Richard II of England
Overview
Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet
House of Plantagenet
The House of Plantagenet , a branch of the Angevins, was a royal house founded by Geoffrey V of Anjou, father of Henry II of England. Plantagenet kings first ruled the Kingdom of England in the 12th century. Their paternal ancestors originated in the French province of Gâtinais and gained the...

 and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince
Edward, the Black Prince
Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Aquitaine, KG was the eldest son of King Edward III of England and his wife Philippa of Hainault as well as father to King Richard II of England....

, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

. At the age of four, Richard became second in line to the throne when his older brother Edward of Angoulême died, then heir apparent
Heir apparent
An heir apparent or heiress apparent is a person who is first in line of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting, except by a change in the rules of succession....

 when his father died in 1376. With Edward III's death the following year, Richard succeeded to the throne at the age of ten.

As an individual, Richard was tall, good-looking and intelligent.
Encyclopedia
Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet
House of Plantagenet
The House of Plantagenet , a branch of the Angevins, was a royal house founded by Geoffrey V of Anjou, father of Henry II of England. Plantagenet kings first ruled the Kingdom of England in the 12th century. Their paternal ancestors originated in the French province of Gâtinais and gained the...

 and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince
Edward, the Black Prince
Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Aquitaine, KG was the eldest son of King Edward III of England and his wife Philippa of Hainault as well as father to King Richard II of England....

, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

. At the age of four, Richard became second in line to the throne when his older brother Edward of Angoulême died, then heir apparent
Heir apparent
An heir apparent or heiress apparent is a person who is first in line of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting, except by a change in the rules of succession....

 when his father died in 1376. With Edward III's death the following year, Richard succeeded to the throne at the age of ten.

As an individual, Richard was tall, good-looking and intelligent. Though probably not insane, as earlier historians used to believe, he may have suffered from a personality disorder or disorders, which may have become more apparent toward the end of his reign. Less of a warrior than either his father or grandfather, he sought to bring an end to the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

 that Edward III had started. He was a firm believer in the royal prerogative
Royal Prerogative
The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy as belonging to the sovereign alone. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and...

, something which led him to restrain the power of his nobility, and rely on a private retinue
Retinue
A retinue is a body of persons "retained" in the service of a noble or royal personage, a suite of "retainers".-Etymology:...

 for military protection instead. He also cultivated a courtly atmosphere where the king was an elevated figure, and art and culture were at the centre, in contrast to the fraternal, martial court of his grandfather. Richard's posthumous reputation has to a large extent been shaped by Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, whose play Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

portrayed Richard's misrule and Bolingbroke's deposition as responsible for the 15th century Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

. Contemporary historians do not accept this interpretation, while not thereby exonerating Richard from responsibility for his own deposition. Most authorities agree that, even though his policies were not unprecedented or entirely unrealistic, the way in which he carried them out was unacceptable to the political establishment, and this led to his downfall.

Early life

Richard's father was Edward, the Black Prince
Edward, the Black Prince
Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Aquitaine, KG was the eldest son of King Edward III of England and his wife Philippa of Hainault as well as father to King Richard II of England....

, and his mother was Joan of Kent ("The Fair Maid of Kent")
Joan of Kent
Joan, Countess of Kent , known to history as The Fair Maid of Kent, was the first English Princess of Wales...

. Edward, Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales is a title traditionally granted to the heir apparent to the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the 15 other independent Commonwealth realms...

 and heir to the throne, had distinguished himself as a military commander in the early phases of the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

, particularly in the Battle of Poitiers
Battle of Poitiers (1356)
The Battle of Poitiers was fought between the Kingdoms of England and France on 19 September 1356 near Poitiers, resulting in the second of the three great English victories of the Hundred Years' War: Crécy, Poitiers, and Agincourt....

 in 1356. After further military adventures, however, he contracted dysentery
Dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

 in Spain in 1370. Never fully recovered, he had to return to England the next year. Joan of Kent had been at the center of a marriage dispute between Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent
Thomas Holland, 1st Earl of Kent
Thomas Holland, 1st Earl of Kent, 2nd Baron Holand, KG was an English nobleman and military commander during the Hundred Years' War.-Early Life:...

, and William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury
William Montacute, 2nd Earl of Salisbury
Sir William II Montague, alias de Montacute, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, 4th Baron Montacute, King of Mann, KG was an English nobleman and commander in the English army during King Edward III's French campaigns in the Hundred Years War.He was born in Donyatt in Somerset, the eldest son of William...

, from which Holland emerged victorious. Less than a year after Holland's death in 1360, Joan married Prince Edward. Joan was a granddaughter of King Edward I
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

, thus the marriage required papal approval, as Joan and Edward were first cousins, once removed.

Richard was born at the Abbey of St. Andrew in Bordeaux
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

, in the English principality of Aquitaine
Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

, on 6 January 1367. According to contemporary sources, three kings "the King of Spain, the King of Navarre
Navarre
Navarre , officially the Chartered Community of Navarre is an autonomous community in northern Spain, bordering the Basque Country, La Rioja, and Aragon in Spain and Aquitaine in France...

 and the King of Portugal" were present at his birth. This anecdote, and the fact that his birth fell on the feast of Epiphany, was later used in the religious imagery of the Wilton Diptych
The Wilton Diptych
The Wilton Diptych is a small portable diptych of two hinged panels, painted on both sides. It is an extremely rare survival of a late Medieval religious panel painting from England. The diptych was painted for King Richard II of England who is depicted kneeling before the Virgin and Child in...

, where Richard is one of three kings paying homage to the Virgin and Child. His elder brother Edward of Angoulême died in 1371, and Richard became his father's heir. The Black Prince finally succumbed to his long illness in 1376. The Commons
House of Commons of England
The House of Commons of England was the lower house of the Parliament of England from its development in the 14th century to the union of England and Scotland in 1707, when it was replaced by the House of Commons of Great Britain...

 in parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 genuinely feared that Richard's uncle, John of Gaunt
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster , KG was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the third surviving son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault...

, would usurp
Usurper
Usurper is a derogatory term used to describe either an illegitimate or controversial claimant to the power; often, but not always in a monarchy, or a person who succeeds in establishing himself as a monarch without inheriting the throne, or any other person exercising authority unconstitutionally...

 the throne. For this reason, the prince was quickly invested with the princedom of Wales and his father's other titles. On 22 June the next year Richard's grandfather, Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

, also died, and at the age of ten Richard was crowned king on 16 July 1377. Again, fears of John of Gaunt's ambitions influenced political decisions, and a regency led by the King's uncles was avoided. Instead the king was nominally to exercise kingship, with the help of a series of "continual councils", from which John of Gaunt was excluded. Together with his younger brother Thomas of Woodstock, Earl of Buckingham
Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester
Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester, 1st Earl of Buckingham, 1st Earl of Essex, Duke of Aumale, KG was the thirteenth and youngest child of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault...

