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The King in Parliament, in a Historical Compilation

The King in Parliament, in a Historical Compilation

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1390

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Nero D VI

Item number: f.72r

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 This collection of historical documents, a chronicle of English kings and rules for activities at the royal court was made during Richard's reign.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. Richard's downfall eventually came through disputes carried out in Parliament, the manifestation of aristocratic rivalries as well as his attempts to create an autocratic kingship in England. This document prescribes 'The manner of holding Parliament,' its first letter bearing an image of the seated king (larger than everyone else) directing dialogue of an assembly of nobles and bishops. Richard's favourite, Thomas de Mowbray (possibly the book's recipient) was banished, along with Henry of Bolinbroke (the future Henry IV and probably the instigator of Richard's murder), as a result of a dispute in Parliament.

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