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The King's Steward, in a Historical Compilation

The King's Steward, in a Historical Compilation

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1390

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Nero D VI

Item number: f.65r

Length: 35.5

Width: 23

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

King Richard II (1367-1400), son of Edward the Black Prince, was crowned at age ten, with the regency of a council headed by John of Gaunt. His achievements when an adolescent in negotiating an end to the Peasants' Rebellion, 1381, were not lived up to when he ruled the country as king. He alienated Parliament, was deposed in 1399 and died (probably murdered) a prisoner at Pontefract Castle. This collection of historical documents, a chronicle of English kings and rules for activities at the royal court was made during Richard's reign. It is possible that the king had it made for his ally, Thomas de Mowbray. Its miniatures resemble closely others surviving in manuscripts decorated for the monks of Westminster Abbey as well as a few linked to Richard II, who apparently was an outstanding royal patron of painters. The Wilton Diptych (in the National Gallery, London), probably his personal devotional shrine, represents him before English royal saints adoring the Virgin and Child. This document details the duties of officials at Richard II's coronation. The historiated letter (a letter bearing a picture) shows the king's steward seated and handing out orders to four noblemen, kneeling beside him. The manuscript gathers treaties and other documents in an affirmation of Richard II's failing reign. It possibly also was meant to affirm the loyalty of the nobleman who owned or used the book.

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