, Gaunt still held great informal influence over the business of government. However, the king's councillors and friends, particularly Simon de Burley
Simon de Burley
Sir Simon de Burley, KG was holder of the offices of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle between 1384-88, and was a Knight of the Garter....

 and Aubrey DeVere
Aubrey de Vere, 10th Earl of Oxford
Aubrey de Vere, 10th Earl of Oxford was the second son of John de Vere, 7th Earl of Oxford and Maud de Badlesmere, daughter of Bartholomew de Badlesmere, 1st Lord Badlesmere....

, increasingly gained control of royal affairs and earned the mistrust of the Commons to the point where the councils were discontinued in 1380. Contributing to discontent was an increasingly heavy burden of taxation levied through three poll tax
Poll tax
A poll tax is a tax of a portioned, fixed amount per individual in accordance with the census . When a corvée is commuted for cash payment, in effect it becomes a poll tax...

es between 1377 and 1381 that were spent on unsuccessful military expeditions on the continent. By 1381, there was a deep-felt resentment against the governing classes in the lower levels of English society.

Peasants' Revolt

Although the poll tax of 1381 was the immediate cause of the Peasants' Revolt
Peasants' Revolt
The Peasants' Revolt, Wat Tyler's Rebellion, or the Great Rising of 1381 was one of a number of popular revolts in late medieval Europe and is a major event in the history of England. Tyler's Rebellion was not only the most extreme and widespread insurrection in English history but also the...

, the root of the conflict lay in deeper tensions between peasants and landowners. These tensions were in turn caused by the demographic consequences of the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 and subsequent outbreaks of the plague. The rebellion started in Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 and Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

 in late May, and on 12 June, bands of peasants gathered at Blackheath
Blackheath, London
Blackheath is a district of South London, England. It is named from the large open public grassland which separates it from Greenwich to the north and Lewisham to the west...

 near London under the leaders Wat Tyler
Wat Tyler
Walter "Wat" Tyler was a leader of the English Peasants' Revolt of 1381.-Early life:Knowledge of Tyler's early life is very limited, and derives mostly through the records of his enemies. Historians believe he was born in Essex, but are not sure why he crossed the Thames Estuary to Kent...

, John Ball
John Ball (priest)
John Ball was an English Lollard priest who took a prominent part in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. In that year, Ball gave a sermon in which he asked the rhetorical question, "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?".-Biography:Little is known of Ball's early years. He lived in...

 and Jack Straw
Jack Straw (rebel leader)
For other uses, see Jack Straw Jack Straw was one of the three leaders of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, a major event in the history of England.-Biography:Little is known of the Rising's leaders. It been suggested that Jack Straw may have been a preacher...

. John of Gaunt's Savoy Palace
Savoy Palace
The Savoy Palace was considered the grandest nobleman's residence of medieval London, until it was destroyed in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. It fronted the Strand, on the site of the present Savoy Theatre and the Savoy Hotel that memorialise its name...

 was burnt down. The Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 Simon Sudbury
Simon Sudbury
Simon Sudbury, also called Simon Theobald of Sudbury and Simon of Sudbury was Bishop of London from 1361 to 1375, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1375 until his death, and in the last year of his life Lord Chancellor of England....

, who was also Lord Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

, and the king's Lord High Treasurer
Lord High Treasurer
The post of Lord High Treasurer or Lord Treasurer was an English government position and has been a British government position since the Act of Union of 1707. A holder of the post would be the third highest ranked Great Officer of State, below the Lord High Chancellor and above the Lord President...

, Robert Hales
Robert Hales
Sir Robert Hales, also called Robert de Hales, was born about 1325 in Hales Place, High Halden, Kent, the son of Nicholas Hales.In 1372 Robert Hales became the Lord/Grand Prior of the Knights Hospitallers of England. Richard II appointed him Lord High Treasurer, so he was responsible for collecting...

, were both killed by the rebels, who were demanding the complete abolition of serfdom
Serfdom
Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted to the mid-19th century...

. The king, sheltered within the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 with his councillors, agreed that The Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

 did not have the forces to disperse the rebels and that the only feasible option was to negotiate.

It is unclear how much Richard, still only fourteen years old, was involved in these deliberations, although historians have suggested that he was among the proponents of negotiations. The king set out by river on 13 June, but the large number of people thronging the banks at Greenwich
Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

 made it impossible for him to land, forcing him to return to the Tower. The next day, Friday, 14 June, he set out by horse and met the rebels at Mile End
Mile End
Mile End is an area within the East End of London, England, and part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is located east-northeast of Charing Cross...

. The king agreed to the rebels' demands, but this move only emboldened them; they continued their looting and killings. Richard met Wat Tyler again the next day at Smithfield
Smithfield, London
Smithfield is an area of the City of London, in the ward of Farringdon Without. It is located in the north-west part of the City, and is mostly known for its centuries-old meat market, today the last surviving historical wholesale market in Central London...

 and reiterated that the demands should be met, but the rebel leader was not convinced of the king's sincerity. The king's men grew restive, an altercation broke out, and William Walworth
William Walworth
Sir William Walworth , was twice Lord Mayor of London . He is best known for killing Wat Tyler.His family came from Durham...

, the mayor of London, pulled Tyler down from his horse and killed him. The situation became tense once the rebels realised what had happened, but the king acted with calm resolve and, saying "I am your captain, follow me!", he led the mob away from the scene. Walworth meanwhile gathered a force to surround the peasant army, but the king granted clemency and allowed the rebels to disperse and return to their homes.

The king soon revoked the charters of freedom and pardon that he had granted, and as disturbances continued in other parts of the country, he personally went into Essex to suppress the rebellion. On 28 June at Billericay
Billericay
Billericay is a town and civil parish in the Basildon borough of Essex, England. It lies within the London Basin, has a population of 40,000, and constitutes a commuter town east of central London. The town has three secondary schools and a variety of open spaces...

, he defeated the last rebels in a small skirmish and effectively ended the Peasants' Revolt. Despite his young age, Richard had shown great courage and determination in his handling of the rebellion. It is likely, though, that the events impressed upon him the dangers of disobedience and threats to royal authority, and helped shape the absolutist
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

 attitudes to kingship that would later prove fatal to his reign.

Coming of age

It is only with the Peasants' Revolt that Richard starts to emerge clearly in the annals
Chronicle
Generally a chronicle is a historical account of facts and events ranged in chronological order, as in a time line. Typically, equal weight is given for historically important events and local events, the purpose being the recording of events that occurred, seen from the perspective of the...

