King Richard II Reign 1377-1399

King Richard II was the king of England from 21st June 1377 to 30th September 1399. He was the son of Edward, the Black Prince, and Joan, the 4th Countess of Kent.

He was also known as the Richard of Bordeaux. Richard II succeeded to the throne after the death of his grandfather at the age of ten. His father and elder brother Edward of Angouleme had already died at the time of his grandfather’s death.

King Richard II Medieval King In Ceremonial Clothing

King Richard II Medieval King wearing Ceremonial Clothing

King Richard II Timeline

  • King Richard II was born on 6th January 1367 at Bordeaux, Duchy of Aquitaine.
  • He ruled England from 21st June 1377 to 30th September 1399.
  • His father, Edward the Black Prince died on 8 June 1376.
  • His coronation took place on 16th July 1377.
  • The peasants’ revolt took place in 1381.
  • Lords Appellant took control of the government in 1387.
  • The Medieval King regained control of the government in 1389.
  • He married Anne of Bohemia on 20 January 1382.
  • After the death of his wife, he married Isabella of Valois in 1396.
  • He died on 14th February 1400 at Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire.

What kind of Ruler was King Richard II

King Richard II was considered an intelligent and imaginative ruler as during his rule England has peaceful relations with France and Ireland. His dealing with the Peasants’ revolt at a very young age also demonstrated his leadership skills as he wanted the issue to be resolved through dialogue.

Peasants revolt - KIng Richard II

A peasants’ revolt against King Richard II was crushed

What was King Richard II Famous for?

King Richard II was famous for his patronage of the art. During his reign, a new court culture was introduced and English was established as a literary language. King Richard II was also known for his beauty and was considered the most beautiful King. He was also famous for dealing with the 1381 peasants’ revolt in a masterful way.

King Richard II & The Peasants’ Revolt

The Peasants’ Revolt took place in 1381 due to the burden of poll taxes levied between 1377 and 1381. The root cause of tensions between the peasants and landowners was the economic consequences of the Black Death, following outbreaks of plagues and other events happening around it.

Peasants revolt - the death of Wat Tyler peasant leader

Peasants revolt – the death of Wat Tyler peasant leader

King Richard II decided to negotiate as it was agreed that the Crown didn’t have the power to disperse the rebels who had already killed the Archbishop of Canterbury and King’s Lord High Treasurer and were demanding the complete abolition of serfdom.

Black-Death

The Black Death

King Richard II met the rebels at Mile End on 14th June and then the next day met with Wat Tyler at Smithfield and convinced them that their demands would be met, however, the peasant revolt leaders were betrayed and later killed. The medieval king at the age of 14 dealt with the situation with great courage and cunning and suppressed the rebellion.

Wat Tyler

Original image of Wat Tyler who led the peasant revolt

King Richard II – First crisis of 1386-88

The First crisis took place between the years 1386 to 1388. Michael de la Pole, who was King Richard II’s favourite, requested high taxation, as a Chancellor, to defend the realm against the possible attack of France. The parliament did not consider the request and was told that no such request would be entertained until the chancellor was removed.

King Richard II removed Michael de La Pole from his position after a thread of deposition. Later an appeal of treason was brought against the King’s favourites and the King had no choice but to comply the appellants were able to break the circle of favourites around the Medieval King.

King Richard II – Second crisis of 1397-99

King Richard II started to show his cruelty at the end of the 1390s. He started to remove those people that he considered threats to his power. He levied taxes on local people that had been loyal to the appellants. The King then rewarded his loyalists for their support.

But the threat to his authority was still there. In 1397, Bolingbroke and Thomas de Mowbray were exiled by the Medieval King as they had thoughts that they were in line for royal retribution as the King was childless. John of Gaunt died on 3rd February 1399, and instead of allowing Bolingbroke to succeed, he disinherited him and converted his 10 years of exile to a lifetime.

Medieval Coat of Arms KIng Richard II

Coat of Arms of King Richard II of England

King Richard II – Court culture

A new court culture was introduced in the last year of King Richard II’s rule. King Richard II was now addressed as “royal majesty” or “high majesty” which was previously as “highness” only. King Richard II also used to sit silently for hours on his throne in the royal court. Anyone sitting there had to bow in case the king’s eyes fell on the individual.

King Richard II – Patronage and the arts

King Richard II tried to develop his royal image through arts. Unlike other medieval kings, he had himself portrayed in paintings. The rebuilding of Westminster Hall was the greatest architectural project of King Richard II. It was Richard’s rule when the English language was developed into a literary language. The greatest poet of that era, Geoffrey Chaucer, served the king in different capacities at the time he wrote his magnificent poetry.

King Richard II – Character

According to King Richard II’s contemporaries, he was a tall and handsome man and was considered the most beautiful king. He used to stammer in case of any agitation. He was not a warrior king like his grandfather but was considered an intelligent person.

Medieval KIng Richard II on throne

Richard II the medieval king of England sits on his throne in medieval ceremonial costume

King Richard II Overthrow & Death

Henry Bolingbrook was banished by the King in 1398 with the approval of Henry’s father, John of Gaunt after he made some remarks that were interpreted as treason. In 1399 John of Gaunt died and King Richard II cancelled the legal documents that proved Henry’s inheritance of John’s lands.

While King Richard II was on a military campaign, Henry returned to England along with his supporters and gained enough power to declare him King Henry IV. On his return, King Richard II was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

He remained in captivity until a plot of having Henry killed and Richard’s release was averted. It is believed that after this the Medieval King was starved to death on or around 14th February 1400. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, London

King Richard II Summary

King Richard II was considered an intelligent King, but he was not a warrior like his grandfather. Although in the early part of his rule, he resolved the Peasants’ Revolt with courage but he was always criticised for having a circle of favourites around him. In the last part of his rule, he had become a very cruel king and ruler.