Sussex Castles




Henry Bolingbroke Returns to England


Exile of Henry Bolingbroke

Henry spent his exile in France, working to build support amongst sympathizers for the restoration of this lands in the Duchy of Lancaster. In the summer of 1399, Richard II had gone to Ireland to suppress a rebellion there. This provided the opportunity Henry needed to plan a return to England.

Henry Lands at Ravenspur

Richard had been concerned about Henry building support in France and the possibility of him returning to reclaim his inheritance. Richard ordered all the castles on the south coast be garrisoned, but Henry landed at Ravenspur in Yorkshire, much closer to Henry’s own base of his support. Also in Henry’s retinue at Ravenspur were Thomas Fitzalan, the son of the executed Earl of Arundel and his uncle Thomas Arundel, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Richard had appointed the Duke of York as regent during his absence. The duke had marshaled an army to oppose Henry. While the army included contingents from many southern counties, there was not a contingent from Sussex. This would not have been surprising given that largest landholdings in Sussex at that time were of Arundel and of the Duchy of Lancaster. 

Siege of Pevensey

The castle of Pevensey was part of the Duchy of Lancaster and could potentially give Henry a port on the south coast and good base from which to launch an invasion. Sir John Pelham was a loyal supporter of Henry Bolingbroke and of his father John of Gaunt before him. In the summer of 1399, Sir John landed at Pevensey and took the castle for Henry. On July 3, the Duke of York to issue an order for Sir William Fiennes, the Sussex Sheriff and others to seize the castle. However, Sir John refused entry and held the castle against them. Sir John went on to become one of Henry’s closet councilors and received large land grants in Sussex, including the constableship of Pevensey Castle, for his service to Henry.

Abdication of Richard II

Henry marched his army around England, building support for his cause and forcing surrender of any castles still loyal to the King. On July 27, Henry met the Duke of York at Berkeley, near Bristol. Henry persuaded York that his cause was just, pointing to the broad support already had across England. York agreed not to oppose Henry, allowing Henry to march on and capture Richard at Conway in north Wales, forcing Richard’s abdication. Its not clear at what point Henry’s ambitions expanded beyond reclaiming his inheritance, but Henry Bolingbroke went on to become King Henry IV of England. Richard is believed to have been starved to Death in Pontefract Castle.

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