Edward and the Montfort Boys

The great knight William Marshal had five sons who grew up to manhood but not one of them had issue. Legend has it that an Irish bishop, in a squabble over some property, had cursed him and his family with ultimate extinction. Simon and Eleanor (remember, the first wife of William Marshal II) also had five adult sons, but only one of them, Guy, left behind children. The oldest, Henry, fell with his father at Evesham. His incredibly erratic brother Simon died forlorn and on the run in Italy. The clever one in the family, Amaury, took priestly orders, and finally the youngest, Richard, disappeared from the records after he headed south to Gascony. If the extinction of the Montfort line could be attributed to one person, it would be Edward, for he was primarily responsible for the royalist revival and afterward never ceased to harass his male cousins.

Simon, Amaury and Guy de Montfort
Simon, Amaury and Guy de Montfort

On the face of it, Edward comes across much better than his father in their treatment of the Montfort family. He is reported to have wept at the funeral of Henry de Montfort. He was most generous to his aunt Eleanor before and after her exile from England. It seems his attitude changed in 1271 following the murder of his cousin Henry of Almain by his other cousins, Guy and Simon de Montfort. Edward was all the more shaken and vengeful because he had sent Henry on a mission of reconciliation with them. The younger Simon was already dead by the time he began his pursuit in earnest. Amaury, also in Italy at the time, was vindicated of the crime, but Edward took the first opportunity to have him captured and locked up. When Guy himself was captured in Sicily some years later, Edward used his influence to block his release. Through it all, however, he maintained the semblance of justice by continuing to show deference to their mother until her death in 1275. So if the brothers felt the cruel hand of Edward, and many would before that monarch expired, it’s only because they deserved it.

Edward I
Edward I

And yet disposing of the Montfort boys had the advantage of removing one legal and moral obstacle. The royalist policy of disinheritance for the reformists bitterly divided leading barons like Mortimer and Clare. One thing they did agree on, however, was the exclusion of the Montforts from any abatement in the policy. That was fine with Edward, since Simon’s earldom of Leicester had been seized and given to his brother Edmund. If any surviving Montfort son was as litigious as their mother was, he was guaranteed to harass Edward and Edmund about that seizure as long as he was alive. Amaury was just that case, and he no sooner returned to Italy after his imprisonment when he started proceedings against Edward for the return of his father’s lands and titles. He would eventually give up the suit, only, so he claimed, because he didn’t want to be annoying. 
     Under pressure from Louis, Henry did agree to offer a settlement of sorts to the oldest surviving son at that time, Simon. He would give him an annual pension or buy the family’s estates outright at a fair market value. All the younger Simon had to do was leave England and cause no more trouble. The opposition of the barons, coupled with Henry and Edward’s penchant for treachery, ensured that the offer would come to nothing. Instead, Simon joined his brother Guy in military service under Louis’ brother Charles and together their fortunes began to rise. They were in Viterbo to meet Charles when, one morning, they set their sights on Henry of Almain praying in church.

 

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