Richard II of England Worksheets
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- Early Life
- Peasants Revolt
- Merciless Parliament
- Final Years and Death
Key Facts And Information
Let’s find out more about Richard II of England!
Richard II was crowned King of England from 1377 to 1399 CE, succeeding his grandfather Edward III when he was only 10. Initially, he shared power with his strong barons and suppressed the Peasants' Revolt in June 1381 CE. However, his authority was limited by his failed Scottish campaign, misguided favouritism at court, and the ambition of a few rival nobles. Richard was imprisoned in August 1399 CE and subsequently murdered in February the following year due to his belief in the divine right of rule.
- Richard was born on 6 January 1367 in the Archbishop's Palace of Bordeaux (English principality of Aquitaine). There were records that three monarchs - the King of Castile, the King of Navarre, and the King of Portugal - were present during his birth. This information and the fact that Richard was born on the Epiphany holiday, was then used in Wilton Diptych's religious iconography, where Richard is depicted as one of the three kings honouring the Virgin and Child.
- Richard was only ten years old when he was crowned on 16 July 1377 at Westminster Abbey, and his turbulent realm was governed by a rotating council of nobles. With notable triumphs at Crécy and Poitiers, England had a remarkable start in the Hundred Years' War with France.
- However, by 1375, Charles V of France, also known as Charles the Wise, had ensured that the only territories in France still under the English Crown were Calais and a small portion of Gascony.
- The realm was facing financial strain due to ongoing conflicts with France and Scotland, resulting in a cycle of taxes being levied on the population.
- This financial strain was further compounded by the arrival of the Black Death in 1348, which brought death and economic devastation.
- Despite these challenges, Richard II was unable to take military action against France and was forced to impose high taxes on the population to finance the war effort.
- The long-lasting economic turmoil caused by the conflict and the Black Death had a significant impact on the realm and Richard's ability to govern effectively.
- Ultimately, Richard II would pay the price for his inability to effectively address these issues and maintain stability in the realm.
- The Middle Ages' most infamous populist movement was the Peasants' Revolt of June 1381. The uprising began when a group of yeomen from Kent and Essex marched to protest in London after becoming fed up with the problem of the Black Death plague and, more importantly, the never-ending taxes that included poll taxes of three groats (one shilling) aimed at everyone regardless of resources since 1377. The mob, which numbered in the thousands, created chaos along the road by robbing, killing, and pillaging.
- When the crowd arrived in London, they set fire to the Duke of Lancaster's Savoy house and killed anyone they pleased, including the Chancellor, Archbishop Simon of Sudbury, who was beheaded on Tower Hill. The rabble made various demands, including the abolition of serfdom, the repeal of regulations restricting salary increases enacted after the Black Death, greater involvement of peasants in local administration, and the redistribution of the Church's wealth, among others.
- King Richard, who was only 14 years old, fearlessly confronted the demonstrators on 15 June at Smithfield outside of London and convinced them to disperse. This was quite an accomplishment, especially considering that William Walworth, the Mayor of London, intervened and killed Wat Tyler, one of the rebel leaders, during the chaos, perhaps believing Tyler was going to threaten the king.
- The mob dispersed when Richard adopted a common strategy of promising lavish things that he had no intention of keeping. This managed to stop further unrest. Richard, who was utterly cruel, saw to it that about 150 of the rebels were hanged. After that, there were a few more small-scale rebellions, but they were brutally crushed, and their leaders were executed as traitors.
- Richard II may have been lauded for his success in quelling the Peasants' Revolt, but any expectation that England had finally found a righteous and just king was quickly shattered. The young monarch was stubborn and hot-headed, and it soon became apparent that he was overly convinced of his divine right to rule. As a result, he was intolerant of any opinions that differed from his own. Richard preferred to spend his time with favourites such as Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and his circle of flatterers, disregarding his barons, Parliament, and commoners alike.
- The military prowess of medieval monarchs was often assumed, but Richard's lone expedition to Scotland in 1385 proved to be a flop with no contact with the enemy. One of the most renowned knights of the Middle Ages, Sir Henry "Hotspur" Percy, led an army against the Scots in 1388, but they suffered a crushing defeat in the Battle of Otterburn. To make matters worse, King Richard and Parliament agreed to pay Sir Henry's ransom after he was captured and held captive.
- When Richard appointed the widely unpopular de Vere as Duke of Ireland in 1386, and with the threat of a French attack looming over England, Richard faced an even greater predicament at home.
