The deposition of Richard II


1389-99: The growth of royal power

bullet Until May 1389, the Lords Appellant effectively ruled England; then Richard II (aged 22) proclaimed himself of age. Richard avoided alienating moderate opinion by making no attempt to restore his exiled favorites.
bullet In November 1389, John of Gaunt returned from Spain and Richard II cooperated with a moderate administration led by him, Edmund Duke of York, and Thomas Duke of Gloucester.
bullet Richard also began to gain the support of able administrators of less than noble rank: in particular, Sir John Bussy, Sir William Bagot, and Sir Henry Green. These men had supported the Appellant actions of 1387-89, but were now willing to make friends with Richard.
Temporary peaces were concluded with Scotland and France.

A further twenty-eight year truce was agreed with France in 1396, and Richard married the seven-year-old French Princess Isabelle.


bulletRichard decided to take advantage of the comparative peace abroad to try and assert English authority in Ireland.
English power in Ireland had become largely confined to a small area around Dublin called "The Pale." Beyond here, both native Gaelic and Anglo-Irish Lords virtually ignored the authority of the crown.

In October 1394, Richard II landed at Waterford with a large army, and demanded the submission of all the Irish lords.


bullet Faced with such force, the Irish flocked to do homage. By the time Richard departed in May 1395, virtually all Ireland had submitted to his rule. In fact, Richard's rapid departure left most of the crown's problems unsolved, but the campaign was regarded as successful by the English, and it also gave Richard a small army to call upon.
bullet Even during this honeymoon period, there was conflict between Richard and his Parliaments, and between him and the City of London.
bullet By 1397, Richard II felt increasingly secure. His relations with John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Edmund, Duke of York and his son Richard, were good. In summer 1397, he decided to move against Thomas, Duke of Gloucester and Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel and Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.

Richard moved on Thomas of Woodstock in his stronghold of Pleshey Castle and arrested him and sent him to Calais, where he died - probably assassinated.
The Earl of Arundel was beheaded 21 September 1397, and his brother, Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury sentenced to perpetual banishment. Warwick too was banished.
Even those associates of the Appellants who were pardoned had to pay for the privilege.

The remains of Pleshey Castle and its earthworks


bullet Richard lavished titles, as well as lands (confiscated from his defeated enemies) on his friends. The ex-Appellant Lords Henry Earl of Derby and Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham were made Dukes of Hereford and Norfolk respectively.
bullet Overawed by Richard's tough stance, and competently managed by Sir John Bussy, Parliament acquiesced in Richard's reprisals, and even voted him customs' duties for his lifetime.

1399:  Crisis, deposition and death

bulletIn September 1398 a quarrel erupted between Thomas Mowbray (Duke of Norfolk) and Henry of Bolingbroke (Duke of Hereford). The two were determined to fight a duel over Henry's allegations that Thomas had been accusing Richard II of bad faith.
bulletRichard II intervened and banished both of them (Thomas for life, and Henry for ten years - later commuted to six.)
bulletRichard needed money for his extravagant lifestyle and he decided to extend the policy of extorting money in exchange for pardons - levying large fines on seventeen counties as the price of "regaining royal favor."
Richard's next arbitrary action took place on the death of John of Gaunt in February 1399. Richard seized his lands, disinheriting Henry and increasing his banishment to life. Richard hoped not only to enrich himself, but also to prevent the unreliable Henry becoming one of England's largest landowners.

Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire
Birthplace of Henry of Bolingbroke


bulletRichard's arrogant seizure of John of Gaunt's estates struck fear into the hearts of all England's landowners:  if Richard could act against one of England's most powerful noble families in this way, no one's property was safe.
bulletFoolishly, immediately after this provocative act (June 1399) Richard decided to mount a punitive expedition to Ireland, where rebellion had broken out again.
bulletRichard had no sooner left than Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford landed in Yorkshire with a small force and marched to Pontefract Castle.
bulletSupporters streamed to join him, including Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland and Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland (husband of Henry's half-sister, Joan Beaufort) - the two most powerful northern earls.


Warkworth Castle
home of Harry Hotspur

Northumberland's son Henry, known as "Harry Hotspur," also joined Henry of Bolingbroke. Hotspur was a local hero for his part in the Battle of the Otterburn (1388,) where the Scots leader William Douglas was killed.
Hotspur was the son of Mary Plantagenet, the granddaughter of Edward I's brother Edmund Crouchback, and so he was related to both Richard II and Henry.

bullet Richard II's uncle, Edmund Duke of York, had been left in charge as keeper of the realm while Richard was in Ireland. He soon submitted to Henry, and even ordered Bristol, where Bussy and Green had taken refuge, to surrender.
bullet Richard landed with some troops from Ireland at Haverford West, but found no supporters in England. He took refuge in Conway Castle, and then surrendered to Henry (August 1399) believing he could organize his revenge later.
bullet A Parliament was summoned, which heard a "voluntary" abdication extracted from Richard, and a list of Richard's "many crimes and failings." It voted to depose Richard.
bullet The proclamation of Henry as king soon followed (30 September 1399).
[Henry's accession was to create problems in the future, for he was not the heir presumptive to the crown. The best theoretical claim was that of Edmund, Earl of March, (great-grandson of Lionel, Duke of Clarence) although as a child of eight he was in no position to assert it.]
bullet Richard II was imprisoned in Pontefract Castle and died there in 1400 - very probably murdered on Henry IV's orders.