Today the virtual book tour comes to the blogspot of John Paul Davis, the author of The Gothic King (Henry III) whose other works include Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar. In keeping with the Templar theme, the guest article looks at the chronicle “The Templar of Tyre” and how the events in England in the 1260s were viewed from afar.
The virtual tour for With All For All kicks off today at Medievalists.net with me explaining why a book on Simon de Montfort, how it was a written, and what background more or less qualifies me to undertake this project.
A prelude was available in the form of an interview with BBC Radio Leicester yesterday, which can be listened to here starting at about 37 minutes into the broadcast.
The tour continues tomorrow at the realm of Henry the Young King, with an interview conducted by caretaker Kasia Ogrodnik.
On this date, 16 February 1265, Simon had to move to avert a crisis over a tournament proposed between his sons Henry, Simon and Guy and the Clare brothers, Gilbert and Thomas, to be held at Dunstable on the grounds seen below as they look today. Parliament was in session at the time, and such a mock battle between these rival groups could easily spill over into nearby London. So furious was Simon with his sons that he warned them he would lock them away in a place where they would have the benefit of neither sun nor moon if they tried a stunt like that again. Gilbert was even more furious because of all the money he had spent organizing the tournament and lashed out at Simon for presuming to run the realm with the highhandedness of a “foreigner”. He left to sulk in Gloucester and begin collusion with Simon’s enemies to bring about his fall.
On this day in 1265, Henry III and his son Lord Edward stood in the chapter house of Westminster Abbey, which near the floor bears the appropriate inscription ‘As the rose is the flower of flowers’, and swore to abide by all the charters of good government, namely Magna Carta and the Provisions of Oxford as embodied in the current constitution. It was a momentous step, the first time the king is promising to rule in accordance with established laws and institutions without getting anything in return, and he was passing on the precedent directly to the heir to the throne. Of course, both were more or less captive at the time and neither had shown any inclination in the past to show that their word was worth much. In those days you could swear to god all you wanted so long as as the pope was in your pocket.
The schedule for the upcoming virtual book tour
23/02/14 – Launch with Peter at Medievalists featuring a video spot with the author explaining why a book about Montfort and how it came to be written. http://medievalnews.blogspot.co.uk
24/02/14 – Author interview with Kasia, the keeper of Lesser Realm and everything you want to know about Henry the Young King. http://henrytheyoungking.blogspot.cz
25/02/14 – John Paul Davis, the author of The Gothic King: A Biography of Henry III, will post a guest article about how the Montfortian struggle was viewed by the chronicler ‘The Templar of Tyre’. http://theunknowntemplar.com
26/02/14 – Rebecca’s The History Vault will post a guest article explaining how Montfort’s contribution to the development of Parliament was more than just summoning the burgesses in 1265. http://www.thehistoryvault.co.uk
27/02/14 – Kathryn Warner, the author of Edward II: The Unconventional King, will post a guest article comparing Simon de Montfort and Thomas of Lancaster, together with a free copy giveaway http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.com
28/02/14 – Sara Cockerill, the author of Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen, will post a guest article on whether there might have ever been a King Simon. http://www.saracockerill.com
01/03/14 – Montfortian scholar Kathleen Neal at Thirteenth Century England will finish off the tour with a few questions for the author. https://thirteenthcenturyengland.wordpress.com
On the 23rd of January 1264, Louis IX made one of the most incredible blunders in the history of political arbitration when he ruled, in his Mise of Amiens, that his fellow monarch Henry III was not bound by the Provisions of Oxford. He had been asked by the royalists and Montfortians to reestablish peace in the realm, but his decision all but guaranteed war. While it may not seem surprising that one absolutist came out on the side of another absolutist, Louis had approved the Provisions only the previous September, when Henry appealed to him for help after Montfort first swept into power. His subsequent reversal has been attributed to lobbying by the papacy, which had already twice absolved Henry of his oath to observe the Provisions. Louis in fact tried to hide behind the pope in the only defence he gave for his ruling, but he was completely exposed in addressing the Montfortian argument that the Provisions were part of the evolution of good government going back to Magna Carta. Since the charter of liberties was by that time unassailable, he simply chose to ignore the link. The king of France declared that the English could have their Magna Carta, but not their Provisions. And that was that. Now, he implored, can’t we all just get along?
