Reign of Richard II. Part 1 page 6
Richard had now reached the age of nineteen. The ability, address, and bravery which he had displayed at the time of the insurrection raised high hopes in the nation of the success of his future government. Time, however, failed to realise these expectations. Richard was by no means destitute of cleverness, but his mind was rather showy than solid. He had been brought up in his boyhood in the south of France, at the luxurious court of Bordeaux. He had early been imbued with the tastes of Provence - music and poetry - rather than stern politics and arms. After his father's death his mother and half-brother had treated him with ruinous personal indulgence, and instilled into his mind the most mischievous ideas of his future greatness and royal authority. There is a very striking parallel between his education, his personal character, and his fate, and those of Charles I. Both were fond of literature and the fine arts; both had the strongest domestic attachments, and had been indoctrinated with the most fatal ideas of the royal prerogative. Both were high-spirited, chivalrous, and, necessarily, despotic; they were moulded to despotism by their parents. Both had their favourites - Richard, De Vere and De la Pole; Charles, Strafford and Buckingham. Both, while they were intensely beloved by their own families and immediate associates, lost the affections of their people by utterly despising their rights; and both came to a tragic end.
When the Bishop of Norwich returned from his unfortunate expedition, Lancaster concluded an armistice with France, in which the Scots were included; but, as these reckless neighbours still continued the war, he marched into Scotland in 1384, burnt the huts of which their towns were composed, and, to destroy the retreats into which they always retired on the approach of an English army, he supplied his troops, according to Knyghton, with 80,000 axes, with which they cut down their forests, inflicting a most serious injury on the nation. Notwithstanding this service, he found, on his return to London, that the suspicions of his disloyalty were more rife than ever. While the Parliament was sitting at Salisbury, a Carmelite friar, one John Latimer, put into the king's hands the written particulars of a real or pretended conspiracy to place the crown on the head of John of Gaunt. Richard was advised to show this to Lancaster, who swore that it was false, and vowed to do battle with any one who impeached his innocence. He insisted that the friar, who persisted in his story, should be committed to safe custody; and, accordingly, he was consigned to the care of Sir John Holland, the king's half brother, but a secret ally of the Duke of Lancaster, who strangled him in the night, it is said, with his own hands, and had him dragged through the streets in the morning as a traitor.
This John Holland - a base man, who stained himself with more than one murder, as we shall find - was the son of Joan of Kent, Richard's mother, by her first husband, Sir Thomas Holland; by whom she had also another son, created by Richard Earl of Kent. Sir John Holland - notwithstanding Richard, for this second murder, «was bent on putting him to death - was afterwards created by him Earl of Huntingdon and Duke of Exeter. His present act of assassination only the more confirmed the public in the idea that something was to be concealed. There was great excitement; but the Lord Zouch, whom the friar had named as the author of the memorial, protested that he knew nothing of the matter; and the Earl of Buckingham, another of the king's uncles, bursting into the king's presence with his sword drawn, swore he would kill the first man that dared to charge his brother Lancaster with treason. Richard professed to be satisfied; and, in proof of it, sent the duke across the Channel to procure a prolongation of the armistice. But he was, in reality, anything but satisfied; and it was secretly resolved to arrest him on his return. Apprised of this, the duke, instead of coming to London, hasted away to his castle of Pontefract, where he remained strongly fortified, till, by repeated journeys and entreaties, the king's mother procured a reconciliation, and also a pardon for her son John Holland.
No sooner did the armistice with France and Scotland expire in May, 1385, than the French sent John of Vienne, formerly Governor of Calais, to Scotland with an aid of 1,000 men-at-arms and 400,000 francs in gold, and armour for the equipment of 1,000 Scottish knights and esquires, to induce them to make an inroad into England. This armament arrived in Scotland in the early summer, but the French knights, according to Froissart, were greatly astonished at the rudeness of the country and the hard living of the people. According to him, the country was wild, the people barbarous, and Edinburgh, the capital, they thought inferior to their provincial towns of Tournay or Valenciennes. They were annoyed and discontented at the want of feasts, balls, tournaments, and the gaieties of their own country. They complained that they were compelled to purchase the very coarsest food at most exorbitant prices, and were at their wits' end for forage for their horses. The people, exasperated at their ridicule and complaints, repaid them with hatred, and, as they asserted, even laid traps for their lives, the common soldiers being very disrespectful to the women. For a long time none of the nobility, except the Earls of Douglas and Moray, even visited them, and when they were introduced to the king they were as much shocked with his appearance as with that of the country: "at his red bleared eyes, and at his whole appearance, which convinced them that he was no warrior."
