Richard II of England


Richard II of Bordeaux (6 January 1367, Bordeaux, Aquitaine – between 29 January and 14 February 1400, Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire, England) – King of England from 1377 to 1399, a member of the Plantagenet dynasty, grandson of King Edward III, son of Edward the Black Prince and Joan Plantagenet – Beautiful Maid of Kent. King at the age of ten, he proved both weak and despotic. His extravagance and pandering to favorites caused a rebellion of the Lords Appellants, who, through Parliament, limited the monarch”s powers and virtually usurped power in England. Later the king managed to free himself from tutelage and deal with the appellants, but in 1399 he was deposed by Henry Bolingbroke and imprisoned in Pontefract Castle, where he died shortly thereafter.

Richard left a marked mark on the history of England and its culture, and his overthrow was the first step in a series of feudal feuds in the second half of the fifteenth century, known as the War of the Scarlet and White Rose. The last year and a half of Richard”s reign is depicted in William Shakespeare”s play Richard II, which opens a series of historical chronicles on the history of England in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Richard”s father, Edward, Prince Edward of Wales, known in history as the “Black Prince,” was the eldest of seven sons of King Edward III of England, during whose reign England was at war with France, a war that later came to be known as the Hundred Years War. The Black Prince was a famous military leader, who took part in many battles in France and Castile. In 1360 a peace was made at Bretigny, after which hostilities ceased for a time. In 1362 Edward III gave Poitou and Gascony with the title Duke of Guienne to his heir. Prince Edward”s court was located in Bordeaux.

Richard”s mother Joanna, nicknamed the “Fair Maid of Kent” for her beauty, was the daughter of Edmund Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent, one of the sons of King Edward I. Joanna”s father was executed in 1330 by order of Roger Mortimer, de facto ruler of England from 1327-1330. His titles and estates were confiscated, and his wife and minor children, including Joanna, were arrested. But after Mortimer”s execution (for the murder of Edward II, the massacre of Edmund Woodstock, illicit enrichment at the expense of the kingdom and interference with the government of the country) they were released and taken into the custody of Edward III, and their father”s property and titles were returned to Joan”s elder brother.

Joanna grew up at court, where she befriended her great-nephews, sons of King Edward III. Her marriage to her first husband, William Montague, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, was dissolved. The second husband, Thomas Holland, died in 1360. But Joanna, who had inherited the title of Countess of Kent after her brothers” death and was considered one of the most charming women in the country, did not remain unmarried for long. She was proposed to by her great-nephew, Edward, the Prince of Wales, eldest son and heir to King Edward III. He had long been in love with his lovely cousin. His parents, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, warned Edward against this marriage because William Montague, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, Joanna”s first husband, was alive. Because of this, there were doubts about the legitimacy of children from subsequent marriages. Edward, however, was able to insist. The wedding took place at Windsor Castle on 10 October 1361.


Two sons were born to Prince Edward and Joan of Guinea. The eldest, Edward of Angoulême, was born in 1365 at Angoulême. The second son, Richard, was born on Wednesday, January 6, 1367, in the Abbey of Saint Andrew in Bordeaux. Richard lived in Guienne until 1371. His mother was mostly in charge of his upbringing, and Richard rarely saw his father, who was constantly at war. In 1367, Prince Edward had dysentery, after which his health declined. He grew fat, flabby and in constant pain.

In January 1371, Prince Edward moved to England, where he settled at Berkhamsted Castle. In addition, in 1372, his eldest and beloved son died. The sick Edward led a reclusive life. Richard probably lived with his parents at Berkhamsted until 1376. He was not physically well, much to the annoyance of his father, who thought his son should grow up to be a warrior. Richard”s tutors constantly practiced with him, teaching him martial arts as well as trying to develop his strength and stamina. Perhaps it was this upbringing that developed in Richard a sense of inferiority that he was unable to eradicate for the rest of his life.

In addition, the young prince was annoyed by the successes of his half-brothers, the sons of his mother, Joan, by her marriage to Thomas Holland. They were much older than Richard and were renowned as good warriors. Thomas Holland, who on his mother”s death was to inherit the title of Earl of Kent, had been knighted by the Black Prince in Castile. John Holland, the future Duke of Exeter, also showed an aptitude for military wisdom.

Succession to the throne

On June 8, 1376, Richard”s father Edward the Black Prince died. King Edward III, who had outlived his son, was already infirm at this time. The question arose as to who would inherit the royal throne.

In England at that time there was no clear order of succession to the crown. Since the eldest son died before his father, leaving an infant son, other members of the royal dynasty could claim the crown. In addition to the Black Prince, Edward III had six other sons. Two of them died in infancy. Second oldest son, Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence, also died before his father, in 1368, leaving an only daughter, Philippa. Her husband, Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March, was considered a member of the royal family and could also be considered a pretender to the crown. In addition, Edward III”s three sons were alive. The oldest was John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. The rights of his other two sons, Edmund Langley, then Earl of Cambridge, and Thomas Woodstock, named Earl of Buckingham in 1377, were far less.

But the sick Edward proved to be a prudent ruler. According to Froissart, on Christmas Day 1376 the king proclaimed Richard his heir, forcing all the barons, knights and bishops of the kingdom to swear allegiance to him, although there were displeased with the king”s decision to pass the crown to a ten-year-old child. The actual ruler of England at this time was John of Gaunt, but he was not popular. Therefore, Edward III, who himself received the crown at the age of 14, decided that John of Gaunt was better to rule the country not on his own, but under his nephew. As a result, Richard, who received the titles of Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester and Earl of Cornwall on November 20, 1376.

The minor king

Edward III died on 21 June 1377 at the royal palace in Richmond, and by 16 July the Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury, had already crowned Richard at Westminster. The coronation dragged on, and besides the banqueting, the boy grew weary and had to be carried to the palace in his arms by the Archbishop of Sudbury. In doing so, Richard lost a shoe on the way.

By the time Richard became king, England was no longer at the height of its power. By 1360 she had seized considerable territory in France, but much of the territorial gains had been lost. By the time of the truce at Bruges in 1375, England retained on the continent only the city of Calais and a narrow strip of coast between Bordeaux and Bayonne.

Since Richard was only ten years old, he could not rule on his own. His mother was his guardian, and the kingdom was officially ruled by a board of regents of 12 people. This council included none of Edward III”s sons, but the real power in England belonged to one of them, the 37-year-old John of Gaunt. Gaunt”s personal estates occupied a third of the kingdom, his retinue consisted of 125 knights and 132 squires, and the Savoy Palace on the Thames was more luxurious than the palace where Richard lived. John possessed a wealth of experience in government and military talents that Richard lacked. Although the king”s uncle had as much right to the throne as Richard, and could have challenged him after his coronation, John did nothing to alter the situation and spent the rest of his life as a loyal servant to the king.

At the same time, for all his wealth and influence, John of Gaunt was not loved by the people of England. Much of the decline of the country”s wealth was due to his rule, and in early 1377, Gaunt”s rash decision to appear with armed guards at the trial of the preacher John Wycliffe caused a revolt among Londoners. Only through the efforts of the Bishop of London, William Courtney, were the mob subdued. After Richard”s coronation, John of Gaunt, in the presence of Londoners who asked the king to settle the conflict, appealed for his mercy and the young king forgave all, thus earning a reputation as a peacemaker.

A very great influence on the young king was his mother, Johanna of Kent. For the rest of her life, the queen-mother was engaged in instructing and training her son in the art of governing the country. Her death in 1385 was a great blow to Richard.

Peasant Revolt

The first four years of Richard”s reign passed quietly, but the foreign political situation remained difficult as England continued to be at war with France. Additional problems were created by the ecclesiastical schism that began at the time: the cardinals, unhappy that Urban VI, who became pope in 1378, had returned to Rome the papal seat that had been in Avignon, France since 1307, and his dictatorial ways, chose another pope – Clement VII, a supporter of the Avignon seat. As France and its ally Scotland supported Clement VII, England countered by recognizing Urban VI as pope.

The continuation of the war required additional funds. In addition, there was a demographic problem – the population of England was greatly reduced by the plague that began in the middle of the fourteenth century. All this led to a shortage of laborers. To cope with this problem, the government prohibited the free movement of peasants, which caused their discontent.

In 1379 the House of Commons of Parliament imposed a per capita tax to compensate for war expenses, and the following year it was tripled. This measure hit the peasants hard. Already in the spring of 1381 began unrest, and in the summer in several English regions (Kent, Essex, East Anglia, Hampshire, Somerset, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire and the Wirral) peasant uprisings broke out. They were inspired by John Ball, a Lollard clergyman released from prison by the rebels. Under the leadership of the roofer Wat Tyler, apparently with military experience, the Kent rebels marched on to London, plundering the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury on the way.

Richard was living in the fortified Tower at the time. The rebels declared that their actions were directed not against the king, but against the royal ministers: the Archbishop of Sudbury, who was chancellor; the treasurer, Sir Robert Hales; and the Parliamentary bailiff, John Legg, who was responsible for collecting taxes in Kent.

The rebels, who had encamped in Blackheath (an eastern suburb of London), demanded the restoration of freedom of movement, the abolition of servitude, the replacement of natural duties with cash payments, and a standard rent of 4 pence per acre. They also demanded free trade in the country and amnesty for the rebels. Upon learning of this, fourteen-year-old Richard decided to negotiate with them at Greenwich. On June 13 he crossed the river, but the ministers, alarmed by the crowd, prevented the king from getting off the barque and forced him back, which angered the rebels. The latter emptied the suburbs, after which they crossed London Bridge unhindered into the city, where they sacked New Temple and the Savoy Palace of John Gaunt, who at this time was negotiating with the Scots. At the same time the Essex rebels, led by Jack Straw, allied with the Hertfordshire rebels, also arrived in London, where they took possession of Highbury and Mile End.

In the evening of the same day, Richard on his own initiative addressed the rebels from the Tower wall, he proposed to meet the next day in the wasteland of Mile End. On June 14, Richard, accompanied by the Mayor of London, William Wolworth, went to meet the rebel leaders. They honored the king and read out their petition demanding the abolition of serfdom and the right of the peasants to sell their labor freely. The king agreed to these demands and went back to the Tower, expecting that the rebels would disperse. During his absence, however, this royal residence was seized by a mob. The garrison of the castle, for some unknown reason, offered no resistance. Once inside the castle, the rioters captured Archbishop Sudbury, Hales, Legg and the physician John Gaunt and beheaded them on Tower Hill. The heads of those executed were later displayed on London Bridge for all to see. The rebels also broke into the Queen Mother”s chambers, greatly frightening her. After the crowd left the Tower, Johanna was taken to Baynard Castle at Blackfriars, where the king later arrived.

On June 15, Richard went to meet with Wat Tyler, the leader of the Kent rebels. Their demands were even more radical – confiscate church estates, abolish the power of the nobility, eliminate all bishops. The king was prepared to meet all these demands, but Tyler, not believing Richard, behaved arrogantly. The nobles accompanying the king could not stand it, and the men in Mayor Walworth”s retinue killed Tyler. The agitated crowd moved menacingly forward, but the king, who kept his cool, saved the situation. He called everyone to calmness and announced that he accepted all offers and asked to disperse in peace. The rebels believed Richard, who chose not to massacre the rebels (despite the fact that the mayor”s men surrounded the rebels). The king later knighted the mayor of Woolworth and two other distinguished Londoners, after which he went to Baynard Castle.

Although the per capita tax was abolished, the rebels failed to achieve more. On 23 June in Essex, the king refused to confirm the promises he had made, and on 2 July in Chelmsford he annulled the “hasty” pardons. He himself presided over a trial at St Albans which sentenced to death 15 rebel leaders, including John Ball. Many of the rebels got off lightly, however, and on 30 August Richard announced an end to arrests and executions. Nevertheless, the memory of the king”s breach of his word lingers.

First Marriage

Soon after the suppression of the peasant revolt, the question of the marriage of the mature king arose. Pope Urban VI, wishing to gain effective allies to fight against his rival Clement VII, arranged a dynastic alliance between the king of England and Anne of Bohemia, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV by his fourth marriage to Elisabeth of Pomerania. The marriage ceremony took place in St. Stephen”s Chapel at the Palace of Westminster on 14 January 1382. Richard was only 15 at the time, while Anne was six months older than he. On 22 January she was crowned Queen of England.

In England itself, the marriage was not a delight. Despite her noble origins, the bride”s family was poor, so she was not given a dowry. Moreover, the bride”s brother received a loan of 15,000 pounds. At the same time, unlike the other contender for Richard”s hand – Catherine Visconti, daughter of the ruler of Milan Barnabò Visconti, for which her father offered a large dowry, Anna was not a beauty. But the choice was made to please the pope, who thus hoped to move the Luxembourg dynasty from allies of the kings of France to the camp of their enemies. At the same time, the marriage raised the prestige of the King of England as the Emperor”s son-in-law.

The marriage was successful: Richard took a strong liking to his wife, and after the death of the king”s mother in 1385, Anne, by this time settled in the country, began to exert great influence over him. With her a large retinue moved to England, transforming greatly the life of the king”s court.

After the marriage, the king”s behavior changed greatly. Whereas before he had seemed to others that Richard would make a good king, he now began to behave in a very self-righteous, capricious and selfish manner. He did not tolerate any objections, they drove him mad and he began to behave in a very abusive manner, losing his sense of royal and human dignity, not shrinking from swearing and insults.

As historians have noted, one reason for this behavior was Richard”s blind attachment to the favorites he surrounded himself with. The chronicler Thomas Walsingham reports that they were “knights of Venus rather than of Bellona,” for which reason the king adopted feminine manners and had no interest in male activities like hunting. The favourites were most concerned with their own welfare, and they were greedy and frivolous. Some chroniclers have suggested that the king was homosexual, but contemporary historians doubt this.

Richard”s bad character showed itself soon after his marriage. In December 1381 Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March, died. His heir Roger was only seven years old, and the king distributed the deceased”s estates to his minions. It was repeated many times thereafter. Indulging his minions” whims, Richard spent vast sums of money, which he was always short of. To meet expenses he borrowed money and also mortgaged jewels. When Chancellor Richard Scroop tried to reason with the king, he dismissed him from office, breaking the law, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Courtney, who had advised the king to choose his advisers better, was threatened with execution.

Between 1381 and 1385, Richard”s chief favorite was Thomas Mowbray, who inherited the title of Earl of Nottingham in 1383 and held the position of chamberlain. But the king gradually became bored with him, and after Thomas married the daughter of Richard Fitzalan, 11th Earl of Arundel, whom Richard disliked very much, the relationship came to an end. A new favorite and chamberlain became his distant relative, Robert de Vere, 9th Earl of Oxford.

But neither Thomas Mowbray nor Robert de Vere had real power. The leading role in the government of England belonged to the Lord Chancellor. That post was held by Michael de la Paul. Together with Richard”s former mentor, Sir Simon Burleigh, he held in his hands all the threads of government. Burleigh had a strong influence on the king, first through Johanna of Kent, Richard”s mother, and after her death through Queen Anne. Both women trusted Burleigh, and Richard treated his mentor with deep reverence.

John of Gaunt, Richard”s uncle, continued to be an important figure in the kingdom. After the death of Enrique II of Trastamar, in 1382, Gaunt tried to organize an expedition to Spain, where he planned to lay claim to the throne of Castile. But parliament refused to finance the expedition, and the attempt to organize a crusade to Castile failed.

In 1384, Gaunt”s relations with Richard deteriorated. The perpetrators of the quarrel were Robert de Vere, who had incited the king to free himself from his guardians, and the Carmelite monk John Latimer, who had denounced to Richard in April 1384 that John Gaunt was preparing to murder him. But his uncle was able to justify himself to his nephew, and a group of knights, including the king”s half-brother John Holland, lynched Latimer and killed him, preventing him from knowing where the monk had gotten his information. According to some historians, Robert de Vere may have been behind the fabricated charges against the Duke of Lancaster, and the murder allowed this to be covered up. In addition, because of Gaunt, Richard quarreled with another uncle, Thomas Woodstock, who stormed into the king”s chambers, threatening to kill anyone who dared to accuse John Gaunt of treason.

Scottish Campaign

England”s relations with Scotland remained difficult. In 1381, thanks to the diplomatic skill of John of Gaunt, an armistice was concluded, which lasted until February 1383. At the end of 1383 the truce was prolonged but France interfered, for which Scotland always was an important strategic partner in the fight against the English – in 1384-1385 years the French king Charles VI sent a big army to Scotland.

In the autumn of 1384, Parliament, wishing to distract the king from his favorites, decided to subsidize a military campaign to France, as John of Gaunt had insisted. However, England learned that there was a real threat of a coordinated attack by the French and Scots on both sides, because London had received word of the French fleet stationed at Sluys. As a result, the army that was being prepared to march on France was sent to Scotland in the summer of 1385.

This campaign ended to no avail. At its very beginning, not far from York, an unpleasant episode occurred in which Richard”s half-brother, John, was involved. According to Froissart, Sir Ralph Stafford killed one of John”s archers during a quarrel. When Ralph went to John to apologize for what had happened, John stabbed him with his sword. Earl Hugo de Stafford, father of the deceased, demanded justice from the king, and Richard vowed to punish the murderer as a common criminal. Chroniclers report that Joan of Kent, the king”s mother, pleaded with him to spare her brother, but he refused, with the result that she died of grief on August 8. On September 14, all of John”s possessions were confiscated. Later, however, the king forgave him by returning everything he had taken from him.

The campaign continued, and the king”s army reached Edinburgh, but the French chose not to engage. Their commander, Jean de Vienne, learning of the English march, retreated, looting several villages along the way, and then returned to France. Richard, bored in Scotland, decided to return home. Before doing so, he gave his two uncles ducal titles. Edmund Langley received the title Duke of York and Thomas Woodstock the title Duke of Gloucester. In addition, Lord Chancellor Michael de la Paul received the title Earl of Suffolk. Returning to London, the king disbanded the army.

Disappointed by what had happened, John of Gaunt, whose troops accounted for two-thirds of the king”s army, decided to return to his project of reclaiming the crown in Castile. This time he managed to get money from parliament, and in 1386 he sailed for Spain.

Conflict with Parliament

On September 1, 1386, at a meeting of Parliament at Westminster, Lord Chancellor Michael de la Paul requested an impressive sum for the defense of England. In order to raise it, however, taxes had to be raised, which could have led to a new rebellion. As a result, Parliament formed a delegation that went to the king to complain against the chancellor, demanding his dismissal as well as that of the treasurer, John Fordham, bishop of Durham. Initially the king refused to comply with the demand, stating that he would “not kick even the cook out of the kitchen” at Parliament”s request, but he eventually agreed to receive a delegation of 40 knights.

Richard II did another act that angered the nobility by giving his favorite, Robert de Vere, the title Duke of Ireland. The granting of such a title to Richard”s uncle, Thomas Woodstock, who had recently been made Duke of Gloucester, was seen as an affront to his status. As a result, instead of forty knights, two – Thomas Woodstock and his friend Thomas Fitzalan, Bishop of Illy, brother of Richard Fitzalan, 11th Earl of Arundel, one of the king”s former guardians, whom he could not stand. The Duke of Gloucester reminded the king that only members of the royal family were entitled to hold the title of duke. Moreover, the king was legally obliged to call a parliament once a year and attend it. After Richard accused his uncle of inciting rebellion, he reminded him that there was a war on, and if the king did not throw out his advisers, Parliament could depose him.

Although such an action was illegal, a precedent existed: in 1327 Richard”s great-grandfather, King Edward II, was deposed. The threat worked, and the king complied with Parliament”s demand, dismissing Suffolk and Fordham and replacing them with the bishops of Ilya and Hereford. Michael de la Paul was put on trial, but soon most of the charges were dropped.

On November 20, 1386, in a parliamentary session that went down in history as the Wonderful Parliament, a “Great Permanent Council” was appointed. The term of the council was determined in 12 months. Its purpose was declared to be the reform of the system of government, as well as the desire to put an end to favoritism and to take all measures to effectively counteract the enemies. Fourteen commissioners were appointed to the commission. Of these, only three were opponents of the king: the Duke of Gloucester, the Bishop of Iliya and the Earl of Arundel. But the commission had such broad powers (it was given control of finances, and had to administer the Great Seal and the Small Seal) that the king refused to recognize it. Moreover, he went to open conflict by appointing his friend John Beauchamp as steward of the royal court.

In February 1387 Richard was on a tour of the north of England. During it he received legal assistance from the chief judges of the kingdom: Sir Robert Tresilian, supreme judge of the royal bench; Sir Robert Belknap, supreme judge of general litigation; and Sir William Berg, Sir John Hoult and Sir Roger Foulthorpe. According to the advice they gave, any invasion of the monarch”s prerogatives was unlawful, and those who did so could be equated with traitors. All the judges signed the royal declaration at Nottingham, though they later claimed that they did so under pressure from Richard.

Rebellion of the Appellant Lords

The king returned to London on 10 November 1387 and was greeted enthusiastically by the people of the capital. Although all the judges had sworn to keep their verdict secret, the Duke of Gloucester and the Earl of Arundel learned of it and refused to appear before Richard on his summons.

Gloucester and Arundel, joined by Thomas de Beauchamp, 12th Earl of Warwick, took refuge at Haringey near London. From there they went to Waltham Cross (Hertfordshire), where supporters began to flock to them. Their number alarmed the king. But although some of his favourites, notably Archbishop Alexander Neville of York, insisted on dealing with the rebels, many members of the Grand Standing Council did not support them. As a result, eight members of the council traveled to Waltham on November 14, where they urged the rebel leaders to end the confrontation. Gloucester, Arundel and Warwick brought an appeal (lat. accusatio) against the actions of the king”s favorites – the earls of Suffolk and Oxford, the archbishop of York, the high judge Tresilian and the former mayor of London, Sir Nicholas Brembre, from whom the king had borrowed a large sum of money. The envoys responded by inviting the lords to Westminster to meet the king.

On November 17, the lords-appellants met with the king at the Palace of Westminster. But they did not disband their army and acted from a position of strength, demanding that the king arrest the favourites with their subsequent trial in Parliament. The king agreed, setting a hearing for February 3, 1388. But he was in no hurry to accede to the appellants” demands, not wishing to have a trial of his cronies, who had escaped. The Archbishop of York took refuge in the north of England, the Earl of Suffolk went to Calais, and the Earl of Oxford left for Chester. Judge Tresilian took refuge in London. Only Brembre met with the judges.

Soon, however, the lords-appellants learned that the king had deceived them. The judicial orders that were issued in his name to Parliament urged everyone to forget the strife. Eventually hostilities resumed. Two other noble lords joined the appellants: Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby (son and heir of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, uncle of the king) and Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Earl of Nottingham and Earl of Marshall (former favourite of Richard II and now son-in-law of the Earl of Arundel).

On December 19, an army of appellants ambushed the Earl of Oxford returning from Northampton near Redcote Bridge. Oxford”s escorts were captured, but he managed to escape and make his way to France, where he lived out the rest of his life.

After this battle there could be no more reconciliation between the appellants and the king. After Christmas at the end of December, the rebel army approached London. The frightened king took refuge in the Tower and tried to negotiate with the appellants through the Archbishop of Canterbury. But the appellants were unwilling to make concessions and proclaimed the possible deposition of the king. Wishing by any means to retain his crown, Richard surrendered. He issued new judicial orders to parliament and also ordered the sheriffs to detain the five fugitives, bringing them to trial.

The members of the council, although their term of office expired in November, conducted a search of the royal court, the king did not prevent it. In addition, warrants were issued for the arrest of Sir Simon Burleigh, who lost his posts as vice-chamberlain and keeper of the Five Ports, the royal steward John Beauchamp, and six judges who had signed the royal declaration at Nottingham, who lost their posts. Many other royal employees were also dismissed.

On February 3, 1388, Parliament met in the hall of the Palace of Westminster. The king was seated in the center, with the secular lords to his left and the ecclesiastical lords to his right. On a sack of wool was seated the Bishop of Iliya. This tumultuous parliamentary session went down in history as the Merciless Parliament.

As a result of his work, four of the king”s favorites were sentenced to execution. Two, Oxford and Suffolk managed to escape, but Brambre and Tresilian, under the pressure of the appellants, were executed. The Archbishop of York, as a clergyman, escaped with his life, but all his estates and possessions were confiscated. Several of the king”s lesser associates were also executed. Queen Anne begged for mercy for Simon Burleigh, but to no avail. A total of eight men were executed. In addition, a number of the king”s associates were banished from England.

The outcome of this trial was, among other things, to set a series of precedents that would cost England much turmoil in the fifteenth century and lead to the War of the Scarlet and White Rose.

After Parliament was dissolved, Richard tried to be quiet for a year. All the administration of England was in the hands of the lords-appellees. On August 5, 1388, a Scottish raid commanded by Earl James Douglas defeated the English army at the Battle of Otterburn. Although Douglas himself died, the English commander-in-chief, Henry Percy, son of Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, was captured.

By 1389 the domestic situation in the state had improved markedly. On May 3, Richard, who was by then 22 years old, told the council that he was an adult, would not repeat the mistakes made in his youth, so was ready to rule the country himself. The appellants, believing that the king had learned his lesson, allowed him some independence, since they had no desire to rule for him for life. Although Richard was still supposed to rule through a council in which William Wickham, Chancellor and Bishop of Winchester, Thomas Bruntingham, Treasurer and Bishop of Exeter, and Edmund Stafford, Dean of York and Chancellor of Oxford University, appointed Keeper of the Great Seal of State took the lead.

The lords-appellants ended up doing other things. The Earl of Arundel was preparing to march to the Holy Land, the Earl of Derby and the Duke of Gloucester went to Prussia, and the Earl of Warwick retired to his estates.

Needing support, Richard asked for help from his uncle John of Gaunt, who had never been able to obtain the Castilian crown and had lived in Gascony since 1387. Although his eldest son was one of the lords-appellants, John of Gaunt chose to stay away during the crisis. Now, after receiving a letter from his nephew, he decided to return. He arrived in England in November 1389, becoming the king”s right-hand man.

Gradually the king regained his power and confidence. In 1391 he received assurances from Parliament that he was “allowed to enjoy all the royal regalia, liberties and rights equally with his forebears … and notwithstanding any former statutes or ordinances establishing otherwise, especially in the time of King Edward II, resting in Gloucester … and any statute passed in the time of the said King Edward which offended the dignity and privileges of the crown was to be annulled.” Richard also took some steps to canonize Edward II, but was not successful.

The Death of Queen Anne

Until 1392 England was quiet. Although the war against France continued, it was little felt in the state itself. Scotland, on the other hand, after the death of the Earl of Douglas, no longer troubled its southern neighbor. In 1392, however, there was a scandal involving a loan to the king. The authorities in London refused to do so, although at the same time they gave a loan to a Lombard merchant. Richard ended up behaving as impulsively as before: he expelled the mayor and sheriff from London and moved his administration to York. The Londoners retreated by paying the king ten thousand pounds as a gift. However, relations with the king deteriorated again.

In 1393 a rebellion broke out in Cheshire against John of Gaunt, which soon spread to Yorkshire. The Earl of Arundel, who was nearby, thought it best not to intervene. This gave John of Gaunt, who also faced the wrath of the rebels, a reason to accuse him of instigation. Arundel, who was becoming increasingly intransigent and feisty, began to turn away from his former comrades-in-arms.

On June 7, 1394, during an epidemic of plague, Queen Anne died. Richard, greatly attached to his wife, was inconsolable and gave her a magnificent funeral in Westminster Abbey, and ordered the part of Sheen Palace in which Anne died to be demolished. The Earl of Arundel was late for the funeral mass, and on his arrival asked to leave early. The king regarded such behavior as a personal insult. He ordered the Earl”s arrest, after which he spent several months in the Tower. The king only released Arundel after he had sworn to behave himself and pay a bail of 40,000 pounds.

Irish Campaign

By this time a situation had arisen in Ireland that required the king”s intervention. Many English barons had estates in Ireland, but their holdings were gradually diminishing due to seizure by Irish kings and chieftains. The English administration issued edicts in 1368 and 1380 ordering the barons to return to their Irish estates to ensure their protection. However, it proved almost impossible to carry out these edicts.

In 1379 Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March, who by marriage to Richard”s cousin held the title of Earl of Ulster, was appointed governor of Ireland. He succeeded in consolidating English power in Ireland, but he died in 1381.

In 1382 the confrontation between the Irish and the English escalated again, and there was a real threat of losing Ireland, which brought the royal treasury a tangible income. Richard at first decided to appoint the Duke of Gloucester as the new viceroy. But later he chose to go there himself. Richard was the first English monarch to visit Ireland since 1210.

The campaign began in late September 1394. The king was accompanied by the Duke of Gloucester; the young Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, heir to the dead Edmund; the king”s cousin Edward of Norwich, Earl of Rutland; the king”s half-brother John Holland; former Lord Appellant Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham. The king was also accompanied by a number of lesser barons. John of Gaunt at this time departed for Gascony, leaving the king”s other uncle, Edmund Langley, Duke of York, as protector of the realm.

On October 2, the English army landed at Waterford, after which it headed for Dublin. Apart from a few minor skirmishes with the Irish, it met with little resistance. In Dublin, Richard set about reclaiming his rights. Irish chieftains came to him, receiving in exchange for their oaths of allegiance a confirmation of rights to their lands. All four Irish kings also arrived and were received with honors and knighted by Richard. Although the Irish rulers were less than pleased that Richard told them to learn English manners and wear English pantaloons instead of the traditional kilts, they put up with it. True, the “rebel Englishmen” – the Anglo-Irish barons – did not show up, spoiling the king”s celebrations somewhat. Richard sailed from Ireland on 1 May 1395, leaving Earl March as his viceroy.

The results of the Irish campaign exceeded all expectations of the king and his advisors, greatly increasing Richard”s authority and popularity. This boosted his ego so much that he risked an act of outrage. His former favorite, Richard de Vere, died in exile in 1387. The king now ordered that his embalmed body be reburied in the family vault of the Earls of Oxford. During the ceremony, Richard ordered the coffin opened and put his ring on the finger of his dead friend. But most of the nobles ignored the funeral, causing the king great annoyance. Only John of Gaunt, who had negotiated another truce with France in May 1394, attended.

John of Gaunt was by this time widowed and married his longtime mistress, Catherine Swinford. Richard gave his consent to this marriage, as well as for John of Gaunt to legitimize his four children by Catherine, who took the Beaufort surname.

The King”s New Marriage

In 1396 a plan for Richard”s new marriage arose. Isabella, daughter of King Charles VI of France, was chosen. The main purpose of this marriage was to normalize relations with France. The war continued, but England needed an extension of the truce for 28 years. Richard traveled to Paris to conclude it.

Isabella was enthusiastically welcomed at Calais, where the marriage ceremony took place on November 1, 1396. The king was not embarrassed by the fact that his bride at the time was only 7 years old. He was still pining after Anne, who had died, so marriage to the girl gave him plenty of time to come to terms with his loss. Later he became very attached to Isabella.

There were, however, some difficulties with the recognition of the marriage in England. France had been a long-standing enemy of England, and in addition, the countries had supported different popes since the schism. The kings of France sided with the Avignon popes, and England”s alliance with France did not please Pope Boniface IX. Richard made a treaty with the king of France under which he promised to “aid and support against all manner of persons bound to obey, and to aid and support him by all available means against the encroachments of any of his subjects.” The lords feared that, using this clause, Richard might call upon the French army to fight his rivals. The Duke of Gloucester and the Earl of Arundel protested loudly against such a marriage. But his nephew was once again supported by John of Gaunt, with the result that Isabella was crowned queen of England in January 1397.

Massacre of the Appellant Lords

In January 1397 Parliament convened at Westminster for the first time in two years. Although there was no hostility to the king, he refused to finance the reckless project of Richard, who wished to fulfill a promise he had made to his father-in-law Charles VI to send an English army to the aid of the Duke of Burgundy, who was fighting against Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan. On February 1 a petition was presented to Parliament, which was presented by the clerk, Thomas Haxey. In one of the paragraphs of the petition Haxi protested against the enormous expenditures of the royal court. This point angered Richard, who made the lords qualify such attempts, which infringed on the status and privileges of the king, as treason. As a result, on February 7, Haxey was executed, with Parliament applying the law retroactively. The king”s reputation suffered greatly and his ego grew.

According to some historians, the Duke of Gloucester and the Earl of Arundel may have been involved in Haxey”s petition. Their influence was steadily declining, while that of Richard”s new favourite, Edward of Norwich, Earl of Rutland, was growing. In addition, they were irritated by the king”s crazy projects, such as attempts to canonize Edward II and his ambition to become Holy Roman Emperor.

In any case, Gloucester and Arundel”s relations with the king finally soured. In February they refused to appear at the royal council. And in early June, at the royal banquet at Westminster, Gloucester publicly resented the concession of the terms of the 28-year armistice of Brest and Cherbourg to France. Rumors soon spread that Gloucester, Arundel, and Warwick were plotting against the king. It is not known how true the rumors were, but Richard decided to reassure himself and deal with the appellant lords.

On July 10, the king invited Gloucester, Arundel, and Warwick to a royal banquet. The historian Thomas Walsingham later compared this banquet to King Herod”s feast, at which Salome demanded the head of John the Baptist as a reward for dancing. Gloucester and Arundel declined the invitation, but Warwick attended. After the feast was over, Warwick was captured by order of the king and imprisoned in the Tower. A couple of weeks later, Richard ordered Arundel to be captured as well, and he again resorted to deception, promising the Archbishop of Canterbury, Arundel”s brother, that nothing would happen to him. Arundel was sent to imprisonment at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. Then it was the turn of the Duke of Gloucester. Richard assembled an impressive retinue for his arrest, including his half-brother John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon, and his nephew Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent, before arriving at Plesha Castle in Essex, where the Duke was held at night. The king announced that he had arrived at Gloucester”s house because the latter was unable to attend the banquet himself. The Duke asked for mercy, but Richard was firm, recalling how he had refused the Queen”s plea for mercy to Simon Burleigh nine years before. Gloucester was sent to Calais for imprisonment.

On September 17, 1397, Parliament convened at Westminster – the last during Richard”s reign. It was a kind of mirror image of the Merciless Parliament, but now the accused were former prosecutors Gloucester, Arundel and Warwick. The order of the trial was the same as nine years earlier. Eight lords acted as appellants, including the king”s half-brother, the Earl of Huntingdon, a nephew, the Earl of Kent, and cousins, the Earl of Rutland and the Earl of Somerset (John Gaunt”s legitimate son by Catherine Swinford).

The first to be summoned was Count Arundel. Although he denied all charges and claimed to have received two pardons from the king, he was sentenced to death by hanging, which the king commuted to a less shameful execution – beheading. The sentence was carried out immediately on Tower Hill in the presence of the Earls of Kent, Somerset and Nottingham (Arundel”s son-in-law and former collaborator).

The Duke of Gloucester was to appear next, but Parliament was told that he had died at Calais. No one doubted that the Duke had been murdered on the king”s orders. But Gloucester was still accused of treason and had his possessions confiscated in favor of the crown. A third defendant, the Earl of Warwick, pleaded guilty and begged the king”s forgiveness, according to Adam of Asc, crying “like a worthless old woman. He was also sentenced to be hanged, but the king graciously agreed to commute his execution to exile for life on the Isle of Man.

The accused also unexpectedly included Arundel”s brother, Thomas Fitzalan, Archbishop of Canterbury. The reason may have been that Thomas refused to obey the king”s order to appoint a lay proctor who could speak on behalf of the clergy. The archbishop was forbidden to speak in his own defense, and on September 25 he was sentenced to confiscation of his possessions and banishment from England.

After the massacre of the appellant lords, the king rewarded his supporters. Henry Bolingbroke, who had been forgiven by the king for his earlier involvement in the rebellion, was made Duke of Hereford; another former appellant, Thomas Mowbray, was made Duke of Norfolk; John Holland was made Duke of Exeter; Thomas Holland was made Duke of Surrey; Edward of Norwich was made Duke of Albemail (Omerl). The earldom of Cheshire and several other Arundel possessions in Wales were annexed to the crown. On September 30, Parliament approved all decisions and went into recess.

The Expulsion of Bolingbroke and Mowbray

After a recess, parliament reconvened on 27 January 1398 at Shrewsbury. At this meeting, at the insistence of the king and the seven appellants, all the decisions of the Ruthless Parliament, taken “against the king”s wishes and will and infringing on the privileges of the crown”, were reversed. As a result, the title of Earl of Suffolk was returned to Michael de La Paule”s heir.

But on January 30, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, accused Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, of plotting against the crown, fearing reprisals for his part in the mutiny of the lords-appellants. It is not known how well-founded the accusation was, but the king appointed a special commission of 18 men to investigate the conspiracy, after which he dissolved parliament on January 31.

On April 29, the commission met at Windsor Castle, where the Dukes of Norfolk and Hereford appeared before it. Norfolk refused to admit what he had plotted against the king – according to him it had been, but long ago, and he had received a royal pardon for it. But Bolingbroke insisted, accusing Norfolk of giving bad advice to the king and of being responsible for many of the kingdom”s ills, including the murder of the Duke of Gloucester, and offered to prove his case by a court duel.

The duel was set for September 17 in Coventry. It was attended by peers, knights, and ladies from all over England. Only John of Gaunt was absent, having retired from parliament at Shrewsbury – according to Froissard – because of an illness that eventually led to his death. The audience greeted both dukes with cheers, with Bolingbroke greeted more loudly. But then Richard unexpectedly intervened. He disliked his cousin and feared that the Duke of Hereford”s likely victory would make him the most popular man in the country. Throwing down his rod, he stopped the duel. It was announced that neither duke would receive the divine blessing, and both were banished from England: Bolingbroke for ten years and Mowbray for life.


Since early 1399 Richard had been touring the country. He had 400 Cheshire archers with him at all times, and in some regions his retinue was augmented by local knights and squires. The king again began to spend the money he lacked thoughtlessly. Funds could only come into the treasury through war, but at this time there was a truce with neighboring countries. To get the money, Richard demanded that all those involved in the rebellion of the appellant lords buy their own pardons. From 17 counties (including London) he demanded a thousand pounds each. In addition, the king constantly extorted money from communities and individuals. By May 1399 he owed £6,570 to Londoners, £5,550 to various communities, £3,180 to the church and £1,220 to private creditors. Such an unwise policy made his popularity in the country very low, and he was hated not only by the nobility but also by much of the population.

On February 3, 1399, John of Gaunt, who had always remained an associate of the king, died. His loyalty was not shaken even by his son”s banishment. Gaunt”s death was fatal for the king, for only the old duke helped to maintain the prestige of the crown. John of Gaunt”s heir under the law was the exiled Henry Bolingbroke. But the king refused to recognize the duke”s will: his vast estates he gave away to his favorites, the Dukes of Exeter, Albermyle, and Surrey. In addition, he replaced Bolingbroke”s ten-year banishment with one for life. While there was still hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict up to that point, Richard”s rash action demonstrated that the law of succession no longer applied in England.

On top of that, Richard behaved in a way that gave reason to doubt his sanity. The king was surrounded by soothsayers and charlatans who predicted his great achievements. According to chroniclers, during church festivals the king sat on his throne, causing all who passed by to fall at his feet. In all his travels he was accompanied by armed guards.

At the same time, the situation in Ireland again became complicated. In 1398 the royal viceroy Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, was assassinated. And in 1399 two Irish kings rebelled. Remembering the triumphant first expedition, Richard did not hesitate, though his advisers tried to dissuade him, fearing that the king”s absence might be exploited by the exiled Bolingbroke. But the king listened to no one.

Money was needed for the campaign, but Richard planned to offset the costs by selling the chattels of the late John of Gaunt. He appointed the Duke of Surrey as governor of Ireland. The king again appointed the Duke of York as protector of the kingdom during his absence, assisted by Chancellor Edmund Stafford, Bishop of Exeter, Treasurer William le Skrup, Earl of Wiltshire, and Keeper of the Great Seal Richard Clifford, Bishop of Worcester. Also remaining in England were Sir John Bushy, Sir William Bagot, and Sir Henry Green. Richard sailed in May, accompanied by the Dukes of Exeter and Albermyle and the Earls of Worcester and Salisbury. In addition, the king took with him his sons Bolingbroke and Gloucester.

