Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Fun at Flint

Richard II was taken to Flint Castle , another location that it's still possible to visit, even though the ruins are rather more knocked-about than those at Conwy. He apparently arrived here on the same day he left Conwy, and spent the night, word being sent on to Bolingbroke at Chester.

Next morning Richard rose early and lingered over his breakfast. (He's said to have had little appetite, but maybe by sitting long at the table he allowed his companions to eat at their leisure?) After hearing mass he climbed to the battlements and watched with some alarm as Bolingbroke's army (or whatever part of it was deployed) approached along the shore. Three men spurred ahead of the others - Archbishop Arundel, Edward of York and the Earl of Worcester (Thomas Percy). Richard met this deputation in the keep, but unfortunately we're not told what they said to each other. The transcript would be fascinating, but I think we can take it they didn't talk about the weather or the price of fish. Meanwhile, the Lancastrian forces disposed themselves around the castle, but did not enter.

At this point Richard climbed the battlements again and protested against the show of force. A bit late for that you may think, but it does sort of suggest he was expecting a peaceful settlement. Northumberland went out of the castle and persuaded Bolingbroke not to enter until Richard had eaten - so we can probably assume it was now dinner time. (That's to say round about noon or an hour or two earlier.)

Bolingbroke was literally standing outside the gate. Creton and his companion were introduced to him by Lancaster Herald. Henry told them to have no fear. 'Keep close to me, and I will answer for your lives,' he said. Interesting form of words. By implication, if they wandered about, they could get hurt.

A little later Henry got fed up hanging about and entered the castle. At Northumberland's request Richard, who had been eating in the keep, came down to meet him. Henry immediately bowed low to the ground, then bowed a second time, cap-in-hand, as the King came closer. Richard took off his hood, and welcomed him.

After this show of manners, Henry bowed yet again. 'My lord, I have come sooner than you sent for me and I shall tell you why. It is said that you have governed your people too harshly, and that they are discontented. If it is pleasing to the Lord, I shall help you govern them better.'

'If it pleases you, fair cousin, then it pleases us well,' said Richard.

This is a good example of how one should never take public speeches too literally!

This account is based on Creton, who was an eye witness, as reported by Nigel Saul in his excellent Richard II. The last few posts have also made use of The Royal Household and the King's Affinity by Chris Given-Wilson. For anyone interested in the 1397-1399 period I highly recommend Chronicles of the Revolution 1397-1399, also by Chris Given-Wilson.

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