When they wanted to begin the campaign, they complained that the Scots wanted to be paid for fighting their own battles, and would not budge a foot till the 40,000 livres were distributed amongst them. In short, it did not tend much to the mutual satisfaction of their allies that the gay French men had come over.
At length, the forces being paid, the united army of France and Scotland descended on Northumberland, and took three castles in the marches, but, 011 the approach of the English, as rapidly retired. John of Vienne was astonished at their retreat, allowing the enemy to pillage their country, but they told him they did not pretend to make resistance to so powerful a force; that all their cattle were driven into the woods and fastnesses; that their houses and chattels were of small value; and that they well knew how to compensate themselves. Accordingly, as Richard advanced into Scotland by Berwick and the east coast, the Scots, accompanied by the French, poured 30,000 men into England by the west, and, ravaging Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Lancashire, collected a splendid booty, and returned well satisfied to their country.
Richard was now, for the first time, at the head of an army against a foreign enemy. He had before only led his forces against his own peasantry. His host is variously estimated at 60,000 and 80,000 men; but, before he passed the English borders, an incident occurred which marred all his satisfaction. Lord Stafford, son of the Earl of Stafford, one of the king's favourites, and in high favour with Queen Anne, both on account of his chivalrous and his virtuous qualities, was on the way with despatches from the king to the queen, when, some affray having taken place amongst their retainers, John Holland struck down the young lord without personal provocation, and killed him on the spot. Jealousy of the queen's favour and malice against her adherents is said to have been the real cause of this atrocious deed. The murderer fled for sanctuary to the church at Beverley. The Earl of Stafford and his family were loud in their demands of justice on the miscreant, and Richard vowed that he would hang him if ever he ventured out of the sanctuary of St. John of Beverley. Meantime, he confiscated his estates. Their common mother, the "Fair Maid of Kent," prostrated by grief at this second deed of her assassin son, wept for four days, entreating the king in vain to spare the malefactor's life. She then sank, heart-broken, on the fifth day, at the castle of Wallingford. Her death so affected Richard, who was a most affectionate son, that he pardoned the criminal when it was too late to save his mother.
Richard now marched into Scotland without being able to find any enemy. He reduced to ashes Edinburgh, Dunfermline, Perth, and Dundee, and he was about to perpetrate the same rigour on Aberdeen, when the news reached him that the Scots were laying waste Cumberland, and John of Vienne was besieging Carlisle. He then made a rapid countermarch, in order to intercept them; but on the way another of his favourites, Sir Michael de la Pole, infused some fresh suspicions into the king's mind regarding Lancaster, and the following morning Richard angrily announced his intention of returning home. In vain Lancaster protested against it; the king persisted in his intention. He disbanded his army; and, on the other hand, the Scots declaring that they found the heavy French cavalry of no use in their desultory species of warfare, behaved with so much rudeness to them, that they also returned home, much disgusted, says Froissart, " with the country, and the manners of the inhabitants."
In the Parliament which met in November following, Richard confirmed various honours which he conferred during the expedition. He was anxious to allay the jealousies between his relatives and his favourites. He therefore created his uncles, the Earls of Cambridge and Buckingham, Dukes of York and Gloucester, with a new grant of lands of the annual value of £1,000 each. Henry Bolingbroke, the son of Lancaster, and Edward Plantagenet, the son of the Duke of York, he made Earls of Derby and Rutland. But then he proceeded to heap similar honours and emoluments on his favourites. Robert de Vere, a handsome young man, of good family, but of dissolute manners, he created Earl of Oxford, with the title of Duke of Ireland - a title before unknown in England; and transferred to him by patent, which was confirmed by Parliament, the entire sovereignty of that island for life. He gave him in marriage his relative, the daughter of Ingelram de Courci, Earl of Bedford; but De Vere became deeply enamoured of one of the queen's ladies of the bedchamber, a Bohemian, the Landgravine of Luxembourg, and therefore allied to the imperial family. Not only the king, but the pious queen favoured his suit, and obtained a divorce and dispensation for his fresh marriage from the Pope. This transaction gave deep offence to the English nation, for the rejected wife was the granddaughter of the great Edward III. and Philippa of Hainault. Her uncles, the Dukes of Gloucester, York, and Lancaster, were still more deeply incensed.
