Richard was born at Bordeaux in France on 6 January 1367, the son of Edward the 'Black Prince' (eldest son of King Edward III) and Joan, called the 'Fair Maid of Kent'. The death of his elder brother Edward left him the sole heir. His father died in 1376 and so Richard succeeded his grandfather as king. Richard was devoted to Westminster Abbey and to St Edward the Confessor and he rebuilt the northern entrance and some bays of the nave. He also partly rebuilt Westminster Hall, in the Palace of Westminster. In 1381 the Peasants' Revolt broke out against the poll tax and Richard, aged just 14, rode out and bravely confronted the mob and pacified them. Although a handsome, cultured man he was not a successful ruler and he was deposed as king and imprisoned in 1399 by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke (who became Henry IV), son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.
Richard's half sister Maud Holland (a daughter of Joan and her first husband Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent), was seemingly buried in the Abbey in 1392.
He married Anne daughter of the Emperor Charles IV of Bohemia, and sister of King Wenceslas IV, in Westminster Abbey in January 1382 and was devoted to her. She was crowned two days later by Archbishop Courtenay. They had no children. An illuminated manuscript in the Abbey Library, the Liber Regalis, is said to have been written for use at her coronation. It has three illuminations of coronation scenes (the king alone, queen alone and king and queen together). In 1396 Richard married the 7 year old Isabelle of France as his second wife.
Richard was crowned in the Abbey on 16 July 1377 aged only 10. The day before the ceremony he processed on horseback from the Tower of London to Westminster. The streets were bustling with entertainers and decorated with bright banners and tapestries. This was the first ever coronation procession.
A contemporary portrait of the King wearing coronation robes seated in the Coronation Chair and holding the orb and sceptre is now placed in the nave of the Abbey, having originally been in the Quire. This wooden panel-painting is the earliest known portrait of an English monarch, dating from the 1390s. The suggestion has been made that the artist was court painter André Beauneveu. The vivid colours show the king in a green tunic decorated with the letter R, wearing a crimson robe lined with ermine, an ermine cape, vermilion socks and gold shoes. It was restored and re-framed in the 19th century. Unfortunately during this restoration by George Richmond in 1866 the diapered gilt ground and the raised gesso work on the crown, orb and sceptre were taken off.
Burial and Monument
After his deposition he died in Pontefract Castle on or about 14 February 1400, most probably from starvation. However, rumours spread that he was actually murdered so his body was brought for public view to St Paul's cathedral in London and then was buried at a friary in Langley, Hertfordshire. When Henry V came to the throne he ordered the removal of the body to Westminster Abbey in 1413 to join Anne in the tomb Richard had erected for them in the chapel of St Edward the Confessor, next to that of Edward III.
The tomb was made in 1396-9 by London masons Henry Yevele and Stephen Lote, and copper smiths Nicholas Broker and Godfrey Prest cast the gilt bronze effigies. The total cost was £933. 6 shillings and 8 pence. Richard and Anne were originally depicted holding hands (as Richard had specified), but they have been broken off. This was the first double royal tomb and the effigies were cast in two sections rather than a single piece like Eleanor of Castile's effigy. The effigies are stamped all over with patterns and Plantagenet badges - the broompod, white hart and sun-burst on the king's figure and knots, crowned initials A and R and chained ostriches on Anne's effigy. Richard is depicted in Parliament robes while the queen wears a cote-hardi, from which the buttons are missing, an enriched girdle and long cloak. She has waist length hair.
