INCIDENTS OF THE REIGN
 IN giving some general account of the character of Richard's reign, and of the incidents that occurred during the
course of it, we now go back a little again, so as
to begin at the beginning of it.
When Richard was married, he was, as has already been said, only about fifteen or sixteen years of age. As he
grew older, after this time, and
began to feel that sense of strength and independence which pertains to
manhood, he became more and more jealous of the power and influence of his uncles in the government of the
country. His mother, too, who was still living, and who adhered closely to him, was very suspicious of the
uncles. She was continually imagining that they were forming plots and conspiracies against her son in favor of
themselves or of their own children. She was particularly suspicious of the Duke of Lancaster, and of his son
Henry Bolingbroke. It proved in the end that there was some reason for this suspicion, for this Henry
Bolingbroke was the means at
 last of deposing Richard from his throne in order to take possession of it himself, as we shall see in the
In order to prevent, as far as possible, these uncles from finding opportunity to accomplish any of their
supposed designs, Richard and his mother excluded them, as much as they could, from power, and appointed other
persons, who had no such claims to the crown, to all the important places about the court. This, of course,
made the uncles very angry. They called the men whom Richard thus brought forward his favorites, and they hated
them exceedingly. This state of things led to a great many intrigues, and manúuvres, and plots, and
counterplots, the favorites against the uncles, and the uncles against the favorites. These difficulties were
continued for many years. Parties were formed in Parliament, of which sometimes one was in the ascendency and
sometimes the other and all was turmoil and confusion.
When Richard was about twenty years old, one of his uncles—his uncle Thomas, at that time Duke of
Gloucester—gained such an influence in Parliament that some of Richard's favorites were deposed from office and
imprisoned. The duke was imboldened by this success to take a farther step. He told the Parliament that the
 government would never be on a good footing until they themselves appointed a council to manage in the king's
When Richard heard of this plan, he declared that he would never submit to it.
"I am the King of England," said he, "and I will govern my realm by means of such officers as I choose to
appoint myself. I will not have others to appoint them for me."
The ideas which the kings of those days entertained in respect to the province of Parliament was that it was to
vote the necessary taxes to supply the king's necessities, and also to mature the details of all laws for the
regulation of the ordinary business and the social relations of life, but that the government, strictly so
called—that is, all that relates to the appointment and payment of executive officers, the making of peace or
war, the building and equipment of fleets, and the command of armies, was exclusively the king's prerogative,
and that for the exercise of his prerogative in these particulars the sovereign was responsible, not to his
subjects, but to God alone, from whom he claimed to have received his crown.
The people of England, as represented by Parliament, have never consented to this view of the subject. They
have always maintained
 that their kings are, in some sense, responsible to the people of the realm, and they have often deposed kings,
and punished them in other ways.
Accordingly, when Richard declared that he would not submit to the appointment of a council by Parliament, the
Commons reminded him of the fact that his great-grandfather, Edward the Second, had been deposed in consequence
of having unreasonably and obstinately resisted the will of his people, and they hinted to him that it would be
well for him to beware lest he should incur the same fate. Some of the lords, too, told him that the excitement
was so great in the country on account of the mismanagement of public affairs, and the corruptions and
malpractice of the favorites, that if he refused to allow the council to be appointed, there was danger that he
would lose his head.
So Richard was obliged to submit, and the council was appointed. Richard was in a great rage, and he secretly
determined to lay his plans for recovering the power into his own hands as soon as possible, and punishing the
council, and all who were concerned in appointing them, for their audacity in presuming to encroach in such a
manner upon his sovereign rights as king.
The council that was appointed consisted of
 eleven bishops and nobles. Richard's uncle Thomas, the Duke of Gloucester, was at the head of it. This council
governed the country for more than a year. Every thing was done in Richard's name, it is true, but the real
power was in the hands of the Duke of Gloucester. Richard was very angry and indignant, but he did not see what
he could do.
He was, however, all the time forming plans and schemes to recover his power. At last, after about a year had
passed away, he called together a number of judges secretly at Nottingham, toward the northern part of the
kingdom, and submitted to them the question whether such a council as the Parliament had appointed was legal.
It was, of course, understood beforehand how the judges would decide. They decreed that the council was
illegal; that for Parliament to give a council such powers was a violation of the king's prerogative, and was
consequently treason, and that, of course, all who had been concerned in the transaction had made themselves
liable to the penalty of death.
