Revolt, Reconciliation and Ruin; Part Three

Richard II has reigned peacefully for the last 8 years. However, old insults lie heavy on his paranoid mind. Following the death of his wife Queen Anne in 1394, Richard’s already fragile mind begins to crumble. Read below to find out about the tyrannical years of Richard II and what leads to his downfall.

In 1397, Richard turned against his lords and defied law and order to seize absolute power for himself, starting with the lords who forced his hand earlier in his reign. Beginning with the Earl of Warwick, Richard invited him to dinner and waited until he had finished and arrested him and had him dragged to the Tower. He then arrested the Earl of Gloucester and had him tortured and arrested and charged the Earl of Arundel with treason. The lords were put on trial for treason, however Gloucester didn’t attend- he had died in prison, tortured to death. Richard then had Arundel executed and Warwick imprisoned for life. Exiling another lord and his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke for life, Richard then waited for John of Gaunt to die and when he did, he seized the lands and wealth for himself, denying Henry his birth right.

Picture of Richard II in Westminster Abbey.
Image taken from Wikipedia

Richard didn’t stop there.

He wanted to be feared and so sent thugs round to the houses of all the lords in England and forced them to place their seals on blank parchment. Once Richard had these in his grasp, he had the power to write false confessions and testimonies. If one lord placed a toe out of line, or if Richard just felt like it, he could simply forge a confession and have them executed. Richard also demanded that the lords and ladies of the court throw themselves onto the ground if he even so much as glanced in their direction. Court became a place of fear and suspicion as Richard became increasingly unstable. Summoning parliament in 1398 Richard declared that Parliament could no longer place the king under any orders and he gave parliamentary power to a handpicked and probably blackmailed group of twelve lords and six commoners, effectively dissolving parliament. With the lords terrified of him and parliament dissolved Richard had seized absolute power.

But do you Remember Henry Bolingbroke? The son of John of Gaunt exiled for life? Well he is about to come back onto the scene.

Incensed that Richard II has stolen his lands, Henry Bolingbroke sailed back to England in June 1399 to reclaim his inheritance. As Bolingbroke moved south he met little resistance as Richard himself was in Ireland, trying to subdue the Irish and subject them to his rule. Richards tyrannical behaviour had also rendered him unpopular with the people and they saw Henry Bolingbroke as a way to end the tyranny and so they rallied to his cause. When Richard returned from Ireland on the 24th of July he realised resistance was futile, Henry had won the loyalty of the English people and more importantly, the lords. Richard made his way to Flint Castle where he abdicated the throne and was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. On October the 1st 1399, Richard II was officially deposed.

Twelve days later, Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt was declared King Henry IV of England.

Coronation of Henry IV from Jean Froissarts Chronicles. 15th Century. Image taken from Wikipedia

What happened to Richard, I hear you ask?

Following his abdication Richard was allowed to live. However, soon plots to reinstate Richard were popping up throughout the land. Henry, realising the danger to his reign had to act fast. It is believed that Richard II was starved to death in Pontefract Castle, however we do not know this for certain. Like his predecessor Edward II, Richard’s death is shrouded in mystery. However, unlike the rumours that surround the survival of Edward II, Richard did not make it out of captivity alive.  His body was taken from the castle and displayed in the old St Paul’s Cathedral in February and his was buried in King’s Langley Priory in March. Later on, Henry V, in an attempt to atone for the murder of Richard II by the hands of his father and to quash any rumours of survival, had Richard’s body moved to Westminster Abbey in a tomb Richard himself had commissioned. There he remains today, buried by his first wife Anne.

Richard II was the last Plantagenet king descended from the direct line.

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