Another of the things we can thank Richard II for is St Valentine’s Day. He didn’t invent it, of course, but he and his beloved Anne made it a popular celebration in medieval England. They spent time on a pleasure island in the Thames called Little Eyot where they could dance, and sing and listen to poets like Chaucer and Gower with their friends. On the island they were well away from Richard’s snarling uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester, and his unwashed war-lord companions.
It must have been beautiful on the island, sweet Thames flowing by, garlands of flares along the beach, decorated boats, fireworks, the best musicians in Europe, feasting and fun and everyone wearing the most gorgeous clothes that fashion could devise.
Brutal Woodstock hated Richard and his friends so much that in 1388 when Richard was just turned twenty-one, he had the king’s friends who didn’t escape into exile, beheaded on Tower HIll, or hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
His ally, Bolingbroke, Richard’s cousin, who wrested the crown from Richard years later, must have had a sick sense of humour. He chose St Valentine ‘s Day to have Richard murdered at Pontefract Castle. Some Valentine.