A Richard II Grote
Richard II coins are quite scarce, especially in attractive condition. This half penny is actually above average.
Recently I upgraded to this groat (4 pence). This is S-1680, the “bushy hair” variety. I have learned that these coins are quite scarce for the same reason the Henry IV coins are. They contained too much silver relative to their face value. Large number of pieces were exported to the continent and melted. This one is well above average.
Richard II, Lived 1367 to 1400, Ruled 1477 to 1399
Richard II became the King of England when he was 10 years old. During my studies of the British monarchs, I have noted that when a young man who became king before the age of 20, it did not work out well. Richard would add to that observation. Richard II became king in 1377. The finest moment of his reign came at the very beginning.
High taxes under Richard’s grandfather, Edward III and the black death had led to widespread unrest among the peasantry. A peasant mob had killed the Archbishop of Canterbury. The mob was in London, demonstrating.
At first, Richard took refuge in the Tower of London, but then he decided to meet the head of the rebels, Wat Tyler. At the meeting, the Mayor of London, fearing for the king’s safety, killed Tyler. The mob could have turned violent, but instead, Richard stood before them and said, “Sirs, will you kill your king? I am your leader. Follow me.” The crowd broke up with promises from Richard that there would be changes. This was Richard’s finest hour, but he would break his word.
Richard’s stand against the mob impressed the nobility, but it would not last. Richard’s chief benefactor was his uncle, John of Gaunt, who was the wealthiest and most powerful noble in England. He gave Richard positive advice, but it was not enough.
Richard played favorites among the nobles. He treated some of them well and other poorly and spent money lavishly on feasts, parties and entertainments while others suffered. He ignored his promises to the peasants. He demanded that people scrape and bow to him, and treat him as a monarch.
The nobles rebelled. Richard held on to his crown with the promise that he would reform his ways. He kept those promises for only a short while, and then he went back to his old ways. At one point he razed a building because his wife had died in it.
John of Gaunt died in 1399. Upon his death, Richard seized John’s son, Henry Bolingbroke’s, property. Richard and Henry had been childhood friends. They had taken the Order of the Garter together, but that did not matter. Bolingbroke went into a temporary exile, plotting his response.
The other nobles realized that if Richard could take Bolingbroke’s property that none of them were safe. Much of Richard’s support disappeared.
Henry Bolingbroke returned to England with a force of men. Richard was in Ireland at the time that Bolingbroke returned and was unable to overcome Henry’s advantage. Richard II was forced to abdicate and was imprisoned at Pontefract Castle. There he starved to death, either by choice of by force. Henry Bolingbroke became King Henry IV.
Richard II was the last of the direct line of Plantagenet kings.