Died: July 12, 1450
Heathfield, East Sussex, England
Jack Cade in History
Virtually nothing is known of the life of Jack Cade until his rebellion in the year 1450. He took on the pseudonym John Mortimer (Mortimer being a wealthy Irish family), most likely to show that he was "related" to the Duke of York, a man who was descended from the Mortimers through his mother and who was notoriously unappreciated during the reign of Henry VI (undoubtedly because of his superior claim to the throne). The rebellion, which began in Kent and spread into London and a number of other areas, was caused by hatred for a select few of the king's trusted advisers who had been loyal to the recently murdered Duke of Suffolk, the most powerful man in Henry VI's government until his downfall. Although the Duke of York himself was no ally of Suffolk and his followers, it is highly unlikely that he was responsible for planning the rebellion as many contemporaries and historians alike have suggested. He was, indeed, in Ireland while the revolt was taking place.
Cade gathered a huge following as the rebellion gained strength and spread. Two members of the Stafford family were killed trying to stop them and Lord Saye, one of Cade's primary targets was imprisoned in an attempt to satisfy the rebels. Both Saye and his son-in-law, William Crowmer, would be executed by Cade and his followers. The rebellion continued on and much death, destruction and robbery occurred. Finally, the royal forces were able to gain the upper hand on the rebels, and they were forced to surrender. A majority of those who participated in the rebellion were given pardons in exchange for their surrender, but Cade and several other leaders were most certainly doomed. Cade, along with his plundered goods, fled towards Kent but was ultimately captured by Alexander Iden, the Sheriff of Kent, and wounded so badly that he did not make it back to London for trial. Although Cade's rebellion did not accomplish as much as he and his followers would have liked, they were able to eliminate several hated men in the king's government. Several of the complaints Cade's followers had were echoed by the Yorkists when they ultimately deposed Henry VI in 1461.
Jack Cade in Shakespeare
Appears in: Henry VI, Part 2
A majority of Act 4 in 2 Henry VI is dedicated to the rebellion of Jack Cade. The rebellion is instigated by the Duke of York before he headed to Ireland (this did not happen in reality), and Cade takes on the persona of John Mortimer. During the rebellion, a number of noblemen are killed, including the Stafford brothers and both Lord Saye (who is executed despite begging for his life) and his son-in-law, William Crowmer. Finally, Lord Clifford offers the rebels a complete pardon if they desert their leaders, which they wholeheartedly accept. Cade is forced to flee and finds himself, half-starved, on the farm of Alexander Iden. Delirious from starvation, Cade picks a quarrel with Iden, who easily slays him. Iden is seen later presenting Cade's severed head to the king.