As was the case of his great-grandfather Edward the II, had the fates been kinder to Richard( born in Bordeaux 3rd January 1367) and people hadn’t kept dying, he could have lived out his life in the said city and ruled all of Aquitaine or at least stopped the French from having it. However, his father an Edward, son of Edward III, had become so very famous and popular by defeating the French while wearing black armour campaigned too much in foreign climes and died of them in 1376. His father own Edward the III, neatly expired the following year on 21st June 1377(of age and a pushy mistress). Thus, Richard was made The II on the 16th July 1377.
The Early Years
In these formative times Richard was advised (a polite term for ‘do as you’re told’) by his uncles the very stern and thin John of Gaunt and Thomas The Wooodcock who ruled Buckinghamshire. The first challenge being the Revolting Peasants of 1381(see Chapter 7) and whereas the nobility were unhappy that his uncles advised him, they took comfort that he lied to the rebels and had them massively executed afterwards, so there was hope for the lad.
Richard and his Court
Unfortunately, being a teenage king meant that Richard naturally disliked his uncles telling what to do and began to choose his own advisors in particular Simon de Burbblery, who was probably common and the haughty Robert de Sneer. Many of these preferred dressing in fashionable clothes and ‘indulging’ so were heartily disliked by the average noble for not wanting to fight either The French or Scots or even massacre peasants. Things became worse when it was found out that Richard was making some of his advisors favourites, especially Robert de Sneer who for some obscure reason wanted to rule Ireland disguised as a duck. John of Gaunt was so disgusted with the whole business that he left England to try and be a king of a bit of Spain. Further revelations that three of the favourites were named Bushy, Bagot and Green and thus sounded like a firm of untrustworthy lawyers raised matters to breaking point.
Parliaments and Lords
In 1386 there was some concern that France might invade England just to see how England liked it. Richard’ Chancellor Michael of the Maypole asked for money, the parliament said no, because the king had been spending too much on Robert, shoes, jewels and Soothsayers (who he should have sacked as they hadn’t warned him this was coming) and anyway the Parliament didn’t like the Chancellor so he could go too. Richard was furious not only with their temerity but that everyone was going around calling them Wonderful. In his temper, he spun around the country, installing Robert just in time to rule Chester which by the laws of those days enabled Richard to claim the Parliament was not wonderful, but in fact was treacherous, treasonous and probably onerous.
This was of little use, for inspired by the Wondrous Parliament several lords got together and told Richard why he was not being a good king. So eloquent and reasoned were their arguments they were known as The Lords Intelligent. One of Richard’s cronies tried to raise his spirits by referring to them as The Lords Repellent; Richard did not see the funny side of this because he knew these lords had large armed retinues and he didn’t. Even so he sent Robert (The Favourite) with whatever troops could be found. A great battle was fought in December 1387 at Radcot which was supposed to have a bridge but this was stolen by The Lords. The Royal army adopted the tactics of running away, standing still or if they were lost advancing. Robert (The Not Very Good General) lost his armour and trousers, so was obliged to flee to France where he died (probably still without trousers) in 1390(ish).
Thus, victorious the Lords Intelligent invited a Merciless Parliament to arrest all of Richard’s surviving favourites and have them executed on the grounds of treachery (ie being on the losing side) and wearing silly shoes (and thus offending God). Richard in order to remain The II was obliged not to get involved.
Fate and Richard
A reader could be forgiven at this stage for thinking Richard although still II was doomed to be insignificant, however at this stage Fate intervened in a not particularly kind but certainly advantageous ways; for historians that is.
The Scots (again)
In August 1388 The Scots, under the pretence of fighting for independence once more invaded northern England. The two armies met at the curiously named Otter’s Bum where the Scots won a famous victory which was made even more memorable by the glorious death of their leader James, Earl of Douglas (regrettably Douglas, Earl of James was not in attendance). The Scots at once celebrated by composing romantic ballads, going back home to seize each other’s lands and try to overthrow their own king Robert the II who was in his 70s and thanks to a papal dispensation had fourteen children.
The English did not see any cause to compose ballads, though missed the opportunity to compose a lament, instead they all rallied around Richard II who was now twenty-one and might grow out of his surliness and favourites. Although under the terms of Magna Carta Richard should have suffered for being king during a Scots’ Victory in this case he was exempt on the grounds of not being there at the time.
