History of Europe

The other invasions of England (III)

III.- 1399:Richard II against Henry IV Bolingbroke

Richard II came to the throne in 1377 when he was only ten years old, succeeding his grandfather Edward III. His eldest son had died a year earlier. It was about Edward of Woodstock, known as the Black Prince, who was a renowned military man, hero of the battles of Crecy and Poitiers in the Hundred Years' War and the hope that such a celebrated leader would lead England vanished when in 1376 He died of dysentery (possibly contracted when he fought in Spain in the civil war for the throne of Castile between Pedro I and Enrique de Trastámara).

Richard II's reign was not easy. In 1381, when he was only fourteen years old, he had to face a popular revolt known as The Peasant's Revolt. , which cost the lives of many nobles and high prelates and in which only the child king's cold blood saved him from being deposed or worse. The rest of his reign was in a fierce struggle with the magnates of the country, eager to become the real rulers of the kingdom, and with Parliament, in which the term impeachment was coined. for the dismissal processes of royal officials who did not duly fulfill their functions.

In 1386, amid worrying rumors of an invasion of the country from France (there was even a timid landing of a French force in England under the command of Jean de Vienne and two expeditions prepared in the summer of that year and in 1387 they did not cross the English Channel), a tumultuous session of Parliament was held in which the Commons refused to discuss any proposals for new campaign taxes on the Continent until a number of royal officials were removed from office as incompetent and negligent. The king reacted furiously by refusing even to meet with the parliamentarians. Faced with an attempt at mediation by the Duke of Gloucester and the Earl of Arundel, Richard II even threatened to ask the King of France for help against the rebels in his own country. He had to remind him of what happened with Edward II so that he would accept the reforms proposed by Parliament, which meant the removal ( impeachment ) of some of his main allies and the submission of all government decisions to the criteria of a nine-member council, which left the king almost as decorative a figure as when he came to power at the age of ten.

In December 1387 a demand of Parliament was found personified in five noblemen who became known as The Lords Apellant. These five noblemen were Thomas of Woodstock (the King's uncle and Duke of Gloucester), the Earls of Arundel and Warwick, Thomas de Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, and Henry Bolingbroke (son of John of Gaunt and the King's cousin).

Parliament made the decision to expel and remove from office the most loyal advisers to the king. Ricardo tried to oppose this situation militarily, but neither the sheriffs neither the counties nor the citizens of London were disposed to supply him with men, for they were with Parliament. And when he solicited armed help from one of his loyalists named Robert de Vere, he found himself betrayed by his own men on his way to London and intercepted by an army under Bolingbroke. De Vere had to flee to France alone and at great risk to his life.

In February 1388, Richard watched helplessly as a session of Parliament known as "the pitiless parliament" declared traitors and sentenced to death five of his most loyal advisers. Two of them had fled to France, but two of those convicted were executed (one of them had distinguished himself as the judge who sentenced many of the leaders of The Peasant's Revolt to death. ). Over the following months, The Apellant continued to represent Parliament and win Parliament's approval of the death sentences of members of the King's household, royal advisers, and even his old guardian and his father's sir's comrade-in-arms. i> Simon Burley. They were all executed in the usual brutal manner, including Burley, despite the fact that both the king and the queen (on her knees) begged for his life to be spared.

After 1388 Ricardo seemed to accept the situation of the kingdom, but while putting on a brave face, he developed more and more within himself his desire for revenge against those who had made his reign little less than symbolic.

In 1397 Parliament denied the King the funds to finance a punitive expedition by the King of France against Milan. At the same meeting one of its members representing the clergy, Thomas Haxey, presented a letter with several complaints about the royal officials, the excessive expenses of the royal house and the sorry state of the border with Scotland. In one of his fits of fury, Ricardo ordered his arrest and sentenced him to death, accusing him of treason. Only his clerical status caused his sentence to be commuted to prison.

The king was already after larger prey. He had never forgiven the leaders of The Apellant and had simply bided his time. On July 10, 1397, he ordered the arrest of the Earl of Warwick after dining with him in London and from there he went with loyal troops to Pleshey Castle, where the main leader of the movement who had limited his powers and finished with his favorites, was. his uncle the Duke of Gloucester, who without a guard to defend him was taken prisoner. The third main opponent of the king in 1386, the Earl of Arundel, surrendered to Richard, who divided his three captives between Calais and the Channel Islands.

In the month of September 1397 those attending the meeting of Parliament found the king in a high seat and three hundred of his archers surrounding the place. Presiding over the meeting was John of Gaunt. Chancellor Stafford launched a speech emphasizing the king's supremacy to rule as he pleased, while also announcing a general amnesty, except for fifty people to be appointed by the king. But Ricardo did not mention any names. He merely said that anyone who thought the king had anything to forgive him for should approach him and ask for mercy from him. In less than a year, five hundred people asked the king for forgiveness, and he granted it. Cowardly, the parliamentarians approved the abrogation of all the agreements of the Parliament of 1386 and of the pardon that it agreed for the members of The Lords Apellant.

It was time to consummate his revenge. The Earl of Arundel was tried by Parliament, found guilty and executed. But when the Duke of Gloucester's time came, there was a commotion. The person in charge of presenting it to Parliament, the Earl of Nottingham, Thomas Mowbray, appeared with the news that the Duke had died in Calais. Mowbray brought a written confession from the duke acknowledging his betrayal and stating that if Richard II had not been deposed in 1388 it was only because the members of The Apellant could not agree on which of them should wear the crown. He was sentenced to death posthumously. Suspicion that Gloucester's death was on Richard's orders spread rapidly. The Earl of Warwick, between tears and pleas, was condemned to exile for life and the loss of all his possessions.

