Cade, John (d.1450) (DNB00)

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CADE, JOHN (d. 1450), rebel, commonly called Jack Cade, was an Irishman by birth, and is spoken of as a young man at the time of his rebellion; but nothing is known of his personal history till a year before that date. He was then living in the household of Sir Thomas Dacre in Sussex, but was obliged suddenly to leave it and abjure the realm for the murder of a woman who was with child. He fled to France and served for a short time in the war against England, but within a few months ventured to return, and apparently settled in Kent, taking the name of Aylmer to conceal his identity, and giving himself out as a physician. In this character he gained so much credit as to marry a squire's daughter, ‘of Taundede,’ which may perhaps be Tandridge, in Surrey; and the next thing we know of him is that in 1450, ‘gaily beseen in scarlet,’ he became leader of the commons in Kent when they rose in rebellion against the extortions practised by the king's officers.

Recent researches have shown that this rebellion was a much more formidable thing than older historians lead us to suppose. It was by no means an outbreak of ‘the filth and scum of Kent.’ No nobleman, indeed, appears openly to have taken part in it, and only one knight; but apparently the greater part of the gentry, with the mayors of towns and the constables of the different hundreds, rose along with the rebels. The men were summoned as if by lawful authority, and in many districts it is clear that all who were capable of bearing arms joined in the movement. It was not a democratic rising. According to Fabyan the people chose a captain to whom they gave the name of Mortimer, and professed to consider him as the cousin of the Duke of York; ‘but of most,’ says the chronicler, ‘he was named Jack Cade.’ Gascoigne, another writer of that age, says he was descended from Roger Mortimer, a bastard (Loci e Libro Veritatum, p. 190). It is, however, by no means certain that Cade was the captain originally chosen; for one contemporary authority recently brought to light distinctly says that he was not (Gregory, Collections of a London Citizen, p. 191, Camden Soc.) In any case it is clear that the ringleaders desired to give the movement the appearance of being supported by men of distinguished birth, and to suggest that their captain was connected with the family of the Duke of York. It is, moreover, admitted by the chroniclers that the captain chosen performed his part so far well that he established good discipline, and, as it is said, ‘kept the people wondrously together.’ This we should scarcely expect of an audacious adventurer such as we have described, and as a matter of fact Cade certainly did not do so after he entered London. So that we are the more inclined to believe that the original leader disappeared before the insurgents reached the capital, and that the cool audacity of Cade served the purpose of the other leaders well in concealing his defection or loss.

The rebellion first broke out about Whitsuntide in the latter part of May. The rebels encamped upon Blackheath on 1 June, where they ‘made a field diked and staked well about, as it had been in the land of war.’ The king (Henry VI) suddenly dissolved parliament, which had been holding its sittings before him at Leicester, and came to London on the 6th. He sent a deputation of lords, spiritual and temporal, to know the demands of the rebels, who replied by their captain that they desired the removal of certain traitors who had too much influence in his council. On this orders were sent that every loyal man should avoid the field, and the king prepared to march against them in person. The host obeyed the proclamation so far that they retreated to Sevenoaks in the night. Next morning the king and his lords rode through London in their best array, and set out against the retreating host with a following of 10,000 men. They encamped on the ground vacated by the insurgents, against whom they sent on a detachment under Sir Humphrey Stafford and his brother William. But the result was disastrous; for after a severe conflict these forces were defeated, and both the Staffords slain. The news spread consternation in the royal camp at Blackheath. Many of the king's council had previously urged that a favourable answer should be given to the insurgents, and they now protested that they would openly take part with them unless Lord Say were placed in custody. The king was obliged to yield. Lord Say was committed to the Tower, and the royal army returned to London. A few days later the king thought it prudent to remove to Kenilworth, and all resistance to the rebels was abandoned. They accordingly prepared to enter the city. And this was the time, according to Gregory, that another captain took the place of the first, pretending to be the same. If so, the first may have been slain at Sevenoaks, and the fact of his death concealed. Indeed, the first action recorded of the leader which seems really characteristic of an adventurer occurred on the field of Sevenoaks itself; where, as we learn from Fabyan, the captain arrayed himself in the apparel of the vanquished knight, Sir Humphrey Stafford, ‘and did on him his bryganders set with gilt nails, and his salet and gilt spurs.’ Under him the host again occupied Blackheath from St. Peter's day, 29 June, to 1 July, when they entered Southwark. At Blackheath he kept up the reputation for discipline which the captain had already established by beheading a petty captain named Parys for disregard of his orders. Meanwhile a party within the common council had opened negotiations with him, and he had given a passport under his sign-manual to Thomas Cooke, draper, to come and go between them. He also made use of Cooke as his agent in the city, and gave him written instructions to compel the Lombards and other foreign merchants to furnish him with armour and weapons, six horses fully equipped, and 1,000 marks of ready money. ‘And if this our demand be not observed and done,’ so ran the instructions, ‘we shall have the heads of as many as we can get of them.’

