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Reign of Richard II. Part 2


his Adherents - Banishment of the Dukes of Hereford and Norfolk - Arbitrary Conduct of the King - Goes to Ireland - Return of Hereford - Imprisonment, Deposition, and Murder of the King - His Character.
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Richard now astonished the whole country by proposing to marry the eldest daughter of the King of France. The strong antipathy which the long and cruel wars had nourished between the two nations made them already regard each other as natural and hereditary enemies. Both the people of England and France, therefore, were surprised at this proposal, and averse to it. But the people are little consulted in any age in these matters; and the proposal, after some discussion at the French court, was well entertained. At the English court it was far from popular. The great princes and barons looked on the French wars as the sources of fresh military glory and promotion. The Duke of Gloucester most of all expressed his opposition to it. He had more reasons than one. The first was, that he had a daughter whom he would fain see married to Richard. By this alliance he could calculate on his descendants succeeding to the throne of England, even if he could not himself usurp it. During the king's life, with his easy and pleasure-loving disposition, he could calculate on engrossing the real power of the state.

Not less strange was his second reason. If the king allied himself to France, he would thus greatly strengthen his authority at home, and Gloucester was too far-seeing not to perceive that Richard, who never forgot an injury, would then be in a position to revenge himself on him for his past attempts to usurp the control over his nephew, and especially for the armed conspiracy which had destroyed his favourite ministers, and suspended his prerogative for twelve months.

That this marriage was a matter entirely of policy was clear enough. The French princess was a mere child, not much more than seven years of age. She was already affianced to the heir of the Duke of Brittany. It would require a dispensation from the Pope to make void that arrangement, and for many years to come Richard could not promise himself in his wife a womanly companion, a mature friend and counsellor, nor could hope to secure his throne by an heir. His attention was zealously turned to the princesses of Brabant, Germany, and Navarre, but to no purpose. He had resolved on the alliance with France, and ambassadors were sent to negotiate the affair, while Robert the Hermit, a personage high in favour with the French king, came for the like purpose to England. Froissart, who himself made a visit to England at this time, describes very amusingly the interview which the Earl Marshal and the Earl of Rutland had with the French royal family and the future Queen of England. "The earl marshal, being on his knees, said to her, 'Fair lady, by the grace of God, you shall be our lady and Queen of England.' Then answered the young lady, well advisedly, without counsel of any other person, and led him to the queen her mother, who had great joy of the answer that she had made, and so were all other that heard it. The manner, countenance, and behaviour of this young lady pleased greatly the ambassadors, and they said amongst themselves that she was likely to be a lady of high honour and great goodness." The little girl was affianced by proxy through the earl marshal, and "a goodly sight it was," says Froissart, "to see her behaviour; for all she was but young, right pleasantly she bore the part of a queen." In the joy of this transaction Sir John Mercer - who was formerly taken prisoner by Alderman Phillpot - and the Count de la River, who had both been arrested on a political charge, were liberated by the French king.

The worthy chronicler details with great delight all the splendour of the meeting of the Kings of France and England at Guisnes, near Calais, where they came attended by all the great princes, lords, and ladies of their courts. Lancaster and Gloucester - the latter most unwillingly - attended the King of England. Tents were put up for the two royal parties not far from each other, and the two monarchs went on foot, passing between two bodies of knights of each nation, 400 in number, standing with their swords drawn. When the two kings met bareheaded, and took each other's hands, all the knights knelt down. Then the two kings went together into the tent of the King of France, which " was noble and rich," and the four royal dukes, Berri and Burgoyne, Lancaster and Gloucester, taking each other's hands, followed with other knights. The spectacle was striking, for it was long since any English and French kings had met in peace and amity. On the following Saturday, November 1, 1396, they met again in great state in the same place, and after a grand banquet in the French king's pavilion, the young queen was delivered to the King of England, and consigned by him to the care of the Duchesses of Lancaster. Gloucester, York, and Ireland, with many other great ladies, but only one French attendant, the Countess de Courci. The next Tuesday the marriage ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of St. Nicholas, in Calais; and on arriving in England, Isabella was crowned in Westminster Abbey on the 1st of January, 1397. Richard received with her 300,000 francs in gold, and 500,000 more were to be paid by annual instalments. It was carefully stipulated that the issue of this marriage should derive no claim from the mother to the crown of France; and if the king should die before the queen reached her twelfth year, all the money paid should be returned with her to France.

