It couldn’t be put off any longer. On 1 April 1265 Simon and his retinue left Odiham, destination Northampton, meant to be the venue for the tournament canceled in Dunstable in February. The idea was to placate Gilbert de Clare, the earl of Gloucester, but this perennially unhappy young man and partner in government had already retreated to the marches to work out a plan to bring down the man he referred to as the ‘alien’. This called for royalist forces from abroad to land at Pembroke, which Clare was holding, and for his brother Thomas to continue to insinuate his trust and loyalty at court. All this would culminate in the disaster at Evesham four months down the line.
And so on this date 750 years ago, in front of Odiham castle, Simon and Eleanor saw each other for the last time. They couldn’t have known it then, but there’s no reason to suggest they might not have reflected at some point on their lives together up to that point, ever since that January day in 1238 when Henry married them in secret at Westminster. He was 29 then, the promising younger son of a French noble family, probably beardless with a full mane of hair like his father and standing tall in the saddle; she 23, the beautiful widow of William Marshal II, a semi-nun but longing to be a mother. They were two headstrong, high-spirited individuals who were supreme organizers, full of phenomenal energy, and who, importantly, were not afraid to speak their minds or stand up to authority. How could Henry refuse them.