Was Richard II a hero King or a charismatic Renaissance prince?

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  • Was Richard II a hero King or a charismatic Renaissance prince?
    • The Art of Kingship Richard II, 1377-1399 (according to Caroline Barron)
    • After Wat Tyler's death in 1381
      • behaved with bravery and good sense when faced by a mob of angry peasants after Tyler's death
      • Aged 14
      • Displayed charisma and capacity for leadership he never lost
    • Loyalty to wife, Anne of Bohemia
      • Married January 1382 when he was 15 years old
    • Military accomplishments and peace judgements
      • Led reasonably successful expedition to Scotland in 1385
      • encouraged Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk and Chancellor of England to pursue policy of peace with France
    • No contemporaries suggest he was licentious or indulged in 'natural vices' of his great grandfather Edward II
    • Richard's behaviour is reminiscent of wild exploits of Prince Hal or Prince Regent
      • Only trouble being Richard was already King and not protected by over-mastering wing of a royal father
    • France, 1396
      • Richard followed both personal preference and policy in pursuing peace with France
      • Secured 28 year truce in 1396
        • Considered triumph in diplomacy both abroad and at home where idea of peace had to sold to nation whose political norm for sixty years was war with France
      • Dr Palmer
        • Richard did not abandon English interests in Europe by making peace with France
          • Rather he used secret diplomacy effectively to contain French ambitions in Flanders and in Italy, and so maintained English interests by stealth rather than open war
      • Secret diplomacy allowed King to rule without summoning parliament
        • View that this is tyrannical is anachronistic
          • Contemporaries did not believe a king who ruled without Parliament ipso facto ruled badly
            • rather, he was  effectively carrying out business of monarch without recourse to extraordinary financial help of his subjects, and they were relieved
            • Edward IV's declaration he intended to 'live off his own' (resources) was greeted with enthusiasm and no one criticised him for summoning only six parliaments in a reign of 22-years
              • both Kings for different reasons, largely pursued policies of peace abroad. From subjects' point of view Parliaments were expensive and time consuming and the fewer there were, the better
            • Henry VII summoned only seven parliaments in his reign of 24-years and there were no complaints
              • both Kings for different reasons, largely pursued policies of peace abroad. From subjects' point of view Parliaments were expensive and time consuming and the fewer there were, the better
    • See the North on Was Richard II a precocious tyrant? (III)
    • Ireland
      • Richard's interest in Ireland reveals his energy and imagination
      • He was first English king to visit Ireland since 1210
        • went twice, once in 1394-5 and once in 1399
      • Reason for Richard's concern for most turbulent part of realm is difficult to guess
        • May have hoped to occupy giddy minds abroad, in Ireland rather than France
        • May have hoped to exert royal influence om traditional sphere of Mortimer earls, too close to Crown for complete comfort
      • Many of Richard's solutions were effective only when Richard himself was present
      • His concern for neglected Ireland marks him out and takes us forward to various Tudor attempts to solve a problem which remains, to this day, intractable because of divisions within Irish community itself
    • According to Barron phrase 'Renaissance Prince' more aptly describes Richard than his dowdy Lancastrian supplanters
      • No doubt Richard believed kings should be glorious and that in that glory lay much of Richard's undoubted charisma
      • Judging by wardrobe accounts, his household must have been well-dressed and Datini agent in London reported on easy market for fine cloths which French marriage of 1396 would create
      • Richard rebuilt Westminster Hall to provide worthy seat for king in majesty and he decorated it with a line of saintly kings to emphasise his own royal lineage
      • Richard commissioned for himself and Queen Anne one of finest tombs of any English medieval king and, whereas we have no contemporary portraits of any other English monarch, for Richard we have two
      • Richard showed remarkable concern for image of Kingship and consciously developed new royal saint (Edward the Confessor) as an antidote to militaristic Saint George
      • His court became notable centre of patronage where works like Wilton Diptych and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight were inspired and produced
      • Could this lavish living really suggest he was an out of touch autocrat who spent too much money on unnecessary things?

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