Richard II (1367–1400), king of England, was second son and heir of Edward, prince of Wales, and his wife Joan, daughter of Edmund, earl of Kent, and ascended the throne after the death of his grandfather Edward III (June 1377). His minority was marked by unrest culminating in the peasants’ revolt of 1381. Richard proved to be a strong-minded king with clear and definite ideas of the majesty of his office, but also proved to be short-tempered and vindictive, quarrelling with his magnates to the extent that he may have been deposed for a few days in 1387.
With respect to Ireland he appears to have been well aware of the need for reform of the lordship and its administration. One abortive measure was the life grant of the lordship on 1 December 1385 to one of his favourites, Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, who was later created marquess of Dublin and duke of Ireland. This experiment ended with Oxford's fall and forfeiture in February 1388. From this point, a royal expedition to Ireland was considered but could not be undertaken while the war with France dragged on. By 1394 a peace had been agreed with both the French and the Scots, and on 16 June 1394 the king ordered that all Irishmen, or men with land in Ireland, living in England be ready to accompany him to Ireland.
He landed at Waterford (2 October 1394) with an army of some 9,000 men, making him the first reigning monarch to visit Ireland since John (qv) in 1210. Although the king and his English magnates were active militarily in the winter of 1394–5, this was not the main purpose of the expedition. Richard's purpose was a fundamental reform of the lordship of Ireland. Once he had secured the submissions of the great Gaelic lords, he tried to implement his vision of an Ireland in which all were equal subjects of the king with access to his laws and protection. By the time the king sailed from Waterford on 15 May 1395, he had reconciled most of the Gaelic lords to his overlordship by promising access to royal justice and arbitration of disputes with his Anglo-Irish subjects. However, he left before he had finalised some of the most important issues, such as the relationship between Roger Mortimer (qv), earl of March and Ulster, and the O'Neills.
On leaving Ireland, the king divided the responsibilities of the chief governor between March and Sir William le Scrope (qv). His plans foundered on the fact that the Anglo-Irish had little or no desire for peaceful coexistence with their Gaelic neighbours, a fact clearly highlighted by the attack on the O'Neills by the earl of March, supported by the earls of Kildare (qv) and Ormond (qv). Furthermore, Richard's administrative reforms also foundered due to lack of finances and dissensions within the administration in Dublin. In England he had begun to move against those magnates he felt were not loyal, and March – potentially one of the king's heirs – came under great suspicion before his death in July 1398.
The collapse of his settlement in Ireland led the king to prepare for a second expedition to Ireland. This expedition, which landed at Waterford on 1 June 1399, has left fewer records, but was clearly much less successful. The Gaelic lords of Leinster, who had generally submitted willingly in 1394, showed no desire either to fight or to submit to the king, and the expedition was cut short by the news that the king's cousin Henry, duke of Lancaster, had returned to England. The royal expedition left Ireland from Waterford on 27 July 1399.
Richard's absence in Ireland at this critical juncture appears to have cost him support in England, and within a month he had been captured by his cousin. He was deposed on 29 September and died in the custody of the new king, Henry IV, sometime before 17 February 1400.