The Complaint of the Poor Commons of Kent

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Proclamation of Grievances, 1450

These be the points, cause and mischiefs of gathering and assembling of us, the king's liege men of Kent, the 4th day of June the year of our Lord 1450, the reign of our sovereign lord the king 29th, which we trust to Almighty God to remedy, with the help and the grace of God and of our sovereign lord the king, and the poor commons of England, and else we shall die therefore: We, considering that the king our sovereign lord, by the insatiable, covetous, malicious persons that daily and nightly are about his highness, and daily inform him that good is evil and evil is good:


Item. They say that our sovereign is above his laws to his pleasure, and he may make it and break it as he pleases, without any distinction. The contrary is true, or else he should not have sworn to keep it.


Item. They say that the commons of England would first destroy the king's friends and afterward himself, and then bring the Duke of York to be king so that by their false means and lies they may make him to hate and destroy his friends, and cherish his false traitors. They call themselves his friends, and if there were no more reason in the world to know, he may know they be not his friends by their covetousness.


Item. They say that it were great reproof to the king to take again what he has given, so that they will not suffer him to have his own good, nor land, nor forfeiture, nor any other good but they ask it from him, or else they take bribes of others to get it for him.


Item. It is to be remedied that the false traitors will suffer no man to come into the king's presence for no cause without bribes where none ought to be had. Any man might have his coming to him to ask him grace or judgment in such case as the king may give.


Item. They say that whom the king wills shall be traitor, and whom he wills shall be not, and that appears hitherto, for if any of the traitors about him would malign against any person, high or low, they would find false many that should die a traitor for to have his lands and his goods, but they will suffer the king neither to pay his debts withal, nor pay for his victuals nor be the richer of one penny.


Item. The law serves of nought else in these days but for to do wrong, for nothing is spread almost but false matters by colour of the law for reward, dread and favour and so no remedy is had in the Court of Equity in any way.


Item. We say our sovereign lord may understand that his false council has lost his law, his merchandise is lost, his common people is destroyed, the sea is lost, France is lost, the king himself is so set that he may not pay for his meat nor drink, and he owes more than ever any King of England ought, for daily his traitors about him where anything should come to him by his laws, anon they take it from him.


Item. They ask gentlemen's goods and lands in Kent and call them rioters, and traitors and the king's enemies, but they shall be found the king's true liege men and best friends with the help of Jesus, to whom we cry day and night with many thousand more that God of His grace and righteousness shall take vengeance and destroy the false governors of his realm that has brought us to naught and into much sorrow and misery.


Item. We will that all men know we blame not all the lords, nor all those that are about the king's person, nor all gentlemen nor yeomen, nor all men of law, nor all bishops, nor all priests, but all such as may be found guilty by just and true inquiry and by the law.


Item. We will that it be known we will not rob, nor plunder, nor steal, but that these defaults be amended, and then we will go home; wherefore we exhort all the king's true liege men to help us, to support us, for whatsoever he be that will not that these defaults be amended, he his falser than a Jew or Saracen.


Item. His true commons desire that he will remove from him all the false progeny and affinity of the Duke of Suffolk and to take about his noble person his true blood of his royal realm, that is to say, the high and mighty prince the Duke of York, exiled from our sovereign lord's person by the noising of the false traitor, the Duke of Suffolk, and his affinity. Also to take about his person the mighty prince, the Duke of Exeter, the Duke of Buckingham, the Duke of Norfolk, and his true earls and barons of his land, and he shall be the richest king Christian.


Item. Where we move and pray that some true justice with certain true lords and knights may be sent into Kent for to inquire of all such traitors and bribers, and that the justice may do upon our sovereign lord direct his letters patent to all the people there universal openly to be read and cried, that it is our sovereign lord's will and prayer of all his people truly to inquire of every man's government and of defaults that reign, neither for love, favour, dread, nor hate, and that due judgment shall be forthwith and thereupon.


Source: [1] The Internet Medieval Sourcebook

The text in its original language is:

Thes be the poyntys, causes, and myscheves of gaderynge and assemblinge of us the Kynges lege men of Kent, the iiij day of June, the yere of owr Lorde M.iiijc.l., the regne of our sovereyn Lorde the Kynge xxix^', the whiche we trust to All myghte God to remedy, withe the helpe and the grace of God and of owr soverayn lorde the kynge, and the pore commyns of Ingelond, and elles we shall dye there fore :

We, consyderyng that the kynge owre sovereyn lorde, by the insaciable covetows malicious pompes, and fals and of nowght browght up certeyn persones, and dayly and nyghtly is abowt his hynesse, and dayly enforme hym that good is evyll and evyll is good, as Scripture witnesseth, Ve vobis qui dicitis honum malwn et malum, honum.

