1st Earl of Northumberland, Archbishop of Canterbury, Duke Lancaster, Duke of York, Edmund of England, Henry Bolingbroke, Henry Percy, House of Lancaster, John of Gaunt. King Charles VI of France, King Henry IV of England and Lord of Ireland, King Richard II of England and Lord of Ireland, Lords Appellant, Usurper
John of Gaunt, uncle of the King, occupied the role of a valued counsellor of King Richard II and loyal supporter of the Crown. He did not even protest, it seems, when his younger brother Thomas was murdered at Richard’s behest. It may be that he felt he had to maintain this posture of loyalty to protect his son, Henry Bolingbroke, who had also been one of the Lords Appellant who rebelled against the King, from Richard’s wrath.
Henry Bolingbroke experienced an inconsistent relationship with King Richard II than his father, John of Gaunt had. First cousins and childhood playmates, they were admitted together as knights of the Order of the Garter in 1377, but as mentioned, Henry participated in the Lords Appellants’ rebellion against the king in 1387.
After regaining power, Richard did not punish Henry, although he did execute or exile many of the other rebellious barons. In fact, Richard elevated Henry from Earl of Derby to Duke of Hereford.
The relationship between Henry and King Richard II met with a second crisis. In 1398, a remark regarding Richard II’s rule by Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, was interpreted as treason by Henry who reported it to the king.
Henry and Thomas de Mowbray agreed to undergo a duel of honour (called by Richard II) at Gosford Green near Caludon Castle, Mowbray’s home in Coventry. Yet before the duel could take place, Richard decided to banish Henry from the kingdom (with the approval of Henry’s father, John of Gaunt) to avoid further bloodshed. Mowbray was exiled for life.
John of Gaunt died in February 1399. Without explanation, Richard cancelled the legal documents that would have allowed Henry to inherit Gaunt’s land automatically. Instead, Henry would be required to ask for the lands from Richard.
While in exile in France, and after some hesitation, Henry met the exiled Thomas Arundel, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who had lost his position because of his involvement with the Lords Appellant. In England King Richard II went on a military campaign against Ireland.
In June 1399, Louis I, Duke of Orléans, gained control of the court of the insane Charles VI of France. The policy of rapprochement with the English crown did not suit Louis’s political ambitions, and for this reason he found it opportune to allow Henry Bolingbroke to leave France for England.
With a small group of followers, Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Arundel, landed at Ravenspur in Yorkshire towards the end of June 1399.
With Arundel now as his advisor, Henry began a military campaign, confiscating land from those who opposed him and ordering his soldiers to destroy much of Cheshire. Henry initially announced that his intention was solely to reclaim his rights as Duke of Lancaster,
Men from all over the country soon rallied around him. Meeting with Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, who had his own misgivings about the King, and Bolingbroke insisted that his only object was to regain his own patrimony.
Percy took him at his word and declined to interfere. The king had taken most of his household knights and the loyal members of his nobility with him to Ireland, so Bolingbroke experienced little resistance as he moved south.
Keeper of the Realm Edmund, Duke of York, had little choice but to side with Bolingbroke. Meanwhile, King Richard II was delayed in his return from Ireland and did not land in Wales until July 24. The King made his way to Conwy, where on August 12 he met with the Earl of Northumberland for negotiations.
On August 19 Richard surrendered to Henry Bolingbroke at Flint Castle, promising to abdicate if his life were spared. Both men then returned to London, the indignant king riding all the way behind Henry. On arrival, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London on September 1.
Henry was by now fully determined to take the throne, but presenting a rationale for this action proved a dilemma. It was argued that Richard II, through his tyranny and misgovernment, had rendered himself unworthy of being king.
However, Henry was not next in line to the throne; the heir presumptive was Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, great-grandson of Edward III’s second surviving son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence.
Bolingbroke’s father, John of Gaunt, was Edward’s third son to survive to adulthood. The problem was solved by emphasising Henry’s descent in a direct male line, whereas March’s descent was through his grandmother, Philippa of Clarence.
According to the official record, read by the Archbishop of Canterbury during an assembly of lords and commons at Westminster Hall on Tuesday September 30, King Richard II gave up his crown willingly and ratified his deposition citing as a reason his own unworthiness as a monarch.
On the other hand, the Traison et Mort Chronicle suggests otherwise. It describes a meeting between Richard and Henry that took place one day before the parliament’s session. The king succumbed to blind rage, ordered his own release from the Tower, called his cousin a traitor, demanded to see his wife, and swore revenge, throwing down his bonnet, while Henry refused to do anything without parliamentary approval.
When parliament met to discuss Richard’s fate, John Trevor, Bishop of St Asaph, read thirty-three articles of deposition that were unanimously accepted by lords and commons. On October 1, 1399, Richard II was formally deposed. On October 13, the feast day of Edward the Confessor, Henry Bolingbroke was crowned as King Henry IV of England and Lord of Ireland.
Henry IV’s coronation at Westminster Abbey, may have marked the first time since the Norman Conquest that the monarch made an address in English.
King Henry IV had agreed to let Richard live after his abdication. This all changed when it was revealed that the earls of Huntingdon, Kent, and Salisbury, and Lord Despenser, and possibly also the Earl of Rutland – all now demoted from the ranks they had been given by Richard – were planning to murder the new king and restore Richard in the Epiphany Rising.
Although averted, the plot highlighted the danger of allowing Richard to live. Richard is thought to have been starved to death in captivity in Pontefract Castle on or around February 14, 1400, although there is some question over the date and manner of his death. His body was taken south from Pontefract and displayed in St Paul’s Cathedral on 17 February before burial in King’s Langley Priory on March 6.