"When a male sovereign required to be worshipped as a deity, like Richard II or, in a somewhat different fashion, Charles I, the political nation revolted."
The arrest of Richard II Jean Froissart's Chronicles (Bib. Nat. Fr. 2644, fol. 159v), 15th century manuscript - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
(1367-1400) ruled from 1377 until he was overthrown and imprisoned in 1399. Only ten years old when he succeeded to the throne, Richard was the son of Edward, the Black Prince
and a grandson of Edward III.
Until 1389, when he gained control, the country was effectively ruled by a series of councils, although Richard was instrumental in handling the Peasants Revolt
in 1381. Following 1389 was a period of relative peace, although in 1387 control of the government was seized by a group of nobles known as the Lords Appellant
. In 1397 most of these were exiled or executed when Richard, secure in his rule, acted against them. The last two years of Richard's rule have been described as "tyranny", after which Richard was deposed by Henry Bolingbroke, the son of John of Gaunt
, and who Richard had earlier disinherited. Henry declared himself king and was crowned Henry IV
. Richard died imprisoned in Pontefract Castle
, probably due to starvation.
William Shakespeare's play Richard II , portraying the misrule of Richard II, has been largely responsible for colouring modern attitudes to Richard's reign, but most historians do believe that he cannot be excused for his own downfall. He cultivated a court where he, as king, was elevated above other mortals, in contrast to that of his predecessor, his grandfather Edward III whose court was fraternal and military in outlook. Richard's court had, in addition to himself, art and culture at its centre. Above all, he believed firmly in the royal prerogative, keeping all power to himself while remaining jealous and suspicious of his nobles. This proved unacceptable, leading them to support Henry Bolingbroke in favour of what they saw as a tyrannical king.
Portrait of King Charles I in the robes of the Order of the Garter by Sir Anthony Van Dyck. 1636 - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
(1600-1649), the second son of James I
of England and VI of Scotland, believed, like Richard II, in the royal prerogative. He succeeded to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1625 and reigned until his execution in 1649. Like Richard II before him, he attempted a monopoly of rule, challenging parliament in order to obtain for himself royal revenue. Unfortunately for Charles, parliament disagreed, instead it attempted to curb the royal prerogative and a power struggle ensued. The people, too, disagreed with Charles's levying of taxes without parliamentary consent and his interference with both the English and Scottish churches.
His actions and attitudes led to the revolt against his rule that resulted in the English Civil War. Defeated after the First Civil War (1642-1645), Charles remained defiant of both people and parliament, resulting in the Second Civil War (1648-1649). Defeated again, this time Charles was tried for, and found guilty of, high treason, leading to his execution on 30 January 1649. Following the deposition of Charles I, the monarchy itself was abolished in favour of rule by republican government under the Commonwealth of England with Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. Although Charles's son became Charles II, he did not reign until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Charles I was canonised as Saint Charles Stuart and King Charles the Martyr by the Church of England.