Michael de la Pole, the other chief favourite, was created Earl of Suffolk, with the reversion of the estates of the late earl on the death of his widow and the queen. As Richard had no children, he at the same time, in order to cut off the aspirings of the Duke of Lancaster named Roger, Earl of March, and grandson of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, his heir to the throne.
The Duke of Lancaster thus, after repeatedly avowed suspicions of his designs on the throne, now so markedly cut off, found it most agreeable to retire awhile from court; and no fairer plan could present itself than that of prosecuting his claims on the crown of Spain, in which his brother, the Earl of Cambridge, had been so unsuccessful. John, the newly-chosen King of Portugal, had sent to invite him to come over and support him against their common enemy, the King of Spain. Nothing could be more agreeable to Lancaster, and Richard was equally glad to have him out of the way. One-half of the year's supply was devoted to the purposes of this expedition. Twenty thousand men were mustered, and before John of Gaunt and Constance his wife, Princess of Spain, set out, the king presented him with a crown of gold, as confident that he would wear it; and the queen presented one also to the duchess. The fleet sailed from Plymouth in July, 1386, and the duke arriving safely in Portugal, his eldest daughter, Philippa, was married to the king. During the first campaign the duke carried all before him; but the second summer consumed his army by its heat, and compelled him himself to retire to Guienne. But by successful policy he now, even, managed to become reconciled to the King of Spain, and married his second daughter to the son and heir of that monarch. Thus John of Gaunt, though destined never to wear a crown himself, was the father of two queens. His duchess Constance made over her claims on the Spanish throne to her daughter Catherine, and their descendants reigned over Spain for many generations. For himself, he receiver 200,000 crowns to defray the expenses of the expedition, and an annuity was settled on him of 100,000 florins, and the same amount on the duchess.
While the Duke of Lancaster was absent, the restless Duke of Gloucester became more assuming and imperious towards the king than Lancaster had ever been. He fomented the jealousies of the nobles, insisted on remodelling the government, and reduced the king to a mere automaton. At the same time the French, also taking advantage of the great duke's absence, contemplated a formidable invasion of the island. Their preparations were on the most extensive scale, both in men and ships. The army is said to have exceeded 100,000 men; and their vessels in the port of Sluys, it was vaunted, could, if placed side by side, have bridged the whole Channel. The nobility and gentlemen of France seemed every one burning with desire to avenge the injuries and defeats they had so often suffered from the English. The news of this stupendous armament spread dismay through the country; troops were assembled, beacons erected, and the Earl of Arundel appointed high admiral, with orders to destroy the ships of the enemy the moment they landed, and leave the inhabitants to lay waste the country before them, and then deal with them at leisure. But the fate of this armada was the same which has providentially attended all yet directed against the British isles. It was dispersed by a terrible tempest; the army was disbanded; and the Earl of Arundel, executing his commission with great vigour, took 160 vessels, laden chiefly with wine, relieved the garrison of Brest, and then, proceeding to the port of Sluys, destroyed all the ships there, and laid waste the country round to the distance of ten leagues.
After this brilliant issue of the threatened danger, the nation was all gaiety and rejoicing. But the factious Gloucester resolved that his royal nephew should not rejoice long. He collected his partisans, and determined to drive the king's favourites from office. They contended that the people were so fleeced by the tax-gatherers, that the land-owners could not collect their rents, and that the ministers and their officers embezzled the public moneys. The first on whom they meant to open their charge was the chancellor, De la Pole, the new Earl of Suffolk. The chancellor opened the Parliament, which met at Westminster, in October, 1386, with a bold announcement: the king, he said, was resolved to punish the French for their menaced invasion, by passing over at the head of a suitable armament, and carrying the war into France. He requested them to take into consideration the necessary supplies for so great and national an enterprise. But the Lords and Commons met this by a joint petition for the dismissal of the ministers and members of council, and especially of the chancellor. The king, greatly enraged, at first contemplated - that which was long after so fatally done by Charles I. - seizing the leaders of the opposition; but, finding that he should not be supported in this out of doors, he retired to his palace at Eltham, and then, giving way, drove to town, dismissed the obnoxious ministers, and made the Bishop of Hereford treasurer. But this concession, so far from appeasing Gloucester and his adherents, only made them feel surer of their real object. They impeached the chancellor; and, though they could prove little against him, they caused him to be imprisoned during the king's pleasure, and fined. So long as the Parliament sat, Suffolk suffered his sentence; but as soon as it was dissolved the king liberated him.
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