Richard II’s reign began and ended at the Tower of London. His magnificent coronation procession set out from the Tower to Westminster Abbey in 1377.
Richard used the fortress as a place of refuge in times of political crisis. However, in 1381, while he was riding out to Mile End to talk to the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt, rebels surged into the Tower seeking ‘traitors’.
Some went to the royal lodgings, sat on the king’s bed and asked Richard’s mother, the famously beautiful Joan of Kent, to kiss them! Joan fainted.
Archbishop Simon Sudbury, one of the architects of the hated Poll Tax, was rather less fortunate – he was dragged from the Tower and murdered on Tower Hill.
During Richard’s reign, the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, whose ‘day job’ was as a royal administrator, supervised building works at the Tower.
In 1399, it was at the Tower that he was pressured to sign away the crown to his cousin, Henry IV, son of the powerful John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. The Tower was to play an important part in the subsequent War of the Roses even ending up as the place of imprisonment of Henry VI.