Who’s Who – Richard II

The Royal Family

Richard II – The King!

Anne of Bohemia – Richard’s first (cash-strapped) wife, from modern-day Czech Republic

Isabella of Valois – Richard’s second wife, daughter of the King of France and only 6 or 7 years old

John of Gaunt – the Duke of Lancaster and the eldest surviving son of Edward III. Was unpopular with many at court but proved largely loyal to his nephew. His descendants made up the House of Lancaster and the Tudors.

Edmund of Langley – another uncle of Richard’s, the fourth eldest son of Edward III. Had a limited role in Richard’s reign, but became the Duke of York and his descendants would make up the House of York.

The Dead (featured in the last episode but relevant to this one too!)

Edward II – Richard’s great-grandfather, a poor king who had a tendency to promote his favourites at the expense of the more illustrious nobles. Was forced to abdicate and later murdered.

Edward III – Richard’s grandfather, a legendary king who started the Hundred Years War. His five adult sons came to represent the different houses in the Wars of the Roses, making him the last common ancestor of the rival dynasties.

The Black Prince (Edward Woodstock) – Richard’s father and Edward III’s eldest son. A legendary warrior who pre-deceased his father and so never became king.

Lionel of Antwerp – Edward III’s second eldest son, who also predeceased his father. His only daughter married into the Mortimer family, whose sons were nominal heirs to Richard. Later they would marry the descendants of Edmund of Langley, linking two royal lines and enhancing the status of the House of York.

The Peasants

Wat Tyler – legendary leader of the Peasants’ Revolt who negotiated with Richard at Mile End and Smithfield.

Jack Straw – reputed to be the leader of the Essex peasants, though his exact identity is unknown and sometimes thought to be a pseudonym for Tyler.

John Ball – Lollard preacher who was released from prison by Wat Tyler and gave a legendary speech to the peasants encouraging rebellion

Richard’s Favourites

Michael de la Pole – Richard’s Chancellor, unpopular with the other nobles leading to rebellion.

Robert de Vere – Richard’s favourite favourite, another lowly figure raised to great heights and wealth by Richard

Lords Appellant

This group of powerful nobles sought to remove Richard’s favourites and impose their will on the king. They brought a legal appeal against Richard’s ministers (hence ‘appellant’). Initially there were three senior nobles involved:

Duke of Gloucester (Thomas Woodstock) – the fifth son of Edward III, so Richard’s youngest uncle.

Earl of Arundel (Richard FitzAlan)

Earl of Warwick (Thomas de Beauchamp)

They were then joined by two other, more junior, nobles:

Henry Bolingbroke (Earl of Derby) – the son of John of Gaunt. Initially proved more conciliatory towards Richard than his fellow Lords, but would ultimately head the invasion that deposed Richard and make himself Henry IV, the first Lancastrian king.

Thomas de Mowbray (Duke of Norfolk) – initially friends with Richard and was not a target for vengeance when Richard turned against the Lords Appellant in 1397. However, he then fell out with Bolingbroke and was sent into perpetual exile, dying of the plague in Venice in 1399

Family Fortunes – Wars of the Roses

We haven’t quite got there yet, but we’re moving towards the Wars of the Roses, the dynastic struggle between the Houses of Lancaster and York (with a bit of Tudor thrown in at the end). It all stems from the many children of Edward III and this is how it all begins…

House of Lancaster – these are the descendants from the first marriage of John of Gaunt (the Duke of Lancaster). His son, Henry Bolingbroke becomes the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV.

House of York – these are the descendants of both Lionel of Antwerp and Edmund of Langley. Edmund is the Duke of York but his line has a fairly minor claim until a marriage with the descendants of Lionel, thus merging two royal lines into one powerful dynasty.

Tudors – currently the Tudors are a distant Welsh family, but they will one day marry into the Beaufort family, descended from John of Gaunt’s third marriage.