Richard II

Richard2 CROPPED BritLib

Richard II,

1367-1400

Born:

6 January 1367, son of Edward, “the Black Prince,” and Joan, Countess of Kent, at Bordeaux, France

Succeeded:

Edward III (grandfather)

Ruled:

1377-1399

Crowned:

16 July 1377 at Westminster Abbey, London

Abdicated/deposed:

19 August 1399

Died:

14 February 1400, murdered at Pontefract Castle, West Yorkshire

Buried:

Westminster Abbey

Married:

  1. 20 January 1382, Anne of Bohemia, at Westminster Abbey
  2. 1 November 1396, Isabelle of Valois, at St. Nicholas Church, Calais, France

Succeeded by:

Henry IV (cousin)

ichard’s father died in 1376. The following year, 10-year-old Richard succeeded his grandfather Edward III. During his minority, a succession of councils governed on his behalf in a time of unrest.

An oppressive tax, meant to stabilize the country’s finances, triggered the “Peasants Revolt” of 1381. Thousands of enraged men converged on London. Demands were made for serfdom to be abolished. Great houses were pillaged and burned. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the royal treasurer were murdered.

Richard calmed the desperately volatile situation by appealing to the rebels’ romantic (and very mistaken) belief that their 14-year-old king was misled by evil councilors. He rode into their midst, declaring that he would be their champion, and agrees to all their demands. The threat removed, Richard reneged, declaring “Villeins ye are, and villeins ye shall remain.”

As he neared adulthood, Richard filled his court with immature young friends. Their incompetence and misuse of funds provoked the established “Lords Appellant” to temporarily restrict his power. When, at age 22, he again took control, he governed more responsibly.

Richard was a connoisseur of the arts and a patron of Chaucer, interested in music and jewelry (and credited with inventing the handkerchief). His large portrait, the first of an English monarch from life, hangs in Westminster Abbey.

Richard’s rule deteriorated as he grew in arrogance, becoming increasingly autocratic and erratic. He never forgot and he never forgave.

In 1398, he exiled Henry Bolingbroke, a former “Lord Appellant” and the oldest son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III. When Gaunt died, Richard, against all laws and customs, refused Bolingbroke’s right to inherit. Bolingbroke, supported by the entire nobility, invaded.

Richard was forced to abdicate. Bolingbroke took the throne as Henry IV, the first Lancastrian king. Richard, imprisoned, was starved to death.

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