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Richard II
1377-1399 AD

Richard II, born in 1367, was the son of Edward, the Black Prince and Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent. Richard was but ten years old when he succeeded his grandfather, Edward III; England was ruled by a council under the leadership of John of Gaunt, and Richard was tutored by Sir Simon Burley. He married the much-beloved Anne of Bohemia in 1382, who died childless in 1394. Edward remarried in 1396, wedding the seven year old Isabella of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France, to end a further struggle with France.

Richard asserted royal authority during an era of royal restrictions. Economic hardship followed the Black Death, as wages and prices rapidly increased. Parliament exacerbated the problem by passing legislation limiting wages but failing to also regulate prices. In 1381, Wat Tyler led the Peasants' Revolt against the oppressive government policies of John of Gaunt. Richard's unwise generosity to his favorites - Michael de la Pole, Robert de Vere and others - led Thomas, Duke of Gloucester and four other magnates to form the Lords Appellant. The five Lords Appellant tried and convicted five of Richard's closest advisors for treason. In 1397, Richard arrested three of the five Lords, coerced Parliament to sentence them to death and banished the other two. One of the exiles was Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV. Richard travelled to Ireland in 1399 to quell warring chieftains, allowing Bolingboke to return to England and be elected king by Parliament. Richard lacked support and was quickly captured by Henry IV.

Deposed in 1399, Richard was murdered while in prison, the first casualty of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York. Henry IV (1399-1413 AD) Henry IV was born at Bolingbroke in 1367 to John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster. He married Mary Bohun in 1380, who bore him seven children before her death in 1394. In 1402, Henry remarried, taking as his bride Joan of Navarre.

Henry had an on-again, off-again relationship with his cousin, Richard II. He was one of the Lords Appellant who, in 1388, persecuted many of Richard's advisor-favorites, but his excellence as a soldier gained the king's favor - Henry was created Duke of Hereford in 1397. In 1398, however, the increasingly suspicious Richard banished him for ten years. John of Gaunt's death in 1399 prompted Richard to confiscate the vast Lancastrian estates; Henry invaded England while Richard was on campaign in Ireland, usurping the throne from the king.

The very nature of Henry's usurpation dictated the circumstances of his reign - incessant rebellion became the order of the day. Richard's supporters immediately revolted upon his deposition in 1400. In Wales, Owen Glendower led a national uprising that lasted until 1408; the Scots waged continual warfare throughout the reign; the powerful families of Percy and Mortimer (the latter possessing a stronger claim to the throne than Henry) revolted from 1403 to 1408; and Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, proclaimed his opposition to the Lancastrian claim in 1405.

Two political blunders in the latter years of his reign diminished Henry's support. His marriage to Joan of Navarre (of whom it was rumored practiced necromancy) was highly unpopular - she was, in fact, convicted of witchcraft in 1419. Scrope and Thomas Mawbray were executed in 1405 after conspiring against Henry; the Archbishop's execution alarmed the English people, adding to his unpopularity. He developed a nasty skin disorder and epilepsy, persuading many that God was punishing the king for executing an archbishop.

Crushing the myriad of rebellions was costly, which involved calling Parliament to fund such activities. The House of Commons used the opportunity to expand its powers in 1401, securing recognition of freedom of debate and freedom from arrest for dissenting opinions. Lollardy, the Protestant movement founded by John Wycliffe during the reign of Edward III, gained momentum and frightened both secular and clerical landowners, inspiring the first anti-heresy statute, De Heritico Comburendo, to become law in 1401.

Henry, ailing from leprosy and epilepsy, watched as Prince Henry controlled the government for the last two years of his reign. In 1413, Henry died in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey. Rafael Holinshed explained his unpopularity in Chronicles of England : "... by punishing such as moved with disdain to see him usurp the crown, did at sundry times rebel against him, he won(himself more hatred, than in all his life time ... had been possible for him to have weeded out and removed." Unlikely as it may seem (due to the amount of rebellion in his reign), Henry left his eldest son an undisputed succession.

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