Jack Cade

From Academic Kids

Jack Cade was the leader of a popular revolt in late medieval Europe in the 1450 Kent rebellion which took place in the time of King Henry VI in England.

Some sources suggest Cade was of Irish origin but raised in Sussex where he is alleged to have murdered a woman in 1449. He escaped to France but returned to live in Kent under an assumed name.

In the spring of 1450, Kent peasants protested against what they saw as the weak leadership of King Henry, unfair taxes, corruption and the damaging effect of the loss of France, and in a clever move issued The Complaint of the Poor Commons of Kent, a manifesto listing grievances against the gouvernment. Grievances not only of the people, but of several PMs, lords and magnates.

In early June, around 20,000 rebels - mostly peasants but their numbers were swelled by shopkeepers, craftsmen and unfortunately for Henry a fair amount of soldiers and sailors returning from the French wars via Kent, and a few landowners(the list of pardoned shows the presence of one knight, two MPs and eighteen squires as well) - gathered at Blackheath, south-east of London. While the King sought refuge in Warwickshire, the rebels advanced to Southwark. They set up headquarters in The White Hart before crossing London Bridge on 3 July. The Lord Treasurer was captured and beheaded, along with a few other favourites of the King. Many of the rebels then procceded to loot London, including Cade himself, although Cade had made frequent promises not to do so during the march to the capital. When the army returned to Southwark for the night the London officials made preperations to stop Cade reentering the city. The next day, at about ten in the evening a battle broke out on London bridge, lasting until eight next morning, when the rebels retreated having suffered heavy casualties.

After the battle, Archbishop John Kemp, the Lord Chancellor persuaded Cade to call off his followers by issuing official pardons and promises to fufil the demands written in Cade's manifesto.

However, after the peasant forces disbanded, a week later, Cade learned that the government regarded him as a traitor and had issued a reward for him dead or alive. He was subsequently killed in a skirmish on the Kent/Sussex border, after which his body was taken to London and quartered for display in different cities, his head ending up on a pike on London Bridge (along with other leaders of the rebellion).

Despite all the rebels being pardoned, thirty four were executed after Cade's death.

Cade appears as a character William Shakespeare's play Henry VI, Part 2. It is one of Cade's followers, in discussion with Cade himself, who has the well-known line, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."


  • I.M.W. Harvey, Jack Cade's Rebellion of 1450, Oxford UP, 1991. ISBN 0198201605
    • Reviewed by Joel T. Rosenthal, Speculum, Vol. 69, No. 1. (Jan., 1994), pp. 161-163. Available online (http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0038-7134%28199401%2969%3A1%3C161%3AJCRO1%3E2.0.CO%3B2-A) at JSTOR.

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