Gateway to the Classics: Richard II by Jacob Abbott
Richard II by  Jacob Abbott

Good Queen Anne

King Richard was married twice. His first queen was named Anne. She was a Bohemian princess, and so is sometimes called in history Anne of Bohemia. She was, however, more commonly called Good Queen Anne.

The marriage was planned by Richard's courtiers and counselors when Richard himself was about fifteen years old. The negotiations were interrupted by the troubles connected with the insurrection described in the two last chapters; but immediately after the insurrection was quelled they were renewed. The proposals were sent to Bohemia by Richard's government. After suitable inquiries had been made by Anne's parents and friends, the proposals were accepted, and preparations were made for sending Anne to England to be married. Richard was now about sixteen years of age. Anne was fifteen. Neither of them had ever seen the other.

In due time, when every thing had been made ready, the princess set out on her journey, accompanied by a large train of attendants. She was under the charge of a nobleman named the Duke of Saxony, and of his wife the duchess. The duchess was Anne's aunt. Besides the duke, there were in the party a number of knights, and other persons of distinction, and also several young ladies of the court, who went to accompany and wait upon the princess. There were also many other attendants of lower degree.

The party traveled slowly, as was the custom in those days, until at length they reached Flanders. Here, at Brussels, the capital, the princess was received by the Duke and Duchess of Brabant, who were her relatives, and was entertained by them in a very sumptuous manner. She, however, heard alarming news at Brussels. The intention of the party had been to take ship on the coast of Flanders, and proceed to Calais by water. Calais was then in the hands of the English, and an embassador with a grand suite had been sent from Richard's court to receive the princess on her arrival there, and conduct her across the Channel to Dover, and thence to London.

The reason why the princess and her party did not propose to go by land all the way to Calais was that, by so doing, they would necessarily pass through the territories of the King of France, and they were afraid that the French government would intercept them. It was known that the government of France had been opposed to the match, as tending to give Richard too much influence on the Continent.

But now, on their arrival at Brussels, the bridal party learned that there was a fleet of Norman vessels, ten or twelve in number, that were cruising to and fro on the coast, between Brussels and Calais, with a view of blocking up the princess's way by sea as well as by land. Both she herself and the Duke of Saxony were much chagrined at receiving this information, and for a time they did not know what to do. At length they sent an embassage to Paris, and after some difficulties and delay they succeeded in obtaining the consent of the French government that the princess should pass through the French territories by land. The embassadors brought back a passport for her and for her party.

Although the King of France thus granted the desired permission, he did it in a very ungracious manner, for he took care to say that he yielded to the Duke of Saxony's request solely out of kindness to his good cousin Anne, and a desire to do her a favor, and not at all out of regard to the King of England.

The princess was detained a month in Brussels while they were arranging this affair, and when at last it was settled she resumed her journey, taking the road from Brussels to Calais. The Duke of Brabant accompanied her, with an escort of one hundred spearmen. This, however, was an escort of honor rather than of protection, as the duke relied mainly upon the French passport for the safety of the party.

As the party were approaching Calais, they were received at the town of Gravelines by the English embassador and his suite, who had come out from Calais to meet them. This embassador was the Earl of Salisbury. He was attended by a force of one thousand men, namely, five hundred spearmen and five hundred archers. Conducted by this grand escort, and accompanied by a large cavalcade of knights and nobles, all clad in full armor, and splendidly mounted, the princess and the ladies in her train made a magnificent entry into Calais, through the midst of a vast concourse of spectators, with trumpets sounding and banners waving, and their hearts beating high with ecstasy and delight. In passing over the drawbridge and through the gates of Calais, Anne felt an emotion of exultation and pride in thinking that she was here entering the dominions of her future husband.

The princess did not remain long in Calais. She set out on the following day for Dover. The distance across is about twenty miles. They were dependent wholly on the wind in those days for crossing the Channel; but the princess had a prosperous passage, and arrived safely at Dover that night. News then spread rapidly all over the country, and ran up to London, that the queen had come.

The news, of course, produced universal excitement. No certain tidings of the movements of the bride had been heard for some weeks before, and no one could tell when to expect her. Her arrival awakened universal joy. Parliament was in session at the time. They voted a large sum of money to be expended in arrangements for receiving the young queen in a proper manner, and in public rejoicings on the occasion. They then immediately adjourned, and all the world began to prepare for the arrival of the royal cortége in London.