There were two members of The Apellant whose participation had been minor and whom the king not only did not punish, but promoted. The aforementioned Thomas Mowbray was made Duke of Norfolk, and John of Gaunt's son and cousin to the king, Henry Bolingbroke, was made Duke of Hereford (this was surely part of the price John of Gaunt had asked for supporting Richard in this audacious coup). Other nobles close to the monarch also obtained important appointments.

The men who had caused so much loss of authority to the king had been eliminated and Richard had regained the full exercise of power, although more out of fear than conviction (in the words of John Gower, during the month of September 1397 "brutality took control by the force of the sword”).

Following his bold move in September 1397, Richard II's rule became increasingly brutal and ruthless. He was surrounded by a praetorian guard of archers from Cheshire who took advantage of every movement of the king to rape and murder with impunity, and devised increasingly arbitrary and illegal ways to collect taxes from his subjects:letters claiming loans in which the recipient's name was left blank to be filled in by royal officials when investigating which citizens had more possible, or expropriation sentences with the name also blank.

The essential event for Richard to lose his throne and his life occurred at the end of 1397, when the two characters he had promoted the most in September, Thomas Mowbray and Henry Bolingbroke, got into a verbal dispute in which both accused each other. of betrayal The question was taken to Parliament without a verdict being reached and led to a duel to the death between the two, in a kind of judgment of God to be held in Coventry on September 16, 1398. Richard was in a sticky situation. Mowbray's victory would fuel rumors of treachery and bring the king's role in the Duke of Gloucester's death under scrutiny; Bolingbroke's would give him wings in the succession race, since Ricardo had no heir.

The king decided at the last moment to prevent a duel that could not help him at all and passed sentence banishing Mowbray for life and Bolingbroke for ten years. Ricardo promised his cousin that when his father died his representatives would take possession of the inheritance on behalf of Enrique himself and would keep his inheritance for him until his return.

Bolingbroke took leave of the country (in London a crowd cheered him, while in Oxfordshire there were revolts against the king) and sailed into exile on October 13, 1398 in Dover, together with a handful of faithful knights and about two hundred servants who must have return to England within a week of landing in Calais. From then on, Henry was alone in France, although he soon moved to Paris where he rubbed shoulders with the king and the highest nobility.

However, when Bolingbroke's father John of Ghent died in February 1399, he decreed that his cousin be banished for life and that his extensive estates pass to the Crown. Defenders of Henry Bolingbroke argue that from that moment on (disinherited, branded a traitor, separated from his family and with no future other than wandering from court to court in Europe selling his sword) Henry's only option was to dethrone Bolingbroke. Richard II. And even more so when the king made public a new testament in which, without designating a specific heir (he did draft a separate codicil insinuating that such dignity would fall to the Duke of York), he did make it clear that whoever succeeded him had to commit to respect and execute the sentences dictated by the king.

And it was at this moment that Richard II made the terrible mistake that cost him his throne and his life. On June 1, 1399, he sailed for Ireland to put down a small rebellion, taking with him an army and his chief companions. He only took as a precautionary measure to put Enrique Bolingbroke's son and other relatives of possible malcontents in custody.

Possibly he hoped that the King of France, at whose court Henry was exiled, would not allow him to jeopardize peace with England and the throne of his daughter, but Charles VI, known as Charles the Mad , He suffered attacks in which he lost his reason and, taking advantage of the fact that he was in one of those periods, Henry requested and obtained permission from the Duke of Orleans to return to England and claim his hereditary rights (there was no talk of taking the throne). Joining him were fellow exiles Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Thomas Fitzalan, whose father the Earl of Arundel had been executed by Richard's order in Parliament in session in 1397.

Henry Bolingbroke, outraged by the sentence that deprived him of his inheritance and prevented him from returning to England, landed on July 4 in Yorkshire with only fifteen knights and about three hundred soldiers, a force clearly insufficient to manage to take the country militarily. It seems that his initial intention was to claim his father's inheritance, but the lack of resistance to his advance when Richard found himself in Ireland, and the fact that he was being joined by more and more forces dissatisfied with the king's capricious rule led him to Rethink your goal. His aspirations to the throne took a decisive step when the Duke of York Edmund of Langley, uncle of the king and of Bolingbroke himself, joined his cause.

Richard returned to England, but it was too late. He took refuge in the Welsh castle of Conwy where he received a visit from the Earl of Northumbria, Henry Percy. He laid out Bolingbroke's terms:he was summoned to appear at his own will in a parliament presided over by his cousin as "high judge" of England and in which his five principal allies would be tried for treason. . After his usual fit of rage, Richard had no choice but to accompany Percy and meet his cousin at Flint Castle. There Henry informed him that he had returned with the consent of the Commons to help him govern well, because in the last twenty-two years he had not done so. Richard accepted, formally surrendered to Bolingbroke, and was transferred to the Tower of London.

At a meeting of Parliament on 30 September, the Archbishop of York read a statement from the absent Richard II, letting it be known that he had agreed to renounce the crown as unfit to wear it. It was claimed that this document was signed by Ricardo himself before witnesses, although it seems likely that it was forged or obtained under duress. The Archbishop of Canterbury asked those present if they accepted this statement, to which they all answered yes.

A list of the errors committed by the king during his reign was then read, a list that amounted to thirty-three very serious accusations. The same Parliament named Bolingbroke king of England, from that moment officially Henry IV.

But the deposed king was still a threat to the usurper. After being secretly transferred to the castle of Pontefract, there was a rebellion in favor of Richard II in February 1400. Henry cut to the chase. Richard died mysteriously in his Pontefract cell, possibly of starvation, as an essential part of the plan was that his lifeless body be displayed along its way to London so that his supporters would be left in no doubt that they had no cause. to fight for; and for that it was necessary that there were no signs of violence on the king's corpse.

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