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Richard II - 1377-1399

Key Facts about Richard II

When the Black Prince died a year before his father, he left as their heir his nine-year-old son, Richard. During his childhood the kingdom was ruled by Regents: his uncle John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, and Thomas of Gloucester.

On reaching maturity Richard assumed his place as King and appointed William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester as his Chancellor. For a few years Richard's reign was uneventful, thanks to the work of his predecessors. But there soon arose protests at his government initiatives and employment of foreign advisers.

A poll tax instituted in 1381 led to a Peasants' Revolt, led by Wat Tyler. This was created by the difficult conditions after the Black Death and the government's very slow solution to the countryside problems. The revolt was brought to an end after Tyler was killed, and by Richard's brave appearance before the peasant marchers to persuade them to forego violence.

The still restless barons rose again in 1387 under Thomas of Gloucester, and his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, to oppose the King's will. Formed into a group calling themselves the Lords Appellant, they resented the continuing attempts to control the Lords. Richard rounded on them, murdering Gloucester and banishing Bolingbroke. On his father's death Bolingbroke became Duke of Lancaster, the house which later struggled with the Yorkists for the crown of England.

Richard travelled to Ireland in 1399 to quell warring chieftains, allowing Bolingbroke to return to England and be elected king by Parliament. Rushing back, Richard met Henry Bolingbroke at Pontefract but was defeated and imprisoned at Pontefract Castle. Henry Bolingbroke became the future Henry IV.

Deposed on 29 September, 1399, Richard was murdered while in prison at Pontefract the following February, the first casualty of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York.

Key Events during the Reign of Richard II

1377 - Richard II succeeds his grandfather, Edward III.

1380 - John Wycliffe begins to translate the New Testament from Greek into English.

1381 - Poll Tax leads to the Peasants' Revolt.

1389 - Richard takes control of the government. William of Wykeham is Lord Chancellor.

1394 - Anne of Bohemia dies.

1396 - Richard leads army to reconquer west of Ireland.

1396 - Richard marries Isabella, daughter of the King of France.

1397 - Richard takes revenge against Lords Appellant and exiles Henry Bollingbroke.

1398 - Geoffrey Chaucer completes The Canterbury Tales.

1399 - Bolingbroke becomes Duke of Lancaster on the death of John of Gaunt. Richard seizes his possessions. Bolingbroke returns from exile to claim his inheritance and seizes the throne. Richard returns from fighting in Ireland but is deposed and imprisoned in Pontefract Castle, where he dies in 1400.

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