On this day, the 20th of January 1265, a national assembly convened in Westminster like none other before it. Only thirty years earlier, when the word parliament came into use to describe these great councils of state, Henry III invited the leading barons and clergymen to meet in order to ask them for money. His refusal to give them anything in return led to reform, war, and the transformation of Parliament into an institution of government beyond his control. The king unintentionally contributed to this process in 1254 when he first invited the knights of the shires, his way, so he thought, of getting around the obstinate magnates. The knights were there again for this occasion, and joining them for the first time were the burgesses, the representatives of the towns. These two classes, together with the clergy, wholly outnumbered the barons, maybe by as many as ten to one, and it was to these middling clerics, lords and merchants that Simon de Montfort, the de facto prime minister, addressed the agenda. But the nobility was far from finished, and their intrigues, and a new understanding with the perennially insecure and dissatisfied earl of Gloucester, would make this groundbreaking assembly the last of its kind for some time to come.
On 7 January 1238 Henry III gave his youngest sister Eleanor in marriage to Simon de Montfort. Rarely has a royal wedding created a firestorm as this one did, and rightly so. The twenty-three-year old Eleanor had taken a vow of celibacy after her first husband William Marshal II died nearly seven years earlier. If she was going to break that vow to marry anyone, it should be to create a useful foreign alliance, as what happened to her two older sisters (both of whom died early, lonely deaths). Instead Henry gives her to a thirty-year-old foreign upstart at court, a man who had already been rebuffed by two other highly-stationed if much older widows. Simon was clearly looking to marry well, while Eleanor, it was reported, desired to be a mother. Henry would later accuse Montfort of seducing his sister and so had forced his hand. Indeed, the ceremony was performed in secret, in the king’s private chapel, because he knew he would catch hell once the match became known, and that’s exactly what he got. It was seen as the most blatant example yet of the king squandering the wealth of the realm on aliens. A lot of money was needed to smooth things over, but the fury never really went away and nothing is more telling of Henry’s nature than his holding a grudge against people who cause him problems.
The year, not the website, for things really start to heat up in 1265 as Simon tries to consolidate his position, culminating in his downfall by the end of summer. It will be an eventful year, with my biography of Simon set for release in February. For now, leaving you here with the warmest of wishes for the New Year and this picturesque view of Kenilworth in wintertime.
‘Henry, by the grace of God king of England, lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine. Since after the grave occurrences of disturbance which have long prevailed in our kingdom, our dearest firstborn son Edward has been given as a hostage for securing and confirming peace in our realm…’ So begins the writ summoning Parliament to meet the following month to treat, inter alia, on the matter of releasing Edward. ‘In this, as you love us and our honour, and your own and the common tranquility of the kingdom, in nowise omit. Witness the king, at Worcester, the 14th of December.’ The summons went out to 120 churchmen, 18 barons, and 5 earls. In addition, the sheriffs were commanded to have two knights from each shire in attendance at the assembly in London. Finally, in the act that was to seal Montfort’s fame in the centuries to come, the cities of York and Lincoln, as well as other towns of England, were invited to send ‘two of the discrete, loyal, and honest citizens and burgesses’ of their communities. This inclusion of the burgesses, men without spiritual or knightly rank, has been traditionally viewed as the inception of the modern parliamentary state in England. The occasion would not be marked by any groundbreaking ceremony, however. The country was still reeling in the aftermath of the civil war and projected invasion and the dwindling representation among the barons suggests most of them remained hostile or aloof. Indeed, the writ was issued from Worcester, where the court had gone to deal with the Marchers again. How much of this innovation can be seen as inspired or imposed in light of the circumstances is a matter of conjecture, but it was a monumental step forward in the history of western democracy and it occurred on this day 750 years ago.
Nestled in the lore attached to Edward between Lewes and his escape from captivity one year later is a rescue attempt launched by his mother the queen from her base in France. In November 1264 she had somehow convinced a group of his household knights, holed up in Bristol, to ride out to Wallingford 80 miles away and free him and Henry of Almain from their castle arrest. These knights managed to carry their assault into the inner court before the wardens warned them to desist, else they would deliver Edward, using a mangonel, by airmail. He was even produced on the ramparts to inform them that his captors meant business. The attack was broken off and it would be another six months before Edward got his chance to ride off into legend.
To get an idea what the Middle English of that period looked like, here is an excerpt from Robert of Gloucester’s Chronicle that describes this event.
Ilithered with a mangenel, hom with hom to lede,
Sir Edward vpe wal withinne com al so & sede,
& bed hom wende home aze, other he was ded iwis,
This other wende thus hom, tho hii hurde this.
