All English Ports were sealed, and all writs of passage collected on 14th January 1388. The period was turbulent in England. In November 1386 a number of senior nobles, known now as the Lords Appellant, had formed a Council to rule England in the Kings stead. It had, in 1387, seen civil war break out, with an army loyal to King Richard II being defeated at Radcot Bridge, Oxford.
The Lords Appellant in control
The Lords Appellant had control. They held King Richard II in the Tower of London, for a period in which there was no government in his name. Yet they still needed to address rumours about Thomas Duke of Gloucester plotting to seize the throne. So too did they see the need to crush the favourites who they felt had undue influence over Richard II.
Closure of English Ports
The method that the Appellants used was to take total control of Parliament and force a trial of the Kings opponents. On January 14th 1388, orders were issued for all of the Ports of England to close. The Constable of Dover was then ordered to gather up:
“all writs, writings, orders and commands addressed from 20 November 1386 to 14 January 1388… on behalf of the king… for passage of all who have passed from the realm overseas for whatever cause” [Calendar of Close Rolls]
Addressing the King’s Favourites
The purpose here was to gather evidence against the Kings favourites. The Lords Appellant claimed that Richard had asked France for military aid against them. Records may prove this, and along with other evidence, add weight to their claims against the King’s favourites.
The Merciless Parliament
These claims were brought before Parliament in February of 1388. Known as the ‘Merciless Parliament’ it saw the Lords Appellant make a series of accusations so long that it took two hours for the charges to be read out. The resultant trial, in Parliament, destroyed Richard’s favourites and led to his resentment of the Appellants that would ultimately lead to the usurping of the throne by Henry Bolingbroke.
Image Credit: the Port of Dover
Medieval Port and Castle at Dover. Edward Hasted, ‘The town and port of Dover’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 9 (Canterbury, 1800), pp. 475-548. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol9/pp475-548 [accessed 11 January 2023].