The Last Will of Richard II

The Last Will of King Richard II, 16 April 1399

In the name of the whole and undivided Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, of the most Blessed Mother of God and Virgin Mary, of Saints John the Baptist and Edward the most glorious Confessor and of the whole celestial Court, Amen.  Since Death’s inevitable sentence defers to none at the last, but with an equally poised lance puts an end to nobility, power, energy, race, age and sex, it would be too bitter to a reasonable being unless after the course of this life of wavering continuance a more blessed life were to be hoped for in an abiding place: and accordingly since it was determined by the law of nature that nothing is more certain than death, nor more uncertain than the hour of death, the wisdom of human foresight has grown accustomed to provide for the hour of dissolution not only by virtuous and meritorious works but by a careful bestowal of worldly goods; that thus the unexpected hour, anticipated by a wise ordering, may be awaited the more free from care.

Wherefore we Richard, who by the grace of God have already for some time since our tender age submitted our neck by the mercy of the supreme King to the burden of the government of the English, considering in the weighing of our royal discretion the making of our testament and the declaring in royal wise of our last will while to this present time we enjoy a whole memory, have determined to proceed in this manner.

First in as much as we live in the purity and sincerity of the catholic faith we bequeath to almighty God our creator our soul which He has redeemed with His precious blood, and commend it to Him in the most intense devotion that we can with the whole desire of our mind.

And for our body in whatever place it should happen that we should depart from this light, we have chosen a royal burial in the church of Saint Peter at Westminster among our ancestors Kings of England of famous memory; and in the monument which we have caused to be erected as a memorial for us and for Anne of glorious remembrance once Queen of England our consort, we wish it to be buried, of which our burial or funeral we wish the exequies to be celebrated in royal wise namely that for the said exequies four convenient herses of royal excellence should be fittingly prepare in the places underwritten by our executors for the more honourable fulfilment of the same funeral.

Two of these herses, each of five excellent and beautiful lights,  fitting for royal exequies, shall be honourably set in the two principal churches through which it shall happen that our body be carried; and the third with as many lights of like form shall be in the church of Saint Paul of London; the fourth, which is to be greater, more principal and honourable, copiously supplied with splendid lights and befitting the royal eminence, and magnificently adorned shall be duly placed at Westminster at the disposition and discretion of our same executors.  Also we will and ordain that when our body must be taken from the place where it shall happen that we leave this light to Westminster, it shall be borne fourteen, fifteen or sixteen miles a day according to what suitable hostelry can be found.  And throughout the whole journey twenty-four torches shall be borne continually burning about our body to the place where it shall happen that our body shall rest for the night according to the discretion of our executors, where at each evening immediately after the body is borne in we will that the exequies of the dead be solemnly sung, with a mass on the morrow before the body is borne away from that place, twenty-four torches always and continually burning about the body both during the exequies and the mass; and to these twenty-four torches shall be added one hundred burning torches, when our said body has to be carried through the city of London.  But if it shall happen that we should not decease within sixteen, fifteen, ten or five miles at the least outside our palace of Westminster, we will that in the four more important places intermediate (and if there should be no such intermediate places, in other suitable places) according to the direction of our executors, herses of this manner shall be appointed for four successive days with the foresaid solemnities.  But if it shall happen that we decease within our palace of Westminster, we will that for four days solemnities be made, with one most solemn hearse, but that more honourable exequies be made upon the last day.  [We will also that if by adverse fortune (which may God of His mercy avert) our body should be snatched from the sight of men by hurricanes or tempests of the sea or in any other manner, and cannot be found, or that we should pay the debt of nature in such parts and regions that our body cannot be carried to our realm of England by reason of manifest obstacles, that all the aforesaid solemnities which are disposed in the present testament to be done about our body, and especially on the monument images and all other provision for us and for Anne of good remembrance aforetime Queen of England and France our consort thus ordained, and also the remaining funeral obsequies and everything else to be fully observed, be in no wise altered.]  Also we will and ordain that our body shall be clothed and also interred in white velvet or satin in a royal manner, with royal crown and sceptre gilded but without any stones, and that upon our finger in kingly wise a ring shall be placed with a precious stone of the value of twenty marks of our money of England.  Also we will and ordain that each catholic King shall have one cup or bowl of gold of the price or value of forty-five pounds of our English money.  And that all gold crowns, cups, bowls, ewers and vases and other jewels of gold whatsoever and also the vestments with all apparel belonging to the chapel of our household, as well as all beds and all altar-clothing shall remain to our successor so long as the same our successor shall fully confirm our last will and shall permit our executors wholly and freely to execute this our will in its every part.  And that he shall ratify and confirm all annuities and fees granted by us to familiars who have laboured about us and our person continually who by our licence for necessary causes as sickness or age have withdrawn from our presence, and to those who afterwards have served and serve us and especially about our person but according to the free discretion of our said successor and our executors.  Also we will and ordain that from all our jewels remaining, namely circlets nowches and other jewels whatsoever, the new work of the nave of the church of Saint Peter at Westminster, by us begun, shall be completed and the residue (if any be) shall remain to our executors to dispose according to this our last will.  Moreover we will and ordain that six thousand marks of gold shall be specially reserved for the expenses of our burial and of the bringing of our body from the place where it shall happen that we should depart from this light to Westminster.  Also we will that lands rents and tenements as many as shall suffice for the proper sustenance of fifteen lepers and of a chaplain to celebrate for us in the church of Saint Peter at Westminster shall be procured; for doing which we ordain and bequeath the sum of a thousand marks.  We will also that our servants who so far shall not have been rewarded or promoted by us (if such there shall be) shall be particularly rewarded from our goods up to a total of ten thousand marks to be distributed between them according to the discretion of our executors.

