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A History of Yorkshire
from Bulmer's Gazetteer (1892)


Part 15

DEPOSITION AND DEATH OF RICHARD II.

Edward III. closed his brilliant reign of half a century in 1377, and was succeeded by his grandson, Richard II., whose reign was beset with troubles from beginning to end; but these are matters of general history with which we are not here concerned, except with the closing scene of his eventful life. He was but a boy when he ascended the throne, and rumours reached his ears that his uncles, the Dukes of Lancaster and Gloucester, were intriguing for the crown As he advanced towards maturity, his feelings of jealousy increased, and hence arose the family quarrel that led to the Wars of the Roses. A quarrel arising between Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, who accused each other of treason, Richard, by the advice of his council, sent the two noblemen into exile, the former for six years, and the latter for life. The king had long been unpopular in consequence of the heavy burden of taxation he was obliged to lay on the people to carry on the expensive French wars begun by his grandfather, and this arbitrary procedure alienated the affection of the barons. In 1399, whilst Richard was absent in Ireland, Bolingbroke, now Henry of Lancaster, seized the opportunity to return from his banishment, ostensibly to claim the estates of his late father, the Duke of Lancaster. Attended by about sixty gentlemen and their servants, he landed at Ravenspurne or Ravenser, at the mouth of the Humber, but long since swept away by the sea, where he was joined by Lords Willoughby, Ross, Darcy, and Beaumont, with a great number of the gentry and commonalty. At Doncaster, he was joined by the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, with their followers, and he soon found himself at the head of 60,000 men. Of the northern nobles, the only one that remained faithful to Richard was William, Lord Scrope of Masham, who laid down his own life for the monarch he was unable to save from dethronement and death. The king returned to England, but his army deserted him, and he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies, at the Castle of Flint, in North Wales. He was conveyed thence to the Tower of London, and a parliament was assembled, in which he was formally deposed, and Bolingbroke declared king by the title of Henry IV. Richard was then removed to Pontefract Castle, where he met with his death, though in what manner has never been conclusively settled. According to some of the old writers, he was cruelly murdered, after a vigorous defence, by Sir Piers Exton and eight ruffians, and this (now exploded) story Shakespeare has adopted; others say he died by starvation, but whether the act was voluntary or not is still a matter of doubt.

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