On this day in 1381 King Richard II of England met the leaders of the Peasants’ revolt outside London.
It was the bravest and most notable thing that he did during his reign. He was aged only fourteen at the time. Through a combination of force and duplicity the revolt was quelled and the leaders eventually executed.
Richard’s reign never really got any better and he failed to fight off the challenge of Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt. Henry successfully deposed Richard in 1399 and imprisoned him in Pontefract Castle where he died aged thirty-three the following year, apparently from starvation. It was a sad end for a still young king whose reign had begun so well.
Here is the beginning of Byron’s famous poem, The Prisoner of Chillon; perhaps Richard felt like this during his imprisonment:
My hair is grey, but not with years
Nor grew it white
in a single night,
As men’s have grown from sudden fears:
My limbs are bow’d, though not with toil,
But rusted with a vile repose,
For they have been a dungeon’s spoil,
And mine has been the fate of those
To whom the goodly earth and air
Are bann’d, and barr’d—forbidden fare;
But this was for my father’s faith
I suffer’d chains and courted death;
That father perish’d at the stake
For tenets he would not forsake;
And for the same his lineal race
In darkness found a dwelling place;
We were seven—who now are one
Today I will remember that I have the ability to do anything that I set my mind to – the only thing to stop it will be myself.