THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - PART SEVEN
Richard II was born in Bordeaux in 1367 the second son of Edward, Prince
of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Aquitaine and Earl of Chester to
give him his full titles. Richard's brother Edward had died in 1371
leaving him to inherit his father's titles upon his death in 1376. His
grandfather, King Edward III, died the following year having already
made him his heir. Richard was as much French as English having been
brought to England at the age of 4 when his father was ill with
dysentery and had surrendered his principality of Aquitaine to the king.
Before the king died he had invested Richard with his father's titles
and made him a Knight of the Garter. The young king was influenced by
his chancellor and members of the clergy, and came to love pomp and
ceremony and would later introduce the use of ‘Majesty’ instead of Lord.
An agreement could not be reached on a suitable candidate to act as
regent. His uncle John, Duke of Lancaster, was the most obvious but he
was not very popular and the young king was deemed old enough to possess
the Great Seal. The day-to-day responsibility for government was
entrusted to a series of councils acting on his behalf. When a naval
force was lost in the Channel they were held responsible and dismissed.
Richard then proceeded to choose his own advisors. English lands in
France were gradually lost to Charles V and large sums of money were
required to keep armies in Brittany. Richard introduced a pole tax, then
a second followed by a third, all agreed by parliament but many evaded
paying it. Commissioners set about finding the defaulters, causing riots
and burning in the Southern part of England. This was the Peasant's
Revolt of 1381 led by Wat Tyler who converged on London and Richard with
his ministers retreated to the Tower. There was a meeting with the
peasants who wanted their freedom from villeinage and many broke into
the Tower killing the Archbishop of Canterbury and other officials.
Richard agreed to meet them but he trapped them and Wat Tyler was
stabbed to death. The revolt did result in a change in the tax system,
and more respect for the power of the lower orders when pushed too far.
Richard grew up to be overbearing and fastidious, he made enemies easily
and he believed in obedience to the king, and religious orthodoxy meant
obedience. In 1382 orders were given to arrest unorthodox preachers and
several years later heretical writings were seized. One such writer was
John Wycliffe born in the north of England in 1320 who became a doctor
in theology and Master of Balliol College in the University of Oxford.
He had been chaplain to King Edward III and was responsible for having
the Bible translated into English. He believed that Christians should
live by the rules of Christ as set down in the gospels and not by
regulations decided by the Church. His outspoken criticism of the early
Christian doctrine and the corrupt clergy caused much unrest and the
Pope sent orders to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of
London to arrest Wycliffe and question him. The Duke of Lancaster was a
follower, with many of the aristocracy, but the threat of Wycliffe's
arrest silenced them in view of Richard's many moods. During the
Peasant's Revolt the Duke of Lancaster's Savoy Palace had been
destroyed. It was to remain a derelict site for a 100 years but the
encircling wall was kept in repair and was used as a prison in the
1440s. In 1505 Henry VII ordered it to be rebuilt and it was used as a
hospital which he endowed with land.
John, Duke of Lancaster, had become the most powerful man in the kingdom due to the illness and death of his older brother Edward and the king's senility and eventual death. Many on the council were envious and jealous of his power and wealth. They mistrusted him and often accused him of coveting the crown himself. He was an able diplomat and much admired by his contemporaries on the continent and in Scotland. The peasants had destroyed his grand palace as they saw it as a symbol of oppression but the duke was a fair and pious man and refused to have anyone killed for being poor. He looked after his tenants, keeping their dwellings in good repair and excused them rents in times of hardship, and during the summer, allowed his workers to collect the wood for winter fires. He sent food and firewood to the poor parish priests in his domains and rebuilt their churches. His love of falconry was widely acclaimed and he enjoyed music and playing games in the evenings with his wife Blanche. John had been given a good education speaking Norman French daily and in 1363 was the first to open Parliament with a speech in English. He was tutored in Latin and learnt Flemish from his mother Queen Philippa. His brother Edward and Henry, Duke of Lancaster, his future father-in-law, had taught him everything about being a soldier. Before Edward III died Geoffrey Chaucer had become the clerk of the king's works, a customs officer in London and a sub-forester of Somerset in 1391. When Richard became king Chaucer's lifestyle changed dramatically and he lost many of his posts. He decided to move to Kent where he became a Justice of the Peace and was elected to Parliament as a Knight of the Shire of Kent. He wrote The Canterbury Tales before 1399. When Henry, Duke of Lancaster, became king in 1399 he gave Geoffrey Chaucer pensions and gifts in gratitude for his service to his father. He leased a house in the grounds of Westminster Abbey and lived there until his death in 1400. Chaucer was one of the first commoners and first poet to be buried in the Abbey. In 1382 Richard II married Anne of Bohemia the daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor. About this time a new group of his father's retainers began to form around the king influencing him to believe in his own exalted state of Majesty. He also began to surround himself with younger men who were not of royal blood such as Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, whom the king made Duke of Ireland, giving him grants of land and money. The earl left his wife, who was a granddaughter of Edward III, in favour of one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting. Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, Richard's uncle, had received much less causing unrest between Richard's older uncles and his younger favourites. In a way this is understandable as the king was quite young and would wish to surround himself with young courtiers however, his Court was not to be compared to that of his grandfather's. Honour and chivalry were replaced by intrigue and dishonour but the younger were no match for the older and more experienced appellants who summoned a Parliament. This later became known as ‘The Merciless Parliament’ and Richard's inner Court, that had influenced him for 5 years, was destroyed and the king's humiliation wouldn't be forgotten. Eventually the king challenged the appellant's and dismissed their council appointing his own and made a truce with France in 1389. Richard had learnt a few lessons and spread his favours around a wider circle of nobles.