Unlike the first campaign, however, this time Richard was not successful. The Irish launched a guerrilla war against his large army, without engaging in open combat. On reaching Dublin, Richard offered a bounty on the head of the Irish king MacMarroch, but to little avail. He soon had to return to Waterford, where he learned of Bolingbroke”s invasion of England.

Overthrow of the Throne

Henry Bolingbroke took full advantage of the king”s absence from England. He had already been living in Paris for nine months, with Thomas Fitzalan, heir of the executed Earl of Arundel, and the exiled Archbishop of Arundel, the brother of the executed Earl. They soon enough learned of Richard”s expedition and at the end of June, having outfitted three ships, sailed from Boulogne. Adam of Usk reports that Bolingbroke was accompanied by no more than 300 companions. After stopping for some time in Pevensey, the ships sailed as far as Ravenscar, North Yorkshire. These lands were Lancaster possessions, and here Bolingbroke could count on support. He declared himself Duke of Lancaster and on July 13 was already at Dorncaster, where he was joined by two powerful northern barons – Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, with his eldest son Henry Hotsper, and Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmoreland. The commoners flocked to Bolingbroke”s banners as well – he had a charm that Richard lacked. And there were so many of them that Bolingbroke had to let some of them go home.

Upon learning of Bolingbroke”s appearance, the Duke of York, distrusting the Londoners, moved to St. Albans. There he began to recruit an army, while at the same time making requests to Richard to return. He then traveled west with his council to meet with the king, but on the way he ran into rebels. Eventually the Duke of York took refuge at Berkeley, while the Earl of Wiltshire, Bushey and Green went to Bristol, where they tried to organize resistance. William Bagot fled to Cheshire.

On July 27, Bolingbroke approached Berkeley with his army. The Duke of York did not even try to resist and surrendered. From there Bolingbroke marched to Bristol, where he forced York to order the surrender of the castle, after which he ordered the execution of the captured Wiltshire, Bushy and Green; their heads were displayed on the gates of London, York and Bristol.

Upon learning of Bolingbroke”s landing in England, Richard sailed from Ireland on July 27. The Duke of Albermaille recommended that the king divide the army. According to historians, he knew immediately that Richard could not win and decided to side with Lancaster. On hearing his advice, Richard sent an advance party under the Earl of Salisbury to North Wales to gather reinforcements, while he landed at Haverfordwest. He then tried unsuccessfully for several days to find additional troops in Glamorgan before moving on to Chester. However, he reached only Conway Castle, where Salisbury awaited him, and learned that Chester had been captured by Bolingbroke on August 11.

Salisbury”s army had scattered by then because word had spread that the king was dead. The Earl of Worcester and the Duke of Albemyle had gone over to Bolingbroke”s side. Richard had an opportunity to retreat – he had ships left in which he could either return to Ireland or flee to France. But the king remained in the castle, trusting no one. It was only when the Earl of Northumberland and Archbishop Arundel appeared at the gate that he ordered them in.

The demands conveyed to the king were not too onerous. According to them, the king was to return to Bolingbroke all his paternal inheritance and restore him to his rights. Bolingbroke”s right as steward of England was to be reviewed by Parliament without interference from the king, and the king”s five advisers were to stand trial. Northumberland swore that if the demands were met, Richard would retain his crown and power, and the Duke of Lancaster would fulfill all the terms of the agreement. Richard agreed to all the demands and left the castle, accompanied by a small retinue, to meet his cousin. On the way, however, the king was ambushed by Northumberland (but the latter later denied it) and taken to Flint Castle, where he became Bolingbroke”s prisoner.

If originally Bolingbroke wished to regain what was illegally taken, he now changed his intentions. He knew that once free, Richard would seek revenge. There was no trust in the king. Besides, in Bolingbroke”s opinion, England needed another king. Since Richard had no children, in 1385 Parliament approved as heir Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, who was the maternal grandson of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, second son of Edward III. But Roger died in 1398, his heir Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, was only 8 years old. Henry Bolingbroke was older and more experienced, and the enthusiastic welcome he received from the population convinced him that the English would accept him as king. Although his father was the younger brother of the Duke of Clarence, he could only justify his rights by descent in the male line, not in the female line.

But Bolingbroke needed to persuade parliament to depose Richard by proclaiming the Duke of Lancaster as the new king. There was a precedent for overthrowing a king – Edward II was deposed in 1327, but he was succeeded then by his eldest son Edward III. Something else was needed to justify his rights, for the rights to the throne of the Earl of March, whose father had been confirmed as heir by Parliament, were preferable. Henry could not find the precedents he needed. He even tried to use the old legend that his mother”s ancestor, Edmund the Hunchback, had been born before his brother Edward I, but was dismissed from the throne because of physical defects, but Bolingbroke could not prove this story true. His next idea was to justify the seizure of the crown by the right of the conqueror, but it was immediately pointed out to him that such a thing was against the law. This left only one option: Bolingbroke could be proclaimed king by parliament. But here too there was a pitfall: Parliament had too much power and could overturn its ruling if it so wished. But Bolingbroke managed to find a way out.

At the end of September, Richard was transported to London and lodged in the Tower. On September 29 he signed an act of abdication in the presence of many witnesses, after which he placed the crown on the ground, thus surrendering it to God. On September 30 a parliament convened at Westminster, convened on the order signed by Richard at Bolingbroke”s behest. However, according to Henry”s idea it was not a parliament, but an assembly convened as a parliament. Unlike parliament, the assembly did not require the king”s presence. The throne was left empty. Archbishop Richard le Scroupe of York read the king”s abdication as well as a document listing all his crimes. Although Richard wished to defend himself personally, he was not given that opportunity. An attempt by Bishop Thomas Merck of Carlisle and a number of other supporters of the king to speak in his defense was also ignored. Richard”s abdication was eventually recognized by the assembly. Henry Bolingbroke spoke next, presenting his claim to the throne, after which he was proclaimed king. On October 13, he was crowned Henry IV.

On October 23, the House of Lords decided that Richard should be placed in a fortified place from which he could not be released. On October 27, Parliament learned that the former king had been sentenced to life imprisonment, but the place where he would serve it was kept secret. On October 28, Richard was secretly removed from the Tower and transported to Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire. There he spent the rest of his days.

In January 1400, a plot by some of Richard”s former associates to kill Henry IV and his sons was discovered. The conspirators were eventually captured and executed.

The exact date of Richard”s death, as well as its circumstances, are uncertain. Holinshed claimed that Richard was hacked to death by Sir Piers Exton, who had heard the new king complain that no one wanted to rid him of “this living terror. Modern historians, however, doubt the authenticity of this report. In their view, if Richard was murdered, he was most likely strangled. There is also a legend that Richard died of starvation – he learned of the failure of the attempt to free him, then lay down, turned his back to the wall and refused to eat.

