Henry III and rebellion

Simon de Montfort's seal


bullet Henry III's attempts early in his reign to regain land in France had been a dismal failure. Louis IX (canonized - i.e. made a Saint by the pope - in 1297; he is the source of the name Saint Louis, Missouri) defeated an attempt at invasion in 1242.
bullet Nevertheless, in the 1250's Henry III's policies grew more ambitious. In 1255, he accepted from the pope a grant of the kingdom of Sicily for his younger son, Edmund.


bullet Sicily was not however under the pope's control, but the Hohenstaufens' - the family of the German Emperor. Henry III and the Pope therefore co-operated in a plan to make England pay for a campaign in Sicily. The pope aimed to raise taxes on the church, while Henry II would levy extraordinary aids and scutage.
bullet These taxes encountered widespread resistance which came to a head at a meeting of Henry and the barons in 1258. Henry was forced to agree that a committee of twenty-four barons (half royal and half baronial nominees) should rule the kingdom. The reforms were embodied in the Provisions of Oxford and the Provisions of Westminster. Henry III swore a solemn oath to honor them.
bullet The chief leaders of the baronial faction were Simon de Montfort and Roger Bigod (4th Earl of Norfolk), along with his brother Hugh.

Simon de Montfort (1208-65) was a member of a family that owned lands in both France and England.
Initially, he was Henry III's close friend. He became Earl of Leicester and married Henry's sister, Eleanor (the widow of William the Marshal's son).
Simon acted as Henry's vicegerent in Gascony from 1248 to 1252, but lost the post after alienating all the major Gascon barons. Simon's relations with Henry III soured, and never really healed despite a formal reconciliation in 1253.

The keep of Kenilworth castle
granted by Henry III to Simon de Montfort  in 1244


bullet Simon de Montfort was a magnate highly conscious of his status and rights; Henry III thought Simon a subject, bound to accept his king's will. A clash was almost inevitable.
bullet Simon de Montfort and the rebel barons described themselves as "the commune of England" (from the Latin term communitas, used by contemporary Italian city states that claimed rights of self-government.) Had the government by baronial council continued, England would have been transformed from a monarchy into an aristocratic republic.

Henry pays homage to Louis IX

Henry's first step to regain power was to make peace with Louis IX (King of France, 1226-70). Henry agreed to the Peace of Paris (1259,) by which he retained part of Aquitaine, as Louis' vassal, but abandoned all the old claims to Normandy, Anjou and Poitou.

bullet Returning to England in 1260, Henry with the help of his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, improved relations with a number of barons. He also nipped in the bud a dangerous alliance between his son Edward (now entering his twenties) and Simon de Montfort.
bullet In the Spring of 1261, Henry obtained a papal dispensation from his oath to respect the Provisions of Oxford. He gradually began to resume control of his castles, and dismiss those sheriffs that had been inserted into office by the barons. Henry even persuaded Hugh Bigod to acquiesce in the new arrangements.
bullet In January 1264, Louis IX - who had been asked to arbitrate between the king and his barons on the Provisions of Oxford - issued the Mise of Amiens. This judgment decided against the barons on every point, and stated that the Provisions simply need no longer be honored.

Civil War

bullet The decision provoked immediate unrest. Many barons and the citizens of London rejected Louis' verdict.
bullet Prince Edward (the Lord Edward) rapidly deployed his forces in western England against two of de Montfort's sons - Henry and Simon. In April, Simon de Montfort joined forces with Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and laid siege to Rochester Castle - a stronghold of strategic importance since it protected Henry III's lines of communication with his friends in France.
bullet Henry marched south and de Montfort withdrew to recruit additional forces from the citizens of London.


 Battle of Lewes
14 May 1264

Henry with an army of about 10,000 occupied the town of Lewes.

Simon de Montfort had only about half as many men. He occupied the high ground at Offham Hill. Prince Edward, who was with the royal cavalry in Lewes Castle, led an immediate attack on the Londoners, who took to their heels.

When de Montfort saw the royal cavalry set off in hot pursuit of the Londoners, he launched his own attack on Henry's flank. Richard of Cornwall's troops broke under the mounted charge, and he tried to hide in a nearby windmill, but was captured. Henry took refuge in the Cluniac priory.

The following day, a peace was concluded placing Simon de Montfort and the barons back in charge.


bullet Simon took Henry to London, placed the country's castles in the hands of his followers and summoned a Parliament for 22 June 1264. The kingdom's affairs were again placed in the hands of a council of barons - but de Montfort and his son Peter made the major decisions.
bullet Queen Eleanor in France set about organizing and supplying an army to overthrow de Montfort; and Roger Mortimer and other barons in the Welsh borders refused to cooperate with de Montfort. The high-handed assertiveness of de Montfort and his sons also alienated Gilbert de Clare.
bullet In May 1265 Thomas de Clare helped Prince Edward escape and join Roger Mortimer and de Clare's brother Gilbert.
bullet In desperation, Simon de Montfort turned to the Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd for help, and then with his new Welsh forces marched eastwards to join up with army of his son Simon at Kenilworth.

Battle of Evesham

4 August 1265


Tired from marching, Simon de Montfort's forces rested at Evesham.
Prince Edward moved in on the town, sending a small detachment under Roger Mortimer to hold the only bridge over the Avon, and prevent de Montfort's retreat. He placed his main force on the high ground to the north of the town.

De Montfort attempted to force his way out - launching a cavalry attack up Green Hill at the center of Edward's line. The presence of an unsuspected swampy ravine impeded rapid progress on the left, and the attack became bogged down in hand to hand fighting. The Welsh infantry supporting de Montfort's rear turned and fled, and Prince Edward's troops then attacked from both flanks to surround de Montfort.
Simon and his sons Henry and Guy were killed. Simon's body was dismembered. Part of it was buried at Evesham Abbey and became a popular site for pilgrimages.

bullet Initially, harsh measures were taken against the continued resistance of the younger Simon de Montfort, and London was fined 20,000 marks for its part in the rebellion. However, more moderate counsels prevailed after the arrival of the papal legate, Ottobuono Fieshci (later Pope Adrian V.)
bullet The Statute of Marlborough (1267) preserved many of the legal reforms embodied in Magna Carta and in the Provisions of Oxford and Westminster (though without the sharing of royal power.)
bullet Ottobuono also came to recruit volunteers for a new crusade. One of those who "took the cross" was Prince Edward. He was in Italy when Henry III died (16 November 1272.) Edward did not return until August 1274, and was crowned later that month.


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