Richard II

Richard II as the young boy single handedly brought an end to the peasant’s revolt and as the tyrannous King brought an end to the Plantagenet reign.

The country had suffered under Edward III with the country in disarray and in 1377 on his death Richard II, the grandson of Edward II, was crowned King of England at the age of ten. The country rejoiced and saw Richard as its saviour.


However after four years there was further unrest and the peasants stormed London and on the 11th June 1381 two boys Richard and his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and Richards councillors were surrounded in the Tower of London. Henry was sent out into the town hoping this would cause a distraction and allow them to escape. However, the rebels were more angry with Richard’s councillors than he himself and as soon as they knew Richard was out they broke through the gates and took the chancellor and the treasurer and beheaded them in the street. Henry Bolingbroke during the time the rebels had entered the tower had hidden and was later able to escape unharmed.

Richard agrees to meet with the rebels at Smithfields and rides out and speaks to Wat Tyler, the rebel’s leader, a struggle breaks out between Tyler and one of the King’s soldiers that ends up with Tyler being killed. There is a fear that all the other rebels would now join in but with Richards’s self-belief in himself an amazing event happens. Richard rides towards the rebels on his own and shouts out that ‘He is the king and for them to lay down the weapons’. And, unbelievable they all do.

The king agrees to meet with the rebels and discuss terms, when they do all the terms are in the king’s favour. Over the next few weeks the king’s men ride out and kill and hang a large number of those that rebelled as an example to others who may think of rising against the king.

Richard surrounds himself with young nobles such as Robert de Vere that creates a split between the king and his councillors. In 1386 the French plan an invasion that the king and de Vere ignore and the Duke of Gloucester and Archbishop tell the king to do something about it or they will. Richard accuses them of treason and even threatens to seek help from the French.

Gloucester and his allies set out to raise an army against Richard. Robert de Vere raises his own army to protect the king and this means all the nobles have to decide on which side they are on.

Henry Bolingbroke, now a seasoned and hardened soldier after many years of campaigning, joins Gloucester. When Bolingbroke and de Vere clash, in Oxfordshire, Bolingbroke’s soldiers are to strong for de Vere and he turns and runs off to France never to be seen on English lands again. Richard now has now defence and Henry negotiates with Richard on who is to run the country. After several days of talks Henry emerges that he pledges his allegiance to Richard. It is unknown exactly why the decision was the result of the talks but it is suggested that it was to avoid the country being pulled into a civil war.

In 1390 Henry goes off on crusade leaving Richard effectively on his own to do what he wants. There now comes a time of peace with France and England is in a time of stability. However Richard decides to create his own private army known as the White Hart.

When Henry returns three years later the symbol and soldiers of the White Hart dominate the country with fear.  However there remains peace in the country.

Richard is a loose cannon and the death of his wife Anne of Bohemia pushes him over the edge. Richard loses it and starts to take revenge on all those that opposed him when de Vere was around.  He re-introduces a law he had created that says anyone who opposes the king can be tried for treason. This law basically meant Richard can do whatever he liked and no one could stop him.

Richard II - Anne of Bohemia

His uncle, the Duke of Gloucester is arrested and taken prisoner on the grounds of treason. Before he faces trial he dies, mysteriously, however this is not before he has signed a full confession. Henry is exiled to France with Mowbray another of those who opposed Richard.

Then the Duke of Lancaster dies, Henry’s father, and Henry was due to inherit his entire father’s lands and castle. Richard had other plans and decided to take them for himself. Henry could not accept this and he waited for his moment to take back his lands.

Henry IV
Henry IV

In 1399 Richard leaves the country to go to Ireland, this Henry realises is his opportunity. He returns to England and with Richard away all the barons and their armies side with Henry. Richards White Hart army are wiped out and on Richard’s return he surrenders.

Richard is locked up in the Tower of London and Henry of Lancaster is crowned King Henry IV. This brings to an end the Plantagenet dynasty.

Richard dies whilst in captivity and although it is not known for sure how he died it would be a good guess that he died of starvation, leaving no blood on Henry’s hands.

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