Was Richard II a fourteenth-century Peter Pan….?

Richard II and Anne of Bohemia

Richard II is my second favourite king (you all know who’s first!) and both are controversial, albeit for very different reasons. One of the charges against Richard II is that he was something of a Peter Pan, and did not want to grow up. He had portraits painted depicting him as a boy, when he was a mature man. He did not grow a beard until well after the customary time, and he was criticised for his devotion to clothes, luxury…the very things in which we’d all like to indulge.

Whether he was a Peter Pan, though, is open to question. There has been much speculation about his marriage to Anne of Bohemia, with a frequent remark being that they were more like brother and sister than husband and wife. Historians have hinted that his desire to stay young meant that he had to preserve his virginity. The fact that there was, apparently, no sign of Anne being pregnant, seemed to uphold this view. He was broken-hearted when she died, but then, they said, a devoted brother would weep for his sister.

But…there is a letter from Anne to her half-brother, Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia, which is referred to by Kristen Geaman, (Engl Hist Rev (2013) 128 (534): 1086-1094, 04 September 2013): “…Anne of Bohemia, first wife of Richard II, is a rather enigmatic queen but a letter (from British Library Additional 6159) sheds new light on her Bohemian connections and personal life. In a letter written by Anne to her half-brother Wenceslas IV, the queen informs Wenceslas of the successes of mutual acquaintances and requests that further Bohemian ladies be sent to Richard’s court. Anne’s comments offer increased evidence of the connections between the English and Bohemian courts, as well as shedding further light on the activities of the queen. Furthermore, at the end of the letter, Anne also reveals her sorrow over a miscarriage, proving that the couple did not have a chaste marriage…”

Another reference to this letter is in ‘Medieval Women and Their Objects’ by Nancy Bradbury and Jennifer Adams “…She [Anne of Bohemia] closes by saying that the one point of sorrow is that they [she and Richard II] are not rejoicing in childbirth, but have hopes for the future with good health, God permitting….”

So it would seem that the marriage of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia was perfectly normal. What’s more, they loved each other. Their heartbreak was that they did not/could not have children. Not that they would not. What a difference such a child might have made to history. No Lancastrian or Yorkist kings…no Tudors!



  1. Even I was staggered to discover that the famous portrait of Richard II in Westminster Abbey has been altered over the years to make him look less masculine. I have come to the conclusion that what we call “history” is as full of fiction as the average novel.

    As to this proof that Richard’s marriage was consummated – well, that’s one in the eye for certain historians. Personally, I never doubted it. Richard’s reaction to his wife’s death was one of the most extravagant in English history. Indeed, I should say the most extravagant by a country mile.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I never doubted it either. One thing historians do over speculate on, wrongly, seems to be a historical figure’s sexuality, whether orientation or inclination, lol. I still hear people saying, with absolute certainty, that Richard Lionheart was gay. This idea became popular in the 60’s/70’s and mainly came from the fact he slept in the same bed as Phillip of France and that some monk had chided him for unnatural practices. The former was no big deal, the latter could have been a number of things. He had no children wth his wife but they were hardly together, and hey, sometimes that’s just the way of things anyway. Not everyone is wildly fertile.He DID have one known bastard and in his youth was known to carry off women and pass them to his men when done with them. What a hero.
      There have even been a few odd things written about Richard III, even by pro-Richard authors. The anti brigade such as Hicks of course infers he just saw Anne as dried up and useless (ignoring that they actually travelled together much more than was usual for a king and queen) while pro-Richard Audrey Williamson suggests his early youthful affairs were just to copy Edward, and that he had little actual interest in sex hence producing only one legitimate child. Again, huge assumptions that seem to bypass the more likely biological/medical factors such as miscarriages,or Anne’s possible sterility after difficult childbirth etc.

      Liked by 2 people

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