Richard II and the statues

Besides commissioning a new roof for Westminster Hall, King Richard II (1377-99) was also responsible for several other embellishments. Many of these emphasised the sacred character of his kingship.

White hart

The King's personal emblem, the white hart, was repeated along the Hall's string course, and the roof was decorated with 26 angels carved out of solid beam. They bore shields carved with the royal arms of the period: the fleur-de-lys of France quartered with the three lions, or leopards, of England.

In 1385, 13 statues of Reigate stone representing each king from Edward the Confessor to Richard himself were commissioned for the Hall, and six of them were placed on the south wall. In the 1390s, the statues were placed into individual niches, where they have remained ever since.

Kings' crowns

The Kings' crowns were gilded and their robes were painted red and green. The intention was probably that the figures should resemble an altarpiece, thereby emphasising the quasi-divine status of the King seated on his throne below. Five more statues in poorer condition, originally from the north front, can now be seen on window sills inside the Hall.

The King also commissioned new corbels for the south window (which depicted his white hart). It is also possible that the floor of Purbeck stone (later discovered by 19th century restorers) was laid around this time.

Unprecedented

The intensive use of the King's emblems in a royal building was unprecedented, and must have been approved by him. The walls of the Hall were heightened, re-faced and buttressed, while large windows with decorative tracery replaced the old openings, and a porch and two flanking towers were built at the north end.

By a strange twist of fate, the first event in the remodelled Hall was Richard II's own deposition on 30 September 1399.

Related information

See a reconstruction of the Hall around 1400

Did you know?

In 1389, Richard II appointed Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet who wrote The Canterbury Tales, to the position of Clerk of Works at Westminster.

Biography

You can access a biography of

Richard II

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.