William of Normandy started contructing the Tower of London soon after he conquered Britain, at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Almost 1000 years later, this impressive fortress is still standing.
In 1000 years, the Tower has only been attacked a handful of times. On one of these occasions in 1381, thousands of peasants marched to London to protest against a new poll tax. The angry mob, led by Wat Tyler, looted and burned and stole weapons and jewels, while the 14 year old King Richard II hid in the Tower. The leaders of the rebellion confronted the Mayor of London and many of the King’s ministers. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon of Sudbury, was beheaded and his head was stuck on a spike and displayed on London Bridge. The following day, King Richard met the leaders of the mob. He agreed to abandon the tax, then had them arrested and hanged. Wat Tyler was killed on the spot by the Mayor of London.
Lessons learnt from this story:
- poll taxes are always deeply unpopular
- Boris Johnson’s job is a lot easier than it used to be
- learning about history was never this much fun when I was little.