Earl of Arundel Richard FitzAlan. Earl of Warwick Thomas de Beauchamp. They were then joined by two other, more junior, nobles:. Initially proved more conciliatory towards Richard than his fellow Lords, but would ultimately head the invasion that deposed Richard and make himself Henry IV, the first Lancastrian king.
Thomas de Mowbray Duke of Norfolk — initially friends with Richard and was not a target for vengeance when Richard turned against the Lords Appellant in However, he then fell out with Bolingbroke and was sent into perpetual exile, dying of the plague in Venice in Family Fortunes — Wars of the Roses. It all stems from the many children of Edward III and this is how it all begins…. House of Lancaster — these are the descendants from the first marriage of John of Gaunt the Duke of Lancaster.
A play set in England in the late fourteenth century; written and first performed c. Shakespeare composed the plays in an order different from that in which the actual events occurred, so that The Tragedy of King Richard II known simply as Richard II , though written near the middle of the sequence, relates the background from which the struggle arose. These questions relate to the nature of monarchy and, above all, to what makes a monarch legitimate. Richard II was only ten years old when he ascended to the throne in , succeeding his grandfather, Edward III , who reigned from to The war was not going well for England when Richard succeeded to the throne.
For decades since the outbreak of the plague the Black Death in , the reduced population had made labor scarce and had thus driven up wages, improving the lot of free peasants, artisans, and serfs. Noble landowners had quickly responded by enacting the Statute of Labourers in , which attempted to impose a maximum wage on the free peasants and artisans.
The serfs, peasants whose labor was not paid but exacted by the nobles under the feudal system, now found themselves forced to work under the same customary conditions in a market in which the real value of their labor had doubled or tripled. This flat tax penalized the poor, who rose up against the landowning nobles and against the Catholic Church, which was also a major landowner and thus controlled any serfs who were tenants on its land. Led by Wat Tyler , a peasant, and John Ball , a rebellious priest, peasants and serfs throughout southeast England attacked the manor houses of the nobles, the offices of lawyers and judges where documents attesting to the legal status of serfs were kept , and religious edifices.
Young Richard promised them pardons as well as freedom for the serfs—promises that neither he nor his counselors had any intention of keeping. At a subsequent meeting between Richard and Wat Tyler , the rebel leader was stabbed and killed by the Lord Mayor of London; most of the other leaders were rounded up and hanged.
Unrest continued to fester in repeated minor outbreaks throughout the reign. Appointed by Parliament, the council represented the interests of the English nobles, which often conflicted with those of the monarch. As he grew older Richard sought greater independence in exercising power.
Richard, in turn, struggled to build up his own following. John himself, who had mediated between the king and his critics in the past, was away attempting to enforce a hereditary claim to territory in Spain. For two years Richard kept a low profile, but in May he declared himself of an age to rule with full independence. His first wife, Anne of Bohemia , died in , and two years later the year-old Richard cemented a peace with France by marrying Princess Isabella, the 7-year-old daughter of the French king.
During this time of unprecedented harmony, however, Richard was quietly building up a second alliance of favored advisors. Richard had pardoned the five Lords Appellant, but, under circumstances that remain unknown, in he arrested three of them: his uncle Gloucester, and the earls of Warwick and Arundel. The three were convicted of treason; Warwick was sentenced to exile and Arundel to death. It is not known whether Richard ordered his death or whether Mowbray acted on his own—willingly or unwillingly—or whether Gloucester died of poor treatment or even simply of natural causes.
Later, he added charges of murdering Gloucester and misappropriating funds meant for the war. Mowbray denied the charges and demanded trial-by-combat, as was his right under the feudal system. At the same time that the struggle between Mowbray and Bolingbroke was taking place, Richard undertook a series of harsh financial measures designed to increase his royal treasury and support his sumptuous court, the extravagance of which exceeded that of his predecessors.
Richard was chastened, but he began to recover his authority as early as the autumn of at the Cambridge Parliament. He moved to Leicester and on to Coventry and Warwick. Instead of permitting Bolingbroke to succeed his father as the Duke of Lancaster, he revoked Henry's pardon, thus also banishing him for life while confiscating the Lancastrian estates into his own hands. When Richard II came to the English throne in he was only ten years old. Richard III of England. In Chester Salisbury's troops were plagued by desertions and Richard's army was hardly in a state to challenge the insurgent host approaching northwards from Shrewsbury.
He then made the further tactical error of traveling to Ireland to put down a rebellion. Richard II necessarily concerned himself with Parliament during his reign. Coming into being from , the English Parliament had crystallized into two separate bodies by the time he ascended the throne.
Over the next 50 years, procedures would solidify, parliamentary rights would achieve recognition, and Parliament would become a forum in which to air and decide major issues affecting the realm. Usually assembling annually in Westminster Palace , Parliament was held for varying lengths of time over the years. The commons consisted of more than elected representatives, not all of them residing in the areas they represented. The lords included about members, nearly half of them ecclesiastics bishops and archbishops and the rest laymen earls, dukes, and, thanks to Richard, marquises and barons.
