John of Gaunt is an enigmatic determine to most of us. You can’t assist however keep in mind his well-known speech in Shakespeare’s Richard II, utilizing a play of phrases together with his identify. But by then he was at loss of life’s door—weak and pitiful. We know he was hated by the town of London and misplaced his fabulous Savoy Palace, burned to the bottom in the course of the Peasants’ Revolt. He has come right down to us as an conceited, unyielding, aristocratic noble, however with the assistance of this biography we get to see the subtler facet of Gaunt. He appears to have began out as all these issues we keep in mind, however all through his profession he turned a profitable and valued statesman, ambassador and—most significantly—protector of the king’s prerogative. Although many assumed that he had designs on the throne for himself, in actuality it might have been towards his honor to usurp the king, irrespective of how helpless, deserving, or ungrateful Richard could have appeared. He had his personal crown to chase down—Castile—and although his efforts proved ineffective, he did handle to marry off two of his daughters to Spanish heirs who begat strains of kings that lasted a whole lot of years. If he had been nearly as good a basic as he was a negotiator, maybe historical past would have been kinder to his reminiscence.
Here’s a superb illustration of Gaunt’s proficiency (in the course of the Peasants’ Revolt whereas he was in Scotland): “John of Gaunt was a true Plantagenet; no sign of fear betrayed his secret to the Scottish envoys. While his couriers were riding with orders to the constables of his castles in Yorkshire and on the Welsh marches to garrison them for a siege and admit no one without letters under his seal, the Duke quietly went on with the negotiations, and by the offer of liberal terms persuaded the Scots to prolong the truce. Not till the compact was sealed did the Scots learn that they had lost the golden opportunity of attacking England in the hour of weakness.”
Richard, who disliked and feared the facility of his uncle, inspired him to go and declare his crown in Castle—solely to find that when the Duke was gone, he had misplaced his solely protector. The Lords Appellant, intent on eradicating the king’s advisors, stripped Richard of all his powers whereas Gaunt was abroad. Richard discovered his lesson properly, and as soon as he was in management once more, recalled his uncle and showered him with favors. By then Gaunt had achieved the peak of respectability and for the remaining of his life he championed the king and strove to safe the long run of his heirs. The writer provides us a well-rounded depiction of this oft-maligned Duke, and I got here to grasp his disappointments in addition to his accomplishments. I believe he would have disapproved of his son’s usurpation of the throne, however of course Richard waited till he died to start his scheme of depriving Henry of Gaunt’s huge patrimony. This was a well-written biography and fairly helpful to understanding the interval.