Item, they sey that owre sovereyn lorde is a bove his lawys to his pleysewr, and he may make it and breke it as hym lyst, withe owt eny distinction. The contrary is trew, and elles he shuld not have sworn to kepe it, the whyche we conceyvyd for the hyghest poynt of treson that cny sogct may do to make his pryncc rcnn in perjury.

Item, they sey that the commons of Inglond woldc fyrst dystroye the kynges fryndes and alFtarwardc hym selfT, and tlien brynge the Duke ot" Yorke to be kyng, so that by ther (als menys and lyes they make hym to hate and to distroy his frendys, and chcrysythe his fals traytors. They calle themselves his frendys, and yf ther were no more reson in y worlde to knowe, he may knowe they be not his fryndes by theyr covytysnes.

Item, they sey that the kyng shuld lyve upon his commons, and that ther bodyes and goods ben the kynges; the contrary is trew, for then nedyd hym nevar perlement to syt to aske good of his comonys.

Item, they sey that it were gret reproiFe to the kynge to take ageyne that he hath gevyn, so that they woU not sufere hym to have his owne good, ne londe, ne fbrfeture, ne eny othar good but they aske it from hym, or ells they take bribes of othar to gett it for them.

Item, it ys to be remedied that the fals traytours wyll sofre no man to come to the kynges presens for no cawse with out bribes where none owght to be had, ne no bribery about the kynges persone, but that eny man myght have his comynge to hym to aske hym grace or jugement in such cas as the kynge may gyve.

Item, it is a hevy thynge that y*' good Duke of Gloucestar was apcchid of treson by o fals tray tour alone and so sone was morderyd and myght nevar come to his answer; but the fals traytur Pole was apechyd by all the hoU comyns of Ingelond, the whiche nombre passyd a quest of xxiiiJM., and myght not be suffryd to dye as y" law wolde, but rather the sayd trayturs of the affinite of Pole that was as fals as Fortager "^ woldc that the kynge owre soverein lord shuld hold a batayll with in his owne realme to dystroy his pepyll and aftarward hym selffe.

Item, tliey say that wliom y® kyng woU shall be traytur and whom he woll shall be non, and that apperyth hederto, for yf eny of the traytours about hym wolde malygne ageynst eny person, hyghe or low, they wolde fynd fals menys that he shuld dy a traytor for to have his londes and his goods, but they wyll sufer the kynge nethar to pay his dettes with all, ner pay for his vytaylls ner be the rychar of one peny.

Item, the law servyth of nowght ellys in thes days but for to do wrong, for nothyng is sped almost but false maters by coulour of the law for mede, drede, and favor, and so no remedy is had in y«  cowrt of conscience in eny wyse.

Item, we sey owr sovereyn lord may understond that his fals cowncell hath lost his law, his marchandyse is lost, his comon people is dystroyed, the see is lost, Fraunce is lost, the kynge hym selfFe is so set that he may not pay for his mete nor drynke, and he owythe more then evar eny Kynge of Yngland owght, for dayly his traytours abowt hym wher eny thyng shuld come to hym by his lawes, anon they aske it from hym.

Item, they aske jentylmens goodys and londes in Kent and call them rysers and traytors and the kynges enimys, but they shall be fond the kynges trew legemen and best frendys with the helpe of Jesu, to whom we cry day and nyght with many M. mo that God of his grace and rytwysnese shall take vengawnce and dystroy the fals govournors of his realme that hath brought us to nowght and in to myche sorowe and mysery.

Item, we wyll that all men knowe we blame not all the lordys, ne all tho that is about y^ kyngs person, ne all jentyllmen ne yowmen, ne all men of la we, ne all bysshopes, ne all prestys, but all suche as may be fownde gylty by just and trew enquery and by the law.

Item, we wyll that it be knonc we wyll not robbe, ne reve, ne stelle, but that thes defautes be aniendyd, and then we wyll go home ; where fore we exort all the kyngys trew legemen to helpe us, to support us, for what so evar he be that wyll not that thes defawtes be amcndyd, he is falser than a Jewe or Sarasyn, and we shall with as good wyll lyve and dye upon hym as apon a Jewe or a Sarasyn, for who is a gcnst us in this casse hym wyll we marke, for he is not the trewe kyngys legeman.

