November 23

Richard ll & Mathe

Posted by lori . 9 Comments


Greyhounds are a noble breed, the companions to royality.  Perhaps that fact is best captured in the story of Richard II.

Richard II was the last of the Plantagenet kings.  Born in 1367, he was ten years old when he succeeded his grandfather, Edward III, to the throne.  Richard’s authoritarian approach during a time of economic hardship following the Black Death and his generosity and dependence on his favorites provoked resentment.  In 1388, Richard’s power was revoked and the kingdom was placed under the regency of the Lords Appellant.  Parliament then sentenced many of the king’s favorites to death and forced Richard to renew his coronation oath. 

Richard gradually re-established his royal authority and took his revenge in 1397 by arresting or banishing many of his opponents, including his cousin, Henry, Earl of Derby.  Upon the death of Henry’s father, John of Gaunt (a younger son of Edward III), Richard confiscated the vast properties of John’s Duchy of Lancaster and divided them among his supporters.  The house of Lancaster possessed more wealth than any other family in England and they were of royal descent; therefore, they were rivals and likely candidates to succeed the childless Richard.

In 1399, while Richard was in Ireland to quell warring chieftains, Henry returned to England to claim his father’s inheritance.  Henry captured and deposed Richard and was crowned King Henry IV.

Jean Froissart wrote about the conditions that created the Hundred Years’ War and many of the events that took place between 1322 and 1400.  Froissart wrote his Chronicles in four volumes.  Volume IV tells of the deposition of Richard II and the accession of Henry IV:

“According to the information which I received, king Richard had a greyhound called Mathe, who was in the constant practice of attending the king, and he would not follow any other person; for whenever the king did ride, the person who had the charge of keeping the said greyhound would always let him loose, and he would run directly to the king, and leap with his forefeet upon his majesty’s shoulders.  And as the king and the earl of Derby were engaged in conversing with each other in the court, the greyhound, which was usually accustomed to leap upon the king, left his majesty, and went to the earl of Derby, duke of Lancaster, and behaved towards him with the same familiarity and attachment as he was usually in the habit of shewing towards the king.  The duke, who did not know the greyhound, demanded of the king what the animal might mean by so doing?  Cousin, quoth the king, that is a sign portending great prosperity to you, and a token of adversity to me.  Sir, how do you know that? quoth the duke.  I know it for a certainty, replied the king.  The greyhound maketh you cheer this day as king of England, to which dignity you will be raised; and I shall be deposed.  The greyhound possesses this knowledge naturally; therefore take him to you; he will follow you and forsake me.  The duke of Lancaster fully understood those words, and cherished the animal, which would never afterwards follow king Richard, but followed the duke of Lancaster.”

The date and manner of Richard’s death is still in question, but he is thought to have starved to death in February 1400 while imprisoned.  Richard II’s is the first death in what would become known as The Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars fought between the houses of Lancaster (represented by the red rose) and York (represented by the white rose).

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 at 3:00 am and is filed under Greyt Hounds (Greyhounds). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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