It was Richard's plan, after having obtained this decree, to cause the prominent members of the council to be
arrested, and he came to London and began to make his preparations for accomplishing this purpose. But as soon
 uncle Thomas, the Duke of Gloucester, heard of these plans, he, and some great nobles who were ready to join
with him against the king, collected all their forces, and began to march to London at the head of forty
thousand men. Richard's cousin Henry, the Duke of Lancaster's son, joined them on the way. Richard's friends
and favorites, on hearing of this, immediately took arms, and preparations began to be made for civil war. In a
word, after having successfully met and quelled the great insurrection of the serfs and laborers under Wat
Tyler, Richard was now to encounter a still more formidable resistance of his authority on the part of his
uncles and the great barons of the realm. These last, indeed, were far more to be feared than the others, for
they had arms and organization, and they enjoyed every possible facility for carrying on a vigorous and
determined war. Richard and his party soon found that it was useless to attempt to resist them. Accordingly,
after a very brief struggle, the royal party was entirely put down. Richard's favorites were arrested. Some of
them were beheaded, others were banished from the realm, and the government of the country fell again into the
hands of the uncles.
One of Richard's favorites who was executed
 on this occasion was a man whose untimely death grieved and afflicted both Richard and the queen very much
indeed. His name was Sir Simon Burley. He had been Richard's friend and companion all his life. Richard's
father, Edward, the Black Prince, had appointed Sir Simon Richard's tutor while Richard himself was a mere
child, and he had been with him ever since that time. Queen Anne was much attached to him, and she was
particularly grateful to him on account of his having been the commissioner who negotiated and arranged her
marriage with Richard. Richard made every possible exertion to save his tutor's life, but his uncle Gloucester
was inexorable. He told Richard that his keeping the crown depended on the immediate execution of the traitor.
Queen Anne fell on her knees before him, and begged and entreated that Sir Simon might be spared, but all was
of no avail.
So Richard was compelled to submit; but he did not do so without secret muttering, and resolutions of revenge.
He allowed the government to remain in his uncle's hands for some time, but at length, about a year afterward,
he found himself strong enough to seize it again. The plea which his uncles had hitherto made for managing the
government themselves was,
 that Richard was not yet of age. But now he became of age, and he resolved on what might be called a coup
d'etat, to get possession of the government. He planned this measure in concert with a number of his own
friends and favorites, who hoped, by this means, that they themselves should rise to power.
He called a grand council of all the nobles and great officers of state. The assembly convened in the great
council-chamber, and waited there for the king to come in.
At length the king arrived, and, walking into the chamber, he took his seat upon the throne. A moment afterward
he turned to one of the chief officers present and addressed him, saying,
"My lord, what is my age at the present time?"
The nobleman answered that his majesty was now over twenty years of age.
"Then," said the king, speaking in a very firm and determined manner, "I am of years sufficient to govern mine
own house and family, and also my kingdom; for it seemeth against reason that the state of the meanest person
in my kingdom should be better than mine. Every heir throughout the land that has once come to the age of
twenty years is permitted, if his father be not living, to order his business
him-  self. And that which is permitted by law to every other person, of however mean degree, why is it denied to me?"
The king spoke these words with an air of such courage and determination that the barons were astonished. The
foremost of them, after a brief pause, seemed ready to accede to his proposals. They said that there should
henceforth be no right abridged from him, but that he might take upon himself the government if he chose, as it
was now manifestly his duty to do.
"Very well," said the king. "You know that I have been a long time ruled by tutors and governors, so that it
has not been lawful for me to do any thing, no matter of how small importance, without their consent. Now,
therefore, I desire that henceforth they meddle no more with matters pertaining to my government, for I will
attend to them myself, and after the manner of an heir arrived at full age. I will call whom I please to be my
counsel, and thus manage my own affairs according to my own will and pleasure."
The barons were extremely surprised to hear these determinations thus resolutely announced by the king, but had
nothing to say in reply.
"And in the first place," continued Richard,
 "I wish the chancellor to give me up the great seal."
The great seal was a very important badge and emblem of the royal prerogative. No decree was of legal authority
until an impress from this seal was attached to it. The officer who had charge of it was called the chancellor.
A new seal was prepared for each sovereign on his accession to the throne. The devices were much the same in
all. They consisted of a representation of the king seated on his throne upon one side of the seal, and on the
other mounted on horseback and going into battle, armed from head to foot. The legends or inscriptions around
the border were changed, of course, for each reign.
The engraving on the following page represents one side of king Richard's seal. The other side contained an
image of the king seated on his throne, and surrounded by various insignia of royalty.
SEAL OF RICHARD II.
"I wish the chancellor," said the king, "to deliver me up the great seal."
