A Brief Guide To Kings Called Richard

A Brief Guide To Kings Called Richard

The English royal family doesn’t have that many names for kings and queens, and some of them they give up on. For instance, there has only ever been one King John, for as every A A Milne fan will tell you,

King John was not a good man

There is never likely to be a Queen Jane, because then the powers that be would have to deal with the tricky question of whether Lady Jane Grey was actually queen for nine days in 1553, thus making the new monarch Jane II rather than Jane I.

They’ve had three tries at Richard, but seem to have given up on that one too. The first one did a jolly good job. He was Richard the Lionheart. Of his five years or so as monarch he spent four and a half of them away crusading, which the barons at home considered to be the ideal place for a monarch. They could get on hunting, feasting, and oppressing the peasantry without interference. There is a legend that when Richard was held hostage, his minstrel Blondel went from castle to castle singing his favorite song, and when Richard sang the second verse, he rescued him from imprisonment. I have to ask, why did the Blondel sing a song rather than shouting, “Oi, Richard, are you in there?”

In fact that whole Blondel thing is pretty unlikely because England was hit by an enormous tax bill to pay Richard’s ransom, sort of a medieval Brexit fee. When Richard I died, he was succeeded by his brother John, who was not a good man. John pissed the barons off so much they made him sign the Magna Carta. What mostly pissed them off was that he went on charging taxes at Richard I levels without the excuse of a ransom payment.

OK, fast forward to Richard II. He was deposed by Henry IV. On the way to fight a war in Ireland, he is supposed to have left some of his treasure at Beeston Castle (or at least, the castle that later became Beeston Castle) and people have been looking for it ever since, mostly down the well that is 375 feet deep.
Beeston Castle Well
Oh, yes, that makes perfect sense. Rather than leaving your royal treasury in the Tower of London, say, you take it to some random castle on the Welsh borders and drop it down a well for safekeeping.

Richard III stole the crown from his nephews, the Princes in the Tower, who vanished mysteriously, and in turn was deposed by Henry VII. After that there haven’t been any more Richards. One out of three is just not good enough, especially when there is currently someone in the royal family called Henry.

Beeston Castle was about a mile and a half walk from the spot where we moored for lunch. There was a shortcut across the fields, but it was muddy and cow infested.
Yummy steak
The castle sits on a sandstone bluff about 350 feet high in a fine defensive position. There was a bronze age settlement there, and a stone castle built in the 1200s, partially demolished by Cromwell in the 1600s and used as a quarry in the 1700s. Not much remains except some foundations, a few bits of tower, and a superb view all around.
Down in the gatehouse, the gift shop and historical display were in darkness due to a power cut, so we had to use our phone flashlights to read up on the history of the place. It was occupied by Royalists in the Civil War, and besieged by Roundheads. The Royalists ran out of food, as you do in a siege, and when they had finally eaten everything they could, including the cats, they negotiated a surrender in which they got to go home and eat dinner. Wars were different in those days.

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