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					021038926                                                                                    HS 3646


 TEXT COMMENTARY: „THE MANNER OF RICHARD‟S RENUNCIATION, AND OF THE
        ELECTION OF KING HENRY THE FORTH SINCE THE CONQUEST‟.

This essay will look to analyse the document „The Manner of Richard‟s Renunciation, and of the
Election of King Henry the Fourth since the Conquest‟. Firstly, a brief description of the document
will describe the days preceding and following the resignation of Richard II, and ultimately the
accession of Henry IV to the English throne. Secondly, the text will be analysed in more detail,
especially looking at how Richard II was deposed, and by what right, and how Henry of
Bolingbroke claimed the throne. Finally, the author of the source will be examined.
       This document details the events of 28th - 30th of September 1399 both in the Tower of
London where Richard II was kept after his capture by Henry Bolingbroke, and later at Westminster
when Henry was accepted as the new King Henry IV. It describes the visit on the 28th of September
of a deputation to the captive Richard II to determine whether or not he was willing to resign his
position as King, which he had previously promised to do at Conway. Richard asks this group of
men to see the written bill that he was supposed to sign, and he asks if he can consider it until the
following day.
       The second deputation came at nine o‟clock the following day and they asked him again if
he would resign, Richard replied bluntly that he would not accept it under any circumstances “and
declared that he would like to have it explained to him how it was that he could resign the crown,
and to whom”, because he was the anointed king. After some debate, he asked if he could see his
cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, saying that he would agree to the bill but with
certain conditions. Henry who came the same day said that Richard was in no position to ask for
conditions. Richard saw that he had no choice, and read the bill out himself “with good cheer,
loudly and clearly” and accepted all the conditions, except that he wanted to keep certain lands
which he wished to use to pay for pray for his soul at Westminster Abbey. It also shows that
Richard suspected what he fate was to be. The remainder of the source describes the ceremonies in
Westminster Abbey and the Great Hall on the 30th September, where Richard‟s resignation was read
out and accepted by the Assembly, and they all agreed that Henry could become King.
       The events of 1399 pose an important question, namely the nature of parliament and its
relations with the monarch and the estates in the fourteenth century. Although parliament had
increased its power and role in the fourteenth century, it did not have the power to depose a king.
For example, in 1388 the actions of Parliament were not revolutionary, it was simply placing itself
above all the other courts, which were merely the extension of ancient laws and customs of the


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realm and the „establishment‟ of parliament1. The nobles only attacked the King‟s servants, and
confirmed the traditional notion of trial by peers. The King was an essential part of Parliament like
the Lords and Commons; Parliament was called and dissolved by the King. Legislative and
constitutional acts of Parliament were acts of the King. „The idea of a parliamentary deposition
involves a concept of crown and parliament as two distinct entities which is contrary to all that we
know of their constitutional relations in the fourteenth century‟2.
        We need to look at the deposition of Edward II to shed some light on the proceeding of
Richard II deposition. A commission went to Edward at Kenilworth. They were representatives of
the Westminster Assembly and spoke „for the community of the land‟3 and asked whether he would
resign in favour of his son. The nation had been called to participate in the deposition of Edward II,
and they did this by accepting the acts done by the magnates in the committee, which represented
the realm. „It was a precedent for exactly what the committee, set up to consider the matter,
suggested in 1399- deposition by authority of the clergy and people‟4. It did not give a
parliamentary deposition precedent, it started a precedent of the committee to consider the matter
and carry it through for the whole realm. „The precedent of 1327 was not only not a precedent for
„parliamentary‟ deposition; it was not even a precedent of deposition by the parliamentary
„estates‟‟5, it was a deposition by magnates with the co-operation and agreement of the people.
Richard II was deposed by an assembly of status et populous and similarly, Edward II can offer no
precedent for parliamentary deposition. Edward II „was deposed… by the unanimous consent‟ or
the Lords and of „the whole clergy and people‟6.
        Henry had to justify his usurpation of the throne, and alleging that Richard was deceitful,
untrustworthy, useless, tyrant, despot, sacrilegious, governed badly, listened to evil councillors,
took Church money, was in breach of the Coronation Oath, especially when he promised Henry his
father‟s lands. All agreed that Richard‟s breaking of the Oath warranted deposition. This included
act such as denying the liberties of the Church and taking clerical money, his promise to remit the
damage to the Duke of Gloucester who he had murdered instead, and had archers present at
Parliament. The Records and Process‟ which was written by the Lancastrians as propaganda of



