My road to Simon de Montfort began many years ago with an innocuous book about the kings and queens of England and an entry about this French fellow defeating his brother-in-law the king and ruling in his name before his own demise at the hands of the king’s son. In all the years since, Montfort never made any shortlist of historical figures I could see myself writing about one day untila chance visit to England rekindled that bit of boyhood inspiration. The books I generally found on him, however, offered no ingratiating adventurer out to reconstruct the English monarchy, rather a “harsh, greedy and utterly unscrupulous” medieval baron. As for his founding parliament, well, you can definitely forget about that. My present work might not have come as far as it has were it not for such variously hostile portrayals written by historians clearly unmoved by his achievements. And yet this website, the Provisions newsletter, and now my new biography With All For All are not part of some attempt to set the record straight. In fact, I draw much of my material from the works of the unmoved, for even they will have to admit that his story (and Henry’s, for they are in so many ways intertwined) has an engaging quality about it that’s worth retelling no matter what the personal verdict of the man himself.
To be besotted with a figure or event from history does not necessarily qualify one to write about them. My only official recognition in the field came way back in high school, when I was honored for excellence in history during my senior year. I went into the Navy after graduation, and while the military does indeed have historians, I somehow ended up in the nuclear field of all places. But it did put me on a submarine, where I was able to use all that free time underwater pursuing history as a pastime, limited only by the amount of books I could stuff into my rack. Attending university afterwards, I decided to focus my studies on languages, Russian in particular, as preparation for a tour behind the Iron Curtain some day. Who would’ve guessed that curtain coming down one month before taking my degree? I live today in a corner of the Czech Republic, snug between Poland and Slovakia, but the Internet has allowed me to acquire the sources necessary for doing biographical work. And when I’m not doing that, it’s what I had imagined was my true literary calling all along, writing plays and acting in them for a local theater. There is a Simon play, of course, but we won’t get into that now.
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