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Reign of Richard II. Part 2 page 5

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The king's horses were ordered, and they set forward at once for Chester, amid a flourish of trumpets, Richard and the Earl of Salisbury riding on tired and wretched animals. The duke came behind. At Chester, after issuing writs in the king's name for a meeting of Parliament, Lancaster dismissed a great part of his army, and set out for London. At Lichfield Richard slipped unperceived out of his window, but was re-taken in the court, and was ever afterwards strictly guarded. On arriving at London, Richard was sent to Westminster, and thence to the Tower, while the hypocritical Lancaster went in solemn state to St. Paul's, and pretended to weep awhile at the tomb of his father, while in his heart he was congratulating himself on his successful treason. "We have two conflicting statements of the manner of Richard's entrance into London. Froissart says that he was conducted secretly to the Tower for fear of the Londoners, who had a great hatred of him; but other accounts accord with that of Shakespeare, copied no doubt from the chronicles, which make Lancaster conduct him thither in triumph.

The people are said to have cursed him as he went along, and cried "bastard," which alluded to & common scandal amongst the Londoners, and with which Froissart makes Lancaster personally upbraid Richard, that lie was not really the son of the Black Prince, but of a young canon or priest at Bordeaux. This was a very probable aspersion of Lancaster, because it rendered Richard a usurper, and took away his own treason. So completely was Richard deserted, that Froissart says a favourite greyhound, which he had, called Mathe, and which would never notice any one else, while Lancaster spoke with Richard in the castle court at Flint, suddenly left Richard, went and fawned on Lancaster, and ever afterwards followed him.

According to the same authority, we are told that Lancaster sent to the queen at Leeds Castle in Kent, and had the Lady Courci sent away to France, and allowed no French man or woman to remain in her service, but all English, and newly placed about her, so that there should be no talk of, or communication with, the king. "And in all this, the Londoners," he says, "rejoiced; only they were discontented that Richard was kept out of their sight and reach." For, says he, "behold the opinion of the common people when they be up against their prince or lord, and especially in England. Among them there is no remedy, for they are the most dangerous people in the world, and most outrageous if they be up, and especially Londoners."

Parliament met on the 29th of September to consider of the course to be adopted; in other words, to carry out the will of Lancaster and depose Richard. It was clear that Richard had entirely lost the affections of the people. They would never again receive him. His utter want of regard for them; his continual exactions to waste their means on unworthy favourites; the contempt he had all along expressed for the people, and his severe treatment of them; his breach of all his oaths as a king; his attempts to make himself absolute, and to rule by a junto, had made him disliked and despised through the whole realm, but especially in the metropolis. It is equally true that Lancaster was their favourite, and that they would willingly accept him as king; and had he been content to accept the crown as the popular gift, he would have had the highest possible title to it, far beyond any hereditary plea, In fact, he would have occupied the position since assumed by William III., who refused to reign in right of his wife, and was eventually elected by the nation. But Lancaster disdained that only valid ground of right, and determined to claim it by descent. Than this there could be nothing more palpably untenable, for the Earl of March, the grandson of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the third son of Edward III., was the true heir. By standing on the empty claim of descent, instead of the free election of the people, he was and remained an arrant usurper.

As soon as Lancaster began to allow it to be known that he did not really content himself with, being the reformer of the state, but aspired to the crown, some of his chief supporters fell away; and amongst them the Earl of Northumberland, who had been made to assure Richard of his just treatment. This was a main reason for dismissing a great host of his army at Chester, including the followers of Northumberland.

The remaining transactions of this reign come to us chiefly through the rolls of Parliament, penned under the direct influence of Lancaster, and, therefore, are probably coloured as much as possible to favour his own views, and cover his notorious usurpation. A deputation of prelates, barons, knights, and lawyers waited on Richard in the Tower, and received from, him his resignation, which he was then said to have promised at Conway, but which we know was not the fact. He was also in that document, signed by him and presented by the deputies to Parliament, made to name, by his own preference, Lancaster as his successor. Of course, all this he was obliged to say.

The next day this act of resignation was read in full Parliament, and there unanimously accepted, and received by the people with shouts of applause. If Richard had thus voluntarily abdicated, there could be no necessity for what immediately followed - a series of thirty-three articles of impeachment in order to his deposition. The chief charges contained in these were his violation of his coronation oath, his murder of the Duke of Gloucester, and his despotic and unconstitutional conduct. Of course, there was no opposition; but Merks, the Bishop of Carlisle, who had remained faithful to Richard, and continued with him to the last, stood boldly forward, and claimed for him the right to be confronted with his accusers, and that Parliament should have the opportunity of judging whether his resignation were voluntary or not. Nothing could be more reasonable, but nothing more inconvenient where all was settled beforehand to one end; and the only answer which the high-minded prelate received was his immediate arrest by Lancaster, and consignment to the Abbey of St. Albans.

Richard was then formally deposed, with an acrimony of accusation which, to say the least, if his resignation had been, as asserted, voluntary in favour of Lancaster, was as ungracious as it was uncalled for. The chief justice, Sir William Thirning, was deputed to notify this decision of Parliament to the captive.