The king also decided to form his own baronial style of affinity and would be identified by his emblem of the White Hart, and formed his own personal bodyguard of 3 to 4 hundred archers, mainly from Cheshire. He had little taste for battle, especially with the French as he admired them, and began to sell off parts of his French domains back to them. This did not go down well with his councillors who believed their king was more French than English. In1393 Richard introduced a permanent tax and not just to finance a war but to encourage trust in his government and his person. He had a great love of the pomp and ceremony of all things ecclesiastical and wanted to raise the dignity of majesty and its religious symbolism. He was addressed as ‘Your Majesty’ and introduced the title of marquis and created more dukedoms. Court ritual became more elaborate and the king sat upon a throne in his chamber and if he looked at anyone they were to bend a knee to him. This created a grand image but distanced the king from his people and his self-image was one of power over all. Queen Anne died of the plague in 1394 without issue and Richard married again 2 years later to Isabella, the daughter of Charles VI of France. She was a child bride aged 9 and they were married at Calais in 1396. By 1397 he felt himself so powerful he had 3 senior appellants arrested, Earls Arundel, Gloucester and Warwick. Richard still held them responsible for his earlier humiliation and they were accused of plotting against him, but no evidence was found. However, Arundel was put to death, Warwick was sent into exile and Gloucester was found dead in prison at Calais before his trial. The king became increasingly insecure and Parliament criticized the size and cost of his household which he resented. He demanded obedience from his people, he wanted peace and unity but his Court and the people were far from peaceful and probably united in their discontent. John, Duke of Lancaster, had always supported the Crown and his nephew Richard but he was now an old man and the king did not trust his cousin Henry Bollingbroke, Earl of Derby since 1377 and Earl of Hereford through his wife Mary Bohun which was made into a dukedom in 1397. Mary was a co-¬heiress of Humphrey, Earl of Hereford, her sister Eleanor was married to Henry's uncle Thomas, Duke of Gloucester. Henry had a son who was born in1386 and known as Henry of Monmouth. Richard kept young Henry at his Court together with other young sons of troublesome lords to ensure their good behaviour. He treated them well and seemed to enjoy their youthfulness he even knighted young Henry. The king was after the wealth and lands of the Duchy of Lancaster and found an excuse to send Henry into exile for 10 years. John, Duke of Lancaster, died in 1399 but before he died he was able to have his son's exile reduced to 6 years. After John's death Richard made a great mistake by having Parliament change the 6 years to life and seized Henry's inheritance for the Crown. The king was fighting in Ireland and had taken young Henry of Monmouth with him when his father, now Duke of Lancaster, landed in England to reclaim his inheritance. He was well supported and was urged to take the throne, so he marched to meet the king. It took Richard 2 weeks to return from Ireland and by this time he had totally lost his support and surrendered to Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. The duke ordered parliament to draw up articles of deposition and Richard II was formerly deposed and Henry, Duke of Lancaster, became Henry IV.
Richard II was imprisoned at Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire and it is believed he starved himself to death. His body was kept at the Royal Palace of King's Langley in Hertfordshire until 1414 when Henry V had the king's remains buried in Westminster Abbey, and many years later was laid by the side of his first Queen, Anne of Bohemia. Richard's jewels were melted down during the Civil War of the 17th century but Queen Anne's crown was somehow saved and is held in the Resident's Palace in Munich. The palace was once home to the Kings of Bavaria. The crown is encrusted with pearls, rubies, sapphires and emeralds with a circlet of gold fleur-de-lis.
During the 14th century many young men travelled to London to learn a trade and make their fortune. One such young man was Richard Whittington, more commonly known as ‘Dick Whittington and his cat’ seen regularly in Pantomime. His cat is believed to be a type of boat used to ferry goods along the Thames and around the coast. Richard was born in 1354 of a wealthy family living near the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. He was sent to learn the trade of a mercer and was soon very successful. He became Master of the Mercers, Lord Mayor of London 4 times and also the Mayor of the Staple of Calais making him one of the wealthiest men in England. He did business with several kings and members of the Court and loaned money to Edward III, Richard II, and Henry IV. He also provided money for Henry V's campaign at Agincourt. Richard was very concerned with the social needs of London and made many social reforms. Public amenities such as a drinking fountain, toilets that were cleansed by the Thames at high tide and a hospital ward for unmarried mothers. These are only a few of his philanthropic deeds and he obviously cared about his fellow men. He died in 1423 without any heirs and left his wealth in many trusts to carry on his work.
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - William I to Henry II click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Richard I and King John click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Henry III click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Edward I click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Edward II click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Edward III click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Richard II click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Henry IV click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Henry V click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND -