Jessica A. Lutkin / J. S. Hamilton (eds.): Creativity, Contradictions and Commemoration in the Reign of Richard II. Essays in Honour of Nigel Saul, Woodbridge / Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer 2022, XI + 306 S., 15 s/w-Abb., ISBN 978-1-78327-617-2, EUR 99,00
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This Festschrift celebrates the prodigious academic career of Nigel Saul, the British historian and author of the definitive biography of King Richard II (1997) as well as numerous other studies and essays on various aspects of late medieval English society. The volume consists of three parts: 1. Sources; 2. Government and Administration and 3. Commemoration - all of which reflect the diverse nature of Professor Saul's own scholarly interests, including two monographs on English church monuments (2001 and 2013). The contributors to the volume consist of former students, colleagues and friends, including a touching appreciation of Saul as a teacher by David Carpenter, which concludes the volume.
These contributions range from longer independent essays on topics such as the traumatic experience of the Lollard knights in the Hundred Years' War (Jill C. Havens), the significance of John of Gaunt and Plantagenet Family Politics in the reign of Richard II (Mark Arvanigian) and the Cult of Corpus Christi in Lincolnshire (Claire Kennan) to shorter occasional pieces by Jerome Bertram (deceased) on the brasses of the Drayon family of Dorchester and Kelsey Wilson-Lee on the Brass Monument of Margaret of Cieszyn (died 1416), lady in waiting to Richard's queen consort Anne of Bohemia, and wife of Richard's standard-bearer Simon de Felbrigg.
In terms of historical scope, they cover various aspects of the turbulent reign of King Richard, including the Great Revolt of 1381 at the beginning of the reign to the tragic final years when Richard was abandoned by most of the nobility and even most of the upper clergy (the subject of Joel Rosenthal's interesting essay on the play-it-safe response of the bishops to the abdication of the king and his usurpation by his cousin Henry of Derby, later Henry IV).
What tends to be lacking from the volume - and this omission, too, reflects Professor Saul's particular interests - are any contributions on the court culture of Richard II. Those essays devoted to cultural artefacts relate mainly to funerary monuments in provincial parish churches where several of Richard's chamber knights and associates were buried. Richard's well-known practice of burying his loyal friends and followers around his own tomb at Westminster Abbey is treated in Christian Streer's study but in the larger context of the patronage of Queen Isabella (died 1358), wife and murderer of Richard's ancestor Edward II (died 1327), whose cult was fostered by Richard in an (unsuccessful) attempt to have his great-grandfather canonized. Notably missing from the volume is any sense of the international complexion of Richard's court, including the considerable role played by his first wife, Anne of Bohemia, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV of Luxembourg, as the cultural mediator between continental Europe and England.
For sure, several Ricardian writers make an appearance: Geoffrey Chaucer has a walk-on role as the author of the "Complaint of Mars" in Jenny Stratford's essay on the bequests of Isabel of Castile, first duchess of York, while John Gower features in Michael Bennett's essay on Political Crisis of 1387-88 and the Hainaultian poet Jean Froissart provides the focus for Caroline Barron's interesting reevaluation of his Chronicles for our understanding of the Great Revolt of 1381. But in all cases, these Ricardian writers function as means to construct historical events rather than as creative authors in their own right. While such a rigorous historical approach to the Ricardian era is of great value, we find no consideration in these pages of Richard II's role as patron of the arts (Wilton Diptych) or rebuilder of Westminster Hall.
In particular, Richard's importance as the most sensitive artistic English king before King Charles I does not feature at all in this otherwise valuable and impressive collection of essays.