Letter from the Earl of Shrewsbury on the Midland Revolt, 1607


This letter shows an upper class view of the Midland Revolt – a peasant uprising against land owners who enclosed common and rented land. Enclosure was leaving rural workers unemployed, homeless and without the means to feed themselves (for more information see Stow’s Annales). Gilbert Talbot (1552–1616), Privy Counsellor and 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, acquaints his brother, the Earl of Kent, with news of rebellions in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire in May 1607.

Talbot describes a ‘tumultuous rable of people’ and their acts of ‘throwynge downe sondry inclosures in dyvers parts’. He relates the King’s displeasure that the local sheriffs and justices had not taken sufficient action to suppress the uprising — for example by using ‘Marshall Law’ – but had instead tried to persuade the mob without the use of force.

He writes that the Warwickshire rebels asked the sheriffs to tell the King that their uprising was not out of lack of duty to the Crown, but only to address the problem of ‘thos Late inclosures which made them of the porest sorte, reddy to pyne for wante.’ The rebels wanted an answer within six days and said that if the King would promise to reform these abuses they would disband.

Talbot and the rest of the Privy Council were horrified that the local authorities had engaged with ‘suche insolent, base and rebellious people’ in this way instead of persuading or compelling them to disperse. The purpose of his letter was to entreat his brother to put down a potential uprising in Bedfordshire. Talbot warns his brother, ‘neyther to use any persuation at all till you have somme 40 or so horse well apoynted, which will run over, and cut in peeces a thousand of suche naked roges as thos are.’

Full title:
Letter from the Earl of Shrewsbury to the Earl of Kent on the Midland Revolt
1607, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Manuscript / Letter
Gilbert Talbot
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Lansdowne MS 90/23

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