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THE NORFOLK INSURRECTION AGAINST INCLOSURES.
striking or sounding, bell or bells ringing, -by opening, crying, posting, riding, running, -or by any news, rumours, or tales, divulging and spreading, or by any other device or token whatsoever,—to call together or muster any number of people.” * Lord Russell had gathered a small force at the commencement of these troubles; but he looked in vain for aid of men or money from the government. At length some merchants of Exeter who were in his camp, having pledged their credit, obtained for him a supply of money; and he marched forward with reinforcements. After an engagement with a band of the insurgents, he at length was joined by lord Grey, who had opportunely arrived with a troop of horse and three hundred Italian infantry. A more fierce encounter took place at Cliff, where the rebels were routed with great slaughter. The prisoners who had been taken in a previous engagement were bere put to the sword. The besiegers of Exeter now boldly marched to encounter the king's troops; and upon Cliff heath a bloody battle took place, with the inevitable result that attends the contest of an armed multitude with disciplined troops. “Great was the slaughter, and cruel was the fight; and such was the valour and stoutness of these men, that the lord Grey reported, himself, that he never in all the wars that he had been in did know the like.” When Exeter was relieved, and the insurgents dispersed or slain, executions went forward to an extent which even the minister of the emperor might have approved. One of these tragedies was perpetrated in a way not calculated to appease the religious hatreds of the period. The vicar of St. Thomas, who had encouraged the rebellion, was hanged upon the top of the tower of his own church "in his popish apparel, and had a holy-water bucket and sprinkle, a sacring-bell, a pair of beads, and such other like popish trash hanging about him." +
The Norfolk rebellion appears to have been of a wholly different character from that of the west of England. The Devonshire rising commenced in a church. The Norfolk rising commenced in a fair. On the 6th of July a large number of people were assembled at Wymondham, at a "public play which had been accustomed yearly to be kept in that town, continuing for the space of one night and one day at the least.” The itinerant players had repeated their interlude again and again. The Vice had flourished his dagger, and the Fool his bauble. In the uncouth rhymes to which the peasants listened there ere probably some incentives to disorder; for on the 6th of August following, a Proclamation was issued prohibiting such performances in London and elsewhere, for a limited time; for, it says, “ the common players do for the most part play such interludes as contain matter tending to sedition and contemning of sundry good orders and laws, whereupon are grown, and daily are like to grow and cause much disquiet, division, tumults,” &c. From gaping at the play the clowns proceeded to break down hedges. John Flowerdew, gentleman, and Robert Ket, tanner, dwelling near Wymondham, had some private grievances, and each instigated the mob to destroy the inclosures of the other. Ket,“ being a man hardy and forward to any desperate attempt,” thought this pastime might be carried further. He put himself at their head, calling upon them “ to follow him in defence
* Strype, Eccles. Mem., vol. ij. part i. p. 267. + Vowell, in Holinshed, p. 1026. I The Proclamation is given in Collier's “Annals of the Stage,” vol. i. p. 144.
REBEL CAMP ON MOUSEHOLD HEATH.
