Richard II of England Biography

Richard II, also known as Richard of Bordeaux, was the ambitious King of England from 1377 to 1399. Despite facing political upheavals and the challenges of the Hundred Years’ War and a struggle with France, Richard proved himself as a capable leader. Born into a lineage of royalty, Richard ascended to the throne at the tender age of ten, with the government being controlled by councils and his influential uncle, John of Gaunt. He successfully suppressed the Peasants’ Revolt as a teenager, earning the respect of his citizens. However, his growing reliance on a select group of courtiers led to his unpopularity, ultimately resulting in his deposition by his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke.

Quick Facts

  • British Celebrities Born In January
  • Also Known As: Richard of Bordeaux
  • Died At Age: 33
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Anne of Bohemia, Isabella of Valois
    • Father: Edward, the Black Prince
    • Mother: Joan of Kent
    • Siblings: 1st Duke of Exeter, Edward of Angoulême, John Holland
  • Born Country: France
  • Died on: February 14, 1400
  • Place of Death: Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire, England
  • Cause of Death: Starvation
  • City: Bordeaux, France

Childhood & Early Life

Richard of Bordeaux was born on 6 January 1367 in Bordeaux, Duchy of Aquitaine. He was the younger son of Edward, the Black Prince, and Joan of Kent. His father was the heir to the throne of England and his grandfather, Edward III, was the reigning King of England at the time of Richard’s birth. Richard’s elder brother, Edward of Angoulême, died in 1371, making Richard the second-in-line to the throne. However, his father Edward, the Black Prince, became ill and died in 1376. Richard was just nine years old at the time and there were fears that his uncle, John of Gaunt, would try to usurp the throne. To prevent this, Richard was quickly invested with the princedom of Wales and his father’s other titles.

Accession & Reign

King Edward III died in June 1377, and Richard, aged just ten, was crowned the king on 16 July 1377. There were concerns that John of Gaunt might try to take over the power, so a regency led by the young king’s uncle was avoided. However, John of Gaunt still had considerable influence in the governance. Richard ruled with the help of a group of councilors, with Sir Simon de Burley and Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland, gaining increasing control of royal affairs. The Hundred Years’ War between England and France was ongoing during Richard’s reign, and heavy poll taxes were levied on the citizens to fund the war, leading to discontent among the common people. This discontent sparked the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, which Richard, at just 14 years old, decided to negotiate with the rebels. The revolt was eventually suppressed by Richard, earning him the respect of the citizens. As Richard came of age, he assumed complete control of his kingdom, but became too dependent on a small group of councilors who had great influence over him.

Crisis & Rebellion

In the 1380s, England faced military struggles with France, and the threat of a French invasion grew stronger in 1386. This led to a major crisis in Parliament, with the chancellor, Michael de la Pole, requesting another major taxation to fund military expeditions. In response, the parliament asked the king to remove the chancellor and threatened him with deposition if he refused. Richard was forced to remove de la Pole. In 1387, a group of aristocrats known as the Lords Appellant took control of the government and launched an armed rebellion against King Richard. They defeated an army under Robert de Vere, purged the court, and sentenced two of the king’s favorites to death. Richard eventually regained his power and ruled in relative peace for the next eight years.

England’s Truce & Richard’s Downfall

England reached a truce with France in 1396, easing the burden of taxation on the general masses. By this time, Richard had matured as a leader and no longer relied solely on a small group of people. However, in his quest to be assertive, he became a tyrannical and autocratic ruler, leading to disillusionment among the citizens. In 1399, Richard’s uncle, John of Gaunt, died, and Richard disinherited Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, from the Lancastrian estates. Infuriated, Henry of Bolingbroke invaded England and easily deposed Richard, who surrendered without a fight. Richard was imprisoned and Henry IV ascended the throne.

Personal Life & Legacy

Richard married Anne of Bohemia in 1382, but the marriage produced no children. He deeply loved his wife and was devastated by her death in 1394. His second marriage was a political alliance with Isabella, daughter of Charles VI of France, in 1396. Richard was imprisoned in Pontefract Castle following his deposition and died in captivity on 14 February 1400. The cause of his death is not clear, though some sources suggest he was starved to death.

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