Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 48.djvu/152

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himself admitted into the order. Despite his tender years, Lancaster proposed to take him on an expedition into France, but the plan was frustrated by King Edward's death on 21 June 1377 and Richard's accession.

The coronation was celebrated with great pomp on 16 July; it was the occasion of the first recorded appearance of the king's champion, Sir John Dymoke [q. v.], and the ‘Liber Regalis,’ preserved at Westminster, and reproduced by the Roxburghe Club, supplies the earliest and fullest account of the coronation ritual. The bishop of Rochester exhorted the nobles to stand loyally by their young and innocent king, and abandon the vices which would easily lead him astray and bring kingdom and people into peril. But, as Langland had only too truly prophesied some months before, ‘there the catte is a kitoun, the courte is ful elyng’ (i.e. miserable).

Edward III left to his boy successor a damnosa hæreditas. The nation was unnerved by deadly pestilences. In the first days of the new reign the victors of Cressy and Poictiers saw their own coasts plundered and burnt from Rye to Plymouth. The supremacy of the narrow seas for the time passed away from England. The greatly shrunken population groaned under the long strain of a war taxation which now spared none but beggars. Yet the luxury introduced with the spoils of France had not decreased. The upper classes were demoralised by the war, and law and order undermined by the extension of livery and maintenance fostered by the misgovernment of Edward's profligate dotage. A national protest in the Good parliament had just been stifled by Richard's nearest male relative, John of Gaunt. The agricultural population, who had been driven to the verge of rebellion by the attempt of the landowners to ignore the economic results of the black death, and enforce the obsolescent villein services, had adopted the revolutionary theory of power and property enunciated by Wiclif, whose chief protector was John of Gaunt. Richard's accession was considered a checkmate to his uncle's personal ambition, and the members of the new king's household, who had trembled for his succession, straightway instilled into him exalted views of his regal rights.

Meanwhile, parliament claimed control of the executive, although it was not prepared to take full responsibility. Treasurers named in parliament (October 1377) were entrusted with the war subsidies, the great officers of state were to be chosen by parliament until the king ‘was of age to know good and evil,’ and to be assisted by a small permanent council nominated in parliament. But the commons showed no appreciation of the real nature of the crisis. They exclaimed against the crushing war taxation, but would not consent to the sacrifices without which peace was impossible. The conduct of the war, indeed, absorbed large sums without averting the fear of invasion. But the commons did not lay the blame on the right shoulders. In the first moment of chagrin Lancaster had taken up a somewhat menacing attitude towards the new government, but soon contrived to resume a practical control over its action. The council, however, had to bear the responsibility for his and others' failures, and was abolished in 1380 at the request of parliament, its creator, on the ground that Richard was now old enough to dispense with any assistance save that of the five chief ministers of state. According to Walsingham (i. 428), however, they made Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, guardian of the young king. Lancaster's hand may possibly be seen here and in the disposition of the commons to attribute the financial crisis to the extravagance of the royal household, which produced commissions of inquiry in this and the previous year. When John Philipot [q. v.], a London alderman, was driven to defend English commerce at his own cost, Lancaster's friends sneered at Richard as ‘king of London.’ It was significant that in the great revolt of the peasantry in June 1381, provoked by an attempt to levy a tax of a shilling a head on every person over fifteen, the rebels, while avowing an intense hostility to John of Gaunt, made a very general use of the king's name, and even of his banner, but it would be rash to assume that Richard deliberately encouraged the outbreak (cf. Powell, Rising in East Anglia, p. 58). That he was now capable of taking a line of his own appears indeed from his admirable conduct at the most trying crisis of the rising. On Friday, 13 June, he went to Mile End to disperse the rebels there by offering them charters of freedom, and it was during his absence that another band was allowed to enter the Tower, insulted his mother, and murdered Simon Sudbury [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury. Next morning, accompanied by William Walworth [q. v.], the mayor, and others, Richard met the main body of the insurgents under Wat Tyler [q. v.] in Smithfield. Tyler's insolence so provoked those round the king that, though Richard urged them to humour him, he was struck from his horse by the mayor and killed. His followers cried out for their leader and drew their bows. At this critical moment Richard put spurs to his horse, and, riding up to the rebels, demanded whether they wished to