Richard II

Richard II

Richard II

Richard II

Excerpt

The reign of Richard II marks in many respects the culminating point in English medieval history. If Henry VII was, as has been claimed for him, the last of the medieval kings of England, Richard II was the last of the old Order, the last king ruling by hereditary right, direct and undisputed, from the Conqueror. He is also the last king of England to assert, though vainly, the fullness of the medieval kingly ideal--the ideal of that "almost uninterrupted succession of champions of personal power, passionate and lustful men, who loved domination, strife, war, and the chase". After his violent deposition in 1399 nothing could ever be quite the same again; it was the end of an epoch. Medieval divine right lay dead, smothered in Pontefract castle, and the kings of the next hundred and ten years, medieval as they were in many respects and desperately as they tried to drag together the shredded rags of legitimacy, were essentially kings de facto, not de jure, successful usurpers recognised after the event, upon conditions, by their fellow-magnates or by parliament. Even Henry V, perhaps the strongest and the most medieval of the series, depended for five-sixths of his revenue on the goodwill of his subjects and could never quite live down the dubiety of his father's title and the precedent of unfortunate concessions exacted from his father's weakness.

It is true that the effective precedent afforded by the events of 1399 was for at least a century or two no more than a precedent of usurpation and that the Lancastrian parliamentary title was in the main imposed on those reluctant sovereigns after the event.

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