19th December 1387. Coup d’Etat.
The ‘Merciless Parliament’ of February to June 1388 not only passed more sentences of death than any other in the Middle Ages, but set in train, events which were to lead to the deposition of Richard II in 1399.
This parliament was important in the context of later events and marks the first stage in the ongoing power struggle between king and magnates, known as the Lords’ Appellant who were to take power.(1)
The ‘Wonderful Parliament’ in November 1386 had pressed for reform of the King’s administration and aimed to reduce the patronage of his favourite, Robert de Vere, which was to culminate Today in the 1387 Battle of Radcot Bridge, near Oxford and de Vere’s defeat.
Five Lords’ Appellant confronted Richard’s Counsellors in The Merciless Parliament of 1388 which met on 3rd February which reduced Richard to a figurehead.(1)
Then in an atmosphere of civil war, which constituted a Coup d’Etat, all opposition was destroyed in wholesale execution, confiscation and exile.
Of the notable courtiers, Michael de la Pole, 1st Earl of Suffolk and Robert de Vere fled to the Continent, Chief Justice, Robert Tresilian was dragged from Westminster Abbey and brutally executed, Nicholas Brembre ex Mayor of London hanged.
None were given formal trials, though Archbishop Neville of York, was exiled and his assets confiscated. The rest were drawn and hanged. Dozens of clerks, retainers, chaplains, secretaries were summarily condemned and executed
The last two years of Richard’s reign, after regaining control, has been ascribed as ‘The Tyranny’. On 17th September 1397 the King convened the ‘Revenge Parliament’, Gloucester was murdered, Arundel executed, Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury, being a churchman, was translated to St Andrews, Warwick were exiled.
Derby and Nottingham were exiled and estates confiscated, with all forfeited lands going to swell the Royal treasury.
With the collusion of John of Gaunt, his son Bolyngbroke was pardoned, along with Mowbray and new titles created ‘the duketti’: Bolyngbroke was created Duke of Hereford and Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, became Duke of Norfolk.
Richard’s Parliament of Shrewsbury of 1398 then declared the Merciless Parliament invalid.
However Richard had now too many enemies and next year saw the eventual deposition of the King by Henry Bolyngbroke to become Henry IV.
The murder of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, is a major theme in Richard II by Shakespeare.
(1) Lords’ Appellant: Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, uncle of Richard, the leader. Henry Bolyngbroke, Earl of Derby; Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick; Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham; Earl of Arundel, fitzAlan.
14thc England, Vol I. Nigel Saul.
Chronicle of England/p. 328.Pic of Appellants
Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples. Purnell.