Edward III's son, the Black Prince, died in 1376. The king's grandson, Richard II, succeeded to the throne aged 10, on Edward's death.
In 1381 the Peasants' Revolt broke out and Richard, aged 14, bravely rode out to meet the rebels at Smithfield, London. Wat Tyler, the principal leader of the peasants, was killed and the uprisings in the rest of the country were crushed over the next few weeks (Richard was later forced by his Council's advice to rescind the pardons he had given).
Highly cultured, Richard was one of the greatest royal patrons of the arts; patron of Chaucer, it was Richard who ordered the technically innovative transformation of the Norman Westminster Hall to what it is today. (Built between 1097 and 1099 by William II, the Hall was the ceremonial and administrative centre of the kingdom; it also housed the Courts of Justice until 1882.)
Richard's authoritarian approach upset vested interests, and his increasing dependence on favourites provoked resentment. In 1388 the 'Merciless Parliament', led by a group of lords hostile to Richard (headed by the King's uncle, Gloucester), sentenced many of the king's favourites to death and forced Richard to renew his coronation oath. The death of his first queen, Anne of Bohemia, in 1394 further isolated Richard, and his subsequent arbitrary behaviour alienated people further.
Richard took his revenge in 1397, arresting or banishing many of his opponents; his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, was also subsequently banished. On the death of Henry's father, John of Gaunt (a younger son of Edward III), Richard confiscated the vast properties of his Duchy of Lancaster (which amounted to a state within a state) and divided them among his supporters.
Richard pursued policies of peace with France (his second wife was Isabella of Valois); Richard still called himself king of France and refused to give up Calais, but his reign was concurrent with a 28 year truce in the Hundred Years War. His expeditions to Ireland failed to reconcile the Anglo-Irish lords with the Gaels.
In 1399, whilst Richard was in Ireland, Henry of Bolingbroke returned to claim his father's inheritance. Supported by some of the leading baronial families (including Richard's former Archbishop of Canterbury), Henry captured and deposed Richard. Bolingbroke was crowned King as Henry IV.
Risings in support of Richard led to his murder in Pontefract Castle; Henry V subsequently had his body buried in Westminster Abbey.
Richard II (AD 1377-1399)
Born: 6 January 1367 at Bordeaux, Gascony
Murdered: 14 February 1400 at Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire
Buried: Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Parents: Edward, Prince of Wales - "the Black Prince" - and Joan, the "Fair Maid of Kent"
Siblings: Edward of Angouleme
Crowned: 16 July 1377 at Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Abdicated: 29 September 1399
Married: (1st) 14 January 1382 at St. Stephen's Chapel in the Palace of Westminster, Middlesex; (2nd) 4th November 1396 at Calais
Spouse: (1st) Anne daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor & King of Bohemia; (2nd) Isabella daughter of Charles VI, King of France
Named Heir: His cousin, Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March
Contemporaries: Wat Tyler; Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford; Michael de la Pole; Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel; Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick; John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester; Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV), Earl of Derby; Geoffrey Chaucer
Richard II, born in 1367, was the son of Edward, the Black Prince and Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent. Richard was but ten years old when he succeeded his grandfather, Edward III; England was ruled by a council under the leadership of John of Gaunt, and Richard was tutored by Sir Simon Burley. He married the much-beloved Anne of Bohemia in 1382, who died childless in 1394. Edward remarried in 1396, wedding the seven year old Isabella of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France, to end a further struggle with France.
Richard asserted royal authority during an era of royal restrictions. Economic hardship followed the Black Death, as wages and prices rapidly increased. Parliament exacerbated the problem by passing legislation limiting wages but failing to also regulate prices. In 1381, Wat Tyler led the Peasants' Revolt against the oppressive government policies of John of Gaunt. Richard's unwise generosity to his favorites - Michael de la Pole, Robert de Vere and others - led Thomas, Duke of Gloucester and four other magnates to form the Lords Appellant. The five Lords Appellant tried and convicted five of Richard's closest advisors for treason. In 1397, Richard arrested three of the five Lords, coerced Parliament to sentence them to death and banished the other two. One of the exiles was Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV. Richard travelled to Ireland in 1399 to quell warring chieftains, allowing Bolingboke to return to England and be elected king by Parliament. Richard lacked support and was quickly captured by Henry IV.
Deposed in 1399, Richard was murdered while in prison, the first casualty of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York.