Who was the real Jack Cade?

Published March 16, 2018

It seems fitting that my first blog coinciding with the publication of Cade’s Rebellion, should acknowledge the inspiration for the novel’s title and protagonist. Although I cannot remember how I first stumbled across such an obscure footnote in medieval history, the truth of the matter is that Cade’s Rebellion was inspired, in part, by an actual event in England in the year 1450  (the same year, incidentally, that Guttenberg invented the printing press!)

Anyway, as the story goes, an ex-soldier by the name of Jack Cade led a rebellion against a corrupt king intent on imposing heavy taxes and other hardships on shopkeepers and laborers as a means to seize land and pay off war debt.

Cade and his accomplices also make an appearance in William Shakespeare’s play, Henry the Sixth, when Cade declares, “For our enemies shall fall before us, inspired with the spirit of putting down kings and princes.” To which Dick the Butcher replies with one of Shakespeare’s most memorable lines, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

There are other not-so-veiled references to the historical Jack Cade, but I don’t want to give it all away, just yet.  Stay tuned…

Depiction of the English rebel Jack Cade, as represented in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2. Painting by Charles Lucy, entitled “Lord Saye and Sele brought before Jack Cade 4th July 1450.