The princess, after resting a day in Dover, moved on to Canterbury, admiring, as she journeyed, the beautiful scenery of the country over which she was henceforth to be queen. Richard's uncle Thomas, the Duke of Gloucester, with a large retinue, was ready there to receive her. He conducted her to London. As they approached the city, the lord-mayor of London and all the great civic functionaries, with a long train of attendants, came out in great state to receive her and escort her into town. The place of their meeting with her was Blackheath, the same place which a year before had been the bivouac of the immense horde of ragged and miserable men that Wat Tyler and his fellow-insurgents had brought to London. But how changed now was the scene! Then the country was excited by the deepest anxiety and alarm, and the spectacle on the field was that of one immense mass of squalid poverty and wretchedness, of misery reduced by hopeless suffering to recklessness and despair. Now all was gayety and splendor in the spectacle, and the whole country was excited to the highest pitch of exultation and joy.

At Blackheath the grand cavalcade was formed for passing through London. Splendid preparations had been made in London to receive the bride, and to do honor to her passage through the city. Many of these preparations were similar to those which had been made on the occasion of the king's coronation. There was a castle and tower, with young girls at the top throwing down a shower of golden snow, and fountains at the sides flowing with wine, with fancifully-dressed pages attending to offer the princess drink from golden cups. In a word, the young and beautiful bride was received by the civic authorities of London with the same tokens of honor and the same public rejoicings that had been accorded to the king.

In a few days the marriage took place. The ceremony was performed in the chapel royal of the king's palace at Westminster. The king appeared to be very much pleased with his bride, and paid her great attention. After a week spent with her and the court in festivities and rejoicings in Westminster, he took her up the river to the royal castle at Windsor. His mother, the Princess of Wales, and other ladies of rank, went with them, and formed part of their household. They lived here very happily together for some time.

The young queen soon began to evince those kind and gracious qualities of heart which afterward made her so beloved among the people of England. Instead of occupying herself solely with her own greatness and grandeur, and with the uninterrupted round of pleasures to which her husband invited her, she began very soon to think of the sufferings which she found that a great many of the common people of England were enduring, and to consider what she could do to relieve them. The condition of the people was particularly unhappy at this time, for the king and the nobles were greatly exasperated against them on account of the rebellion, and were hunting out all who could be proved, or were even suspected to have been engaged in it, and persecuting them in the most severe and oppressive manner, and they were bloody and barbarous beyond prededent. The young queen, hearing of these things, was greatly distressed, and she begged the king, for her sake, to grant a general pardon to all his subjects, on the occasion of her coronation, which ceremony was now soon to be performed. The king granted this request, and thus peace and tranquillity were once more fully restored to the land.

After this, during all her life, Anne watched for every opportunity to do good, and she was continually engaged in gentle but effective efforts to heal dissensions, to assuage angry feelings, and to alleviate suffering. She was a general peace-maker; and her lofty position, and the great influence which she exercised over the king, gave her great power to accomplish the benevolent purposes which the kindness of her heart led her to form.

The arrival of the young queen produced a great sensation among the ladies of Richard's court, in consequence of the new fashions which she introduced into England. The fashions of dress in those days were very peculiar. We learn what they were from the pictures, drawn with the pen or painted in water-colors, in the manuscripts of those days that still remain in the old English libraries. There are a great many of these drawings, and, as they agree together in the style and fashion of the costumes represented, there is no doubt that they give us correct ideas of the dresses really worn. Besides, there are many allusions in the chronicles of those times, and in poems and books of accounts, which correspond precisely with the drawings, and thus confirm their correctness and accuracy.

The engravings on the following page are copied from one of these ancient manuscripts.


Male Costume in the Time of Richard II.

Observe the singular forms of the caps, both those of the men and of the women. The men wore sometimes jackets, and sometimes long gowns which came down to the ground. The most singular feature of the dresses of the men, however, is the long-pointed shoes. Were it not that fashions are often equally absurd at the present day, we should think it impossible that such shoes as these could ever have been made.


Female Costume in the Time of Richard II.

These shoes were called Cracows. Cracow was a town in Poland which was at that time within the dominions of Anne's father, and it is supposed that the fashion of wearing these shoes may have been brought into England by some of the gentlemen in Anne's train, when she came to England to be married. It is known that the queen did introduce a great many foreign fashions to the court, and, among the rest, a fashion of head-dress for ladies, which was quite as strange as peaked shoes for the gentlemen. It consisted of what was called the horned cap.


Fashionable Head-dresses

These horns were often two feet high, and sometimes two feet wide from one side to the other. The frame of this head-dress was made of wire and pasteboard, and the covering was of some glittering tissue or gauze. There were other head-dresses scarcely less monstrous than these. Some of them are represented in the engraving. These fashions, when introduced by the queen, spread with great rapidity among all the court ladies, and thence to all fashionable circles in England.

It is said, too, that it was this young queen who first introduced pins into England. Dresses had been fastened before by little skewers  made of wood or ivory. Queen Anne brought pins, which had been made for some time in Germany, and the use of them soon extended all over England.

Side-saddles for ladies on horseback were a third fashion which Queen Anne is said to have introduced. The side-saddle which she brought was, however, of a very simple construction. It consisted of a seat placed upon the horse's back, with a sort of step depending from it on one side for the feet to rest upon. Both feet were placed upon this step together.