Item, his trewe comyns dcsyrc that he wyll avoyd from hym all the fals progeny and aiFynyte of the Dewke of SufFolke, the which ben openly knowne, and that they be p[u]nyshyd afFtar law of lond, and to take about his noble person his trew blode of his ryall realme, that is to say, the hyghe and myghty prynce the Duke of Yorke, exilyd from owre sovereyne lords person by the noysyng of the fals traytore the Duke of Suffolke and his affinite. Also to take about his person the myghte prynce, the Duke of Exceter, the Duke of Bokyngham, the Duke of Xorffolke, and his trewe erlys and barons of his lond, and he shall be the rychest kynge crystyn.

Item, the trewe comyns desyryth the punyshement upon the fals traytours, the which conterfetyd and imagcnyd the dethe of the hyghe and myghtfuU and excellent prynce the Duke of Glowcester, the which is to mych to reherse, the which duke was proclaymyd at Bery openly in the parlement a traytur, upon the whiche qwaryll we purposse us to lyve and dye that it is fals ; allso owre fadyr the cardenall, the good Duke of Exeter, the nobyll prynce the Duke of Warwyke, the wiche ware delyveryd by the same menys untrew; allso the realme of Fraunco lost, the Duchy of Normandy, Gascon, and Gyan, and Anjoy demayn " lost by the same traytours, and owr trew lordys, knyghtes, and squyres, ind many good yemen lost and wer sold or they went, the whiche is gret pyte and gret losse to our sovereyn Lord and to all the realme.

Item, they desyre that all the extorsiners myght be leyd downe, that is to say, y^ grene wexe, tl^.e which is falsly used to the per- petwall hurt and distructyon of the trew comyns of Kent; also the extorsiners of the Kynges Benche, the which is ryght chargeable to all the comyns with owten provysyon of owr sovereyn lord and his trew cowncell.

Item, takynge of whet and othar greyns, beffe, motton and other vytayll, the which is inportable hurt to the comyns, with out pro- vysyon of owr sovereyn lord and his trew councell, for his comyns may no lengar here it.

Item, the statute upon the laborers and the grefc extorsiners of Kent, that is to sey, Slegge, Crowmer, Isle, and Kobert Est.

Item, where we meve and desyre that same °' trew justyce wyth certeyn trew lords and knyghts may be sent in to Kent for to enqwere of all fuch traytors and brybors, and that the justice may do upon them trew jugement, what some evar they be; and that owr soverayn lorde dyrecte his lettars patentes to all the pepull ther universall opynly to be rede and cryed, that it is owre sovereyn lordys wyll and preyar of all his peple trewly to enquere of every mans govarnawnce and of defawtes that reygneth, nother for love, favor, dred ne hate, and that dewe jugement shalbe forthe with and ther upon. The kynge to kepe in his owne handes theyr londes and goodys, and not gyve them aweye to no man but kepe them for his rychesse, or ells owre soverayn lorde to make his emarme in to Fraunce, or ells to pay his dettes ; by this owr wrytynge ye may conceyve and se whethar we be the fryndes ethar enimys.

Item, to syt upon this enqwerye we refuse no juge except iij chefe juges, the which ben fals to beleve.

Item, they that be gylte wyll wrye ageynst this, but God wyll brynge them downe, and that they shall be ashamyd to speke ageynst reson, but they wyll go to the kynge and say that yf they be taken fro hym that we wyll put hym downe, for the traytours wyll lyve lenger, and yf we were disposed ageynst owr sovereyn lorde, as God it forbyd, what myght then the traytowrs helpe hym ?


Item, thes defawtes thus dewly remedy d, and from hens forthe no man upon peyne of deth beyng abowt the kyngs person shall take no maner of brybe for eny byll of petysyons or caws spedynge or lettynge, owr sovereyn lord shall regne and rewle with gret worshipe, and have love of God and of his people, for he shall have so gret love of his people that he shall with Gods helpe conqwere where he wyll; and as lor us, we shall be all wcyc redy to defend owr cuntre from all nacions wltli our owue goods, and to go withe owr sovcreyue lordo where lie wyll conrmaunde us, as his trew legemen.

Finis.

Source: "Three fifteenth-century chronicles, with historical memoranda by John Stowe"