of their common liberty." People continued to join this band in great numbers; and supplies of weapons, armour, and artillery were brought to them out of Norwich. At a short distance from the city is an elevated ground called Mousehold-heath. Holinshed, whose narrative we are foilowing, says, they “ got them to Mousehold ; and coming to St. Leonard's bill, on which the earl of Surrey had built a stately house called Mount Surrey, they inkenneled themselves there on the same hill, and in the woods adjoining that lie on the west and the south side of the same hill, as the commons or pasture called Mousehold-heath lieth on the east side." This formidable band was at first kept in some order by their bold leader. They sent for the vicar of one of the Norwich parishes to say prayers in their camp. They suffered the mayor of Norwich to come amongst them without molestation. judgment against evil-doers, sitting in state under an oak which was called “ the tree of reformation." It was a time of feasting and holiday for this thoughtless multitude, who revelled in the spoils of the neighbouring deer-parks, and brought in the fat sheep by thousands from the inclosures which they had broken down. By the advice of a citizen of Norwich the council sent a herald to the camp at Mousehold, who, in his coat of arms, standing under the tree of reformation, proclaimed the king's pardon to all who would depart to their homes. The multitude shouted “ God save the king!” and some fell on their knees and wept. But Ket cried out that pardon was for those who had done amiss ; and commanded them not to forsake him. The herald then proclaimed him a traitor, and departed. Matters soon came to a more serious issue. The rebels entered Norwich, and carried the mayor
and many of the principal citizens prisoners to their camp. It was time for the government to bestir itself; and the royal letters were sent forth to the nobility and gentlemen throughout the country to assemble in arms; for that "one Ket, a tanner, supported by a great many of vile and idle persons, hath taken upon him our royal power and dignity, and calleth himself master and king of Norfolk and Suffolk." +
When the royal herald returned to London this extraordinary encampment on Mousehold-heath bad lasted a full month. Out of the verbose details of the chronicler we may collect enough of exact description to enable us to form a conception of this wonderful scene. In the height of summer a vast assemblage of peasants and artisans is collected, as if for some great festival, on a broad eminence overlooking one of the wealthiest, because one of the most industrious, cities of England. Beneath them is the lofty cathedral, its noble spire rising above the low timber houses, and o’ertopping the many towers of the surrounding churches. They hear the matin and the evening bells of the sacred edifices. They are not indifferent to the offices of religion, and have prayers in their camp,—“so religiously rebellious are they;"+ and they listen patiently to preachers who exhort them to disperse. They look upon the great baronial castle, at a short distance, in the days of whose mighty lords yeoman and peasant were equally serfs; and they wonder if those were better times in En when the collar on the neck ensured abundance for the stomach. They had abundance just now. Their leader sends out his orders to bring in provisions, with all the authority
* Strype, Eccles. Mem., vol. ii. part i. p. 272.
ORGANISATION OF THE INSURGENTS.
of a victorious general arranging his commissariat: “We, the king's friends and deputies do grant licence to all men to provide and bring into the camp at Mousehold all manner of cattle, and provision of victuals, in what place soever they may find the same, so that no violence or injury be done to any honest or poor man; commanding all persons as they tender the king's honour and royal majesty, and the relief of the commonwealth, to be obedient to us the governors, and to those whose names ensue.' The multitude that obeyed the tanner of Wymondbam was a body far more formidable than
the rabble with which the fisherman of Naples enforced submission to his decrees. The greater number of this host were peasants—but they were accustomed to the use of arms. They were confederated for a purpose which they understood, and not for vague political changes. They believed themselves oppressed; and they thought that their grievances would be remedied by the mere act of assembling together in such vast crowds. Without such a conviction amongst them, it is impossible to understand how so many thousand men should have slept upon the ground for seven weeks, with uncertain supplies of food; and when they went forth to seek supplies, constantly exposed to the attacks of the surrounding gentry, who were collecting their retainers in every quarter. At last, a force of fifteen hundred horsemen, led by the marquis of Northampton, arrived to give them some active occupation. At this juncture the mayor of Norwich was in the
Holinshed, p. 1030.
WARWICK ARRIVES WITH AN ARMY.
