Was Richard II a precocious tyrant? (I)

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  • Was Richard II a precocious tyrant?
    • The Art of Kingship Richard II, 1377-1399 (according to Caroline Barron)
    • Violent, angry and unpredictable
      • In 1383, heard of faulures of Bishop Dispenser's expedition to Flanders
        • Rushed southwards to lead an army across the Channel, only to abandon idea a few hours later
      • In 1385
        • Had to be physically restrained from running his sword through distinguished Archbishop of Canterbury, William Courteney
          • Archbishop had remonstrated with him about violent activities of hotheads in his court
    • Anthony Tuck
      • Demonstrated Richard's adolescent distribution of patronage, most important of all tools at disposal of medieval kings, was capricious and ill judged
        • he made enemies needlessly and promoted those who could him comparatively little support
    • When Richard was 20, independence of royal household received a parliamentary check
      • In 1385, Parliament had attempted to control what it saw as extravagance of royal household by imposing certain conditions and restraints on royal spending
        • Richard and his household servants ignored restraints
          • So when Parliament was again summoned in 1386, both Lords and Commons assembled in truculent mood
            • led by Richard's uncle, Thomas, Duke of Gloucester and powerful Bishop of Ely, Thomas Arundel, the Lords and Commons attempted to impeach Chancellor Michael de la Pole
    • Impeachment of Michael de la Pole
      • To thwart impeachment, Richard stayed away from Parliament
        • since in absence of King, Chancellor was in loco regis, he could not be impeached
      • Finally, Gloucester and Arundel led deputation to Richard who was staying at Eltham Palace and demanded de la Pole should be removed from office
        • Richard angrily retorted he would not remove meanest scullion from his kitchen at their request
      • Richard's retort roused Gloucester to remind Richard of fate of Edward II and from this time onwards spectre of earlier deposition casts shadow over events of Richard's reign
        • Edward II was forced to relinquish throne after his regime alienated his subjects
      • After being reminded of Edward II
        • At Eltham in 1386 threat served its purpose:
          • Richard came to Parliament, Michael de la Pole was successfully impeached and deprived of office
    • After impeachment, Parliament imposed upon King a commission  of eleven men who, together wit officers of state, would in effect, control spending and patronage of Crown for next year
      • Richard felt check upon freedom very acutely
        • Decided to pursue policy of non-co-operation with new commission
    • Policy of non-co-operation with new commission
      • deliberately ignored it and while commission did its work at Westminster, Richard travelled (as one chronicle wrote 'gyrated') around country, staying at abbeys and royal castles, particularly in North
    • Richard doing more than ignoring and obstructing commission
      • 1386 had brought Richard to his senses and he was not merely content to ignore and obstruct commission
      • Richard was determined to attack assumptions and attitudes which had made it possible for such a curb in royal autonomy to be imposed
      • Richard decided to question legality of commission and of acts of Parliament which had imposed it, and for support he turned to judiciary
        • Two chief justices, Sir Robert Belknap and Sir Robert Tresilian ruled it was prerogative of King to summon and dismiss Parliament and so controls its business
          • No convincing evidence they were coerced
          • Royal ministers, in judges' opinion could not be impeached without King's consent, against his will, a commission in effect which usurped royal powers
            • Those who perpetuated, or urged such actions should be punished as traitors
      • Probable Richard intended to keep judges' answers to questions secret
        • a weapon to be used when need arose
        • Such secrecy was to become a common feature of Richard's policy in later years
    • Dealings with opposition after receiving judges' answers
      • News of judge's questions leaked out and those hwo had been ringleaders in Parliament of 1386 (Arundel, Gloucester, Warwick) decided to act before they could be acted against
        • Feared accusations of treason
      • Oppostion launched appeal of treason against five of Richard's closest supports, including Micheal de la Pole and Robert de Vere
      • Richard astutely accepted appeal  but moved it from  Court of Chivalry to Court of Parliament (highest court in land) in February 1388
        • Gloucester presided over Court of Chivalry
          • Would make it easier for opposition to get verdict in their favour
        • In Parliament, Richard could hope for less prejudiced hearing
          • Difficult for Appellants to secure convictions in Parliament against de la Pole and the others
      • De Vere was allowed to escape from confinement in whcih he was supposed to be awaiting opening of Parliament
        • travelled North to Cheshire to call King's retinue to arms
          • Overthrowing opposition by force proved unsuccessful leaving Richard in vulnerable situation
            • De Vere, whilst leading Retinue south, encountered retinues of Glocuester, Arundel and Warwick joined by Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Norfolk, and Henry Bolingbroke
              • De Vere and King's troops were scattered at Radcot Bridge in Oxfordshire on 15th Dec 1387
                • Richard retreated to Tower of London


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