Cade was doubtless encouraged by the knowledge that the citizens were mostly in his favour. The common council had just ventured to depose an alderman by name Philip Malpas, whom they had been compelled to elect two years before at the recommendation of the court. On 2 July they were convoked by the mayor to take measures for resisting the rebels; but a large majority voted that they should be received into the city, and an alderman named Robert Horne, fishmonger, who strongly opposed the proposal, was committed to prison. Cade had taken up his quarters at the White Hart in Southwark; but that same afternoon he and his followers entered the city. After they had passed the drawbridge on London Bridge he hewed the ropes asunder. He rode in procession through the streets and struck his sword on London stone, saying, ‘Now is Mortimer lord of this city;’ but still keep- ing up his character for good discipline he issued proclamations in the king's name against robbery and extortion, ‘showed his mind to the mayor for the ordering of his people,’ and returned to Southwark for the night. Next day (Friday, 3 July) he again entered the city, caused Lord Say to be sent for from the Tower, and had him arraigned before the mayor and other justices at the Guildhall. The unfortunate nobleman claimed to be tried by his peers; but a body of men sent by the captain took him from the officers and hurried him to the standard in Cheap, where they beheaded him before he was fully shriven. About the same time William Crowmer, sheriff of Kent, Say's son-in-law, who was execrated as the instrument of extortionate taxation, was seized and brought to Mile End, where he was beheaded in Cade's presence. The heads of Say and Crowmer were then carried through the streets upon poles and made to kiss each other. Another victim, named Bailey, who was also beheaded that day on a charge of necromancy, was believed to have been put to death by Cade's orders simply because he was an old acquaintance, who might have proclaimed his imposture.

It was but a trifling addition to these excesses that Cade also robbed the house of the unpopular Philip Malpas. That night he returned again to Southwark, and next morning came back as before, dined in a house in the parish of St. Margaret Pattens, and robbed his host. The better class of citizens were now seriously alarmed for the security of property; and the mayor and aldermen took counsel with Lord Scales and Matthew Gough, to whom the king, when he retired to Kenilworth, had entrusted the keeping of the Tower. As Cade withdrew once more into Southwark for the night, it was determined not to let him enter the city again. Next day, 5 July, was a Sunday, and he apparently made no effort to do so, though there was no open show of opposition. He seems to have had some difficulties with his own men, and caused one, William Hawarden, a common thief, who had been his chief councillor, to be beheaded in Southwark (William Worcester says in Smithfield, but evidently by mistake. Compare Fabyan). In the evening the mayor and citizens, with a force under Matthew Gough, occupied London Bridge to prevent the Kentish men re-entering the city. Cade at once called his men to arms, and set upon the citizens so furiously that he drove them from the Southwark end of the bridge to the drawbridge in the centre. After midnight the drawbridge was set on fire by the insurgents, and many of the citizens were slain or drowned. The veteran Matthew Gough himself perished in the conflict. Before this Cade had broken open the King's Bench and Marshalsea prisons, and the released prisoners came gladly to his aid. All night the battle raged between the drawbridge and the bulwark at the bridge foot in Southwark, till about nine in the morning the Kentish men gave way, and both sides being exhausted a truce was agreed on for some hours.

