King Henry III - Part 3
Simon de Montfort
Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester was born in France and had arrived in England in 1229 immediately setting about building a power base. He had married the King's sister Eleanor in 1238 and this had initially led to his being exiled in 1239 mainly due to this having angered Henry's brother Richard the Earl of Cornwall as well as the leading barons of the land. However after King Henry's disastrous campaign in France in 1242, de Montfort became convinced that the king was unfit to rule and this led to his leading the rebellion to introduce the Provisions of Oxford.
Only three years after the introduction of the Provisions of Oxford, Henry enlisted Papal support to overturn the charter and in 1264 de Montfort led an open revolt to reinstate the provisions and this crisis now turned into an armed conflict. De Montfort inflicted defeat on the King's army at Lewes in 1264 and in the process captured King Henry and his son Edward. He forced the King to acknowledge the magnates demands and for a year became effective ruler of England. In 1265, he formed a Parliament that as well as barons and clerics, comprised two burgesses from each borough and two knights from each shire. This could be called the first true embryo Parliament in London. However, Henry's son Edward was developing into a very resourceful Prince and in the summer of 1265 he managed to escape and form an army to oppose de Montfort.
At the Battle of Evesham in 1265, de Montfort and his army were awaiting the army led by his second son, Simon. He saw his son's banners flying high and began to hope, with the two armies they had a fighting chance to claim England. However, his son had been ambushed, and Prince Edward, Henry's son was leading the army carrying de Montfort's stolen banners. When de Montfort realised the truth, he said "May God have mercy on our souls because our bodies are theirs." On hearing that his son Henry had been killed, he replied "Then it is time to die." Above right: De Montfort's defeat at the Battle of Evesham.
From within the church of Evesham, de Montfort and his army led a final charge to their death. De Montfort's army was completely destroyed and he was killed and then horribly mutilated by royalist soldiers who cut off his head, hands and genitals the latter which they threw onto his face! Different parts of his body were sent to the Lords who had accomplished the most. His head was sent to Wigmore Castle by Roger de Mortimer, 1st Baron Wigmore as a gift to his wife, Maud. Such remains as could be found were buried under the altar of Evesham Abbey by some clerks. Above left: A 13th century cloth depiction of the mutilation of de Montfort's body after the Battle of Evesham
King Henry's authority had been forcibly restored by his son Edward who henceforth took an increasingly active role in government allowing Henry to spend the remainder of his reign pursuing his real passions of artistic patronage and building. - King Henry III Part 4 - King Henry III Part 2