The conduct of Richard after this marriage was such as to lead the people the more sensibly to deplore the death of the good Queen Anne. Instead of the better spirit which had distinguished his latter years, instead of the wise and active conduct which he had displayed in Ireland while under the influence of a salutary sorrow, a light and thoughtless disposition had taken its place, as if a mere girlish wife had brought with her an atmosphere of trifling and frivolity. With the exception of his harsh treatment of the city a few years before, and the deprivation of its charter, which, though soon restored, had left a lively memory of the arbitrary fact, Richard's political conduct was not much to complain of. But his personal character was rapidly deteriorating. He lived in a continual course of feasting and dissipation, and thus wasted the funds he had received with the queen, and the resources derived from, his people.

Amongst the principal favourites of this time were his half-brother, the murderer, Sir John Holland, who had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in penance for his crimes, and now was dignified with the title of the Earl of Huntingdon, as his brother was of the Earl of Kent. Through the hands of these men all favours and honours passed, and we cannot suppose that their conversations and counsels were very good for him. His household was on a most ruinous scale, consisting, it is said, of not less than 10,000 persons, and the riot and follies carried on there excited great disgust.

All these matters were carefully noted by the discontented Duke of Gloucester, still more morose from the king's refusal of his daughter, on the plea of her being too near akin. Gloucester, during the whole marriage visit to France, did not conceal his hostility to the alliance. It was in vain that the king made him rich presents to win his good-will. Ho was still sullen, morose, and destitute of all courtesy, returning the attentions of the nobles with abrupt and curt answers, so that they said amongst themselves, if ever Gloucester could stir up a war he would.

On his return home after the marriage, he' disdained to cultivate the friendship of his nephew. On the contrary, he did everything possible to excite faction and mischief. He never attended the council except for the purpose of thwarting its proceedings. He came late, departed early, and while present treated the king with the most insolent air of superiority, often throwing out remarks, that he might hear them, on his conduct as effeminate and unlike that of his great ancestors. He talked in this manner to the warriors of the late reign, drawing comparisons between their days and deeds and the present.

These acts produced murmurs everywhere. The Commons, on the meeting of Parliament, presented a Bill to the Lords, proposing the regulation of the king's household, complaining especially that so many bishops who had lordships of their own, and so many ladies with their servants, were always at the palace, and supported at the public cost. Richard, indignant at this bold measure, demanded who was the author of it; and it is curious that if turned out to be one Sir Thomas Haxey, a clergyman, proving that the clergy at that time sat in Parliament, and the complaint itself that the bishops of those days were not averse to life, however gay, at a royal palace. Haxey was threatened with death, but was spared at the entreaty of the bishops - the very class he had complained of; but an Act was immediately passed by the submissive Parliament, that whoever again should make any such motion in the Commons, or should in any way attempt to reform the royal conduct, rule, or authority, should be held to be a traitor.

This only strengthened the hands of Gloucester. He was eagerly listened to by all classes. The knights and barons were influenced by his representations of the glories won in the late reigns, and of the ease with which the wealth of France might be won by the superiority of their English valour. The people seized eagerly on the same ideas; all combined to echo the charges of the pusillanimity of the king, and to applaud Gloucester as the greatest of patriots, and the champion of the British honour and advancement. His groat abilities, his affable manners, his vast wealth, and his royal blood, all were placed in the scale against the voluptuous king, and made a profound impression.

It is asserted by Froissart that Gloucester did not confine himself to seditious language, but had actually proposed to his nephew, Roger Mortimer, the Earl of March, whom Richard had declared his successor, to give him immediate possession of the throne; and when that nobleman declined the offer, had laid a plan with his two brothers, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Earls of Arundel and Warwick, to depose Richard.

