Richard II. A.D. 1377—1399.
These were not very good times in England. The new King, Richard, was only eleven years old, and his three uncles did not care much for his good or the good of the nation. There was not much fighting going on in France, but for the little there was a great deal of money was wanting, and the great lords were apt to be very hard upon the poor people on their estates. They would not let them be taught to read; and if a poor man who belonged to an estate went away to a town, his lord could have him brought back to his old home. Any tax, too, fell more heavily on the poor than the rich. One tax, especially, called the poll tax, which was made when Richard was sixteen, vexed them greatly. Everyone above fifteen years old had to pay fourpence, and the collectors were often very rude and insolent. A man named Wat Tyler, in Kent, was so angry with a rude collector as to strike him dead. All the villagers came together with sticks, scythes, and flails; and Wat Tyler told them they would go to London, and tell the king how his poor commons were treated. More people and more joined them on the way, and an immense multitude of wild looking men came pouring into London, where the Lord Mayor and Aldermen were taken by surprise, and could do nothing to stop them. They did not do much harm then; they lay on the grass all night round the Tower, and said they wanted to speak to the king. In the morning he came down to his barge, and meant to have spoken to them; but his people, seeing such a host of wild men, took fright, and carried him back again. He went out again the next day on horseback; but while he was speaking to some of them, the worst of them broke into the Tower, where