Another Maligned King – or Propaganda Strikes Again

Interesting post and worth considering in detail. His response to the Peasant’s Revolt certainly suggests that he demonstrated courage (like his mother Joan) and ruthlessness (like his father, the Black Prince) at a young age. Lancastrian propaganda may well account for some of the popular perceptions held by modern day historians though we must balance this with Richard’s own propaganda and the legacy of ‘imperial kingship’ left by his grandfather, Edward III as well. He certainly is an interesting figure to consider with what appears to be a complex, multi-dimensional personality living in explosive times. Perhaps he was wise to take his mother’s counsel as Joan has been consistently undervalued, like most medieval women, by the traditional, male-focussed approach to history and she is also due for a major re-assessment.



This portrait of Richard II in Westminster Abbey is familiar. What is less well-known is that it is heavily ‘restored’ over the years, most recently in 1866. In Richard II, Manhood, Youth and Politics, 1377-99, Christopher Fletcher reveals that when examined under infra-red reflectography the king’s beard was much more developed, covering much of his face, the line of his jaw was much more defined, the lips were less full. In other words, Richard’s image has been deliberately ‘feminised’ to match his reputation – or more precisely, the reputation Lancastrian propagandists attached to him as they went about distorting his character.

The fact is that only one contemporary Chronicler, that of Evesham Abbey, makes any reference to Richard appearing in any way feminine. He wrote that Richard had ‘fair hair, a white, rounded and feminine face, occasionally corrupted by a phlegmatic humour.’ But as this writer could not even get…

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