Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Fascinating Facts: Richard II

For those of you into Shakespeare, this is the first of the quartet of plays which were so stunningly filmed by the BBC in the series The Hollow Crown. The facts below are from history, and not from Shakespeare, who could be a little careless with the truth.

Fascinating facts: Richard II [1377-1399]

  • Richard was nominated as heir to the throne by his grandfather Edward III. His father, the Black Prince, was dying and would not live long enough to reign.
  • He was crowned at the age of 10, supported by his uncle John of Gaunt, Steward of England, the most powerful man in the realm.
  • In 1381, when Richard was 14, rebels formed huge marauding bands and began attacking manors and monasteries. They marched on London, but the young King rode out to meet them, listened to their grievances and promised to give them what they wanted. It was a remarkable feat of bravery.
  • By the time he was 17, however, opinions changed. The brave boy had grown into a handsome, narcissistic, dissolute young man, contemptuous of his elders and full of ridicule and hauteur. The court was turned into an erotic pleasure palace.
  • When John of Gaunt was out of the country five Lords Appellant, backed by Parliament, chastised the King.
  • Instead of maturing, Richard became drawn to spiritual and occult matters, taking Edward the Confessor as his patron.
  • He was concerned about his health, and was continually consulting physicians and taking medicine.
  • His marriage to Anne of Bohemia was childless.
  • He attempted to be elected Holy Roman Emperor.
  • When his queen died, he married the six-year-old daughter of Charles VI of France.
  • In November 1398 a comet blazed across the sky and was taken as an ill omen of the death of a king. Richard was afraid, but it was his uncle, John of Gaunt, who died, in February 1399.
  • John's heir, Henry Bolingbroke, landed at Ravenspur in York with 300 men and marched to avenge his father's death, gathering support all the way. Richard was captured and taken to the Tower, where he was forced to abdicate in September 1399. Parliament declared Henry Bolingbroke King, as Henry IV.
  • In February 1400 Richard's body was displayed in London so that no imposters could claim his identity. It is not known how he died.

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