Lancaster, who had taken his seat during these proceedings near the throne, then rising and crossing himself on the forehead and breast, pronounced the following words: - In the name of Fadher, Son, and Holy Ghost, I, Henry of Lancaster, challenge this rewrne of Ynglondo and the crowne, with all the members and appurtenances, als I that am descendit be ryght lyne of the blode, cumyng fra the gude lord King Henry Thirde, and throghe that ryght that God of his grace has sent me, with help of my kyn and of my frendes to recover it; the whiche rewme was in poynt to be ondone for defaut of governance, and uncloying of the gude lawes.'

This speech was one of those which have a sound of reason to the ear, but will not bear a moment's examination. True, he was descended from Henry III., like Edward III. and Richard, but not in the true line - that being, as we have stated, the line of Lionel, and Henry being now not only the usurper of Richard's throne, but of the Earl of March's reversion.

But the pretence was enough, and more than enough, for all who heard it. They knew it was all empty sound, and the real reasons for assent lay in Lancaster's will, backed by a powerful army and a willing people.

Henry, as proof of Richard's having resigned all his rights into his hands, produced the ring and seal. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Arundel, his late fellow-exile, now took him by the hand and led him to the throne. He knelt for a short time on the steps in prayer, or affected prayer; for Lancaster, amid all his grasping at his neighbour's goods, was especially careful to do outward homage to the great Being who had said, "Thou shalt not covet." On rising, the two archbishops placed him on the throne; and, as soon as the acclamations ceased, the primate made a short sermon, choosing his text, with the finished tact of a priestly courtier, from 1 Samuel ix. 1.7: - "Behold the man whom I spoke to thee of; this same shall reign over my people;" and the sermon was worthy of the text.

Then the new king, fearful that his bold claims to the right of conquest might alarm some of his hearers, stood up, and said, as reported by old Knyghton: - "Siris, I tha.uk God and zou, spiritual and temporal, and all the astates of the land, and do zow to wyte, it is naght my will that no man thynk that be way of conquest I wold clisherit any man of his heritage, franches, or other rights that hym oght to have, no put hym out of that he has, and has had by the gude lawes and custumes of the rewme, except those persons that has been agan the gude purpose and the commune profyt of the rewme."

Thus ended the reign of Richard II.; and, as with it ended also the authority of Parliament and the ministers of the crown, Lancaster immediately summoned the Parliament to meet again in six days, appointed new officers, and, having received their oaths, retired to the royal palace.

The history of the progress of parliamentary power in this reign is most important. We find Parliament at various times asserting its authority, calling on the crown to reform its household, its courts of law, to restrain its expenditure, and dismiss its servants. By its means the Duke of Gloucester obtained his commission to regulate the administration, and to impeach the prime minister, the Earl of Suffolk, De la Pole; and though, during the latter years of his reign, Parliament, as in our time, became corrupt and subservient, yet the people, assuming the exercise of those powers which their delegates had basely surrendered, punished and deposed the monarch whom they could not reform. So self-evident is this fact, that some of our most celebrated legal historians contend that the Duke of Lancaster cannot properly be called a usurper, seeing that he was undoubtedly the elect of the nation.

Richard was dethroned in the twenty-third year of his reign, and the thirty-fourth of his age. His last dark days properly belong to the reign of his rival and destroyer, but will most effectually be finished here, Henry IV. lost no time in submitting to the lords the question what should be done with the late monarch, whose life, he declared, he was at all events resolved to preserve. The lords recommended perpetual confinement in some castle, where none of his former adherents could obtain access to him. This advice was acted upon, as there can be little doubt that it was first suggested by Henry. Richard disappeared, and no one knew anything of his place of detention. The King of France threatened war on behalf of the rights of his daughter, Isabella, and his son-in-law, the deposed king. To avert this storm Henry proposed to make various alliances between the two royal families, including the marriage of the Prince of Wales to a daughter of Charles. But the King of France rejected the proposal, declaring that he knew no King of England but Richard. The French king, however, received intelligence that Richard was dead, and therefore he avowedly ceased to prosecute his claims, but confined himself to those of his daughter, demanding that she should be restored to him, with her jewels and her dowry, according to the marriage settlement. Charles afterwards consented to receive her with her jewels only, counter claims being set up against the dowry.

From the moment, however, that the public statement of Richard's death was made by the King of France, the nation became inquisitive, and it was not long before the dead body of the deposed monarch was brought up from Pontefract Castle, and shown publicly in St. Paul's for two days, where 20,000 people are said to have gone to see it. Only the face was uncovered, and that was wonderfully emaciated. Various were the rumours of the mode of his death on all these occasions, but, as in the case of Richard's victim, the Duke of Gloucester, nothing certain ever transpired. One story was that Sir Piers Exton, with seven other assassins, entered his cell to despatch him, when Richard, aware of their purpose, snatched an axe from one of them, and felled him and several of his fellows to the earth; but that Exton, getting behind him, prostrated him with one blow, and then slew him. Another story was that he was starved to death; and there were not wanting; rumours that he had escaped, and lived many years in the guise of an ordinary man. But Henry Bolingbroke may be safely trusted to secure his dangerous captive. The features of Richard were too well known to thousands in London to be mistaken for those of one Maudelain, whose body, it was pretended, had been substituted for Richard's. There can be no doubt but that he died a secret and violent death: the mode of that death must for ever remain a mystery.

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