The opportunity was seized by the leading members of the council to terminate disorders by an amnesty. Cardinal Kemp, archbishop of York, the chancellor, with Archbishop Stafford of Canterbury, who had only recently resigned the chancellorship, and Waynfleet, bishop of Winchester, held a conference with Cade in St. Margaret's Church, Southwark, at which terms were arranged, and two general pardons were afterwards sent by the chancellor, one for Cade himself and the other for his followers. The men eagerly availed themselves of the general pardon; but unfortunately the other, being made out in the name of Mortimer, was invalid. It was not, however, till about a week later that the captain's real name appears to have been discovered; and meanwhile, trusting to the security of his pardon, he seems to have remained in Southwark till the 8th. He had, however, taken care to secure a quantity of booty in a barge, and have it conveyed by water to Rochester, whither he himself repaired on the 9th, passing on his way through Dartford, and raising new commotions as he went. He continued at Rochester for two days, and went on to Queenborough, where he and his followers attempted to capture the castle, but were resisted by Sir Roger Chamberlain. On the 12th a proclamation was issued against him, in which he was for the first time named John Cade, and a reward of 1,000 marks was offered to any one who would bring him to the king alive or dead. He now perceived that the game was desperate, and escaped in disguise towards the woody country about Lewes. But one Alexander Iden, ‘a squire of Kent,’ who had either already been, or more probably was soon after, appointed sheriff of Kent in the place of the murdered Crowmer, pursued him to the neighbourhood of Heathfield in Sussex, where he found him on 12 July in a garden, and took him prisoner, but not without a struggle, in which Cade received a mortal wound. He was put into a cart by his captor and conveyed up to London, but died by the way. On the following morning, Monday the 13th, his naked body was identified by the hostess of the White Hart in Southwark. It was taken to the King's Bench prison, where it lay from that day till the evening of Thursday the 16th. Then it was beheaded and quartered, and the remains were conveyed upon a hurdle through the streets, the head resting between the breasts. First from the king's bench they made the round of Southwark, then passed over London Bridge to Newgate. Finally the head was taken and set up on London Bridge, and of the four quarters one was delivered to the constable of the hundred of Blackheath. The other three were sent to the cities of Norwich, Salisbury, and Gloucester for public exhibition.

Many questions have arisen in connection with Cade's rebellion, and especially with regard to his personality, which it is not easy to answer with confidence. One recent writer questions the fact of his supposed low birth, on the ground that an act of attainder was passed against him after the rebellion. But his marriage with the daughter of an English squire might have given him some landed property, or at least some reversionary interest, which would fully account for the passing of such an act. It is remarked also that the name of Cade was not uncommon in Sussex, in the neighbourhood of Heathfield, where he was taken. There is no certainty, however, that the name of Cade descended to him from his father any more than that of Mortimer. In official records as well as chronicles he is declared to have been an Irishman, and his real origin was probably obscure. A point of more importance as regards the political significance of the rising is whether there was any understanding, as commonly supposed, between Cade and the Duke of York. If there was, it must be owned that Cade was a most unfaithful ally, for among the booty which he seized during the rebellion were jewels belonging to the duke, for which the king afterwards ordered the latter to be recompensed to the value of 114l. (Devon, Issue Rolls, 467–8).

[Fabyan's Chronicle; Wyrcester's Annales, 470–2 (at end of Hearne's Liber Niger); English Chronicle, ed. J. S. Davies (Camd. Soc.), 64–7; Collections of a London Citizen (Camd. Soc.), 190–194; Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles (Camd. Soc.), 66–8, 94; Paston Letters (Gairdner's ed.), i. 132–5; Rolls of Parliament, v. 224; Devon's Issue Rolls, 466–72, 476; Hall's Chronicle (ed. 1809), 220–2; Holinshed (ed. 1587), iii. 632; Ellis's Letters, 2nd series, i. 113; Orridge's Illustrations of Jack Cade's Rebellion.]

J. G.