- The disgruntled barons made their move by defeating de Vere and his troops at the Battle of Radcot Bridge near Oxford in December 1387.
- In order to better govern the king, who was still seen as a juvenile at the time, a group of five barons known as the Lords Appellants was formed under the leadership of prominent figures like Thomas Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester, and Henry Bolingbroke.
- In 1388, this council convened a Parliament that became known as the "Merciless Parliament," effectively placing the Lords Appellants in charge of the country. They demanded that Richard retake his coronation oath and cleanse the royal court of anyone they deemed unsuitable.
- Upon reaching adulthood in 1389, Richard made the sensible decision to keep a low political profile and retreat into the arts by appointing his own circle of like-minded companions to the court. The monarch managed to avoid the need to punish those who had previously opposed him, but he was unable to give up his love of pomp and ceremony.
- Richard seemed to be enamoured with himself as king, glorifying his own image, and requested to be addressed as "Your Majesty" or "Your Highness" rather than the conventional "My lord." Significantly, Richard was the first English monarch to have his portrait painted while still alive. It is thought that Andre Beauneveu of Valenciennes was the artist chosen for this privilege. The final piece, which depicts the monarch in all of his regalia, was displayed in Westminster Abbey.
- The white stag or hart that served as Richard's tournament emblem also served as the livery worn by his servants and as a badge of identity for Richard's followers.
- At great expense, Richard renovated Westminster Palace in 1393, greatly brightening the interior.
- Richard's white harts emerged at the bases of the windows, Westminster Hall received a new roof, and statues of various rulers were erected.
- Meanwhile, the Tower of London underwent renovations as well and received costly stained glass.
- The king also promoted medieval literature, particularly that of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who in 1389 was appointed Clerk of the King's Works and in control of the royal estates.
- In a highly unusual move for an English monarch, Richard led an army to Ireland in 1394, although the campaign was unsuccessful. The monarch received homage from 80 Irish leaders, and English rights to the region's territories were acknowledged.
- On 12 March 1396, the monarch married Isabella of France, daughter of Charles VI of France, leading to an improvement in relations with France.
- Isabella was only seven years old, yet the union resulted in a three- decade cease- fire between the two nations.
- Since 1382, Richard had been married to Anne of Bohemia, a descendant of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.
- She passed away in June 1394, most likely from the plague. Neither of these marriages produced any offspring, which Richard's opponents would take advantage of.
- The agreement with Charles VI did not require Richard to renounce his claim to the French crown, which dates back to Edward III.
- As a result, the Hundred Years' War was only temporarily postponed.
FINAL YEARS AND DEATH
- Richard finally began to plan against those who had deceived him 10 years earlier in 1397, probably feeling more secure in his position as king and venting the need for revenge that so many mediaeval kings had. The Lords Appellants, who included Bolingbroke, were detained by the king and either banished or executed; as a result, their lands served as handy presents for other members of the court or the Crown itself. The monarch was now well understood to be dictatorial, and nobody was immune from his whims.
- Then, in 1399, Richard committed his fatal error. The king was itching to finish what he had started in Ireland, but while he was there, Bolingbroke, who some believed to be Edward III's rightful successor following the death of his father John of Gaunt, came from exile in France. Bolingbroke only had a tiny invasion force, probably 300 fighting men, that landed at Spurn Head in Yorkshire in June or July 1399.
- For Bolingbroke's benefit, the English lords, who included individuals like Sir Henry "Hotspur" Percy, were only too happy to change their allegiance to the usurper. As a result, the rebel army grew as it went south, and the king's support dwindled.
- Upon his return from Ireland, Richard made the right decision to hide in Conwy Castle in Wales. The first English king to be detained in the Tower of London, the king was eventually duped into turning himself up in August. Bolingbroke then coerced Richard into signing a formal declaration of abdication on September 29, 1399, another questionable first in English history.
- Henry Bolingbroke was nominated by Parliament to succeed Richard on 30 September.
- Richard was sent to Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire in September 1399, where he died on 14 February 1400.
- Richard's destiny was sealed by a failed insurrection by his supporters.
- Richard's cause of death is unclear, with various hypotheses including starvation, poisoning, or assassination.
- Richard's body was placed on public display in the Tower of London.
- Henry Bolingbroke was anointed Henry IV of England on 13 October 1399 at Westminster Abbey.
- Henry ruled until 1413, with uprisings in England and Wales during his reign.
- Henry's son, Henry V of England, succeeded him and became one of the greatest warrior kings in European history.
- The overthrow of Richard would later lead to the Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York.