In this blog post, I will be providing a brief overview of some of the chronicle sources used to supplement the three major sources discussed in my previous post. One such source is the Historia Vitae et Regni Ricardi Secundi, which was composed by two monks at Evesham Abbey, the first writing from 1377 to 1390 and the second from 1390 to 1402. Since we already have plentiful information pertaining to the period covered by the first author, the second author is of much greater interest. However, the usefulness of the second monk is diminished by his brevity, frequent errors, clear hostility to the king, and tendency to focus on local rather than national politics (McHardy 13). While the second portion of the chronicle, composed under Richard’s usurper Henry IV, the first king of the house of Lancaster, is often accused of being “a vehicle for Lancastrian propaganda”, Given-Wilson refutes this claim by citing the fact that the chronicle does not use the ‘Record and Process’, the official Lancastrian account of the deposition. Given-Wilson goes on to praise the Vita, claiming that it is “a largely independent source, and as such has great value” (Given-WIlson 5). Nonetheless, it is difficult to believe that the second monk’s critical attitude towards Richard was not influenced by the Lancastrian regime under which he was writing.
Another prominent source is ‘The Continuation of the Eulogium Historiarum, likely compiled at Canterbury. Inconveniently, the Eulogium becomes less reliable in the very period for which trustworthy chronicle material is most sparse – the 1390s. The account of this period was most likely composed well into the 15th century and becomes rather confusing and unreliable compared to the earlier parts of the chronicle (McHardy 13-14). Further adding to the unreliability of this source, it is probable that the chronicle’s author got some of his information from Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, one of Richard II’s main opponents (Given-Wilson 6).
The Greyfriars Chapel, the only remaining building of the Greyfriars friary, where the Eulogium writer was most likely based
A third chronicle that merits discussion is the Dieulacres Chronicle, written at the Cistercian abbey of Dieulacres in Staffordshire. Like the Vitae, the Dieulacres Chronicle was composed by two different authors, the first writing from 1381 until 1400 and the second writing from 1400 until 1403. SInce Richard’s reign ended in 1399 and he died in 1400, the first part of the chronicle is much more relevant to my study. Interestingly, this author, unlike many his contemporary chroniclers, was very sympathetic to Richard. Given-Wilson even goes so far as to describe his work as “the most fearlessly partisan of the English chronicles supporting the king” (Given-WIlson 9-10). Thus, the Dieulacres Chronicle serves to balance out the negative view of the king found in numerous chronicle sources from the reign.
Now that I have identified some of the major chronicle sources from the reign, my next task will be getting access to them. Luckily, the internet has made medieval chronicles rather accessible. Hopefully, with the help of T. Victoria, I will soon be able to read directly from the sources examined in my last two blog posts.
Given-Wilson, Chris. Chronicles of the Revolution: 1397-1400, the Reign of
Richard II. Manchester UP, 1993.
McHardy, A. K. The Reign of Richard II: From Minority to Tyranny 1377-97.
Manchester UP, 2012.