The growing importance of Coventry was reflected in the number of royal visits it received, and in recognition of its status Coventry was granted a city charter by King Edward III in 1345, endowing it with the rights of self-government such as the privilege of electing a mayor.
On one notable occasion, King Richard II assembled all the nobility of the realm on Gosford Green in 1398 to witness the combat between Henry Bolingbroke, the Duke of Hereford (who would later become King Henry IV) and Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk.
Discord had grown between the two dukes and it had been decided that they should settle their differences in battle, but they were exiled instead to avoid bloodshed; Norfolk for life, Bolingbroke for 10 years.
On several occasions Coventry briefly served as the "second capitol" of England. In 1404, Henry IV summoned a parliament in Coventry as he needed money to fight rebellion, which wealthy cities such as Coventry lent to him, while both Henry V and VI frequently sought loans from the city to meet the expense of the war with France.
During the Wars of the Roses, the Royal Court was moved to Coventry by Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI. On several occasions between 1456 and 1459 parliament was held in Coventry, which for a while served as the effective seat of government, but this would come to an end in 1461 when Edward IV was installed on the throne.
In 1451 King Henry VI granted Coventry a charter making Coventry a county in itself; a status it retained until 1842, when it reverted to being a part of Warwickshire. During the county period it was known as the County of the City of Coventry. The original city hall was replaced by the current building in 1784 which is still known as "County Hall" as a relic of this period.
Cheylesmore Manor (front)Cheylesmore Manor House, currently the home of Coventry's Register office, lists Edward, the Black Prince and Henry VI among the royals who lived there. Parts of the building date to 1250, but those remnants of the main house that survived the Second World War were demolished in 1955. Edward's grandmother, Queen Isabella of France, gained the manorial rights when the Crown had acquired them from previous owners, and it is said that Edward was a frequenter of the area and used Cheylesmore Manor as his hunting lodge.
Edward's armour was black, hence the name "Black Prince", and his helmet was surmounted by a "cat-a-mountain". The seal of the city bears the motto "Camera Principis" or the Prince's Chamber which, it is said, it owes to the close tie with the Black Prince. The cat-a-mountain of the Black Prince also surmounts the Coat of Arms as a crest.
Martyrs Memorial cross (photo 2007)In the 16th century, due to the restrictive practices and monopolies of the trade guilds, the cloth trade declined and the city fell on hard times. Adding further concern and distress for the inhabitants of the city, this was accompanied by the dissolution of monasteries by King Henry VIII during the English Reformation which involved the destruction of Coventry's monastery and other religious houses in the city, followed shortly after by the suppression of religious guilds. However, most of Coventry's citizens appear to have favoured the new Protestant religion and English Bible – an attempt to restore the authority of the Roman Catholic religion during Queen Mary I's reign resulted in many suffering punishment rather than forsaking their belief. Between 1510 and 1555, 11 Protestant martyrs were burned to death at the stake, and a memorial to them now stands not far from the site of execution in the Little Park. The burnings of three famous martyrs: Cornelius Bungey, Robert Glover and Laurence Saunders, all took place in 1555.
Queen Elizabeth I stayed at the Whitefriars as a guest of John Hale in 1565, and then in 1569 Mary Queen of Scots was detained at St. Mary's Hall on Elizabeth's request.