06 January, 2017

6 January 1367: Birth of Richard II

Today marks the 650th anniversary of the birth of King Richard II of England, who was the great-grandson of Edward II and who shared his fate of deposition.

Richard was the second son of Edward of Woodstock, prince of Wales and Aquitaine, duke of Cornwall and earl of Chester, eldest of the five sons of Edward III, and Joan of Kent, countess of Kent in her own right. Edward of Woodstock had been appointed prince of Aquitaine in 1362, and so Richard was born there, in the important city of Bordeaux. His birthday of 6 January is Epiphany or Twelfth Night or the feast of the Three Kings, and rather remarkably three kings are said to have attended his baptism in Bordeaux several days after his birth. I discuss the kings' identities in my forthcoming (and as yet untitled) biography of Richard. Also present in Bordeaux in January 1367 was the chronicler Jean Froissart, who was to meet Richard again in England twenty-eight years later.

Richard of Bordeaux - as he is often called - was born third in line to the English throne behind his father and his elder brother Edward of Angoulême, who was not quite two years old at the time, born on 27 January 1365 also in Aquitaine. Richard's paternal grandfather Edward III had been king of England for almost exactly forty years at the time of Richard's birth, and his paternal grandmother Queen Philippa was also still alive. As I pointed out in a recent post, Richard's ancestry was confusingly tangled and inter-related; he was both the great-grandson and great-great-grandson of Edward I of England, both the great-great-grandson and the great-great-great-grandson of Philip III of France, and so on. By 1367 the name Richard had become unusual in the English royal family, and the last royal to bear the name was King John's younger son and Henry III's brother Richard of Cornwall, who presumably was named after his uncle King Richard Lionheart and who died in 1272. Richard of Bordeaux spent the first four years of his life in France, and travelled to England with his parents in early 1371, leaving behind the body of his recently deceased brother Edward of Angoulême. Richard had Edward's body transported to England in the early 1390s and reburied at Langley Priory, founded by their great-grandfather Edward II in 1308.

Richard's father died in June 1376 and the ten-year-old boy succeeded his grandfather as king of England a year later. Shortly after he turned fifteen in January 1382, he married his beloved Anne of Bohemia, who was born in May 1366 and was the daughter of the great Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV from his fourth marriage to the Polish noblewoman Elizabeth of Pomerania, daughter of the duke of Pomerania and granddaughter of Kazimierz III Wielki, Casimir III the Great, king of Poland. Anne was born in Prague, and so from January 1382 until Anne's premature death in June 1394, the king and queen of England were born in Bordeaux and Prague respectively. Richard's much younger second queen Isabelle of France, whom he married in early November 1396 just before her seventh birthday, was born in the Louvre in Paris, now a world-famous museum but then a twelfth-century fortification transformed into a royal palace by Isabelle's grandfather Charles V. Richard II himself was deposed by his cousin Henry IV and murdered in early 1400 some weeks after he turned thirty-three, Anne of Bohemia died at twenty-eight, and Isabelle of France died at not yet twenty shortly after giving birth to her only child Jeanne, duchess of Alençon (who herself died childless in her early twenties and whose father was Isabelle's first cousin Charles of Orléans). I wish all of them had enjoyed happier fates.


Anonymous said...

I have very vague knowledge of Richard II and his reign so your book will be very enlightening. My understanding is that he's gone down in history with rather a poor reputation so your forthcoming biography of him will no doubt fill in the gaps and give a fair assessment of his 22-year reign. Whatever occurred though whilst he was on the throne one has to bear in mind that he possibly met an early and unjust end - English history certainly produced some fascinating kingly characters. I will be looking out for your post of a publication date. Happy new year. Amanda

sami parkkonen said...

Can't wait the book about this king, too. Europe was a family business for a long time, it seems. Wonder what was it that killed these people so young, though.

Anerje said...

It'll be interesting to see if you can rehabilitate Richard II - or if he is indeed a 'bad' King. Looking forward to the book.

Btw, Gabriele left a message at my blog - she's having trouble posting on your blog.

Chris said...

This is a great blog.