This is the St. Scholastica’s Day Riot.
It all began one evening in Swindlestock Tavern. Young Walter Spryngeheuse and Roger de Chesterfield, deep in their cups, heavy with unearned confidence, and tunic collars popped to their ears, began mewling that the barkeep’s ale wasn’t up to snuff. The barkeep, who was also the owner, John Croidon, heartily disagreed with the assessment. The two students, accustomed to being flattered and catered to where’ere they went, took offense and promptly splashed their drinks in his face. A fight broke out. The campus caught wind of the brawl and in bare minutes the town was flooded with students--friendly and rival academic houses alike emptied into the streets-- and by the time the constabulary arrived to arrest the two offending students, 200 of their fellow scholars had flocked to their defense, sparking a riot that would leave homes burned, bodies bruised, and dozens of Hufflepuffs dead.
Oxford, the residential and market settlement from which the University took its name, had a city charter at the time, but the actual settlement wasn’t larger than a quaint town. And it was so dependent on the university, so tired of dealing with these snobby rich kids, so done with being overrun by young’uns, that when the students rioted, the townsfolk closed ranks.
Now, this is 1355, barely 6 years after the Black Death, which devastated the village. It’s local population, once a burgeoning and hearty two thousand seven hundred strong, had plunged to a bare boned existence, and signs of population recovery wouldn’t show until twenty years later. So when the locals fought back against the tide of students, they were dwarfed in numbers, but they had one distinct advantage: they were grownups. Adults used to heavy lifting and muscled from decades of daily labor. We got knuckle-crackin’ work-a-day, no-nonsense types going up against two hundred flailing, pasty-faced butt-hurt youths who thought they could get away with anything. Basically a gaggle of WWE wrestlers vs. a crowd of Brock Turners.
And apparently when things hit a fever pitch even some extra hype men from neighboring towns came to the aid of the beefy locals. It is recorded that they descended on the fray crying out "Havoc! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!" It does *not* mention whether they were waving metal folding chairs or not.
And thence followed a day, a night and a day of Slytherins getting stomped, Gryffindors getting ground to pieces, and Ravenclaws getting their smug ass faces punched off. Indeed, “gode knocks” were given. The survivors on both sides would raise weak and bloodied fists, voices hoarse and ribs bruised, claiming themselves the Graduates of the Hardest of Knocks.
The locals had successfully driven the students from the town. But they could not escape their humiliating dependence on Oxford University. In the aftermath, when the damage was assessed and the dead were counted, and because of where the power and the money lay, of course, who was actually at fault for the riot was a foregone conclusion.
An uneasy resolution was struck in the University’s favor wherein, every year on the anniversary of the riots, the Mayor of Oxford and his officials must parade down the streets--bare-headed and shamefaced-- to a special mass held at the school chapel, and each pay the school one penny for every fallen student. Back then, it amounted to 5 shillings thruppence, the equivalent now of about 245 dollars, each. Every year. For the town? Nothing. For the damage to the pub and surrounding shops and homes? Nothing. For the families of locals slain by the students: Nothing.
So if you’ve ever wondered how old the tradition is of white college frat boys getting drunk and inciting a couple hundred of their peers to privileged violence, brimming with the hubris of daddy’s money, wherein the people who fight back simply to defend themselves are always the ones who get punished--it’s at least 663 years old.
The tradition of the parade continued for four more centuries. Four hundred times, the Mayors of Oxford trod a walk of shame for a fight they never started and paid hard cash for uppity snot-nosed brats worth little more than a Darwin Award. The parade came to an end in 1825 when the Mayor of Oxford then refused to participate in the humiliating display. But it wasn’t until 1955, on the 600 year anniversary that Oxford finally attempted to smoothe things over by bestowing an honorary degree on the current Mayor, and sorting him into house “ThanksForTheUselessGestureAssholes.”
Thus ends the story of the St. Scholastica’s Day Riot: a fight started by two kids that cost almost a hundred lives in a college town, because they didn’t like the taste of their beer--or maybe they did! Maybe they REALLY liked it--it’s so hard to tell with white people and rioting.