So the nobleman who had been chancellor up to that time delivered the seal into the hands of the king. The seal
was kept in a beautiful box, richly ornamented. It was always brought to the council by the lord chancellor,
 it in charge. The king proceeded immediately afterward to appoint a new chancellor, and to place the box in his
hands. In the same summary manner the king displaced almost all the other high officers of state, and appointed
new ones of his own instead of them. The former officers were obliged to submit, though sorely against their
will. They were powerless, for the king had now attained such an age that there was no longer any excuse for
withholding from him the complete possession of his kingdom.
 From this time, accordingly, Richard was actually as well as nominally king of England; but still he was often
engaged in contentions and quarrels with his uncles, and with the other great nobles who took his uncle's part.
The queen—for good Queen Anne was at this time still living—was so gentle and kind, and she acted her part as
peacemaker so well, that she greatly softened and soothed these asperities; but Richard led, nevertheless, a
wild and turbulent life, and was continually getting involved in the most serious difficulties. Then there were
wars to be carried on, sometimes with France, sometimes with Scotland, and sometimes with Ireland. Richard's
uncles, the Dukes of Lancaster and Gloucester, generally went away in command of the armies to carry on these
wars. Sometimes Richard himself accompanied the expeditions; but even on these occasions, when he and his
knights and nobles were engaged together in a common cause, and apparently at peace with each other, there were
so many jealousies and angry heartburnings among them, that deadly quarrels and feuds were continually breaking
As an example of these quarrels, I will give an account of one which took place not very long after Richard
was married. He was
 engaged with his uncles in an expedition to Scotland. There was a knight in attendance upon him named Sir
Miles. This knight was a friend of the queen. He was a Bohemian, and had come from Bohemia to pay Anne a visit,
and to bring the news to her from her native land. The king, out of affection to Anne, paid him great
attention. This made the English knights and nobles jealous, and they amused themselves with mimicking and
laughing at Sir Miles's foreign peculiarities. The particular friends of the queen, however, took his part, one
especially, named the Earl of Stafford, and his son, the young Lord Ralph Stafford. Lord Ralph Stafford was one
of the most courteous and popular knights in England.
In the course of the expedition to Scotland the party came to a town called Beverley, which is situated in the
northern part of England, near the frontier. One day, two archers belonging to the service of Lord Ralph
Stafford, in riding across the fields near Beverley, found two squires engaged in a sort of quarrel with Sir
Miles. The cause of the quarrel was something about his lodgings in the town. The squires, it seems, knowing
that the knights and nobles generally disliked Sir Miles, were encouraged to be very bold and insolent to him
express-  ing their ill-will, and when the archers came up they were following him with taunts, and ridicule, and abuse,
while Sir Miles was making the best of his way toward the town.
The archers took the Bohemian's part. They remonstrated with the squires for thus abusing and teasing a
stranger and a foreigner, a personal friend, too, and guest of the queen.
"What business is it of yours, villainous knave, whether we laugh at him or not?" said the squires. "What right
have you to intermeddle? What is it to you?"
"What is it to us?" repeated one of the archers. "It is a great deal to us. This man is the friend of our
master, and we will not stand by and see him abused."
Upon hearing this, one of the squires uttered some words of defiance, and advanced as if to strike the archer;
but the archer, having his bow and arrow all ready, suddenly let the arrow fly, and the squire was killed on
Sir Miles had already gone on toward the town. The other squire, seeing his companion dead, immediately made
his escape. The two archers, leaving the man whom they had killed on the ground where he had fallen, made the
best of their way home, and told their master, Sir Ralph Stafford, what they had done.
 Sir Ralph was extremely concerned to hear of the occurrence, and he told the archer who killed the squire that
he had done very wrong.
"But, my lord," said the archer, "I could not have done otherwise; for the man was coming up to us with his
sword drawn in his hand, and we were obliged either to kill him or to be killed ourselves."
The archers, moreover, told Sir Ralph that the squires were in the service of Sir John Holland. Now Sir John
Holland was a half brother of the king, being the child of his mother, the Princess of Wales, by a former
husband. When Sir Ralph heard this, he was still more alarmed than before. He told the archers who killed the
squire that they must go and hide themselves somewhere until the affair could be arranged.
"I will negotiate with Lord Holland for your pardon," said he, "either through my father or in some other way.
But, in the mean time, you must keep yourselves closely concealed."
The Earl of Stafford, Lord Ralph Stafford's father, was a nobleman of the very highest rank, and of great
It is a curious indication of the ideas that prevailed in those days, and of the relations that subsisted
between the nobles and their
depend-  ents, that the slaughter of a man in an affray of this kind
was a matter to be arranged between the
masters respectively of the men engaged in it.
The archers went away to hide themselves until Lord Ralph could arrange the matter.
In the mean time, the squire who had escaped in the fray hurried home and related the matter to Lord Holland.
