On November 22nd, 1263, Pope Urban IV, who had issued bulls both in favour and against the Provisions, now came out firmly on Henry’s side by appointing a legate and singling Simon out as the ‘chief disturber of the realm’. Henry had already taken matters into his own hands when, in true fashion, he marked the November 1st truce by attempting to seize Dover. His plan was to secure it for the arrival of foreign mercenaries, but the castellan told him to get lost. The Provisions were a higher authority than the king, he told him. The rebuff worked to Henry’s advantage when London royalists informed him that Montfort was encamped in Southwark and they had barred the gates to the city. Quickly heading north, Henry and Edward hoped to capture the Montfortians in one fell swoop. Simon preferred to fight it out than surrender to ‘perjurers and apostates’. Who knows, maybe he declared his defiance on the ground sitting underneath the future Globe Theatres. In the end the people of London rose up and broke open the gates, leaving Henry no choice but to observe the truce.
Of all the defections to the king in the autumn of 1263, when the English turned tail according to a well-known quip at the time, only Henry of Almain’s has come down to us in the form of a personal interview with Simon. Henry had been one of the young idealists who joined Simon’s camp earlier that year, men pliable as wax, as chronicler Thomas Wykes contemptuously dismissed them. His only known action ended in failure when he got captured after taking off in pursuit of perennial favourite John Mansel. He showed he truly was made of wax by swapping sides again upon his release, allegedly after Edward promised him some prime real estate. Young Henry tried to tell Simon he was troubled by taking up arms against his family, which seems to suggest that he didn’t know what he was getting into when he joined the revolution. But he assured Simon, who was also family in a way, that he would never take up arms against him. That earned him another dose of contempt when Simon told him he was free to go, he had no use for pliable men like him. He could even take up arms against him, they made no difference in the world. Of course, Henry would do just that at Lewes, which only confirmed his treachery in the eyes of the Montfort sons.
How Henry loved the October 13th feast day of St. Edward! In 1255 he swallowed the yarn about the Jews of Lincoln murdering a little boy, sending 18 of them to the gallows, just so he could get back to London in time for this grand supper. Now in 1263 it was going to be a contentious affair as faces glared at one another in the tense atmosphere. Henry and Edward were demanding restitution for cronies like the archbishop of Canterbury (the former reformer) and the queen’s other relatives, while Simon insisted on the Council’s right, as per the Provisions that Henry and Edward swore who to uphold, to name the king’s ministers and household. Who gave the final toast that evening is unknown, but Edward no doubt cast a shifty look at his Marcher friends, freshly imbibed with his bribes, to let them know that the plan was on. They would use violence, which was not only work but play for them, to put an end to Montfort’s provisional government and maybe the man himself.
The October newsletter is out, addressing the events of 750 years ago and the parliament Edward and his cohorts disrupted, presumably because Simon’s March on London was akin to Sherman’s March to the Sea in 1864. The despoliation caused by the Marchers was hardly in the same league, but the disruption was part of Edward’s plan to escape to Windsor and regroup, what John Maddicott calls his ‘surefooted deviousness’.
The peace of the September 1263 parliament was not at all to the liking of Pope Urban IV. Kings like Henry should only bow to pontiffs like him, not to their subjects. He decided to write a nastygram to Richard of Cornwall, who had fallen into a stupor after Simon refused to treat with him. ‘The boisterous fluctuation of the storm, which shakes the solid foundation of the kingdom of England, has been raised with your tacit permission, perhaps even stirred up by you.’ Henry no doubt had told on his brother to the pope, a man who, for the life of him, could not understand how revolution was possible with rich and powerful men like Richard around to prevent it.
Eight centuries ago this day the crusader army under Simon de Montfort III left their besieged position at Muret to confront the superior allied force of Peter II of Aragon. Like Henry III at Evesham, Peter wasn’t wearing his own armour. Henry had no choice, but Peter was the newly proclaimed defender of chivalry in Languedoc. If he was going to be in the thick of things, it would be as an ordinary knight. It was his last courageous act, for the French knights mowed him and his entire guard down, then routed the rest of the Spanish troops. And so the Albigensian Crusade dragged on for another nine years.
Having barely survived the slaughter of Evesham, Henry was ready to reassert not just his authority but also his dignity. He had been humiliated these last fifteen months as a captive of his own government, now he would be king again, would wear his crown again, and no better place to start than in his birthplace of Winchester. So he summoned parliament there to open on 8 September 1265 and announced that all families connected to the Montfortian party were henceforth disinherited. It was a vengeful, shortsighted policy that could only serve the interests of the king and his closest family and associates. Yes, Henry was back.
Eleanor’s household roll reveals she gave alms for the repose of her husband’s soul on two occasions: 153 silver pennies (£0.64) on 18 August and 84 pennies (£0.35) on 3 September. Wilkinson reiterates Bémont’s suggestion of parsimony, a theme also picked up by Maddicott in his book, and attributes it to either strain on their marriage as a result of the political conflict or to worries about the future now that money was going to be tight. She leans towards the latter, even though Eleanor would soon ship over £7,000 overseas with her sons. Inasmuch as she had reverted to mournful widowhood, adopting russet for clothing and abstaining from meat and fish, perhaps she simply felt that the days of grand gestures were over.
1. When you visited I was waiting for the contractor who does the mowing to turn up & had been waiting for several weeks. In fact the mowing was done about a week later, together with trimming of some smaller & more sensitive areas, where the tractor-drawn mower is not desirable. If you visited today it would look very different.
Not much turnout for the reenactment of the demonstration against Queen Eleanor in July 1263. Perhaps all the excitement about the soon-to-be newborn at Buckingham Palace has Londoners feeling a bit more charitable about the royal family these days. Interestingly, the one barge that did approach the bridge once I got into position immediately reversed engines and turned back.