REIGNED: On the death of his grandfather, King Edward III, Richard became ruler of England, then a country devastated by plague and oppressed by heavy taxes, the result of a war with France. Parliament, which had obtained greater power in the last years of Edward III's reign, now sought to secure control of the government, but was opposed by John of Gaunt and his followers. The speedy suppression of Tyler's Rebellion in 1381 was largely the result of Richard's courage and daring.
A year later, at the age of 15, Richard married Anne of Bohemia, daughter of the Holy Roman emperor Charles IV, and began to seek the downfall of the great nobles who controlled Parliament and prevented him from acting independently. Led by Richard's uncle Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, a coterie of noblemen known in history as the "lords appellant" appealed or accused Richard's adherents of treason, banishing some and having others executed. The following year Richard, with the help of John of Gaunt, succeeded in asserting his authority.
On his return from a second military expedition to Ireland in 1399 Richard found that exiled John of Gaunt's son, Henry Bolingbroke, duke of Hereford, who later became Richard's successor as Henry IV, had returned from exile and placed himself at the head of a formidable army. Richard was captured by Bolingbroke in Wales and brought captive to London, where he formally resigned his crown. On the following day his abdication was ratified by Parliament, which then confirmed Bolingbroke as King Henry IV. Richard was secretly confined in Pontefract Castle, where he either died of starvation or was murdered in February 1400.
EVENT: John Wycliffe was the first to translate the Bible in its entirety into English. Wycliffe was born in Yorkshire and educated at Oxford. A strong advocate for reform in the Church, he advocated several doctrines that were considered heretical, including that the Church should not own property, that the king was superior to the pope in temporal matters, and rejection of the doctrine of transubstantiation. A believer in the idea that the masses should have access to the scriptures, he published his English Bible ca.1382 and it was revised after his death in 1388. The translation is based on the Latin Vulgate Bible. A follower of Wycliffe's, Nicholas Hereford, is chiefly responsible for the actual work of translation and supervised most of the work, but Wycliffe was the initiator and sponsor of the project. In 1408 the Church forbade translations of the Bible except under license from a Bishop and specifically condemned Wycliffe's Bible.
EVENT: Chaucer was born in 1342 of well-to-do parents, John Chaucer and Agnes Copton, who possessed several buildings in the vintage quarter in London. He must have had some education in Latin and Greek.
Out of school he went on as a page in the household of the Countess of Ulster. Chaucer rose in royal employment and became a knight of the shire for Kent. As a member of the king's household, Chaucer was sent on diplomatic errands throughout Europe. From all these activities, he gained the knowledge of society that made it possible to write «i»The Canterbury Tales«/i». Chaucer died in October 1400 and was buried in Westminster Abbey in London. He was the first of those that are gathered in what we now know as the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey.
«i»The Canterbury Tales«/i» is a collection of stories in a frame story, between 1387 and 1400. It is the story of a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury. The pilgrims, who come from all layers of society, tell stories to each other to kill time while they travel to Canterbury.
If we trust the General Prologue, Chaucer intended that each pilgrim should tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two tales on the way back. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, «i»The Canterbury Tales«/i» has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.
BIOGRAPHICAL: with finely chiseled features and beautiful, long, tapering hands.