Richard II

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Yale University Press, 1999 - Biography & Autobiography - 514 pages
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Richard II is one of the most enigmatic of English kings. Shakespeare depicted him as a tragic figure, an irresponsible, cruel monarch who nevertheless rose in stature as the substance of power slipped from him. By later writers he has been variously portrayed as a half-crazed autocrat or a conventional ruler whose principal errors were the mismanagement of his nobility and disregard for the political conventions of his age. This book--the first full-length biography of Richard in more than fifty years--offers a radical reinterpretation of the king.

Nigel Saul paints a picture of Richard as a highly assertive and determined ruler, one whose key aim was to exalt and dignify the crown. In Richard's view, the crown was threatened by the factiousness of the nobility and the assertiveness of the common people. The king met these challenges by exacting obedience, encouraging lofty new forms of address, and constructing an elaborate system of rule by bonds and oaths. Saul traces the sources of Richard's political ideas and finds that he was influenced by a deeply felt orthodox piety and by the ideas of the civil lawyers. He shows that, although Richard's kingship resembled that of other rulers of the period, unlike theirs, his reign ended in failure because of tactical errors and contradictions in his policies. For all that he promoted the image of a distant, all-powerful monarch, Richard II's rule was in practice characterized by faction and feud. The king was obsessed by the search for personal security: in his subjects, however, he bred only insecurity and fear.

A revealing portrait of a complex and fascinating figure, the book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the politics and culture of the English middle ages.
 

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User Review  - john257hopper - LibraryThing

This is a very comprehensive and well researched account and surely the definitive survey of the life and reign. But not really for the non-specialist for the most part and I skimmed the last third. I really prefer narrative accounts. Read full review

Richard II

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Saul (medieval history, Univ. of London) has written several books on the medieval period (e.g., England in Europe, St. Martin's, 1994). His latest work stays close to primary sources, which means it ... Read full review

Contents

Richard II and Shakespeare
1
Background and Upbringing 136777
6
Accession and Minority 137781
24
The Great Revolt 1381
56
Marriage and Diplomacy 13813
83
The King and his Friends 13816
108
Retreat from War 13835
135
Humiliation and Constraint 13867
148
Richard in Ireland
270
Piety and Orthodoxy
293
The King and his Court
327
Majesty Dominion and Might 13979
366
Deposition and Death 139914oo
405
King and Man
435
RICHARD ITS ITINERARY 137799
468
GENEALOGY
475

Defeat and Recovery 13879
176
1o The Quest for Peace 138998
205
Patronage and Power 138996
235
BIBLIOGRAPHY
476
INDEX
497
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About the author (1999)

Nigel Saul is reader in Medieval History at Royal Holloway College, University of London.

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