hands of the insurgents ; and the citizens were in daily dread of attack and plunder. The royal forces marched into Norwich; and their leader and the panic-stricken authorities held a consultation how the city should be best defended. The walls and gates were guarded; and “the residue of the soldiers making a mighty large fire in the market-place, so as all the streets were full of light, they remained there all that night in their armour.” Before daybreak a fierce attack was made on the walls and gates ; and after a fight of three hours the insurgents were driven back. The next day the marquis despatched Norroy king-at-arms to the camp, with an offer of pardon. The terms were despised, and Norroy was told " that they would either restore the commonwealth from decay, into the which it was fallen, being oppressed through the covetousness and tyranny of the gentlemen ; either else would they, like men, die in the quarrel.” The berald had no time to report bis answer; for the whole multitude came furiously on; entered the city; fought with the royal troops in the streets; slew lord Sheffield, one of the chief captains; took many prisoners; and caused
Northampton to flee hastily to London. The earl of Warwick was preparing to march with an army to Scotland, when these commotions in the eastern districts became so alarming. The rebels had now complete possession of Norwich. Many of the citizens had fled; and had met Warwick upon his march from Cambridge, who had reproved them for their remissness in not resisting the outbreak in its early stages. The army reached Norwich; and again the herald was instructed to proclaim the king's pardon if the rebels would disperse. Ket was pro
ceeding with the herald to confer with Armed knight,
temp. Edward VI. From the
the earl; but his purpose was inter
rupted by his own men, who rejected the pacific offers. Hostilities were resumed ; and such was the courage and endurance of this multitude that Warwick was repulsed in several attempts to gain the city. His ammunition waggons were interrupted; some of his pieces of ordnance were seized ; his affairs becaine so desperate that many of his officers advised his abandonment of the enterprise against such a huge multitude. Then ensued a scene, familiar enough in dramatic representations, but not common in real warfare. Warwick, protesting that he would rather lose his life than be so dishonoured, drew his sword. The action was followed by his captains; and he commanded “ that each one should kiss other's sword, according to an ancient custom used amongst men of war in time of great danger.” They swore upon their swords never to depart, but to vanquish or to fall. While Warwick was at this extremity, Somerset, deceived or deceiving, was writing thus to sir Philip Hoby, ambassador to the emperor. “The earl of Warwick lieth near to the rebels in Norfolk; which fain now would have grace gladly, so that all might be pardoned. Ket, and
DEFEAT OF THE REBELS.
the other arch-traitors in the number, upon that is at a stay; and they daily shrink so fast away that there is great hope that they will leave their captains destitute, and alone to receive their worthy reward; the which is the thing we most desire, to spare as much as may be the effusion of blood, and, namely, that of our own nation.”* It appears from the royal letter of the 6th of August that Somerset was originally appointed to proceed with an army to the suppression of the Norfolk rebellion. Had he been the commander, the spirit of the soldier would have perhaps extinguished some of the merciful feeling of the statesman ; and he would have cared as little for “ the effusion of blood ” as in his Scottish campaigns. The fortunes of Somerset and Warwick were in some measure determined by the contrast between the final suppressor of a rebellion, and one who had indirectly encouraged the principle upon which it was commenced. The issue was soon put beyond doubt. On the 26th of August Warwick received an accession to his force, of fourteen hundred cavalry. The stirring scene of the oath on the swords had taken place the day previous. The camp of Ket was not so easily provided with food as in the preceding seven weeks when he sent out his purveyors to scour the country. Warwick had possession of the roads to Mouseholdheath ; and the cabins of bushes had now hungry inmates. On the 27th the rebels resolved to break up their encampment. There were old prophecies current amongst them, one of which gave a direction to their march :
“The country chuffs, Hob, Dick, and Hick,
With clubs and clouted shoon,
Of slaughtered bodies soon."
They set fire to their cabins; and, with ensigns flying, marched down froin their strong position into Dussin-dale. Here they formed a rampart of stakes; and setting their prisoners in the foremost ranks, waited the approach of the royal troops. They came, still holding out pardon to the general body. It was refused ; and the battle commenced. The insurgents fought with their pikes and pitchforks; and they were not without fire-arms. Both at Norwich and at Exeter we hear nothing of the old English prowess of the bow. The chronicler speaks of ordnance, and firing with guns, and mining with gunpowder on the part of the rebels. The forces that came against them were, doubtless, far better armed, with the wheel-lock pistols of the time for the horsemen, and the harquebuss for the infantry. Dussin-dale was soon filled with the “slaughtered bodies," not of the English harquebussiers and German lance-knights of Warwick's army, but of the wretched country chuffs. After the flight of the main body of the insurgents, many held out long, “ go inclosed with their carts, carriages, trenches, and stakes pitched in the ground," that it was dangerous to attack them. They at first refused the offered pardon; for they maintained that the promise was “a subtle practice to bring them into the hands of their adversaries, the gentlemen.” Warwick at last offered to go himself amongst them, and give his word that they should receive pardon; and at length they threw down their weapons, and cried, “ God save king Edward.” Robert Ket and his
* Strype, Eccles. Mem.. vol. ii. part ii. p. 424.