Also we bequeath to our beloved nephew Thomas duke of Surrey ten thousand marks and to our beloved brother Edward duke of Albemarle two thousand marks and to our beloved brother John duke of Exeter three thousand marks and to our faithful and beloved William Scrope earl of Wiltshire two thousand marks.  [And reserved to our executors five or six thousand marks which we will shall be expended by our said executors for the freer sustenance of the lepers and chaplains ordained in their presence to celebrate for us at Westminster and Bermondsey.]  Also we will and ordain that the residue of our gold (the true debts of our household chamber and wardrobe being paid, for which payment we bequeath twenty thousand pounds) shall remain to our successor so long as he shall approve ratify and confirm, keep and cause to be kept and to be firmly observed all and every of the statutes ordinances appointments and judgements made done and returned in our parliament of the seventeenth day of the month September begun at Westminster in the twenty-first year of our reign and in the same parliament prorogued to Shrewsbury and there held as well as all ordinances judgments and appointments of the sixteenth day of the month September in the twenty-second year of our reign at Coventry and afterwards at Westminster on the eighteenth day of March of the aforesaid year made had and returned by authority of the same parliament; but that if our foresaid successor shall be unwilling or refuse to perform the premises (which we do not believe) we will that Thomas Edward John and William the dukes and earl above said shall have and hold the residue mentioned (the debts of our household chamber and wardrobe first paid [and five or six thousand marks reserved] as above) for the sustaining and defence of these statutes appointments ordinances and judgements according to their ability even to the death if need be, whom and each of whose consciences we charge therewith as they shall wish to answer on the day of judgment; we ordain and set aside for the fulfilment of all and singular the premises the sum of ninety-one thousand marks, of which sixty-five thousand marks are in the keeping of sir John Ikelyngton and twenty-four thousand marks in the hands and keeping of our dear nephew Thomas duke of Surrey of which sum we will that our same nephew be paid the ten thousand marks above bequeathed to him by us.  And two thousand marks of advance for the expenses of our household are at present owed to us for the time when the reverend father Roger our Archbishop of Canterbury was made treasurer by us.  Also we will that all the jewels which came to us with our most dear consort Isabella Queen of England and of France shall wholly remain to her if she should survive us; but that if we should survive her then we will that the said jewels should wholly remain to us and to our executors for the execution of this our last will.  Also we will that all garments and robes of our body (pearls and precious stones excepted) should remain to the clerks yeomen and grooms who have laboured and labour continually about our person, to be distributed among them according to the discretion of our executors.  Of this our royal testament we nominate make and depute executors the venerable fathers in Christ Richard bishop of Salisbury Edmund bishop of Exeter Tideman bishop of Worcester Thomas bishop of Carlisle and Guy bishop of Saint Davids; our beloved brother Edward duke of Albemarle our nephew Thomas duke of Surrey our brother John duke of Exeter and William earl of Wiltshire to each of whom we bequeath a gold cup of the value of twenty pounds and our beloved and faithful clerks [master Richard Clifford keeper of our Privy Seal] master Richard Maudeleyn master William Fereby and Master John Ikelyngton clerks and John Lufwyk and William Serle laymen, to each of whom we will shall be paid their expenses and necessary costs while it shall happen that they or any of them are employed about the execution of our present last will, but according to the discretion of their said co-executors.

Whom all and singular we have charged and charge that they shall do as much as in them is for the due execution and fulfilment of this our last will as they shall wish to answer before God.  We create ordain depute and make overseers of this our will the reverend fathers in Christ archbishops Roger of Canterbury and Richard of York William bishop of Winchester and William abbot of the monastery of Westminster Edmund duke of York our uncle and Henry earl of Northumberland our cousin.  Whom all and singular as far as regards us we require and request in the Lord that they should duly and carefully supervise as far as need shall be what is in this our last will and disposition and should cause its execution to be duly demanded; that they should strike with the censure of the church those resisting or gain-saying the premisses and should duly control and restrain them as far as their office requires as they shall wish to give reason to God; and to each of these our overseers we bequeath and assign a gold cup and ewer of the value of forty marks.

In witness and present security of all and singular the above matters we have caused the page or present testament containing our last will above-written to be reduced to writing and to be signed with our privy seal and signet and to be confirmed by the affixing of our great seal and the subscription of our own hand.  The present testament was given written and ordained in our palace of Westminster in the year of the Lord one thousand three hundred and ninety-nine in the seventh indiction on the sixteenth day of the month of April in the twenty-second year of our reign; present the reverend father Robert bishop of London and the noble and vigorous men John marquis of Dorset Thomas earl of Worcester and others.

Translation from the Latin original printed in J. Nichol

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