Lord Holland was greatly enraged. He uttered dreadful imprecations against Lord Ralph Stafford and against Sir
Miles, whom he seemed to consider responsible for the death of his squire, and declared that he would not sleep
until he had had his revenge. So he mounted his horse, and, taking some trusty attendants with him, rode into
Beverley, and asked where Sir Miles's lodgings were. While he was going toward the place, breathing fury and
death, suddenly, in a narrow lane, he came upon Lord Ralph, who was then going to find him, in order to arrange
about the murder. It was now, however, late in the evening, and so dark that the parties did not at first know
"Who comes here?" said Lord Holland, when he saw Sir Ralph approaching.
"I am Stafford," replied Sir Ralph.
"You are the very man I want to see," said
 Lord Holland. "One of your servants has killed my squire—the one that I loved so much."
As he said this, he brought down so heavy a blow
upon Sir Ralph's head as to fell him from his horse to the
ground. He then rode on. The attendants hurried to the spot and raised Sir Ralph up. They found him faint and
bleeding, and in a few moments he died.
As soon as this fact was ascertained, one of the men rode on after Lord Holland, and, coming up to him, said,
"My lord, you have killed Lord Stafford."
"Very well," said Lord Holland; "I am glad of it. I would rather it would be a man of his rank than any body
else, for so I am the more completely revenged for the death of my squire."
As fast as the tidings of these events spread, they produced universal excitement. The Earl of Stafford, the
father of Sir Ralph, was plunged into the most inconsolable grief at the death of his son. The earl was one of
the most powerful nobles in the army, and, if he had undertaken to avenge himself on Lord Holland, the whole
expedition would perhaps have been broken up into confusion. On the king's solemn assurance that Holland would
be punished, he was appeased for the time; but then the
 Princess of Wales, Richard's mother, who was Lord Holland's mother too, was thrown into the greatest state of
anxiety and distress. She implored Richard to save his brother's life. All the other nobles and knights took
sides too in the quarrel, and for a time it seemed that the dissension would never be healed. Lord Holland, in
the mean while, fled to the church at Beverley, and took sanctuary there. By the laws and customs of the time,
they could not touch him until he came voluntarily out.
Richard resisted all the entreaties of his mother to spare the murderer's life until he found that her anxiety
and distress were preying upon her health so much that he feared that she would die. At last, to save his
mother's life, he promised that Holland should be spared. But it was too late. His mother fell into a decline,
and at length died, as it was said, of a broken heart. What a dreadful death! that of a mother worn out by the
agony of long-continued and apparently fruitless efforts to prevent one of her children from being the
executioner of another for the crime of murder.
Besides these fierce, deadly contests among the knights and nobles, the ladies of the court had their feuds
and quarrels too. They were often divided into cliques and parties, and were
 full of envyings, jealousies, and resentments against each other. One of the most serious of these difficulties
was occasioned by a marriage of the Duke of Lancaster, which took place toward the close of his life. This was
his third marriage, he having been successively married to two ladies of high rank before. The lady whom he now
married was of a comparatively humble station in life. She was the daughter of a foreign knight. Her name,
originally, was Catharine de Rouet. She had been, in her early life, a maiden in attendance on the Duchess of
Lancaster, the duke's second wife. While she was in his family the duke formed a guilty intimacy with her,
which was continued for a long time. They had three children. The duke provided well for these children, and
gave them a good education. After a time, the duke, becoming tired of her, arranged for her to be married to a
certain knight named Swinton, and she lived with this knight for some time, until at length he died, and
Catharine became a widow.
The Duchess of Lancaster died also, and then the duke became for the second time a widower, and he now
conceived the idea of making Catharine Swinton his wife. His motive for this was not his love for her,
for that, it is said,
 had passed away, but his regard for the children, who, on the marriage of their mother to the father of the
children, would be legitimatized, and would thus become entitled to many legal rights and privileges from which
they would otherwise be debarred. The other ladies of the court, however, particularly the wives of the other
dukes—the Duke of Lancaster's brothers—were greatly incensed when they heard of this proposed marriage, and
they did all they possibly could do to prevent it. All was, however, of no avail, for the Duke of Lancaster was
not a man to be easily thwarted in any determination that he might take into his head. So he was married, and
the poor despised Catharine was made the first duchess in the realm, and became entitled to take precedence of
all the other duchesses.
This the other duchesses could not endure. They could not bear it, they said, and they would not bear it. They
declared that they would not go into any place where this woman, as they called her, was to be. As might have
been expected, an interminable amount of quarreling and ill-will grew out of this affair.
About the time of this marriage of the duke, the king himself was married a second time, as will be related in
the next chapter.