1399 Henry Bolingbroke Returns to England

Exile of Henry Bolingbroke
Henry spent his exile in France, working to build support amongst sympathizers for the restoration of this lands in the Duchy of Lancaster. In the summer of 1399, Richard II had gone to Ireland to suppress a rebellion there. This provided the opportunity Henry needed to plan a return to England.

Henry Lands at Ravenspur
Richard had been concerned about Henry building support in France and the possibility of him returning to reclaim his inheritance. Richard ordered all the castles on the south coast be garrisoned, but Henry landed at Ravenspur in Yorkshire, much closer to Henry’s own base of his support. Also in Henry’s retinue at Ravenspur were Thomas Fitzalan, the son of the executed Earl of Arundel, his uncle Thomas Arundel, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Sir John Pelham, constable of Pevensey Castle.

Richard had appointed the Duke of York as regent during his absence. The duke had marshaled an army to oppose Henry. While the army included contingents from many southern counties, there was not a contingent from Sussex. This would not have been surprising given that largest landholdings in Sussex at that time were of Arundel and of the Duchy of Lancaster. 

Siege of Pevensey
The castle of Pevensey was part of the Duchy of Lancaster and the constable of the Castle, Sir John Pelham was a loyal supporter Henry Bolingbroke and of his father John of Gaunt before him. It may have been news of Sir John’s allegiance that prompted the Duke of York to issue an order on July 3 for the Sussex Sheriff's to seize the castle. However, Sir John’s wife, Lady Joan Pelham, successfully held the castle against them. Sir John went on to become one of Henry’s closet councilors and received large land grants in Sussex for his service to Henry.

Abdication of Richard II
Henry marched his army around England, building support for his cause and forcing surrender of any castles still loyal to the King. On July 27, Henry met the Duke of York at Berkeley, near Bristol. Henry persuaded York that his cause was just, pointing to the broad support already had across England. York agreed not to oppose Henry, allowing Henry to march on and capture Richard at Conway in north Wales, forcing Richard’s abdication. Its not clear at what point Henry’s ambitions expanded beyond reclaiming his inheritance, but Henry Bolingbroke went on to become King Henry IV of England. Richard is believed to have been starved to Death in Pontefract Castle.

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