. One of his first significant acts after the rebellion was to marry Anne of Bohemia
Anne of Bohemia
Anne of Bohemia was Queen of England as the first wife of King Richard II. A member of the House of Luxembourg, she was the eldest daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and Elizabeth of Pomerania....

, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 and King of Bohemia Charles IV
Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles IV , born Wenceslaus , was the second king of Bohemia from the House of Luxembourg, and the first king of Bohemia to also become Holy Roman Emperor....

 and his wife Elisabeth of Pomerania, on 20 January 1382. The marriage had diplomatic significance; in the division of Europe caused by the Great Schism
Western Schism
The Western Schism or Papal Schism was a split within the Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417. Two men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope. Driven by politics rather than any theological disagreement, the schism was ended by the Council of Constance . The simultaneous claims to the papal chair...

, Bohemia and the Empire were seen as potential allies against France in the ongoing Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

. Nonetheless, the marriage was not popular in England. Despite great sums of money awarded to the Empire, the political alliance never resulted in any military victories. Furthermore, the marriage was childless. Anne died in 1394, greatly mourned by her husband.

Michael de la Pole
Michael de la Pole, 1st Earl of Suffolk
Michael de la Pole, 1st Baron de la Pole, later 1st Earl of Suffolk was an English financier and Lord Chancellor of England.- Life :...

 had been instrumental in the marriage negotiations; he had the king's confidence and gradually became more involved at court and in government as Richard came of age. De la Pole came from an upstart merchant family. When Richard made him chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

 in 1383, and created him Earl of Suffolk
Earl of Suffolk
Earl of Suffolk is a title that has been created four times in the Peerage of England. The first creation, in tandem with the creation of the title of Earl of Norfolk, came before 1069 in favour of Ralph the Staller; but the title was forfeited by his heir, Ralph de Guader, in 1074...

 two years later, this antagonised the more established nobility. Another member of the close circle around the king was Robert DeVere, Earl of Oxford
Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland
Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland, Marquess of Dublin, and 9th Earl of Oxford KG was a favourite and court companion of King Richard II of England.-Royal favour:...

 (Aubrey DeVere's nephew), who in this period emerged as the king's favourite
Favourite
A favourite , or favorite , was the intimate companion of a ruler or other important person. In medieval and Early Modern Europe, among other times and places, the term is used of individuals delegated significant political power by a ruler...

. DeVere's lineage, while an ancient one, was relatively modest in the peerage of England. Richard's close friendship to DeVere was also disagreeable to the political establishment. This displeasure was exacerbated by the earl's elevation to the new title of Duke of Ireland
Duke of Ireland
The title of Duke of Ireland was created in 1386 for Robert de Vere, 9th Earl of Oxford, the favourite of King Richard II of England, who had previously been created Marquess of Dublin. Both titles were Life peerages. At this time, only the Pale of Ireland was under English rule...

 in 1386. The chronicler Thomas Walsingham
Thomas Walsingham
- Life :He was probably educated at St Albans Abbey at St Albans, Hertfordshire, and at Oxford.He became a monk at St Albans, where he appears to have passed the whole of his monastic life, excepting a period from 1394 to 1396 during which he was prior of Wymondham Abbey, Norfolk, England, another...

 suggested the relationship between the king and DeVere was of a homosexual nature, due to a resentment Walsingham had toward the king.

Tensions came to a head over the approach to the war in France. While the court party preferred negotiations, Gaunt and Buckingham urged a large-scale campaign to protect English possessions. Instead, a so-called crusade led by Henry le Despenser, Bishop of Norwich
Bishop of Norwich
The Bishop of Norwich is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Norwich in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers most of the County of Norfolk and part of Suffolk. The see is in the City of Norwich where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided...

, was dispatched, which failed miserably. Faced with this setback on the continent, Richard turned his attention instead towards France's ally, Scotland
Kingdom of Scotland
The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...

. In 1385, the king himself led a punitive expedition
Punitive expedition
A punitive expedition is a military journey undertaken to punish a state or any group of persons outside the borders of the punishing state. It is usually undertaken in response to perceived disobedient or morally wrong behavior, but may be also be a covered revenge...

 to the north, but the effort came to nothing, and the army had to return without ever engaging the Scots in battle. Meanwhile, only an uprising in Ghent
Ghent
Ghent is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the capital and biggest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Lys and in the Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of...

 prevented a French invasion of southern England. The relationship between Richard and his uncle John of Gaunt deteriorated further with military failure, and John of Gaunt left England to pursue his claim to the throne of Castille
Kingdom of Castile
Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. It emerged as a political autonomous entity in the 9th century. It was called County of Castile and was held in vassalage from the Kingdom of León. Its name comes from the host of castles constructed in the region...

 in 1386 amid rumours of a plot against his person. With Gaunt gone, the unofficial leadership of the growing dissent against the king and his courtiers passed to Buckingham who had by now been created duke of Gloucester and Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel
Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel
Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel and 9th Earl of Surrey KG was an English medieval nobleman and military commander.-Lineage:...

.

First crisis of 1386–88

The threat of a French invasion did not subside, but instead grew stronger into 1386. At the parliament of October that year, Michael de la Pole in his capacity of chancellor requested taxation of an unprecedented level for the defence of the realm. Rather than consenting, parliament responded by refusing to treat any request until the chancellor was removed. It is assumed that this congregation, which has later become known as the Wonderful Parliament
Wonderful Parliament
The term Wonderful Parliament refers to an English Parliamentary session of November 1386 which pressed for reforms of Richard II's administration.- Auditing the King :...

, was working with the support of Gloucester and Arundel. The king famously responded that he would not dismiss as much as a scullion
Scullery maid
In great houses, scullery maids were the lowest-ranked and often the youngest of the female servants and acted as assistant to a kitchen maid. The scullery maid reported to the cook or chef...

 from his kitchen at parliament's request. Only when threatened with deposition was Richard forced to give in and let de la Pole go. A commission was set up to review and control royal finances for a year.

Richard was deeply perturbed by this affront to his royal prerogative and from February to November 1387 set about on a "gyration" (tour) of the country to muster support for his cause. By installing DeVere as Justice of Chester
Justice of Chester
The Justice of Chester was the chief judicial authority for the County Palatine of Chester, from the establishment of the county until the abolition of the Great Sessions in Wales and the palatine judicature in 1830....

, he began the work of creating a loyal military power base in Cheshire
Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

. He also assured a legal ruling from Chief Justice
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is the head of the judiciary and President of the Courts of England and Wales. Historically, he was the second-highest judge of the Courts of England and Wales, after the Lord Chancellor, but that changed as a result of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005,...

