Parson John Ball
Born: c. 1329
Died: July 15, 1381
St Albans, Hertfordshire, England (Age c. 52)
Ball in History
Even before his involvement in the peasant's revolt of 1381, Parson John Ball was hated by many members of the church, nobility and even King Edward III himself. For at least two decades before his death, Ball had a reputation as a radical preacher and was assumed to be associated with John Wycliffe and the Lollards (though there is no proof that he actually was a Lollard, despite the fact that his teachings were in line with Wycliffe's in many ways). In 1364, Edward III heard of Ball's radical preachings against the orthodox church and declined to protect him from his enemies, leaving him prey to men such as Bishop Simon Sudbury of London (future Archbishop of Canterbury), who had him excommunicated. This did not stop Ball from preaching against the church, which he continued to do for the next fifteens years or so, until he was once again excommunicated by Sudbury and, this time, arrested and imprisoned (April 1381). Several months after the parson's arrest, the peasant's revolt broke out in Essex and Kent, caused by the crippling, flat poll tax the commons were subjected to. One of the first priorities of Wat Tyler, who had emerged as the leader of the rebellion, was to release Ball from prison.
Considering the fact that one of the evil counselors the peasants wanted removed from the king's presence was Ball's enemy, Archbishop Simon Sudbury, it comes as no surprise that Ball willingly joined the rebellion and became one of its primary leaders and advisers. After a failed meeting with the young King Richard II, the peasants fell upon London and starting destroying everything in sight, including the luxurious Savoy Palace, home of John of Gaunt, the king's uncle and another of the king's evil counselors they wanted dead. On June 14, Ball had his revenge on Sudbury when the rebels extracted him and Sir Robert Hales, the lord treasurer, from the Tower of London and had them both beheaded. Unfortunately, Wat Tyler was killed the following day after another meeting with the king and his party went horribly wrong. With Tyler gone, most of the rebels were pardoned and returned home, but Ball, being one of the leaders, was a wanted man and was forced to go into hiding. He was found the following month and was promptly convicted of treason and given the full traitor's death of hanging, drawing and quartering, ending the life of the radical preacher who had dedicated his life to stirring up trouble. In recent times though, many will look to Ball, as well as many other men associated with Lollardy, as a Protestant martyr.
Ball in Jack Straw
Parson John Ball appears in Jack Straw as one of the leaders of the peasant's revolt and appears to be their primary adviser. Even when many of the other rebels want to make peace with the king and end the rebellion, Ball urges Straw, the head rebel, not to give up the cause. After Straw is killed, Ball and Wat Tyler, the other rebel leader, are arrested and executed, with Ball being defiant to his very last breath.