The Latin inscription around the ledge of the tomb can be translated:
" Sage and elegant, lawfully Richard II, conquered by fate he lies here depicted beneath this marble. He was truthful in discourse and full of reason: Tall in body, he was prudent in his mind as Homer. He showed favour to the Church, he overthrew the proud and threw down anybody who violated the royal prerogative. He crushed heretics and laid low their friends. O merciful Christ, to whom he was devoted, may you save [Richard], through the prayers of the Baptist, whom he esteemed"
Anne's part of the inscription can be translated as:
"Beneath a broad stone now Anna lies entombed; when she lived in the world she was the bride of Richard the Second. She was devoted to Christ and well known for her deeds; she was ever inclined to give her gifts to the poor; she calmed quarrels and relieve the pregnant. She was beauteous in body and her face was gentle and pretty. She provided solace to widows, and medicine to the sick. In 1394 on a pleasant seventh day of the month of June, she passed over. Amen"
Both effigies are undoubtedly portraits and the king wears a short wispy beard, as in his painted portrait. Much of the decoration, including the beasts supporting the feet (two lions at Richard's feet and a leopard and eagle at Anne's) and the jewels from Anne's dress, has now disappeared. Queen Victoria ordered new cushions to be made to support their heads. The metal table on which they lie is in two pieces diapered with lions and fleurs de lis and lions and eagles respectively. On the canopy at the back of the heads there are stamped shields with the arms of Edward the Confessor impaling France and England quarterly with chained harts as supporters and the arms of France and England impaling Bohemia with eagle supporters
The oak tester, or panel, above the effigies shows four painted scenes, the outlines of which can still be made out. Each has a background of gilt gesso work (similar to that which was originally on his portrait) and the subjects are: two angels standing on a flowered mount and supporting a shield (now defaced), the coronation of the Virgin, Christ enthroned, and angels similar to the first scene supporting a shield with the arms of France and England impaling the eagle of the Empire quartering the crowned lion of Bohemia. The ribs and cornice of the tester are painted with rosettes.
In the Abbey inventory of St Edward's chapel in 1520 it mentions a "canvas cloth stained black with a white hart to cover the tomb of Richard II".
Anne of Bohemia
When Anne died in 1394 Richard was so grief stricken that he demolished Sheen Palace, where she had died. Anne of Bohemia's wooden funeral effigy head is still in the Abbey collection. The tomb was opened in 1871 and most of Anne's skeleton was missing as bones had been extracted by visitors over the years through a hole in the side of the tomb base where enamelled shields had once been attached. The statues of saints in the niches below the effigies no longer remain (compare the design of Edward III's tomb adjoining). Dean Stanley arranged the bones neatly and also put back some other items which had been left in the tomb in 1413.
During the 1914-18 war the effigies were stored in the Chapter House crypt and from 1939-45 they were evacuated to a country house.
Tomb dimensions: Length 3.84 metres, width 2.10 metres, height 1.90 metres.
Photographs of the portrait, tomb effigies, tester, funeral effigy and Liber Regalis can be obtained from the Abbey Library.
The funeral effigy will be on display in the new Jubilee Galleries, due to open mid 2018.
Richard II by Nigel Saul, 1997
On an examination of the tombs of Richard II and Henry III by A.P.Stanley in Archaeologia XLV, 1879
Drawings, by George Scharf, made at the time of the opening of the tomb, are at the Society of Antiquaries. The skulls and Richard's shrunken brain were photographed before replacement. Some items removed by Scharf from the tomb are at the National Portrait Gallery. Article in The Westminster Abbey Chorister Summer 2011.
Observations on the heraldic devices..on the effigies of Richard the Second and his queen by J.G.Nichols, Archaeologia vol. XXIX, 1841
A study of the materials and techniques of the tester over the tomb of Richard II... thesis by Abigail Weatherill, 2010.
History of the King's Works - vol. 1 edited by H.M.Colvin, 1963
Royal bronze effigies in Westminster Abbey by Plenderleith and Maryon, Antiquaries Journal XXXIX, 1959 (describing the cleaning after the war and method of casting the effigies)
History & Antiquities of the Abbey Church of St Peter Westminster...by J.P.Neale and E.W.Brayley, vol II, 1823 (discussing the tomb and the contracts for it)
The Virgin Mary and White Harts...14th century wall paintings...by Jane Spooner in BAA Conference transactions "Westminster....the art...of the Royal Abbey", 2015
Restoration of the portrait of Richard II by Ian McClure, in New offerings, ancient treasures. Studies in medieval art…edited by Paul Binski and William Noel, 2001
Portraits of the later Plantagenets by F.Hepburn, 1986
The Funeral Effigies of Westminster Abbey edited by A. Harvey and R. Mortimer, 2003 revised edition
The regal image of Richard II and the Wilton Diptych edited by Dillian Gordon and others, 1997
Andre Beauneveu by S.Nash, 2007
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004
Richard II and the English Royal Treasure by Jenny Stratford 2012
Henry V by Wylie & Waugh, vol I. p.207-11 describes the king's re-burial here
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