"Whether this last assertion be true or not, the temper and conduct of Gloucester now became such as naturally excited the resentment of Richard. He appeared at first only desirous to get him out of the way: for which purpose he gave him permission to join the Christians who were fighting against the infidels in Prussia; but, though he set out, he returned in a few days, saying he had been driven back by a tempest. He then appointed him governor of Ireland; but Gloucester made no attempt to go over and assume that office.

This conduct of the Duke of Gloucester at length were out the patience of Richard. He remembered vividly his past offences: he saw no means of dissipating his obstinate contempt and hostility. His favourites, with whom Gloucester kept no terms, urged him to severe measures; and the court of France, which he had insulted by his sullen aversion, and which beheld in him an avowed enemy to its peace and its alliance, strongly stimulated the king to provide for his own safety and that of his queen, by depriving the traitorous prince of his power to carry out his designs.

No sooner did Richard resolve to follow this advice than he put his resolve into execution. He invited the Earl of Warwick to dinner, and then, being off his guard, he had him arrested at the house of the chancellor, near Temple Bar, and committed to the Tower. The primate was made use of to bring his brother, the Earl of Arundel, to a private interview with the king, who instantly arrested him and sent him to Carisbrook Castle. But perhaps the most revolting of these insidious modes of seizure was that of the Duke of Gloucester himself. Richard, while intending to sacrifice his uncle's life, did not hesitate to make a visit to him at his castle of Fleshy, in Essex, where Gloucester, coming forth with his wife and daughter to meet him, without any suspicion, according to the account of the rolls of Parliament, "domino regi cum processione solemni humiliter occurrentem," he caused him to be seized and hurried on board a vessel by the earl marshal, and conveyed to Calais. It is said by contemporary chroniclers that, while this was doing, Richard was conversing in a friendly guise with the duchess. Froissart says Richard was kindly entertained, requested Gloucester to accompany him to London, and had him seized on the way. This does not appear probable if the parliamentary rolls are correct. But in any case the manner of the thing was treacherous, and unworthy of a great monarch. The sudden disappearance of the duke alarmed all his friends and partisans, who believed that he was murdered, and they trembled for their own security. To pacify the public mind, Richard issued a proclamation, stating that these arrests had been made with the full assent of the Dukes of Lancaster and York, and of their sons and all the leading members of the council; that they were made, not on account of the transactions of the tenth and eleventh years of his reign, for which bills of indemnity had been given, but for recent offences; and that no one need be alarmed on account of participation in those past proceedings.

This was to lull into security fresh victims, and to obtain that sanction from Lancaster, York, and their sons, which Richard pretended to have had, and which was not true. These princes were at Nottingham, and Richard determined to retort upon them their conduct towards his favourites. He therefore hastened down thither, and as these noblemen were at dinner he suddenly summoned them to the gate, and compelled them to set their seals to a form of arrest which had been prepared for the purpose. They were made to say, "We appeal Thomas Duke of Gloucester, Richard Earl of Arundel, and Thomas Earl of Warwick, as traitors to your majesty and realm," and to call for trial upon them,

On returning to the hall, they found the king seated on the throne, wearing his crown, who granted the request they had been induced to make, and appointed a parliament to hear the cause on the 17th of the following month, September, 1397.

About three weeks later Sir William Rickhill, one of the justices, was suddenly roused from his bed at midnight at Essingham, in Kent, and ordered to hasten to Dover and follow the Earl of Nottingham, the earl marshal, to Calais. On his arrival there the earl put into his hand a commission to examine the Duke of Gloucester, whom he had imagined for some weeks was dead. Sir William refused to perform this office unless accompanied by two witnesses; and, on being admitted, advised Gloucester to return his answer in writing and to keep a copy. This caution afterwards saved the life of the prudent judge, who knew the danger of being the sole repository of a king's secrets. As soon as he had received Gloucester's statement, he was refused further admittance to him.

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Pictures for Reign of Richard II. Part 2

Betrothal of the French Princess to Richard II.
Betrothal of the French Princess to Richard II. >>>>
Arrest of the Duke of Gloucester
Arrest of the Duke of Gloucester >>>>
Earls Norfolk and Hereford
Earls Norfolk and Hereford >>>>
Richard and Lancaster
Richard and Lancaster >>>>
Pontefract Castle
Pontefract Castle >>>>

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