Richard II

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Richard II,

1367–1400, king of England (1377–99), son of Edward the Black PrinceEdward the Black Prince,
1330–76, eldest son of Edward III of England. He was created duke of Cornwall in 1337, the first duke to be created in England, and prince of Wales in 1343.
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Early Life

After his father's death (1376) he was created prince of Wales and succeeded his grandfather, Edward IIIEdward III,
1312–77, king of England (1327–77), son of Edward II and Isabella. Early Life

He was made earl of Chester in 1320 and duke of Aquitaine in 1325 and accompanied his mother to France in 1325.
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, to the throne. During his minority, his uncle John of GauntJohn of Gaunt
[Mid. Eng. Gaunt=Ghent, his birthplace], 1340–99, duke of Lancaster; fourth son of Edward III of England. He married (1359) Blanche, heiress of Lancaster, and through her became earl (1361) and duke (1362) of Lancaster.
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 was the most influential single noble, but the struggle for power among several rival lords perpetuated the faction-ridden government inherited by Richard from his predecessor. In 1381, when Richard was 14, there occurred the uprising known as the Peasants' Revolt, led by Wat TylerTyler, Wat,
d. 1381, English rebel. His given name appears in full as Walter; his surname signifies the trade of a roof tiler. He came into prominence as the leader of the rebellion of 1381, known as the Peasants' Revolt.
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 and John BallBall, John,
d. 1381, English priest and social reformer. He was one of the instigators of the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 (see under Tyler, Wat). He was an itinerant for many years, acting independently of the influence of John Wyclif and advocating ecclesiastical poverty and
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. The young king acted with great courage in meeting with the insurgents, but the concessions that he made were immediately revoked, and the rebels were ruthlessly persecuted.

Conflicts with the Barons

In 1382, Richard married Anne of BohemiaAnne of Bohemia,
1366–94, queen consort of Richard II of England, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. She was married to Richard early in 1382 and quickly gained popularity in England.
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, to whom he became very much devoted. In the following years the king began to assert his independence from the barons who had dominated the government, gathering about him a new court party, led by Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, and Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk (see PolePole,
English noble family. The first member of importance was William de la Pole, d. 1366, a rich merchant who became the first mayor of Hull (1332) and a baron of the exchequer (1339).
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, family). He had a bitter quarrel with John of Gaunt, his uncle, while on an expedition to Scotland in 1385. The following year, however, when Gaunt went to Spain, Richard found himself at the mercy of a resentful baronial party led by another of his uncles, Thomas of Woodstock, duke of GloucesterGloucester, Thomas of Woodstock, duke of,
1355–97, English nobleman; youngest son of Edward III. He was betrothed (1374) to Eleanor, heiress of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, and became earl of Buckingham at the coronation of Richard II (1377).
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. In the so-called Wonderful Parliament (1386) that group forced the king to dismiss Pole from the chancellorship and imposed on him a baronial council.

Richard did not submit for long. He obtained (1387) a statement from the royal judges declaring the proceedings of the Parliament to have infringed his prerogative and raised an army in N England. However, his supporters were defeated in battle at Radcot Bridge (1387), and the king, threatened with deposition, had to submit to the proceedings of the Merciless Parliament of 1388. His friends, Pole, de Vere, and others, were "appealed" (i.e., accused) of treason by five lords appellant—Gloucester; the earl of Arundel; Thomas de Beauchamp, earl of WarwickWarwick, Thomas de Beauchamp, earl of,
d. 1401, English nobleman, of an ancient and powerful family. He was one of the governors of the young Richard II. After Richard assumed power, Warwick joined the barons who opposed the acts of Richard's favorite courtiers and was one of
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; Thomas Mowbray, later 1st duke of NorfolkNorfolk, Thomas Mowbray, 1st duke of,
c.1366–1399, English nobleman. He was created earl of Nottingham in 1383, and in 1385 he was made earl marshal of England for life.
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; and the duke of Hereford (later Henry IVHenry IV,
1367–1413, king of England (1399–1413), eldest son of John of Gaunt and grandson of Edward III; called Henry of Bolingbroke. He founded the Lancastrian dynasty.
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)—and those that did not escape the country were executed.

Revenge and Downfall

The lords appellant ruled the country until 1389, when Richard quietly reasserted his authority. Aided by Gaunt, who returned from Spain later in 1389, Richard ruled in comparative peace for the next seven years. After Anne's death, he went (1394) to Ireland to settle troubles there and in 1396 married an eight-year-old French princess, Isabella, to obtain a truce in the war with France.

In 1397–98, Richard suddenly took his revenge on the lords appellant: Gloucester, Arundel, and Warwick were themselves "appealed" of treason and respectively murdered, executed, and banished; Norfolk and Hereford too were banished after a mysterious quarrel between them. The king became increasingly despotic in his methods of government, strengthening his personal army, imposing heavy taxes and fines, and possibly even planning to supersede Parliament.

On the death (1399) of John of Gaunt, he confiscated the Lancastrian estates, to which the exiled duke of Hereford was heir. While Richard was on another expedition in Ireland, Hereford landed in England and rapidly gathered support. Richard hurriedly returned from Ireland, but his cause was lost. He was forced to abdicate, and Hereford was crowned king as Henry IVHenry IV,
1367–1413, king of England (1399–1413), eldest son of John of Gaunt and grandson of Edward III; called Henry of Bolingbroke. He founded the Lancastrian dynasty.
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 in Sept., 1399. Richard was imprisoned in Pontefract Castle and there died, very possibly murdered, in 1400.

Character and Legacy

Richard is possibly the most enigmatic of the English kings. Some historians have attributed his behavior in the last years of his reign to madness. He appears to have been a sensitive and intelligent king. Geoffrey ChaucerChaucer, Geoffrey
, c.1340–1400, English poet, one of the most important figures in English literature. Life and Career

The known facts of Chaucer's life are fragmentary and are based almost entirely on official records.
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, John GowerGower, John
, 1330?–1408, English poet. He was the best-known contemporary and friend of Chaucer, who addressed him as "Moral Gower," at the end of Troilus and Criseyde.
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, William LanglandLangland, William,
c.1332–c.1400, putative author of Piers Plowman. He was born probably at Ledbury near the Welsh marshes and may have gone to school at Great Malvern Priory. Although he took minor orders he never became a priest.
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, and John WyclifWyclif, Wycliffe, Wickliffe, or Wiclif, John
, c.1328–1384, English religious reformer. A Yorkshireman by birth, Wyclif studied and taught theology and philosophy at Oxford.
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 made his reign outstanding in the literary and ecclesiastical history of England.


See biography by M. Senior (1981); A. Tuck, Richard II and the English Nobility (1974). Shakespeare's Richard II is a dramatic account of the king's fall from power.

Richard II

1367--1400, king of England (1377--99), whose reign was troubled by popular discontent and baronial opposition. He was forced to abdicate in favour of Henry Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV
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