Anne who despite being Bohemian and thus foreign was of such gentle, kind and generous nature that she managed the amazing status of being greatly loved by king, nobles and populace all at once, even convincing Richard not to chop off a few peasants’ heads. They had such a pure, goodly and caring marriage that no children arose. Sadly, she died of plague in 1394 and everyone mourned, particularly Richard. Without having anyone of decent character and compassionate nature around him Richard, justifiably went mad but only slightly so he couldn’t really be deposed.
Despite being a great influence on Richard in the lad’s early years, because of trying to be Spanish, a mild delusion that he could be a castle and his third wife, also called Anne, but who was very common by now John of Gaunt wasn’t paying much attention to Richard. In fact, he did not notice that Richard had had John’s younger brother Thomas murdered and his own son Henry exiled. Both having been Lords Belligerent. Henry escaped execution on the technicality of having broken bollens. His father John, after years of public service, three wives, eight children and far too much Spain died in 1399.
As it can be seen without any restraining influences and with everyone scared of The Scots Richard now firmly ensconced as a II he had a free hand and decided to try out Tyranny.
The Very Interesting Era
The exact date when Richard decided to become a Tyrant is open to speculation, particularly as he never made a formal announcement on the subject. Conjecture suggests he would have started to dabble in it about 1388 on reaching the age of 21 and thus attaining his majority; ie he was the only king in England.
Richard felt that a lavish life style was befitting a king and so in addition to borrowing lots of money he also organised extravagant jousting tournaments, the prizes being so grand that knights from all over Europe attended. As there were any number of wars taking place in Europe these men were thus professionals and usually better than the home-grown completion who had to make do with the less challenging ‘disputes’ and ‘rivalries’. There was thus much grumbling from the English knights about professionalism ruining the game.
Richard was not concerned as he felt such a high profile would help him in his plan to become Holy Roman Emperor. This he believed would make him so important he would only have to worry about arguing with the Pope. Those who had been close to various Emperors and the dozens of princes, hundreds of lords and clutches of city states comprising the Empire would have said something in Latin which equivalented to ‘Good luck with that!’. Anyway, there had only just recently nearly been an English emperor called Richard, so no one continental wanted to risk another another one.
Short of money and not caring to be involved with the French militarily, Richard married the French King’s daughter. She being, six years old meant Richard had a large dowry and did not need to worry about her for another ten or so years. With the money, he was able to hire a large number of welsh archers on the understanding they could shoot at as many Englishmen as they liked, which ensured their loyalty.
Thus, feeling very secure when his uncle John died in January 1399 Richard said he was entitled to all of his uncle’s lands since John’s son Henry of the broken bollens was exiled and since he was traitor should be grateful for just being exiled.
Richard then noticed Ireland whose nobles and lords were so unruly that they were in rebellion against each other and simply not taking the king seriously, he therefore resolved to invade Ireland. This was a rather curious decision since it was supposed to be his and so he should be putting it down, not invading. His mistake was probably due to the large number of new Soothsayers he had hired to tell him The Sooth, The Whole Sooth and Nothing But The Sooth. They did not notice Henry son of John had landed in Yorkshire in April intent on getting back his lands and thus everything for Richard was suddenly going Sooth.
The Tragic Fall
Leaving the Irish to annoy each other Richard wisely landed in Wales in June or July (1399), but by then most of the nobles in in England had decided Henry should not just have his lands but also the throne. Henry decided they had a good point as he had male forebears whereas Richard’s were mixed up with female forebears, which proved by the laws of those days why he was a bad king and thus a traitor to himself. Richard had intended to discuss all this with Henry, but became so cross that he threw bonnets about the place and so was consigned to the Tower of London.
No one was quite sure to do with him, so they asked a bishop who gave thirty-three reasons why Richard had been a bad king; this naturally took a long time which only lawyers and other churchmen really appreciated and admired. Henry chaffed at the delay which had allowed some nobles who had profited from Richard’s reign to plot. In consequence Richard was moved from the Tower in a hurry and was misplaced, only to be discovered at Pontefract where either taking a very stubborn dislike to the cakes had starved to death, or preferably for Henry had expired of remorse at being a bad king. In either case Henry was obliged to place him sitting up in his coffin to prove he was dead.
This was such a tragic end people were able to write plays and novels about Richard II (who although weak supplied more interesting material than Richard the I) Also as he died so neatly in January 1400 he is only of the few kings to have memorable date of death and thus is of some benefit to folk who wish to appear to have some knowledge of history.
Richard’s reign was so controversial and his fall so sudden, Henry was able to repair his bollens and the indulge in being two kings thus giving later generations barons a splendid excuse for a proper civil war.
All of which will be discussed in future chapters.