There is evidence that Richard”s death became known at the French court on January 29, 1400, although some sources give a date of February 14.

To dispel rumors that Richard was alive, his body was taken to London, showing all along the way. After being held in St. Paul”s Cathedral for two days, Henry IV attended a funeral mass. Richard was buried at Langley Castle, Hertfordshire. But after Henry IV died in 1413, his heir, Henry V, had the remains of the deposed king moved to Westminster Abbey – the tomb where Richard”s first wife Anne was buried. The tombstone bears a sculpture of Richard while he was still alive, by the London coppersmiths Nicholas Brooker and Godfrey Prestom.

The king”s ill-advised policies led to serious internal turmoil, as a result of which he was overthrown. As a result, the prestige of royal power under Richard declined greatly, and there were economic hardships due to the greed of the king”s advisors. At the same time, Richard left a marked mark both in the history of England and in its culture. In addition, England under Richard lived in relative peace with its neighbors, Scotland and France, and there was virtually no hostilities, although formally the Hundred Years” War continued. But Richard”s very overthrow was the first step in a series of feudal feuds in England in the second half of the fifteenth century – the so-called War of the Scarlet and White Rose.

During Richard”s reign, the English court underwent a major change – largely under the influence of Anne, Richard”s first wife. During the reign of Edward III, military austerity dominated the court (with few formalities and etiquette, dominated by men, and women expected to know their place), but now refinement and refinement were the order of the day. There were also a number of new conventions at court, and the presence of female queen ladies from Austria, Bohemia, France, Germany, Hungary and Poland increased considerably. Fine food began to be served at court, and there were changes in men”s fashion. It was at this time that tailoring became an art: before Richard, the clothing of kings (apart from official receptions) was simple and practical, but now tailoring elegant men”s clothing, which was necessarily complemented by jewelry and jewels, became popular.

Richard was also a great lover of literature. Already at the age of thirteen he began to buy books. By the time of his death, the royal library numbered several dozen volumes – for such large libraries were rare at the time, as books were only handwritten. The chronicler Jean Froissart relates that during a royal audience he gave Richard a collection of his love poems. Richard also patronized the arts; at his court, poets performed at royal banquets who recited poems not only in French but also in English. The first place belonged to Geoffrey Chaucer, considered to be the creator of literary English. And Richard himself, according to a number of historians, was the first English king to speak English fluently. Richard was also the first English king for whom lifetime portraits were created. It was also during Richard”s reign that the Palace of Westminster was rebuilt.

The history of Richard II”s reign is described in many chronicles by his contemporaries. Chief among them are:

The history of Richard II”s reign was also described in the works of later chroniclers. The first is The Union of the Two Noble and Illustrious Families of Lancaster and York, by Edward Hall, an official at the court of King Henry VIII. The work was written around 1530 and first published in 1548. During the reign of Elizabeth I, The Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland by Raphael Holinshed (d. c. 1580) were created. They were first published in 1577 and are the first serious account of the history of England in English. An expanded and edited edition of the Chronicles appeared in 1587. They contain a great deal of factual material drawn from a number of earlier sources. The work of Holinshed served as a source for the historical plays of many authors, including Shakespeare.

Appearance and Character of the King

The poet John Gower, a contemporary of Richard”s, wrote that Richard was “the handsomest of kings. Even the poet John Lydgate, a supporter of the Lancaster party which was hostile to Richard, nevertheless acknowledged that Richard was “very handsome. The authors, however, when describing Richard”s appearance, speak of beauty as female (beautiful) rather than as male (handsome).

Richard was known to have thick and wavy reddish-golden hair. He was quite tall (when his tomb was opened, it was found that he was about six feet tall). He was described by one of his contemporaries as having a white, “effeminate” face, which sometimes blushed brightly.

Richard was intelligent, well-read, and mocking. When he was nervous, he stuttered. He did not have a military disposition, but he liked to preside over tournaments. Contemporaries acknowledge that Richard was brave and could show tenacity. He jealously guarded his royal status and did not forgive those who disrespected him.

Some historians believe that many of Richard”s actions were caused by mental illness. For example, it has been suggested that Richard had schizophrenia. In addition, it has been hypothesized that Richard suffered from narcissistic personality disorder and in the last years of his life his contact with reality significantly weakened. But it is also possible that, having gained power at a very young age, Richard was not sufficiently prepared for it, which explains some features of his behavior.

The most famous work about Richard is William Shakespeare”s historical chronicle Richard II, first staged in 1601. The play begins with the conflict between Thomas Mowbray and Henry Bolingbroke (April 1398) and shows the last year and a half of Richard II”s reign. At the same time, the author allows himself deviations from the historical truth, as well as greatly simplifies the events. It is more important for him to convey the peculiarities of the nature of the deposed king. Initially the play was rarely performed, not enjoying popularity, and in 1681 the performance of Nahum Tate at the Drury Lane Theatre was even forbidden by Charles II, for whom the subject of the King”s overthrow was quite painful. But in the XIX century the play became popular. The most successful production is considered a play by Charles Kean, staged in 1857 and sustained 85 performances. And one of the best performers of the role of Richard in the twentieth century is considered John Gielgud, who played in productions in 1929-1937.

There are also lesser-known plays about Richard II. One of them is the anonymous play Woodstock. The manuscript has been preserved and describes the events surrounding Richard II”s massacre of Thomas Woodstock. The play may have been known to Shakespeare – it has been hypothesized that it is a sequel to Woodstock.

There is also a work published in 1595 by English poet Samuel Daniel, The first fowre books of the civil wars between the two houses of Lancaster and Yorke, in which he describes feudal conflicts in England since the reign of Richard II.

In Russian literature, for the first time the image of Richard II was addressed by the Soviet writer and translator Z. K. Shishova in her historical novel Jack the Straw (1943), dedicated to the peasant rebellion of Wat Tyler.

Two lifetime portraits of Richard have come down to this day. The first shows him in full royal attire and with a high crown on his head. The king is quite young in this portrait. The portrait is in Westminster Abbey. The second is the so-called Wilton Diptych, now on display at the National Gallery in London. Richard, in a purple robe, is depicted in the left panel, kneeling before the Madonna and Child, who stands in the right panel surrounded by angels. Behind Richard are the canonized kings of England, Edward the Confessor and Edward the Martyr, as well as John the Baptist. According to the symbolism of the painting, Richard is on an equal footing with his predecessors, having received the grace of God. Furthermore, even the angels in the painting bear the emblem of the king.

At the movies.

1st wife: from January 14, 1382 (St. Stephen”s Chapel, Palace of Westminster, London) Anne of Bohemia (May 11, 1366 – June 7, 1394), daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and Elisabeth of Pomerania. There were no children from the marriage.

2nd wife: since March 12, 1396 (Paris, by proxy)


  1. Ричард II
  2. Richard II of England
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