Richard II and Ann of Bohemia, Westminster Abbey

Richard II and Ann of Bohemia, Westminster Abbey

Monarchs Buried at Westminster Abbey

Richard II (1367-1400)

Richard was born at Bordeaux in France in 1367, the son of Edward the “Black Prince” (eldest son of King Edward III) and Joan, called the “Fair Maid of Kent”. His father died in 1376 and so Richard succeeded his grandfather as king, being crowned in the Abbey on 16 July 1377 aged only 10. He married Anne daughter of the Emperor Charles IV of Bohemia in January 1382 and she was crowned two days later. A contemporary portrait of the King wearing coronation robes seated in the Coronation Chair and holding the orb and sceptre still hangs in the nave of the Abbey. This wooden panel-painting is the earliest known portrait of an English monarch, dating from the 1390s. The suggestion has been made that the artist was court painter Andr' Beauneveu. The vivid colours show the king in a green tunic decorated with the letter R, wearing a crimson robe lined with ermine, an ermine cape, vermilion socks and gold shoes. It was restored and re-framed in the 19th century.

Richard was devoted to the Abbey and to St Edward the Confessor and he rebuilt the northern entrance and some bays of the nave. He also partly rebuilt Westminster Hall, in the Palace of Westminster. His wife Anne died in 1394 and he was so grief stricken that he demolished Sheen Palace, where she had died. Although a handsome, cultured man he was not a successful ruler and he was deposed as king and imprisoned in 1399 by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke (who became Henry IV), son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. He died in Pontefract Castle on or about 14 February 1400, most probably from starvation. However, rumours spread that he was actually murdered so his body was brought for public view to St Paul’s in London and then was buried at a friary in Langley, Hertfordshire. When Henry V came to the throne he ordered the removal of the body to Westminster Abbey in 1413 to join Anne in the tomb Richard had erected for them in the chapel of St Edward the Confessor, next to that of Edward III. The tomb was made in 1396-9 by London masons Henry Yevele and Stephen Lote, and coppersmiths Nicholas Broker and Godfrey Prest cast the gilt bronze effigies. Richard and Anne were originally depicted holding hands, but they have been broken off. The effigies are stamped all over with patterns and Plantagenet badges – the broompod, white hart and sun-burst on the king’s figure and knots, crowned initials A and R and chained ostriches on Anne’s effigy. Part of the inscription around the ledge of the tomb can be translated: “'tall in body, in his mind he was sage as Homer'he laid low anyone who violated the royal prerogative” and Anne is described as ” beauteous in body and her face was gentle and pretty”. Both effigies are undoubtedly portraits and the king wears a short wispy beard, as in his painted portrait. Much of the decoration, including the beasts supporting the feet and the jewels from Anne’s dress, has now disappeared but Queen Victoria ordered new cushions to be made to support their heads. The wooden tester, or panel, above the effigies is by John Hardy and four painted scenes in gilt gesso-work can still be made out. The tomb was opened in 1871 and most of Anne’s skeleton was missing as bones had been extracted by visitors through a hole in the side of the tomb. Dean Stanley arranged the bones neatly and also put back some other items which had been left in the tomb in 1413. Anne of Bohemia’s wooden funeral effigy head is displayed in the Abbey Museum.

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