Sir William Walworth

Born: Unknown

Died: January 1386

City of London, London, England

Walworth in History

Information on William Walworth is fairly sparse, and he is undoubtedly most remembered for his actions in the peasant's revolt in 1381. Nonetheless, Walworth was a well-educated man and an apprentice to the wealthy fishmonger and mayor of London, John Lovekyn. By the late 1360s, Walworth himself had become one of London's most wealthy and respected merchants, dabbling in the fish and, especially, the wool trade, and fighting for the rights of merchants, particularly during the renewal of war with France. Walworth was elected sheriff (1370) and mayor of London for the first time in 1374. Despite trouble from one John Northampton, a fellow London merchant, Walworth was able to remain influential in London's government and continued to fight for merchants' rights. By 1381, when Walworth was serving a second term as mayor, a series of poll taxes caused a rebellion amongst the commons of Kent and Essex. As mayor of London, Walworth, of course, claimed a certain amount of responsibility when the rebels, under Wat Tyler's leadership, began to lay waste to the city. Walworth's shining moment came when the rebel leaders and the young King Richard II were discussing terms of ending the rebellion at Smithfield. The story is somewhat blurred, but it is reported that, unhappy with the way Tyler was speaking to the king, Walworth dealt the rebel leader a blow with his sword, either killing him outright or gravely wounding him. With Tyler's death, the rebellion swiftly ended and peace was returned to London, with Walworth being knighted for his services. Walworth continued his merchant activities until his death, most likely in January 1386.

Walworth in Jack Straw

William Walworth, mayor of London, appears in Jack Straw as a loyal servant to the king. His most significant action within the play (and historically) is when he stabs the rebel leader Jack Straw to death and is promptly rewarded by the king in the form of a knighthood.


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