The most eminent service Ralph de Standish performed was his defence of the young King against the attack made upon him by Wat Tyler. The chroniclers differ as to the name of the esquire who took part in this incident; but an examination of the records leaves no doubt that it was Ralph de Standish.
According to one authority, giving an account of the meeting of Richard II with the rioters, the mayor of London attempted to arrest Wat Tyler. In the struggle which ensued a valet of the King’s household drew his sword and mortally wounded the insurgent, who rode forward a little way calling on the commons to avenge him, and then fell from his horse almost dead.
Some give the name of the King’s esquire as Canvendish, an error apparently due to the similarity of the sound. The Continuator of Knighton, and Froissart, both state the surname to be Standish, but differ as to the Christian name.
The former, who identifies Wat Tyler with Jack Straw, stating that he changed his name, says that when the insurgent threatened the King and seized his bridle, Walworth, a burgess of London, fearing the King’s death, thrust his weapon through the rebel’s throat. Seeing this, another esquire whose name was Ralph Standish, ran him through the sides with a short sword. He fell flat on his back, and, after beating with his hands and feet to and fro for a while, perished. A great shout arose, “Our leader is dead.” His body was dragged into St. Bartholomew’s Church hard by. Ralph Standish with others was invested by the King with the girdle of knighthood.
Froissart states that in the struggle with Walworth, Tyler was wounded by the mayor; whereupon one of the King’s esquires called John Standish drew a handsome sword which he carried and thrust Tyler through the body so that he died. He adds that Standish was one of three who were knighted by the King.
One writer represents the King’s esquire as the dealer of the first blow. The mayor ordered the insurgent to uncover in the King’s presence. He made a retort; whereupon an esquire stabbed him; then the mayor and another burgess stabbed him also so that he died.
Contemporary references in the Patent Rolls confirm the accuracy of Knighton’s Continuator, in giving the name of the esquire who defended the King and was knighted for his services as Ralph de Standish. No wonder the chroniclers disagree as to his Christian name, when they could not be sure of that of the lord mayor of London, or even the rebel’s name.
The affray with Tyler occurred in June, 1381. In August of the same year Ralph de Standish, formerly addressed as our dear esquire, is now referred to as the King’s knight, and in terms which suggest that the promotion to knighthood is recent. On August 14th, the King granted to his knight, Ralph de Standish, for the better maintenance of his knightly rank, the wardship of Scarborough Castle, with 40 marks yearly and 20 marks from the manor of Drakelow in Cheshire. The grant was confirmed and explained in October of the same year. The fact that a document relating to one of Sir Ralph’s annuities is found among the deeds of the Standish family of Standish (who afterwards acquired some of the Sir Ralph’s estate), is additional confirmation that the esquire who dispatched Wat Tyler was Ralph the son of John Standish of Standish.