1388 The Merciless Parliament

Rule During Richard II Minority
In 1377 Richard II became king at the age of ten. Since this was too young to rule effectively, the leading barons created a council to govern. However, at the age of twenty Richard started to assert his royal authority, building a power base for himself by expanding his household and with grants of large estates to his court favorites. 

The Lords Appellant
This did not sit well with the barons and in 1388 five of the most senior barons grouped together to start prosecution of Richard’s unpopular favorites for treason. The legal process was known as an Appeal of Treason, hence the five became known as the Lords Appellant. The five lords were the Duke of Gloucester, Richard Fitzalan the Earl of Arundel, the Earl of Warwick, the Earl of Nottingham and Henry Bolingbroke the Earl of Derby.

Outcome of the Parliament
Eight of Richard’s favorites were executed including his childhood tutor, Sir Simon Burley. It is likely Richard felt the death of Sir Simon keenly. Richard had lost his father, the Black Prince, at a young age and Sir Simon had likely become something of a father figure to him. Three more earls were sentenced to death, but escaped by fleeing into exile. Over forty of Richard’s supporters were ejected from court. The parliament of 1388 became know as the Merciless Parliament. 

Aftermath
After the Merciless Parliament, Richard had little option but to adopt a conciliatory tone with the barons. But Richard started rebuilding his power base. By the spring of 1398 felt in a strong enough position to act. Ignoring pardons he had previously given to the Lords Appellant, Richard arrested the three primary Lords Appellant and charged them with treason. His uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, was moved to Calais prison where he was murdered, most likely on Richard’s order. The Earl of Arundel fought the charge, but was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. When the Earl of Arundel asked for mercy, Richard retorted that none had been shown to Sir Simon Burley and specified that the Earl of Arundel should be executed at the same place that Sir Simon was executed. 

The Earl of Warwick admitted guilt and begged for mercy. He was exiled to the Isle of Man. Richard used a dispute between Henry Bolingbroke and the Earl of Nottingham as a pretext to exile them both and seize their land. He also disinherited Bolingbroke from the property he should have received from his father, John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster. This last act was widely unpopular with the barons and ultimately led to Richard’s downfall allowing for Henry’s triumphant return.


Sussex Castles web site © Richard Bird 2004 - 2017                                                                                                             Historical Sources and References