1
  B. Wilkinson, „The Deposition of Richard II and the Accession of Henry IV‟, in The English Historical Review, Vol.
54, No. 214, (April, 1939), p. 222.
2
  Ibid., p. 220
3
  W. Dunham Jr., and C. Wood, „The Right to Rule England: Deposition and the Kingdom‟s Authority, 1327-1485‟, in
The American Historical Review, Vol. 81, No. 4, (October, 1976), p. 740.
4
  Wilkinson, „The Deposition of Richard II and the Accession of Henry IV‟, in EHR, (April, 1939), p. 224.
5
  Ibid., p. 229.
6
  Dunham, and Wood, „The Right to Rule England‟, in AHR, (October, 1976), p. 741.
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Henrys renunciation, wrote of ten out of thirty three articles found against Richard, had the word
„perjury‟, which the Lancastrians subsequently brought out most frequently.
           Henry claimed the throne “as the nearest male heir and worthiest blood-descendent of the
good King Henry the third”. He traced his descendent through his mother from Edmund
„Crouchback‟ Duke of Lancaster, allegedly elder brother of Edward I (elder son of Henry III).
Crouchback, was supposedly put aside because of his imbecility, and had physical deformities.
However, this claim was discarded as it meant that not only Richard, but also the three Edwards had
no right to have occupied the throne. However, Henry still claimed right of descent. Similarly,
Henry also claimed the throne through God‟s will, the fact that he was victorious in battle, and
subsequently destined to rule England. However, again, this claim was still precarious as it meant
that it put men and their title and properties at risk and created insecurities. His succession was
based on a neat formula that rested on two key principles; Common law of inheritance by eldest
son, and that a King should rule in the best interest of the country and take good counsel of the
realm7, which Richard did not. However, Henry was not really elected by parliament or the nation,
he was there by victory in battle, and they would only be confirming his title, especially as Henrys
had obtained Richards resignation before parliament had convened.
           However, the law of succession was never completely defined in England. Richard was the
first king since 1066 to die childless, with no brothers or sisters, subsequently the direct line of the
Plantagenets came to an end. Therefore, no one could have an unchallenged claim to the throne,
though Henry had a good claim. To be sure, Henry sent out a pedigree establishing his lineal
descent from King Henry III down to himself. The source even hints at opposition to Henry‟s
accession and Henry was well aware of this. For example, Northumberland was not happy with the
accession, and opposed it until the very last minute due to Henry‟s betrayal at Conway, where he
negotiated with Henry in good faith. „In approaching the events of Richard II‟s deposition, we have
at least to allow for the possibility of a very serious opposition to Henry of Lancaster‟s designs,
including some of the leading magnates of the north‟8.
           The second part of the document is where Henry asks for permission in Parliament to
become King, as every monarch was „elected‟ to their seat as King, and had to be accepted by the
nation. Henry went to Parliament at Westminster on Tuesday, heard Mass, then with crowds of
people, entered the Great Hall, which contained a splendid throne decorated in cloth of Gold. A list
of reasons for deposition of Richard was read out, Archbishop of Canterbury asked all the people if


7
    Ibid., p. 739.
8
    Wilkinson, „The Deposition of Richard II and the Accession of Henry IV‟, in EHR, (April, 1939), p. 220.
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they agreed with the deposition for the reasons just read out, and they all said, “Yes, yes, yes”. This
was the same process that occurred with Edward II‟s deposition.
        Finally, the examination of the author of the source will be deduced. The author is most
likely Thomas Chillenden prior of Christchurch Canterbury, as Given-Wilson points out. The
document refers a lot to Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, and has written about events
in Canterbury that would be of little interest to anyone other than a local-man. He provides an
account that suggests an eyewitness, especially for the events of the 29th - 30th September. Where
the description of the deputation in the Tower on the 28th is brief and informal, but by the 29th it gets
more informative where, it took accurate accounts of the times and days that the events occurred. It
also described Bolingbroke's journey through Cheapside where the prior of Christchurch was
waiting, and that is why knew more of the events on the 29th, as he went to the Tower with Henry
and acted as a witness to the resignation. He was also present at Westminster Abbey of the 30th.
Although he was not the only person waiting for Henry, he was the only one singled out. This could
either be to highlight Chillenden‟s own importance in the proceeding, or the fact that he was an
eyewitness to these events.
        Another account of the renunciation is the „Records and Process‟, found in Rotuli
Parliamentorum, and is most likely the Lancastrian whitewash of the events, with certain bits
omitted and added for propaganda reasons. For example, in the Lancastrian source, Richards‟s
initial refusal to resign would have been omitted, and when he asks whom he should resign to. Also,
the fact that Henry sought confirmation from the lords, if written by Lancastrians, he would have
had no need to ask. Similarly, the „Record and Process‟ states that the Commons acted as judges,
which is incorrect. The Commons did not want to be involved in judgement, and said so in Henry‟s
first Parliament; they took no part in Richard‟s deposition. Judgement of the peers was a matter for
the lords. The Commons function was petitioning and consulting, and specifically in the sphere of
finance, they had limited importance in law and politics. Chillenden‟s account confirms that
Richard did agree to resign before the meeting, and it was not Lancastrian propaganda. „In fact, in
the search for the truth about the resignation and proceedings which accompanied Richard II‟s
deposition, the Manner of King Richard‟s Renunciation is an account which deserves to be treated
with a great deal more respect than has been he case hitherto‟9. It is very important in deciphering
the events, and problems of deposition of an anointed King in the fourteenth century.
        .


9
 C. Given-Wilson, „Richard II, Edward II, and the Lancastrian Inheritance‟, in The English Historical Review, Vol.
109, No. 432, (June, 1994), p. 370.
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                                        BIBLIOGRAPHY


M. Bennett, „Edward III‟s Entail and the Succession to the Crown, 1376-1471‟, in The English
Historical Review, Vol. 113, No. 452, (June, 1998), pp. 580-609.


W. Dunham Jr., and C. Wood, „The Right to Rule England: Deposition and the Kingdom‟s
Authority, 1327-1485‟, in The American Historical Review, Vol. 81, No. 4, (October, 1976), pp.
738-761.


C. Given-Wilson, „Richard II, Edward II, and the Lancastrian Inheritance‟, in The English
Historical Review, Vol. 109, No. 432, (June, 1994), pp. 553-571.


C. Given-Wilson, „The Manner of King Richard‟s Renunciation: A “Lancastrian Narrative?”‟, in
The English Historical Review, Vol. 108, No. 427, (April, 1993), pp. 365-370.


E. Jones, „An Examination of the Authorship of the Deposition and Death pr Richard II attributed to
Creton‟, in Speclum, Vol. 15, No. 4, (October, 1940), pp. 460-477.


A. Tuck, Crown and Nobility; England 1272-1461, Second Addition, (Oxford, 1999).


B. Wilkinson, „The Deposition of Richard II and the Accession of Henry IV‟, in The English
Historical Review, Vol. 54, No. 214, (April, 1939), pp. 215-239.




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