Was Richard II a progressive monarch maligned by usurpers?

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  • Was Richard II a progressive monarch maligned by usurpers?
    • Richard, a young man, preferred young men to older men
      • e.g. favoured youthful Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and promoted him to heady title of Marquis of Dublin
        • bound to annoy Richard's uncles, the Dukes of Lancaster, York and Gloucester
    • The Art of Kingship Richard II, 1377-1399 (according to Caroline Barron)
    • Following 1388, it should be remembered baronial opposition had killed royal servants
      • Should be remembered when considering later unsavoury policies
      • Following 1388, Richard developed  from wayward adolescence into mature politician
    • Building up Crown's landed estate
      • 'to live off his own', King must make own estates profitable
      • When great estates of Earls of Gloucester, Arundel and Warwick were convicted of treason, were forfeited to Crown in 1397
        • King retained some of this windfall in his hands
      • In 1399 on death of John of Gaunt he took over vast Lancastrian estates and excluded Henry Bolingbroke, in exile in France, from his inheritance
        • Proved to be political mistake but policy was sensible, to build up land resources of Crown to a point where Crown was richer than any, over-mighty, subject
      • In feudal law, king was free to choose tenants in chief, in practice such a blatant interference in custom of inheritance gave Henry Bolingbroke an excuse to return
      • But ultimately from landed estates of Crown that revival in monarchy was to come
      • Professor Lander
        • Has shown it was Yorkist reorganisation of Crown lands (by then augmented by addition of both Lancastrian and Yorkist Estates) and rigid control of them through Chamber that was key to their success
          • Richard had perceived this nearly a century earlier
    • Spent more time than most English monarchs away from Westminster and the south (Kingdom more united?)
      • Perhaps influenced by the fact that southern counties and London and general seemed to have abandoned King during events of 1387-8
        • Would suggest tyrant
      • Showed unusual concern to govern his whole realm and to carry royal authority into local government of shires and into lawless northern counties, marcher lands of Wales and even to Ireland
      • Brought local men into his own household
        • Sir John Bushy from Lincolnshire
        • Sir William Bagot from  Warwickshire
        • Sir Henry Green from Northamptonshire
      • Members of royal household appointed o act as sheriffs
        • e.g. Sir Thomas Clanrow for Herefordshire and Andrew Newport Esquire for Cambridgeshire in 1397
        • Been suggested Richard's purpose in selecting sheriffs was not primarily to achieve amenable men as MPs but to have effective royal agents in shires for military purposes
    • Richard took his household influence even into comparatively humble, but important, business of customs collection.
      • In 1397 Andrew Newport was appointed to collect wool subsidy in London,  and in Boston and other ports royal clerks had been inserted into ranks of customs collectors since early 1390s
        • Policy of royal household intervention in local government can be clearly detected and parallels to be drawn with Tudor methods of governance
    • Richard's  concern to be monarch of all his realm is perhaps particularly striking
      • In the west he concentrated his attentions on the creation and enlargement of principality of Cheshire thereby developing royalist sympathies of Cheshire gentry to provide an antidote to Lancastrian power base in palatinate
      • Attempt to control Wales from royal base in a marcher lordship foreshadows later Council of Wales based in Ludlow
      • Was he trying to control country in a tyrannical way?
        • Or like previous kings merely trying to increase territory? Like Normans trying to expand into Wales?
      • King's council
        • Mainspring of royal activity
        • Composed of efficient hardworking civil servants
        • From journal of King's secretary, John Prophet (years 1392-3)
          • Men like Sir William Neville, Sir Nicholas Sharnesfield, Sir Lewis Clifford,  Sir Richard Sturry and Sir Edward Dallingridge were frequent attenders and were employed in royal business
            • Clifford, Sturry and Neville were among those accused by contemporary chroniclers of being Lollard knights
            • They didn't receive lavish grants and, as Dr Tuck has written, 'they have more the character of professional administrators attached to the household, than couriers participating in government'
            • In later 1390s, notorious Bushy, Bagot and Green work daily as royal councillors, together with William le Scrope, later Earl of Wiltshire and the King's half brothers the Hollands, together with King's cousin Aumerle
              • These men formed hard-working nucleus, reminiscent of working council of Yorkist kings
        • Ricardian council can be found acting in semi-judicial capacity
          • Men were summoned to answer for lapses and failures
          • those accused under first of many statutes against livery and maintenance brought to council
          • Judging by his attitude at Cambridge Parliament of 1388, Richard had some sympathy with those who wished to curtail granting of liveries by great magnates and their maintaining of suits by intimidating local juries
            • Intimidation possibly points towards him being tyrannical
            • Parliamentary statute was passed in 1390 and Courteney Earl of Devon was brought before council to answer for activities of retainers
              • Prosecution was ineffective but it pointed way later followed by Edward IV and famously and successfully by Henry VII

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