Mob action

Mob violence

Mass action by the London populace posed a threat to the patriciate, risking a breakdown of law and order and the intervention of royal authorities to restore it (which often entailed seizure of the liberties and suspension of local self-government). An aroused mob was particularly dangerous when used in a relatively directed fashion, by radicals seeking to gain power. No wonder then, that the London rulers sought to sideline the folkmoot and acquiesced in its eventual suppression, and that they aimed at restricting popular participation in assemblies and elections.

A late thirteenth century chronicler based in London – perhaps himself an alderman – included in his compilation several colourful and coloured accounts of occasions when the lesser citizenry was stirred to action. One may be found on this Web site under the title "A disputed election". Another describes events in the aftermath of the battle of Evesham; the party in London that had supported de Montfort, led by mayor Thomas fitz Thomas and a few other patricians and basing its power on support by the populace, threw itself on the king's mercy and was sent off to prison. After a period of indulging retribution, the king gave permission (1266) for the citizens to elect one officer to act as the king's warden and see to the duties of the shrievalty, so long as the person chosen had not been a Montfortian. Following a week of popular demonstrations in protest of this restriction, William fitz Richard was elected to the post, but

Another riot was described as having taken place in November the following year, in the context of a revival of the remnants of the Montfortian party, under the earl of Gloucester, whose entry into the city was the signal for a popular uprising that briefly overthrew the government of the loyalist patricians. But this gave scope to older rivalries within the community, for:

The royal justice tried to discourage further disturbances by making an example, hanging thirteen of the accused, and imprisoning three dozen others.

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