 Robert Tresilian
Robert Tresilian
Robert Tresilian was an English lawyer, and Chief Justice of the King's Bench between 1381 and 1387. He was born in Cornwall, and held land in Tresillian, near Truro...

, asserting that parliament's conduct had been both unlawful and treasonable.

On his return to London, the king was confronted by Gloucester, Arundel and Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick
Thomas de Beauchamp, 12th Earl of Warwick
Thomas de Beauchamp, 12th Earl of Warwick, KG was an English medieval nobleman, and one of the primary opponents of Richard II.- Birth and Marriage:...

, who brought an appeal of treason against de la Pole, DeVere, Tresilian, and two other loyalists: the mayor of London, Nicholas Brembre
Nicholas Brembre
Sir Nicholas Brembre was a wealthy magnate and a chief ally of King Richard II in 14th c-entury England. He was Lord Mayor of London in 1377, and again from 1383-5. Named a "worthie and puissant man of the city" by Richard Grafton he was a son of Sir John Brembre, and, becoming a citizen and...

, and Alexander Neville
Alexander Neville
Alexander Neville was a late medieval prelate who served as Archbishop of York from 1374 to 1388.-Life:Born in about 1340, he was a younger son of Ralph Neville, 2nd Baron Neville de Raby and Alice de Audley...

, the Archbishop of York
Archbishop of York
The Archbishop of York is a high-ranking cleric in the Church of England, second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of York and metropolitan of the Province of York, which covers the northern portion of England as well as the Isle of Man...

. Richard stalled the negotiations to gain time, as he was expecting DeVere from Cheshire with military reinforcements. The three earls then joined forces with Henry, Earl of Derby
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

 (Gaunt's son, later King Henry IV
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

), and Thomas de Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham
Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk
Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, KG, Lord Marshal and Earl Marshal was an English nobleman.-Life:...

the group known to history as the Lords Appellant
Lords Appellant
The Lords Appellant were a group of nobles in the reign of King Richard II who sought to impeach some five of the King's favourites in order to restrain what was seen as tyrannical and capricious rule. The word appellant simply means '[one who is] appealing [in a legal sense]'...

. On 20 December 1387 they intercepted de Vere at Radcot Bridge
Battle of Radcot Bridge
The Battle of Radcot Bridge was fought on 19 December 1387 at Radcot Bridge in England, a bridge over the River Thames now in Oxfordshire but then the boundary between Oxfordshire and Berkshire...

, where he was routed and forced to flee the country.

Richard now had no choice but to comply with the appellants' demands; Brembre and Tresilian were condemned and executed, while de Vere and de la Pole who had by now also left the country were sentenced to death in absentia at the Merciless Parliament
Merciless Parliament
The Merciless Parliament, a term coined by Augustinian chronicler Henry Knighton, refers to the English parliamentary session of February through June 1388, at which many members of Richard II's Court were convicted of treason. The session was preceded by a period in which Richard's power was...

 in February 1388. The proceedings went further, and a number of Richard's chamber knights were also executed, among these Burley. The appellants had now succeeded completely in breaking up the circle of favourites around the king.

A fragile peace

Richard gradually re-established royal authority in the months after the deliberations of the Merciless Parliament. The Lords Appellant's aggressive foreign policy failed when their efforts to build a wide, anti-French coalition came to nothing, and the north of England fell victim to a Scottish incursion. Furthermore, Richard was now over twenty-one years old and could with confidence claim the right to govern in his own name. Also, John of Gaunt returned to England in 1389. Once the differences with the king had been settled, the old statesman acted as a moderating influence on English politics. Richard assumed full control of government on 3 May 1389, claiming that the difficulties of the past years were due solely to bad councillors. He outlined a foreign policy that reversed the actions of the appellants by seeking peace and reconciliation with France together with a promise to lessen the burden of taxation on the people significantly. Richard ruled peacefully for the next eight years, having reconciled with his former adversaries. Still, later events would show that he did not put the indignities suffered during the preceding years behind him entirely. In particular, the execution of his former teacher Sir Simon de Burley was an insult not easily forgotten.

With national stability secured, Richard began negotiating a permanent peace with France. A proposal put forward in 1393 would have greatly expanded the territory of Aquitaine
Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

 possessed by the English crown. However, the plan failed on the condition that the English king had to perform homage
Homage (medieval)
Homage in the Middle Ages was the ceremony in which a feudal tenant or vassal pledged reverence and submission to his feudal lord, receiving in exchange the symbolic title to his new position . It was a symbolic acknowledgment to the lord that the vassal was, literally, his man . The oath known as...

 to the King of Francean unacceptable condition to the English public. Instead, a twenty-eight year truce was agreed upon in 1396. As part of the truce, Richard was to marry Isabella, daughter of Charles VI of France
Charles VI of France
Charles VI , called the Beloved and the Mad , was the King of France from 1380 to 1422, as a member of the House of Valois. His bouts with madness, which seem to have begun in 1392, led to quarrels among the French royal family, which were exploited by the neighbouring powers of England and Burgundy...

. There were some misgivings about the marriage. It was recognized in particular that since the princess was only six years old, she was unlikely to produce an heir to the throne of England for many years.

While seeking peace with France, Richard took a different approach to the situation in Ireland. The English lordships in Ireland were in danger of being overrun and so the Anglo-Irish
Hiberno-Norman
The Hiberno-Normans are those Norman lords who settled in Ireland who admitted little if any real fealty to the Anglo-Norman settlers in England, and who soon began to interact and intermarry with the Gaelic nobility of Ireland. The term embraces both their origins as a distinct community with...

 lords pleaded for the king to intervene. In the autumn of 1394, Richard left for Ireland, where he remained until May 1395. His army, consisting of over 8,000 men, was the largest force brought to the island in the later Middle Ages. The expedition was a success, resulting in the submission of a number of Irish chieftains to English overlordship. The venture was one of the greater achievements of Richard's reign, and it strengthened the king's support at home, but the consolidation of the English position in Ireland nevertheless proved short-lived.

Second crisis of 1397–99

The period that historians refer to as the "tyranny" of Richard II began towards the end of the 1390s. The king had Gloucester, Arundel and Warwick arrested in July 1397. The motivation and timing are not entirely clear. Even though one chronicle suggested a plot was being planned against the king, there is no evidence that this was the case. It is more likely that Richard now simply felt strong enough to retaliate for the events of 1386–88 and eliminate a number of his potential enemies. At the parliament of September 1397, Arundel was put on trial first and, after a heated quarrel with the king, was condemned and executed. As time came for Gloucester to be tried, the Earl of Nottingham brought news that he was dead. Gloucester had been Nottingham's prisoner at Calais. It is likely that he was killed on the king's order to avoid the disgrace of executing a prince of the blood. Warwick was also condemned to death, but his life was spared and he was exiled instead, as was Arundel's brother Thomas Arundel
Thomas Arundel
Thomas Arundel was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1397 and from 1399 until his death, an outspoken opponent of the Lollards.-Family background:...