Queen Anne, after her marriage, lived very happily with her husband for twelve years. She was devotedly attached to him, and he seems sincerely to have loved her. He was naturally kind and affectionate in his disposition, and, while Anne lived, he yielded himself to the good influences which she exerted over him. She journeyed with him wherever he went, and aided him in the accomplishment of all his plans. Whenever he became involved in any difficulty, either with his nobles or with his subjects, she acted the part of mediator, and almost always succeeded in allaying the animosity and healing the feud before it proceeded to extremes. She resided with her husband sometimes at one palace and sometimes at another, but her favorite residence was at the palace of Shene, near the present town of Richmond.

Although the king was crowned at the time of his accession to the throne, he did not fully assume the government at that time on account of his youth, for you will remember that he was then only about eleven years old; nor did he, in fact, come fully into possession of power at the time of his marriage, for he was then under sixteen. At that time, and for several years afterward, his uncles and the other influential nobles managed the government in his name. At length, however, when he was about twenty-one years old, he thought it was time for him to assume the direction of affairs himself, and he accordingly did so. At this time there was another grand celebration, one scarcely inferior in pomp and splendor to the coronation itself.

Among other performances on this occasion there was a tournament, in which knights mounted on horseback, and armed from head to foot with iron armor, fought in the lists, endeavoring to unhorse each other by means of their spears. The tournament was held at Smithfield. Raised platforms were set up by the side of the lists for the lords and ladies of the court, and a beautiful canopy for the queen, who was to act as judge of the combat, and was to award the prizes. The prizes consisted of a rich jeweled clasp and a splendid crown of gold.

The queen went first to the ground, and took her place with her attendants under her canopy. The knights who were to enter the lists then came in a grand cavalcade through the streets of London to the palace. There were sixty ladies mounted on beautiful palfreys, accoutred with the new-fashioned side-saddles. Each of these ladies conducted a knight, whom she led by a silver chain. They were preceded by minstrels and bands of instrumental music, and the streets were thronged with spectators.

After the tournament there was a grand banquet at the palace of the Bishop of London, with music and dancing, and other such amusements, which continued to a late hour of the night.

For some years after this the king and queen lived together in great prosperity. Outwardly things went pretty well with the king's affairs, and, as he was fond of pomp and display, he gradually acquired habits of very profuse and lavish expenditure. Indeed, he is said to have made it an object of his ambition to surpass, in the magnificence of his style of living, all the sovereigns of Europe. He kept many separate establishments in his different palaces, and at all of them gave entertainments and banquets of immense magnificence and of the most luxurious character. It is said that three hundred persons were employed in his kitchens.

At length, in the year 1394, when Richard was preparing for an expedition into Ireland to quell a rebellion which had broken out there, the queen was seized with a fatal epidemic which was then prevailing in England, and after a short illness she died. She was at her palace of Shene at this time. The king hastened to attend her the moment that he heard the tidings of her illness, and was with her when she died. He was inconsolable at the loss of his wife, for he had loved her sincerely, and she had been a singularly faithful and devoted wife to him. He was made almost crazy by her death. He imprecated bitter curses on the palace where she died, and he ordered it to be destroyed. It was, in fact, partially dismantled, in obedience to these orders, and Richard himself never occupied it again. It was, however, repaired under a subsequent reign.

Richard gave up, for the time being, his expedition into Ireland, being wholly absorbed in his sorrow for the irreparable loss he had suffered. He wrote letters to all the great nobles and barons of England to come to the funeral, and the obsequies were celebrated with the greatest possible pomp and parade. Two months were expended in making preparations for the funeral. When the day arrived, a very long procession was formed to escort the body from Shene to Westminster. This procession was accompanied by an immense number of torch-bearers, all carrying lighted torches in their hands. So great was the number of these torches, that a large quantity of wax was imported from Flanders expressly for the purpose. The tomb of Anne was not made until a year after her death. Richard himself attended to all the details connected with the construction of it. The inscription was in Latin. The following is an exact translation of it:

"Under this stone lies Anne, here entombed,

Wedded in this world's life to the second Richard.

To Christ were her meek virtues devoted:

His poor she freely fed from her treasures;

Strife she assuaged, and swelling feuds appeased;

Beauteous her form, her face surpassing fair.

On July's seventh day, thirteen hundred ninety-four,

All comfort was bereft, for through irremediable sickness

She passed away into interminable joys."

By the death of his wife, Richard was left, as it were, almost alone in the world. His mother, the Princess of Wales, had died some time before, and Anne had had no children. There were his uncles and his cousins, it is true, but they were his rivals and competitors rather than his friends. Indeed, they were destined soon to become his open enemies.

Richard was afterward married again, to his "little wife," as we shall see in a future chapter.

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