Rival Branches of the Plantagenets Wiped the Dynasty Out in Fratricidal Wars
Cade’s Rebellion was symptomatic of a general collapse of royal authority, fueled by rivalries between different branches of the Plantagenets, that would ultimately spell the dynasty’s doom. The Plantagenets had been prone to fighting each other since the dynasty’s founding – Henry II, the dynasty’s founder spent much of his reign warring against his wife and sons. The dynasty survived those earlier travails, but it would not survive another bout of intra-dynastic bloodletting, that began in the 14th century.
It was triggered by the tyrannical rule of king Richard II, last seen in the previous entry, suppressing the Peasants’ Rebellion with no small dose of nastiness. From a nasty teenager, Richard grew into a nasty customer as an adult, and he proceeded to surround himself with corrupt officials, and rule in an arbitrary and capricious manner. That led to an uprising by many lords, including some of the king’s Plantagenet relatives, who seized power.
In 1386, the rebels formed a committee known as the Lords Appellant, which governed the realm and reduced Richard to a figurehead. A Parliament, which became known as the “Merciless Parliament”, was called. It impeached several of the king’s favorites, confiscated their property, and ordered their execution. Richard bided his time, and slowly rebuilt his power. Then in 1397, he struck back, reasserted his authority, and executed the most prominent Lords Appellant.
One of Richard’s opponents had Henry Bolingbroke, Richard’s cousin and the son of his uncle, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster. John of Gaunt had supported Richard and helped him regain power, and acted as intermediary between the king and his opponents, including Gaunt’s own son. However, John of Gaunt died in 1399, and Richard decided to settle scores with his son. So he disinherited Henry Bolingbroke, declared him a traitor, and banished him for life.
Bolingbroke did not stay in exile for long, however. He returned a few months later, raised a rebellion, and proceeded to defeat and depose his cousin. Richard II was captured, and quietly murdered. Henry Bolingbroke had himself crowned as Henry IV, and founded the Lancastrian branch of the Plantagenets. The Lancastrians would rule England until the crown was disputed by the Yorkists – Plantagenets descended from John of Gaunt’s younger brother Edmund, Duke of York – in the Wars of the Roses.