July 16, 1377: The coronation of Richard of Bordeaux as King Richard II of England at the age of 10. He became heir to the throne when his father, Edward Prince of Wales (The Black Prince) died during the Hundred Years War with France. His reign of 22 years was a tumultuous one, facing down the Peasants’ Revolt led by Wat Tyler, only four years after coming to the throne. Late in his reign, a bungled attempt to reduce the prestige of his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke led to his forced abdication (a first in English history). This act, though supported by parliament, would set the stage for the agony of the Wars of the Roses. In the sixteenth century, Richard’s life was dramatized by William Shakespeare as the first part of his loosely connected Wars of the Roses plays. In the play, Richard is given sympathetic treatment, undergoing a transformation from an effete and ineffectual king to a tragic Christlike figure who has been undone by a “sort of traitors here.”

Feature Image: “Richard2-firstfolio” by William Shakespeare, Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount (printers) – Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection