The Coffee Pot Book Club Presents "The King's Retribution" by Mercedes Rochelle
Please make welcome to the Tavern, Mercedes Rochelle! We're celebrating her new release, The King's Retribution, Book 2 of The Plantagenet Legacy. I've recently been studying the years of King Richard II, so this story is one I'll be reading. I hope it will intrigue you, as well.
If you read A KING UNDER SIEGE, you might remember that we left off just as Richard declared his majority at age 22. He was able to rise above the humiliation inflicted on him during the Merciless Parliament, but the fear that it could happen again haunted him the rest of his life. Ten years was a long time to wait before taking revenge on your enemies, but King Richard II was a patient man. Hiding his antagonism toward the Lords Appellant, once he felt strong enough to wreak his revenge he was swift and merciless. Alas for Richard, he went too far, and in his eagerness to protect his crown Richard underestimated the very man who would take it from him: Henry Bolingbroke.
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A Special Message from Mercedes Rochelle
Like many of us, I first learned of Richard II from Shakespeare. Even though I knew nothing about him, I was totally captivated during the prison scene while he bemoaned the fate of kings—and I never recovered! I first saw the BBC production with Derek Jacobi and Jon Finch way back in the late ‘70s. But I had other things on my mind, namely Macbeth, Harold Godwineson and the Anglo-Saxons. Once I got those four books out of my system (it took me over thirty years) I was ready to finally tackle Richard II. I was surprised at the complexity of his story. It goes way beyond the events of this play; in fact, Shakespeare only covered the last two years of Richard’s life. He told us nothing about what led up to the famous scene between Bolingbroke and Mowbray, where their trial by combat was interrupted and they were sent into exile. This was indeed the crisis that led to the king's downfall, but Richard's story is much more convoluted than you would ever think from watching the play.
It took two volumes to cover the events of Richard’s reign; luckily for me, it was broken into two parts—his minority and his majority. Both portions are filled with conflict and tragedy for him. In book one, his overbearing uncles and nobles force him to their will, taking down his friends and advisors along the way. In book two, King Richard wreaks revenge on his enemies, though eventually he goes too far and everything comes crashing down on his head. Henry Bolingbroke, his cousin and antithesis, must put things to right, but he must go all the way or risk losing his own life. The issues were difficult to unravel, and it’s hard to decide whether Richard is to be scorned or pitied. My heart goes both ways.
What about Henry? His story is definitely not “happily ever after” as king. First of all, he is dogged by revolts, especially for the first nine years of his reign. His government was constantly on the verge of bankruptcy. Personally, I think he never got past the stigma of the usurper king. And then, near the end of his life he is plagued by a skin disease so disfiguring that everyone thought he had leprosy—as punishment from his crimes, of course. He did not get along with his heir, the future Henry V; in fact, young Henry led a palace coup in an attempt to force him to step down after he got ill.
Over the years, historians have pointed to Richard’s usurpation as the cause of the Wars of the Roses—or at least the catalyst. Nowadays the consensus is a little less certain. It’s a difficult question to answer, but I will continue to explore it through the rest of the Lancastrian kings. By the time we get to Henry VI, the dynasty seem pretty tapped out. Perhaps England was ready for a change? I’ll find out when I get there!
Meet the Author
Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.
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