Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes
MacRae-Smith Company, 2nd printing, 1947
Genre: historical fiction
Synopsis & Review: After the death of the Black Prince in 1376, Edward III’s heir was Richard of Bordeaux, and as the oft-repeated adage “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child” goes, his reign was a much-troubled one. Due to his young age, Richard II was initially ruled by his Plantagenet uncles, especially John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. As he neared his majority Richard initially distrusted John of Gaunt–as did most of England–but his loathing was reserved for Gloucester and his party. Control of the government remained in the hands of a series of councils as prominent men struggled for supremacy, a condition offensive to the young Richard, who longed to restore England to a peace and prosperity unknown in England for decades. While the great tussled over influence, England strove to surmount the devastation of years of foreign campaigns and plague, a situation that came to a head in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. The Revolt provoked the first independent moment of Richard’s sovereignty, but control of the government was soon back in the hands of other men.
After his marriage to Anne of Bohemia, however, Richard would assert himself more strongly, but the depredations of his minority inspired another rebellion, and his chancellor and household members were dismissed, and some executed. The crisis ended only upon Richard’s assumption of control at his majority and the return of John of Gaunt to England. Together the two worked to restore peace and stability, and Richard finally ended wars with France and began establishing a culture of the arts in England. But the death of his beloved Good Queen Anne devastated Richard, and the period of his “tyranny” began, a time that ended only with the usurpation of his throne by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and Richard’s subsequent imprisonment and murder.
For centuries Richard II would be remembered as extravagant, incompetent, weak, even mad, a ruthless tyrant unable to even provide an heir, a man from whom England had to be saved. But was the story so simple, or something far more complex? Read the rest of this entry »