King Richard II, also known as Richard of Bordeaux was the eighth king of the House of Plantagenet where he was the final one of the direct line. He was the heir to King Edward III and became King at the age of ten. During the early years of King Richard II’s rule, the government was run by regency councils due to his young age. Afterwards, England suffered from many aspects most notably the War of the Roses and also faced the Peasants’ Revolt where the young King Richard II played a crucial part in suppressing the issue. This lead to him gaining some respect. He was unlike his predecessors in that he was less belligerent and he also attempted to bring an end to the 100-year long war. He found the royal prerogative to be very important so he restrained the power of the aristocracy and heavily relied on private retinue for protection instead. Due to his dependence on a small number of courtiers, there were many unhappy influential individuals. As a result aristocrats known as the Lords Appellant took over the throne from the young King. After regaining control of the throne and living in peace for some time, Richard decides to take revenge against the Appellants, beginning his reign of tyranny for two years before being usurped by Henry of Bolingbroke.
- 1367 Richard was born in Bordeaux1377 Richard becomes king after Edward III dies
- 1382 Marriage of Richard II to Anne of Bohemia
- 1389 Richard declares himself to be of age and takes charge of the government. He also initiates attempts to create peace
- 1394 Anne of Bohemia (wife) dies
- 1395 Richard impales arms with Edward the Confessor (combine coat of arms)
- 1396 Richard makes a 28-year truce with France and weds the eldest daughter of Charles VI (Isabeau of Bavaria) She brought a ‘sumptuous trousseau’
- 1397 Richard II attacks the Lords Appellant of 1388 where Gloucester and Arundel are murdered/ executed.
- 1398 Bolinbroke and Mowbray both accused each other of treason and are both exiled. Following this Mowbray dies in Venice with unknown causes
- 1399 During the Second expedition of Richard II to Ireland, Bolingbroke claims the crown of England where Richard II returns and is captured, deposed and possibly murdered. Henry IV is then assumed the crown.
- The death of Richard II is unclear but many people also believe that he died in Pontefract castle from starvation in prison after the assumed crown of Henry IV
Bordeaux was important as it was the birthplace of Richard II but the majority of events in his life occurred in London where his dwelling was. Traveling to neighbouring countries was significant due to the impact that Richard II caused as well as his positive intention. His visits to France and attempted to create a 28 year truce upon the conduction of the 100 year war. Ireland is also a very significant place due to Richard II maintaining his lordship through the events of the Gaelic Recovery and Black Plague after multiple visits. This also sees his demise upon his second visit due to the fact that Henry IV of Bolingbroke claims the crown during his disappearance from English shores.The Pontefract castle is known as the place where Richard II supposedly spent his last hours and died after being locked up by Henry IV upon assasination suspicion.
Shakespeare’s representation of Richard is a strong critique of his leadership. Throughout the course of the play, Richard continues to make grave mistakes that ultimately produce his downfall. His indecisiveness and reckless action are at the heart of the plot, and Bolingbroke represents the foil that drives the action and thus ultimately usurps Richard. The tragedy is that Richard only realizes his failings and the “true” responsibility of a monarch after he has lost the throne, and he will pay for that failure with his life.
- Richard II exiled Henry and Norfolk. Shakespeare’s representation of this event in his historical play Richard II exaggerates the impetuous nature of Richard. Shakespeare continues to depict Richard’s reckless actions by recounting his failed military and political strategies.
- His reckless policies include burdening the common citizens with heavier taxation and confiscating the lands and money of noblemen, including Henry’s father, John of Gaunt. Therefore when Gaunt dies, Richard subsequently revokes Henry’s inheritance. Similarly, the real Richard enacted various fines and taxes, encroached on affairs in the localities, and confiscated over ⅓ of property belonging to the nobility.
In Henry IV part 1, Shakespeare explores Henry’s fear and longing for honour, originating from the historical usurpation of rightful King Richard II. This guilt also inspires Henry’s initial plans for a crusade that aims to redeem himself in front of God.
Shakespeare’s dramatic representation of Richard has overshadowed the genuine events and other recounts of his life. Through his dramatic exploration of the very end of Richard’s reign, Shakespeare manipulated the story to create a poetically tragic character. Despite historical roots through real events, Richard’s character in Shakespeare’s historical plays ultimately serves to Shakespeare’s dramatic purpose. Although Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard may be largely influential in creating his historical image, they are primarily a literary and dramatic tool to discuss more thematic ideals such as honour, leadership and manipulation.