, Archbishop of Canterbury. Richard then took his persecution of adversaries to the localities. While recruiting retainers
Retinue
A retinue is a body of persons "retained" in the service of a noble or royal personage, a suite of "retainers".-Etymology:...

 for himself in various counties, he prosecuted local men who had been loyal to the appellants. The fines levied on these men brought great revenues to the crown, but the legalities of the proceedings were questioned by chroniclers.
These actions were made possible primarily through the collusion of John of Gaunt, but also with the support of a number of men lifted to prominence by the king, disparagingly referred to as Richard's "duketti". John
John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter
John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter KG , also 1st Earl of Huntingdon, was an English nobleman, primarily remembered for helping cause the downfall of Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester and then for conspiring against Henry IV.He was the third son of Thomas Holland, 1st Earl of Kent and Joan...

 and Thomas Holland
Thomas Holland, 1st Duke of Surrey
Thomas Holland, 1st Duke of Surrey, 3rd Earl of Kent, 4th Baron Holland, KG, Earl Marshal was an English nobleman.-Early life and family:...

, the king's half-brother and nephew, were promoted from earls of Huntingdon
Earl of Huntingdon
Earl of Huntingdon is a title which has been created several times in the Peerage of England. The title is associated with the ruling house of Scotland, and latterly with the Hastings family.-Early history:...

 and Kent
Earl of Kent
The peerage title Earl of Kent has been created eight times in the Peerage of England and once in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.See also Kingdom of Kent, Duke of Kent.-Earls of Kent, first creation :*Godwin, Earl of Wessex...

 to dukes of Exeter
Duke of Exeter
The title Duke of Exeter was created several times in England in the later Middle Ages, when Exeter was the main town of Devon. It was first created for John Holland, the half-brother of King Richard II in 1397. That title was rescinded upon Henry IV's accession to the throne two years later, and...

 and Surrey
Duke of Surrey
The title of Duke of Surrey was created by Richard II for Thomas Holland, 3rd Earl of Kent. Following Richard's deposition, his successor, Henry IV deprived his predecessors' supporters of many of their titles, including this one, which has never been recreated.The title Earl of Surrey, also...

, respectively. Among the other loyalists were John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset
John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset
John Beaufort, 1st Marquess of Somerset and 1st Marquess of Dorset, later only 1st Earl of Somerset, KG was the first of the four illegitimate children of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress Katherine Swynford, later his wife...

, Edward, Earl of Rutland
Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
Sir Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, 2nd Earl of Cambridge, Earl of Rutland, Earl of Cork, Duke of Aumale KG was a member of the English royal family who died at the Battle of Agincourt....

, John Montacute, Earl of Salisbury
John Montacute, 3rd Earl of Salisbury
`John Montacute, 3rd Earl of Salisbury and 5th and 2nd Baron Montacute, KG was an English nobleman, one of the few who remained loyal to Richard II after Henry IV became king.-Early life:...

 and Thomas le Despenser
Thomas le Despenser, 1st Earl of Gloucester
Thomas le Despenser, 1st Earl of Gloucester KG was the son of Edward le Despenser, 1st Baron le Despencer, whom he succeeded in 1375.-Royal intrigues:...

. With the forfeited land of the convicted appellants, the king could now reward these men with lands and incomes suited to their new ranks.

A threat to Richard's authority still existed, however, in the form of the House of Lancaster
House of Lancaster
The House of Lancaster was a branch of the royal House of Plantagenet. It was one of the opposing factions involved in the Wars of the Roses, an intermittent civil war which affected England and Wales during the 15th century...

, represented by John of Gaunt and his son Henry, Earl of Derby (also known as Henry of Bolingbroke
Bolingbroke Castle
Bolingbroke Castle is a ruined castle in Bolingbroke Lincolnshire, England.-Construction:Most of the castle is built of Spilsby greenstone, as are several nearby churches. The local greenstone is a limestone that proved to be porous, prone to rapid deterioration when exposed to weather and a...

). The house of Lancaster not only possessed greater wealth than any other family in England, they were also of royal descent and, as such, likely candidates to succeed the childless Richard. Discord broke out in the inner circles of court in December 1397, when Bolingbroke and Thomas de Mowbray who had now been made Duke of Hereford
Duke of Hereford
There has only been one Duke of Hereford: The title was created in the Peerage of England for Richard II's cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, due to his support for the King in his struggle against their uncle Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester...

 and Duke of Norfolk
Duke of Norfolk
The Duke of Norfolk is the premier duke in the peerage of England, and also, as Earl of Arundel, the premier earl. The Duke of Norfolk is, moreover, the Earl Marshal and hereditary Marshal of England. The seat of the Duke of Norfolk is Arundel Castle in Sussex, although the title refers to the...

, respectively, became engaged in a quarrel. According to Bolingbroke, Mowbray had claimed that the two, as former Lords Appellant, were next in line for royal retribution. Mowbray vehemently denied these charges, as such a claim would have amounted to treason. A parliamentary committee decided that the two should settle the matter by battle, but at the last moment Richard exiled the two dukes instead: Mowbray for life, Bolingbroke for ten years. On 3 February 1399, John of Gaunt died. Rather than allowing Bolingbroke to succeed, Richard extended his exile to life and had him disinherited. The king felt safe from Bolingbroke, who was residing in Paris, since the French had little interest in any challenge to Richard and his peace policy. Richard left the country in May for another expedition in Ireland.

Overthrow and death

In June 1399, Louis, Duke of Orléans, gained control of the court of the insane Charles VI of France
Charles VI of France
Charles VI , called the Beloved and the Mad , was the King of France from 1380 to 1422, as a member of the House of Valois. His bouts with madness, which seem to have begun in 1392, led to quarrels among the French royal family, which were exploited by the neighbouring powers of England and Burgundy...

. The policy of rapprochement with the English crown did not suit Louis's political ambitions, and for this reason he found it opportune to allow Henry to leave for England. With a small group of followers, Bolingbroke landed at Ravenspur in Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

 towards the end of June 1399. Men from all over the country soon rallied around the duke. Meeting with Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland
Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland
Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, 4th Baron Percy, titular King of Mann, KG, Lord Marshal was the son of Henry de Percy, 3rd Baron Percy and a descendent of Henry III of England. His mother was Mary of Lancaster, daughter of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, son of Edmund, Earl of Leicester and...

