Kings of England


Richard I.,

King of England, surnamed Cœur de Lion, was born 1157, and ascended the throne on the death of his father, Henry II., Sept. 3rd, l189. He had previously taken the cross, and now resolved to fulfil his vow in the fields of Palestine for which object he raised money by the sale of the crown property and offices, and a great number of English barons joined in the enterprise. In 1190 Richard joined the Crusade with Philip Augustus of France; and 100,000 of their bravest subjects met together on the plains of Vezelai. The two royal crusaders proceeded by separate routes to Sicily. There they quarrelled, but were reconciled by means of a large money payment by Richard. After some months' stay in Sicily, they again set forward; Richard on the way making himself master of Cyprus, and giving it to Guy of Lusignan.

In Cyprus Richard married the Princess Berengaria of Navarre. Early in June he arrived at Acre, which was then besieged by the crusaders. It was taken soon after; but mutual jealousies arose among the Christian princes, and Philip returned to Europe, leaving behind him 10,000 of his men. Richard remained in the East where he displayed the most heroic valour against Saladin, whom he signally defeated near Cæsarea. Having made a truce he embarked in a vessel which was shipwrecked on the coast of Italy. He then, in the disguise of a pilgrim, travelled through part of Germany but being discovered by Leopold, Duke of Austria, he was made prisoner and sent to the Emperor Henry VI., who kept him confined in a castle some time. He was as at length ransomed by his subjects for 150,000 marks, and landed at Sandwich in 1194 after which he was again crowned. Philip having, contrary to treaty, seized on part of Normandy, Richard invaded France with a large army, but a truce was concluded in 1196.

The war was, however, soon renewed and Richard, in besieging the castle of Chalus in March, 1199, was wounded by a shot from the cross bow of one Bertrand de Gourdon who being asked what induced him to attempt the kings life, replied, 'You killed my father and my brother with your own hand, and designed to put me to an ignominious death.' Richard then ordered Gourdon to be set at liberty and allowed a sum of money; but the savage Marcadée, who commanded the Brabançons, caused him to be flayed alive. Richard died of his wound on the 6th of April, 1199, in the 42nd year of his age, and the 10th of his reign, leaving no issue. His queen, Berengaria survived him till about 1230.

His character was strongly marked, presenting much to admire and much to condemn He was the bravest among the brave; frank, liberal, and often generous; at the same time he was haughty, violent, unjust, and sanguinary; uniting, as Gibbon observes, 'the ferocity of a gladiator to the cruelty of a tyrant.' His talents were considerable, both in the cabinet and in the field; neither was he deficient in the art of poetry, and some of his compositions are preserved among those of the Troubadours. Richard I. bequeathed his heart to Rouen: it was placed in a silver vase, which was melted in 1260, to aid in the ransom of St. Louis from the Saracens. The relic itself in a case of lead, is now in the museum of Rouen. The tomb-statue of Richard was discovered in the Cathedral of Rouen, by Deville, in 1838; and soon after that of his brother Henry. Two volumes have already appeared of 'Chronicles and Memorials of the Reign of Richard I.,' edited by W. Stubbs, M.A., under the authority of the Lords Commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury.

Richard II.,

King of England, was son of Edward the Black Prince, by his wife, Joan, called ' The Fair Maid of Kent,' and was born at Bordeaux, in February, 1366 or 1367 (there seems to be some confusion here which may be due to the old date/new date problem -CH 2002). his father died in 1376, and he was created Prince of Wales ; succeeding his grandfather, Edward III., on the throne, 22nd June, 1377. During his minority the government was carried on by a council of regency, and the state was distracted by the intrigues and contentions of the young king's uncles, the Dukes of Lancaster (John of Gaunt) and Gloucester. Richard showed no small courage and presence of mind on the outbreak of the insurrection provoked by the poll tax and the scandalous manner in which it was collected ; meeting the insurgents with their leader Wat the Tyler, in Smithfield, and persuading them, by promises of full charters of freedom to quit the city. Their chief, however was killed and they were soon dispersed by military force. Before the month (June, 1381) ended, the king revoked the charters had the insurgents tried, and about 1,600 of them put to death.

War was going on with France, and the Lollards were rising into importance enough to be persecuted. In 1382 Richard married the Princess Anne of Bohemia, who acquired the title of the 'good Queen Anne.' On the departure of the Duke of Lancaster for Spain, in 1386, the king was deprived of power by a council of regency with Gloucester at its head; which, however, was declared by the judges to be illegal. The king assumed the government in May, 1389, made William of Wykeham chancellor, and drove from the court the Duke of Gloucester and his adherents. The queen died in 1194, and the same year Richard visited Ireland. Great agitation arose about the same time in consequence of the spread of Wickliffe's doctrines. His writings had been already condemned and seized as heretical.

