The two funerals and two bodies of King Richard II : a study on the idea of kingship, transference of power and political theology
MA Thesis in Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest, May (2009)
England was a turbulent place at the time when King Richard II was in power (1377-1399). This thesis addresses events which occurred at the time of a change in political power. Near the end of his rule Richard II was gradually losing support; his previous image of a savior of the nation was fading in the eyes of his subjects. The constant struggle for power with the nobility cost the English king his crown, office, and royal dignity. Henry of Bolingbroke stepped onto the scene claiming the throne based on his hereditary rights as well as the kings’ incompetence to reign. The thesis covers three major events which testify to the transition of power from Richard II to the new king, Henry IV (Henry of Bolingbroke), and to his son and heir Henry V. These events were the deposition of King Richard II, his first funeral that was held in 1400 and his second funeral that took place in 1413. The thesis portrays the political situation in which these events took place with the addition of giving an answer to what were their symbolic meanings. As an aid for deciphering the significance of these events I relied upon the debates concerning the theory of the “King’s Two Bodies” as formulated by Ernst H. Kantorowicz. The structure of the thesis is comprised of three chapters, each discussing one event (the abdication, the first funeral and the second funeral) and the discussion of these in relation to the theory of the “King’s Two Bodies”. The thesis is based on the use of contemporary narrative sources, with the addition of some sources from the later period. The parallel between the accounts and the theory mostly relied on the importance of the transmission and the immortality of the royal dignity. The situation with Richard II losing his power, his death and burial as well as the reburial of the deposed English monarch presented itself as an excellent test case for explaining the explanatory value (and the shortcomings) of the theory of the “King’s Two Bodies”.