, who had his own misgivings about the king, Bolingbroke insisted that his only object was to regain his own patrimony. Percy took him at his word and declined to interfere. The king had taken most of his household knights and the loyal members of his nobility with him to Ireland, so Henry experienced little resistance as he moved south. Edmund of Langley, Duke of York
Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York
Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, 1st Earl of Cambridge, KG was a younger son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault, the fourth of the five sons who lived to adulthood, of this Royal couple. Like so many medieval princes, Edmund gained his identifying nickname from his...

, who was acting as keeper of the realm, had little choice but to side with Bolingbroke. Meanwhile, Richard was delayed in his return from Ireland and did not land in Wales until 24 July. He made his way to Conwy
Conwy Castle
Conwy Castle is a castle in Conwy, on the north coast of Wales.It was built between 1283 and 1289 during King Edward I's second campaign in North Wales....

, where on 12 August he met with the Earl of Northumberland for negotiations. On 19 August, Richard II surrendered to Henry at Flint Castle
Flint Castle
Flint Castle located in Flint, Flintshire, was the first of a series of castles built during King Edward I's campaign to conquer Wales.The site was chosen for its strategic position in North East Wales...

, promising to abdicate if his life were spared. Both men then returned to London, the indignant king riding all the way behind Henry. On arrival, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 on 1 September.

Henry was by now fully determined to take the throne, but presenting a rationale for this action proved a dilemma. It was argued that Richard, through his tyranny and misgovernment, had rendered himself unworthy of being king. However, Henry was not next in the line to the throne; the heir presumptive was Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, who descended from Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

's second son, Lionel of Antwerp
Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence
Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, jure uxoris 4th Earl of Ulster and 5th Baron of Connaught, KG was the third son, but the second son to survive infancy, of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault...

. Bolingbroke's father, John of Gaunt, was Edward's third son. The problem was solved by emphasising Henry's descent in a direct male line, whereas March's descent was through his grandmother. The official account of events claims that Richard voluntarily agreed to resign his crown to Henry on 29 September. Although this was most likely not the case, the parliament that met on 30 September accepted Richard's resignation. Henry was crowned as King Henry IV on 13 October.

The exact course of Richard's life after the deposition is unclear; he remained in the Tower until he was taken to Pontefract Castle
Pontefract Castle
Pontefract Castle is a castle in the town of Pontefract, in the City of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England. It was the site of the demise of Richard II of England, and later the place of a series of famous sieges during the English Civil War-History:...

 shortly before the end of the year. Although King Henry might have been amenable to letting him live, this all changed when it was revealed that the earls of Huntingdon, Kent, Somerset and Rutland, and Thomas Despenser all now demoted from the ranks they had been given by Richard were planning to murder the new king and restore Richard in the Epiphany Rising
Epiphany Rising
The Epiphany Rising was a failed rebellion against Henry IV of England in January 1400.-Background:After the murder of Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester in 1397, Richard II rewarded those who had supported him against Gloucester and the Lords Appellant with a plethora of new titles.Upon...

. Although averted, the plot highlighted the danger of allowing Richard to live. He is thought to have starved to death in captivity on or around 14 February 1400, although there is some question over the date and manner of his death. The body was taken south from Pontefract and displayed in the old St Paul's Cathedral
Old St Paul's Cathedral
Old St Paul's Cathedral is a name used to refer to the medieval cathedral of the City of London which until 1666 stood on the site of the present St Paul's Cathedral. Built between 1087 and 1314 and dedicated to St Paul, the cathedral was the fourth church on the site at Ludgate Hill...

 on 17 February before burial in Kings Langley
Kings Langley
Kings Langley is a historic English village and civil parish northwest of central London on the southern edge of the Chiltern Hills and now part of the London commuter belt. The major western portion lies in the borough of Dacorum and the east is in the Three Rivers district, both in the county of...

 Church on 6 March.

Rumours that Richard was still alive persisted, but never gained much credence in England; in Scotland, however, a man identified as Richard came into the hands of Regent Albany, lodged in Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle, located in Stirling, is one of the largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally, in Scotland. The castle sits atop Castle Hill, an intrusive crag, which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation. It is surrounded on three sides by steep...

, and serving as the notional and perhaps reluctant figurehead of various anti-Lancastrian and Lollard intrigues in England. Henry IV's government dismissed him as an imposter and several sources from both sides of the Border suggest the man suffered from mental illness, one also describing him as a "beggar" by the time of his death in 1419, but he was buried as a king in the local Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 friary in Stirling. Meanwhile in 1413, Henry V
Henry V of England
Henry V was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster....

in an effort both to atone for his father's act of murder and to silence the rumours of Richard's survival had decided to have the body at King's Langley moved to its final resting place in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

. Here Richard himself had prepared an elaborate tomb, where the remains of his wife Anne were already entombed.

Court culture

In the last years of Richard's reign, and particularly in the months after the suppression of the appellants in 1397, the king enjoyed a virtual monopoly on power in the country, a relatively uncommon situation in medieval England. In this period a particular court culture was allowed to emerge, one that differed sharply from that of earlier times. A new form of address developed; where the king previously had been addressed simply as "highness", now "royal majesty", or "high majesty" were often used. It was said that on solemn festivals Richard would sit on his throne in the royal hall for hours without speaking, and anyone on whom his eyes fell had to bow his knees to the king. The inspiration for this new sumptuousness and emphasis on dignity came from the courts on the continent, not only the French and Bohemian courts that had been the homes of Richard's two wives, but also the court that the Black Prince had maintained while residing in Aquitaine.

Richard's approach to kingship was rooted in his strong belief in the royal prerogative
Royal Prerogative
The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy as belonging to the sovereign alone. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and...

, the inspiration of which can be found in his early youth, when his authority was challenged first by the Peasants' Revolts and then by the Lords Appellant. Richard rejected the approach his grandfather, Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

 had taken to the nobility. Edward's court had been a martial one, based on the interdependence between the king and his most trusted noblemen as military captains. In Richard's view, this put a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the baronage. To avoid dependence on the nobility for military recruitment, he pursued a policy of peace towards France. At the same time, he developed his own private military retinue, larger than that of any English king before him, and gave them livery
Livery
A livery is a uniform, insignia or symbol adorning, in a non-military context, a person, an object or a vehicle that denotes a relationship between the wearer of the livery and an individual or corporate body. Often, elements of the heraldry relating to the individual or corporate body feature in...

 badges
Heraldic badge
A heraldic badge is an emblem or personal device worn as a badge to indicate allegiance to or the property of an individual or family. Medieval forms are usually called a livery badge, and also a cognizance...

 with his White Hart
White Hart
The White Hart was the personal emblem and livery of Richard II, who derived it from the arms of his mother, Joan "The Fair Maid of Kent", heiress of Edmund of Woodstock...