During his reign, Richard broadened the class of lords by his actions in relation to two of its subdivisions. In Richard introduced a major change by ignoring these qualifications and promoting a steward of his household—John Beauchamp of Holt—to baron. If the new baron was elated, he would not remain so for long; his fortunes ultimately plummeted. For the moment, though, Beauchamp could enjoy his new status, even if it enflamed others in the realm. Many of the nobles, fearful that the confiscation of one estate left their own vulnerable to similar treatment, rallied to support Bolingbroke.
By the time Richard hesitantly returned from Ireland, Bolingbroke was in a strong position—but it is still uncertain whether as he maintained he wanted merely to claim the inheritance that was rightfully his or whether he already had it in mind to depose Richard and take his place. Sometime in February Richard died in his cell at Pomfret Castle. Richard forbids the trial-by-combat, tries ineffectually to reconcile the two, then reverses himself and declares a date for the tournament. As the highly ceremonial event is about to occur, however, Richard again reverses himself and brings it to a halt.
Instead he has decided to banish both Bolingbroke and Mowbray, the former for ten years and the latter for life. Because of the illegitimate way in which Bolingbroke had come to power, his Lancastrian descendants never enjoyed real security on the throne. Both sides won victories, but in the end both also exhausted their supply of male heirs, many of whom died in combat.
Ross and Willoughby agree, and the three conspirators exit. Green, another royal favorite, enters and announces that Bolingbroke has landed at Ravenspur in northern England, where Northumberland and other nobles have flocked to his cause.
Indecisive, he is split between his two kinsmen, between his duty to Richard and his conscience, which tells him that the king has deeply wronged Bolingbroke. Duty prevails, barely, and York goes off to prepare a defense at Berkley Castle until Richard can return. Bolingbroke defends himself by invoking his customary rights of inheritance.
York caves in, inviting Bolingbroke into the castle. The scene shifts to Richard, who has arrived from Ireland, and two of his few remaining supporters: his cousin Aumerle, son and heir to York, and the Bishop of Carlisle. Yet this belief in the divine right of kings crumbles before his own inability to act, to take command, to be a king in deed as well as in name.
He gives up when his supporters are still ready to fight, sitting down while they remain standing:. With a flourish of trumpets, Richard enters with Carlisle and Aumerle, immediately upbraiding Northumberland for not bowing in the royal presence. Must he submit?
Must he be deposed? Bolingbroke, however, kneels before Richard, before leaving to escort him to London. In vain, Aumerle and the Abbott of Westminster hatch an abortive plot to restore him. The scene climaxes with the deposition, in which Richard physically hands the crown to Bolingbroke. Act 5 begins with Richard and the queen meeting as he is being taken to the Tower.
Northumberland enters with the news that Bolingbroke has changed his mind: Richard is to go not to the Tower but to Pomfret Castle, deep in Lancastrian lands in the north. The queen will return to France. Richard and the queen bid each other farewell tenderly. Exton, a noble, is told by a servant that Bolingbroke has wished Richard dead. When the keeper says that Exton has ordered him not to taste the food for poison , Richard beats him, as Exton and four murderers rush in.
Roused to action, Richard kills two of the murderers before Exton strikes him down. With his last words, Richard curses Exton and commends his own soul to heaven. In a brief final scene, Bolingbroke banishes Exton, yet admits that he wished Richard dead and acknowledges his own guilt. Two centuries separated Shakespeare from the events of Richard II , and during those years England was transformed from a medieval feudal society into a modern nation-state. As the critic E.
In his struggles with those who would limit his power, the historical Richard relied more than his predecessors on the medieval concept that kings rule by divine right ; Shakespeare repeatedly has his Richard invoke the same principle. Bolingbroke, the usurper, represents the new order, a world in which a king in some sense would have to earn his title rather than rely solely and exclusively on the divine sanction of his birth. Richard II was reportedly a poet himself, though not an accomplished one, and he is known to have patronized the great poets of his age, most notably Geoffrey Chaucer who also died in On a visit to England in , the French chronicler Jean Froissart presented Richard with a book of poems in French, which Richard spoke fluently.
Shakespeare may have had these facts in mind when creating his own character for the medieval king, a character that critics praised as the most poetic of his tragic figures before Hamlet The medieval world conspicuously lacked the idea of national identity; to modern historians it is precisely in his use of this idea in the play that Shakespeare imposes an Elizabethan outlook on its medieval picture.
In the feudal world there was no national identity as such. An Englishman of the fourteenth century was not primarily an Englishman—he was above all a Yorkshireman, or a Cornishman, or a Kentishman. As historian E. He invents or adapts some events and characters, compresses sequences that took place over days into single scenes, and heightens some events while omitting others. The most obvious departure from Holinshed is the part of the queen. Of events that Shakespeare compresses, the most obvious example is Act 2 Scene 1, in which Gaunt gives his famous apostrophe to England, exits, and is revealed to have died only a few lines later; Richard seizes his estate; and Bolingbroke is said to be already on his way to contest the seizure.
Revealingly, the white York or red Lancaster rose was only one of several heraldic symbols associated with each house, and the association was not a standard literary device until Henry VII invented the Tudor double rose white and red to symbolize his uniting of the two houses. Like Richard, the queen was known for surrounding herself with trusted favorites. In , she apparently rebuked one of these advisors, Sir Francis Knollys, who had given her advice that for an unknown reason she did not like.