If you walk towards the river from Richmond Green, you can find small corners of a Tudor Palace built around the same time the town received its current name in 1501.
It was known as the Manor of Shene, a name derived from an Anglo-Saxon word for shining (or shelter). Though nothing survives of the Medieval, and first Shene Palace – it is the setting for this story, which could have come straight from a fairy tale book.
Even the most powerful and wealthy are not immune to life’s cruel twists. This true tale of the heartbreak of a king of England. After losing his wife he never recovers and heartbroken loses his mind, his palace, his crown and country, and dies alone, a prisoner.
The second King Richard of England was just ten years old when crowned after his grandfather Edward III died. Richard’s father, The Black Prince, had been a valiant fighter, once capturing the King of France, but sadly he died of dysentery when Richard was just 9 years old.
The young Richard was said to be cultured and charismatic but had already been noted for his anger issues. A great achievement for his early reign was the building of Westminster Abbey. Ricard was also said to like the good things in life and the throwing of spectacular festivals.
Richard was instrumental in repressing UK’s first socialist uprising. When Wat Tyler led the Peasants Revolt in 1381 Richard, aged just 14, rode out to Mile End to meet the mob and was ultimately able to stop this uprising.
Sheen Palace was his favourite and was where he brought his new wife Anne of Bohemia after their wedding in 1382. Anne was a year older than Richard and the Daughter of Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV. Their marriage was sanctioned by the pope and though initially a political union, they fell deeply in love. Inseparable they spent more time together than was usual for a medieval monarch. The Queen would travel alongside her husband as he rode on official business through the country.
Today, situated on the river and opposite where the palace once stood are three funny islands known as eyelets. Corporation Island is the biggest and the two smaller are known as the Flowerpots. Over hundreds of years, the river’s shape and the path has evolved, back in the 14C it was wider and there was a larger island there. This is where King built a private summerhouse somewhere he could be completely alone with his queen.
In the bubble of true love they were oblivious that throughout England, the ordinary people were suffering. The Black Death had cut the population in half just 30 years before. There were too few workers in the fields, low wages and high taxes. Disease, poverty and famine faced people every day.
The monarchy’s extravagance disgusted ordinary folk and the talk of revolution began to rumble louder than ever. The King’s response was to have anyone accused of being a ring-leader routinely, rounded up and imprisoned.
Queen Anne sensitivities were different, upset by the peasant folk’s treatment she appealed to her husband. A general pardon was made on the date of her coronation. Her softer side was a positive influence on Richard and her compassion also won over her subjects; they named her Good Queen Anne.
The King and Queen had no children but remained happy. Anne carried on being crucial in helping the King with his governance and maintaining his equilibrium acting as a peacekeeper with people who angered him.
The great pestilence or bubonic plague first arrived in England in 1348 from Asia. This outbreak had been the worst but recurrences of the pandemic happened throughout the 14th and 15th Century. Sheen was not much more than a village and considered far enough from London to afford its inhabitants more protection from the diseases thriving in the metropolis.
While away in the Summer of 1394 the King received news that Anne had fallen seriously ill, probably with the Plague. He raced to Shene Palace to be at her side and finding her close to death. He was completely grief-struck when she died in his arms not long after.
A huge procession was ordered to take Anne’s body from Shene to Westminster Abbey. A vault was prepared to be big enough for Richard to lay beside her when the time came. At the funeral, Richard’s grief was starting to unhinge him, he disrupted proceedings by attacking the Duke of Arundel for not showing enough respect.
After the funeral, the desolate king refused to enter any room Anne had occupied. Eventually, unable to bear the sight of the marital home, he ordered that Shene Palace be torn to the ground. This order was apparently only partially carried out.
An allegiance with the great powers of Europe was still a high priority for any ruler of the British Isles and new wife was found quickly for the King. Richard second wife Isabella was just six-years-old and the daughter of the King of France. Therefore cementing allegiance with two nations.
Although Richard grew fond of his child bride he never recovered from the heartbreak of losing Anne. The following years saw his mental health decline until he became little more than a volatile and paranoid tyrant. Managing to create enemies at every turn. He created more and more enemies having his Cousin, Henry of Bolingbrook’s lands seized. His opponents united deposing and imprisoning him and he died, possibly of starvation in Pontefract castle just six years after Anne’s Death in 1400.