nothing, with the leadership being aligned on the 'no looting policy' as they saw it as going against their humble demands.
With London burning, the thousands of peasants and merchants that received reinforcements from the city itself, surrounded the Tower of London looking to capture and kill Sudbury and Hales, who were both still quivering behind the walls of the tower. Soon, the mass of men and women were able to get into the tower defences, capturing their most hated enemies, the Chancellor Hales and Archbishop Sudbury, both were quickly beheaded without trial as the king fled to regather his thoughts.
As two of his most important but hated advisors were having their heads removed from their bodies, the young king met the other rebels at Mile End, surprisingly agreeing to all of their requests, likely agreeing solely to get the rebellious serfs to return to their fields so he could rebuild London, buying himself some well-needed breathing room.