Tho Sir Simon de Mountfort hurde of this dede,
He let the king of Alemaine & Sir Edward lede,
The proposal the bishops brought back with them to England called for yet more talks and for each side to offer surety in case no agreement was reached. The Montfortians were asked to hand over Dover castle and Edward in return for Edmund and a castle on the continent, as poorly a conceived trade as could be imagined. The bishops were nevertheless ordered to publish letters of interdict and excommunication if he was again snubbed. The garrison at Dover took care of that problem when they searched the bishops and found the letters. It’s not known what kind of gesture they used to rip them up and toss them into the sea, but the response received by the legate and royalists was singularly dismissive. On 11 October 1264 a lone English knight rowed up to the shoreline and dropped a chest into the water containing a formal rejection and the new constitution embodied in the Peace of Canterbury. England had a new government and that was all there was to it. However much the legate now shook with fury, the death of Pope Urban IV in early October left him without a job anyway. He would return to Rome to become the new pope, Clement IV, and in that capacity make sure all the world knew that he considered Montfort and his family to be pestilence.
Further peace initiatives came and went until finally, on 24 September 1264, an envoy of Montfortians left for Boulogne to face the legate in person. Their party included three bishops, and Archbishop Guido wanted to hear it directly from them whether they supported this radical attempt to impose conciliar rule on the king. Even standing in front of the corpulent form of their superior did not sway them from this matter of principle, although the bishop of Winchester, the newest of the three to the cause, broke down sometime during the course of negotiations. This probably accounts for why only he was allowed to go back to England to consult on the concessions made to the legate during their talks. He was naturally equipped with letters of interdict if the Montfortians rejected his latest proposals. They got around this by sending yet another party, this one led by Henry of Almain, now released from custody after the bishops put up a bond to secure his return, with several amendments. For unknown reasons, they were attacked by a mob after arriving in Boulogne, leaving nine of their number dead and Almain losing all his documents. What he was able to report from memory apparently didn’t satisfy the legate, who took the other two bishops back to the conference table for one last attempt at peace.
Nobody was more anxious for the invasion force to disperse than Henry. In his letters to Louis, he indicated he was as much a hostage as Edward to the good faith of the peace process. Were foreign troops to land on English soil, the whole realm would suspect he was in on it, doubly so since Louis was using the money he owed Henry to subsidize the force gathering in Flanders under Queen Eleanor’s direction. After an interview with Henry’s emissary, Louis agreed to host a peace conference in Boulogne on 8 August. The situation in the marches and the roguish earl of Derby kept the Montfortians from arriving, but whether these events were known across the Channel, the papal legate had enough. He firmly demanded they either welcome him by 1 September or face excommunication. And just to clarify where he stood on the issue of kingship, they were also to forswear the Provisions and subsequent enactments that were causing all the trouble. The legate added for good measure that the Mise of Lewes was a dead letter as far as the French were concerned. This cursory attitude was probably behind the drafting on 15 August 1264 of the ‘Peace of Canterbury’, where the court had gathered. The Peace was an affirmation of the Ordinance, which itself affirmed the Provisions, only it included the caveat that the reform government might well outlast Henry’s reign. This suggestion that even future monarchs would be subject to restraints against absolutism was too much for Louis. His famously arrogant response to these democratic rumblings was to prefer the harness of a plough rather than that of his subjects.
The Ordinance was barely a week old when the feudal host was called out to repel an invasion force being put together by Queen Eleanor and her ever faithful uncle Peter of Savoy in Flanders. ‘Let no one plead that the harvest is at hand,’ the summons rang out, for otherwise all would be lost to the ‘impious hands of men thirsting for your blood.’ It was perhaps no coincidence that the freed Marchers began an uprising in the west at the same time, doubtless hoping to keep the Montfortians occupied on two fronts. With the aid of Clare and the Welsh, Montfort was able to force the Marchers to terms and deal with yet a third threat, the papal legate. Appointed back in November, the future Clement IV finally saw his chance to get involved, but his attempt to enter England was thwarted on the grounds that he had no invitation from the king or community. When Simon suggested he put his skills to better use by preventing the invasion force from assembling, the legate wrote him a furious reply on 26 July 1264. He insisted he had tried to promote peace, but in any case ‘the heavens are stupefied’ by the ingratitude of the English. It was a papal legate, after all, who had saved England from an invasion almost half a century earlier and now they were treating him with less diplomatic finesse than what Tartars and pagans might normally expect. He didn’t add what everyone already knew, that the previous invasion had been by Louis’ father and the king he was trying to depose was Henry himself.