, which are also worn by the angels in the Wilton Diptych (right). He was then free to develop a courtly atmosphere in which the king was a distant, venerated figure, and art and culture, rather than warfare, were at the centre.

Patronage and the arts

As part of Richard's programme of asserting his authority, he also tried to cultivate the royal image. Unlike any other English king before him, he had himself portrayed in panel paintings of elevated majesty, of which two survive: the over life-size Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 portrait of the king (c. 1390, see top of page), and the Wilton Diptych (1394–99), a portable work probably intended to accompany Richard on his Irish campaign. It is one of the few surviving English examples of the courtly International Gothic
International Gothic
International Gothic is a phase of Gothic art which developed in Burgundy, Bohemia, France and northern Italy in the late 14th century and early 15th century...

 style of painting that was developed in the courts of the Continent, especially Prague and Paris. Richard's expenditure on jewellery, rich textiles and metalwork was far higher than on paintings, but as with his illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

s ,there are hardly any surviving works that can be connected with him, except for a crown, "one of the finest achievements of the Gothic goldsmith", that probably belonged to Anne.

Among Richard's grandest projects in the field of architecture was Westminster Hall, which was extensively rebuilt during his reign, perhaps spurred on by the completion in 1391 of John of Gaunt's magnificent hall at Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle is located in the town of the same name in Warwickshire, England. Constructed from Norman through to Tudor times, the castle has been described by architectural historian Anthony Emery as "the finest surviving example of a semi-royal palace of the later middle ages, significant...

. Fifteen life-size statues of kings were placed in niches on the walls, and the hammer-beam roof by the royal carpenter Hugh Herland
Hugh Herland
Hugh Herland was a 14th century medieval English carpenter. He was the chief carpenter to King Richard II.One of his best known pieces is the hammer-beam roof at Westminster Hall, regarded as one of the greatest carpentry achievements of the time...

, "the greatest creation of medieval timber architecture", allowed the original three Romanesque
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

 aisles to be replaced with a single huge open space, with a dais at the end for Richard to sit in solitary state. The rebuilding had been begun by Henry III
Henry III of England
Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

 in 1245, but had by Richard's time been dormant for over a century.

The court's patronage of literature is especially important, because this was the period in which the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 took shape as a literary language. There is little evidence to tie Richard directly to patronage of poetry, but it was nevertheless within his court that this culture was allowed to thrive. The greatest poet of the age, Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer , known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey...

, served the king as a diplomat, a customs official and a clerk of The King's Works
Office of Works
The Office of Works was established in the English Royal household in 1378 to oversee the building of the royal castles and residences. In 1832 it became the Works Department within the Office of Woods, Forests, Land Revenues, Works and Buildings...

 while producing some of his best-known work. He was also in the service of John of Gaunt, and wrote The Book of the Duchess
The Book of the Duchess
The Book of the Duchess, also known as The Deth of Blaunche, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1910. Accessed March 11, 2008. is the earliest of Chaucer’s major poems, preceded only by his short poem, "An ABC," and possibly by his translation of The Romaunt of the Rose...

as a eulogy to Gaunt's wife Blanche
Blanche of Lancaster
Blanche of Lancaster, Duchess of Lancaster was an English noblewoman and heiress, daughter of England's wealthiest and most powerful peer, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster...

. Chaucer's colleague and friend John Gower
John Gower
John Gower was an English poet, a contemporary of William Langland and a personal friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. He is remembered primarily for three major works, the Mirroir de l'Omme, Vox Clamantis, and Confessio Amantis, three long poems written in French, Latin, and English respectively, which...

 wrote his Confessio Amantis
Confessio Amantis
Confessio Amantis is a 33,000-line Middle English poem by John Gower, which uses the confession made by an ageing lover to the chaplain of Venus as a frame story for a collection of shorter narrative poems. According to its prologue, it was composed at the request of Richard II...

on a direct commission from Richard, although he later grew disenchanted with the king.

Character and assessment

Contemporary writers, even those less sympathetic to the king, agreed that Richard was a "most beautiful king", though with a "face which was white, rounded and feminine", implying he lacked manliness. He was athletic and tall; when his tomb was opened in 1871 he was found to be six feet tall. He was also intelligent and well read, but when agitated he had a tendency to stammer. While the Westminster Abbey portrait probably shows a good similarity of the king, the Wilton Diptych portrays the king as significantly younger than he was at the time; it must be assumed that he had a beard by this point. Religiously, he was orthodox, and particularly towards the end of his reign he became a strong opponent of the Lollard
Lollardy
Lollardy was a political and religious movement that existed from the mid-14th century to the English Reformation. The term "Lollard" refers to the followers of John Wycliffe, a prominent theologian who was dismissed from the University of Oxford in 1381 for criticism of the Church, especially his...

 heresy. He was particularly devoted to the cult of Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

, and around 1395 he had his own arms
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

 impaled
Impalement (heraldry)
In heraldry, impalement is the combination of two coats of arms side-by-side in one shield or escutcheon to denote union, most often that of a husband and wife, but also for ecclesiastical use...

 with the mythical arms of the Confessor. Though not a warrior king like his grandfather, Richard nevertheless enjoyed tournaments
Tournament (medieval)
A tournament, or tourney is the name popularly given to chivalrous competitions or mock fights of the Middle Ages and Renaissance . It is one of various types of hastiludes....

, as well as hunting.

The popular view of Richard has more than anything been influenced by Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's play about the king, Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

. Shakespeare's Richard was a cruel, vindictive and irresponsible king, who attained a semblance of greatness only after his fall from power. Writing a work of fiction, however, Shakespeare took many liberties and made great omissions. Shakespeare based his play on works by writers such as Edward Hall
Edward Hall
Edward Hall , English chronicler and lawyer, was born about the end of the 15th century, being a son of John Hall of Northall, Shropshire....

 and Samuel Daniel
Samuel Daniel
Samuel Daniel was an English poet and historian.-Early life:Daniel was born near Taunton in Somerset, the son of a music-master. He was the brother of lutenist and composer John Danyel. Their sister Rosa was Edmund Spenser's model for Rosalind in his The Shepherd's Calendar; she eventually married...

, who in turn based their writings on contemporary chroniclers such as Thomas Walsingham
Thomas Walsingham
- Life :He was probably educated at St Albans Abbey at St Albans, Hertfordshire, and at Oxford.He became a monk at St Albans, where he appears to have passed the whole of his monastic life, excepting a period from 1394 to 1396 during which he was prior of Wymondham Abbey, Norfolk, England, another...