In 1396 the king married Isabella of France, then only seven years of age; and the French war was ended by a truce for twenty-five years, and the surrender of Brest to the Duke of Brittany. The marriage and treaty increased the popular discontent, and Gloucester was encouraged to attempt to regain his power. But he, with several of his accomplices in conspiracy, were seized tried and condemned. The duke was put to death at Calais. The famous quarrel between the Dukes of Hereford and Norfolk took place in 1398 when both were banished by the king. After the death of Lancaster, in the following year, Hereford (now Duke of Lancaster) returned professedly to claim his estates which had been seized by Richard ; he was joined by the Percies and other nobles, and on Richard's return from Ireland, made him prisoner at Flint, August 20th, and compelled him to resign the crown. Richard was sent to the Tower, then to Pomfret (Pontefract) Castle, where he is commonly said to have been murdered. But nothing is certainly known of his end, and there are strong grounds for believing that he soon escaped from Pomfret and lived in Scotland till 1417 or 1419.

The large life-size portrait of Richard II., which hung originally in Westminster Abbey, and was removed in 1775 to the Jerusalem Chamber, was lent to the National Portrait Exhibition in 1866. It has been since discovered that the genuine portrait was completely hidden by successive re-paintings, and the task of cleaning it has been successfully executed. The real picture, painted in tempera, is in perfect preservation, and is the earliest royal portrait we possess. [See Mr. G. Scharf's elaborate Article 'Fine Arts Quarterly Review,' January 1867] There is another remarkable portrait of Richard II., a profile in a small diptych in the possession of the Earl of Pembroke at Wilton

Richard III.,

King of England, brother of Edward IV and youngest son of Richard, Duke of York, was born at Fotheringay Castle on the 2nd of October, 1452. Soon after the accession of Edward IV. he was created Duke of Gloucester, K.G., and lord high admiral though only in his eleventh year. Other dignities and offices were afterwards conferred on him. In 1470 he accompanied the king to Flanders on the restoration of Henry VI by the Earl of Warwick; returned with him and took part in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, and in the expedition to France in 1475 ; and commanded the expedition against Scotland in 1482 when he took Berwick and Edinburgh. Already popular suspicion attached itself to Gloucester as the murderer of Prince Edward after the battle of Tewkesbury, and of Henry VI. in the Tower; but conclusive evidence is wanting. The attainder and death of his brother, the Duke of Clarence, which took place in 1478, were more certainly instigated by him.

On the death of Edward IV., in 1483, Gloucester, who was still on the borders, got possession of his young nephew, Edward V., marched to London, and was named Protector of the kingdom. The Duke of Buckingham associated himself with Gloucester in these measures, and was at once appointed chief justice and constable of the royal castles in Wales. The sudden arrest and execution of Lord Hastings was followed by that of Earl Rivers, Lord Grey, Vaughan, and Haute; the young king and his brother were sent to the Tower; and a sermon was preached at Paul's Cross, by one Ralph Shaw --brother of Sir Edmund Shaw, citizen and goldsmith, Lord Mayor of London, and founder of the grammar school at Stockport, in Cheshire --setting forth the bastardy of Edward IV. and Edward V., and the claim of Gloucester to the throne. This was supported two days later by a speech of Buckingham, and the Protector was offered and accepted the title of king on the 26th June. The young princes were no more seen, and the belief established itself that they were murdered by order of Richard. [See Edward V.]

After his coronation he made a progress through the country, and was crowned a second time at York. But plots were already forming, and an offer of the crown was conditionally made to Henry, Earl of Richmond. Buckingham, who had just been made constable of England, joined in them, and falling into the king's hands, was beheaded at Salisbury. In the following year Richard lost his son, and a year later his queen, Anne, daughter of Warwick and widow of Prince Edward. On the 7th August, 1485, Richmond landed at Milford Haven; the battle of Bosworth was fought on the 22nd, and Richard was defeated and killed. His remains were buried in the monastery of the Grey Friars at Leicester ; but his tomb was destroyed on the dissolution of the monasteries.

Richard III. was the last of the Plantagenets. Whatever doubt and obscurity involve the crimes commonly laid to his charge, it is certain that he was author of some wise and important laws; was watchful of the interests of trade and navigation; brave and skilful in war; and liberal and grateful in his private relations. In his reign the statutes were first written in English and printed; the first English consul, for the interests of commerce, was appointed; and the vague beginning of our vast Post-office system may be traced. A portrait of Richard III., by an unknown artist, has been presented to the National Portrait Gallery.

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The above information was gleaned from various sources and then put together by Colin Hinson ©1996.

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