. Hall and Daniel were part of Tudor
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

 historiography, which was highly unsympathetic to Richard. The Tudor orthodoxy, reinforced by Shakespeare, saw a continuity in civil discord starting with Richard's misrule that did not end until Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

's accession in 1485. The idea that Richard was to blame for the later-15th century Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

 was prevalent as late as the 19th century, but came to be challenged in the twentieth. More recent historians prefer to look at the Wars of the Roses in isolation from the reign of Richard II.

Richard's mental state has been a major issue of historical debate since the first academic historians started treating the subject in the 19th century. One of the first modern historians to deal with Richard II as a king and as a person was Bishop Stubbs
William Stubbs
William Stubbs was an English historian and Bishop of Oxford.The son of William Morley Stubbs, a solicitor, he was born at Knaresborough, Yorkshire, and was educated at Ripon Grammar School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated in 1848, obtaining a first-class in classics and a third in...

. Stubbs argued that towards the end of his reign, Richard's mind "was losing its balance altogether". Historian Anthony Steel
Anthony Steel (historian)
Anthony Bedford Steel was a British historian, specialising on medieval England. He was a fellow of Christ's College Cambridge, and principal of Cardiff University from 1949–66. Among his publications were a monograph on the reign of Richard II, as well as a biography of 19th-century writer...

, who wrote a full-scale biography of the king in 1941, took a psychoanalytic
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 approach to the issue, and concluded that the king suffered from schizophrenia
Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of thought processes and of emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social...

. This was challenged by V.H. Galbraith
Vivian Hunter Galbraith
Vivian Hunter H. Galbraith, FBA was an English historian, Fellow of the British Academy and Oxford Regius Professor of Modern History.- Early career:...

, who argued that there was no historical basis for such a diagnosis, a line that has also been followed by later historians of the period, like Anthony Goodman
Anthony Goodman (historian)
Anthony Goodman is an English professor emeritus of medieval and renaissance studies at the University of Edinburgh. His main field of interest is late medieval England, and he has published books on subjects such as John of Gaunt and the Wars of the Roses.-Select publications:*The Loyal...

 and Anthony Tuck
Anthony Tuck
Anthony Tuck is Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Bristol. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle and at the University of Cambridge. From 1965 to 1978 he was Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at Lancaster University. He was also Master of Collingwood...

. Nigel Saul
Nigel Saul
Professor Nigel Saul is a British academic who was formerly the Head of the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London...

, who wrote the most recent academic biographical book on Richard II, concedes that even though there is no basis for assuming the king suffered from mental illness he showed clear signs of a narcissistic personality
Narcissistic personality disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder in which the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity...

, and towards the end of his reign "Richard's grasp on reality was becoming weaker".

One of the primary historiographical questions surrounding Richard concerns is his political agenda and the reasons for its failure. His kingship was thought to contain elements of the early modern absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

 as exemplified by the Tudor dynasty
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

. More recently, Richard's concept of kingship has been seen by some as not so different from that of his antecedents, and that it was exactly by staying within the framework of traditional monarchy that he was able to achieve as much as he did. Yet his actions were too extreme, and too abrupt. For one, the absence of war was meant to reduce the burden of taxation, something that would help Richard's popularity with the Commons in parliament. However, this promise was never fulfilled, as the cost of the royal retinue, the opulence of court and Richard's lavish patronage of his favourites proved as expensive as war had been, without offering commensurate benefits. As for his policy of military retaining, this was later emulated by Edward IV
Edward IV of England
Edward IV was King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death. He was the first Yorkist King of England...

 and Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

, but Richard's exclusive reliance on the county of Cheshire hurt his support from the rest of the country. As Simon Walker concludes: "What he sought was, in contemporary terms, neither unjustified nor unattainable; it was the manner of his seeking that betrayed him."

See also

  • Cultural depictions of Richard II of England
    Cultural depictions of Richard II of England
    Richard II of England has been depicted in popular culture a number of times.-Literature:*Richard is the central character in Richard II, a play by William Shakespeare dating from around 1595...

  • House of Plantagenet
    House of Plantagenet
    The House of Plantagenet , a branch of the Angevins, was a royal house founded by Geoffrey V of Anjou, father of Henry II of England. Plantagenet kings first ruled the Kingdom of England in the 12th century. Their paternal ancestors originated in the French province of Gâtinais and gained the...

  • Kings of England
  • List of English monarchs

Chronicles

  • (1993) Chronicles of the Revolution, 1397-1400: The Reign of Richard II, ed. Chris Given-Wilson. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-3526-0.
  • Froissart, Jean
    Jean Froissart
    Jean Froissart , often referred to in English as John Froissart, was one of the most important chroniclers of medieval France. For centuries, Froissart's Chronicles have been recognized as the chief expression of the chivalric revival of the 14th century Kingdom of England and France...

     (1978). Chronicles, ed. Geoffrey Brereton. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044200-6.
  • (1977) Historia Vitae et Regni Ricardi Secundi, ed. George B. Stow. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 181227718X.
  • Knighton, Henry
    Henry Knighton
    Henry Knighton was an Augustinian canon at the abbey of St. Mary of the Meadows, Leicester, England. He was a canon at the Abbey since at least 1363, when he was recorded as being present during a visit from the King.-The chronicle:He wrote a four-volume chronicle, first published in 1652,...

     (1995). Knighton's Chronicle 1337–1396, ed. G. H. Martin. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-820503-1.
  • Walsingham, Thomas
    Thomas Walsingham
    - Life :He was probably educated at St Albans Abbey at St Albans, Hertfordshire, and at Oxford.He became a monk at St Albans, where he appears to have passed the whole of his monastic life, excepting a period from 1394 to 1396 during which he was prior of Wymondham Abbey, Norfolk, England, another...

     (1862–4). Historia Anglicana 2 vols., ed. H. T. Riley. London: Longman, Roberts, and Green

Secondary sources

  • Alexander, Jonathan & Binksi, Paul (eds), Age of Chivalry, Art in Plantagenet England, 1200-1400, Royal Academy/Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London 1987
  • Levey, Michael
    Michael Levey
    Sir Michael Vincent Levey, LVO was a British art historian and was director of the National Gallery for thirteen years, from 1973 to 1986.-Biography:...

    , Painting at Court, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1971

External links

  • Richard II's Treasure from the Institute of Historical Research
    Institute of Historical Research
    The Institute of Historical Research is a British educational organisation providing resources and training for historical researchers. It is part of the School of Advanced Study in the University of London and is located at Senate House. The Institute was founded in 1921 by A. F...

     and Royal Holloway, University of London
    Royal Holloway, University of London
    Royal Holloway, University of London is a constituent college of the University of London. The college has three faculties, 18 academic departments, and about 8,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students from over 130 different countries...

    .

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