Tag Archives: Henry

750 years ago this week

The end of June 1263 saw Montfort begin the final campaign to force a provisional government on Henry and his court. Dismissing yet another offer from Richard to arbitrate, he dashed for the coast and secured the Cinque Ports. During that time London had already come out for the Provisions, and went to the Tower to tell the king and queen so. Whether it was decided then and there for Edward’s next move we can’t be sure, but he and Robert Walerand gathered up several of their henchmen and on 29 June went to the New Temple to teach the presumptuous Londoners a lesson. After stealing more than £1000 in deposits, they headed for the safety of Windsor. Meanwhile, John Mansel lost his nerve and fled to the continent on that same day. For reasons still unknown, that enraged Henry of Almain, who took off after him and blundered his way into captivity. On 13 July Queen Eleanor took off in the opposite direction, for the safety of her son’s gang at Windsor. Her barge no more left Tower wharf when Londoners, infuriated that her son had robbed them, and fed up with her anyway, gathered on the bridge and pelted her with all manner of disgust. On 15 July Montfort entered London in triumph for what was to be a very short tenure at the helm. Edward was now running the show for the royalists, and as he showed at the New Temple, nothing was too low for him.

London Bridge - the royal family chose to mess with the wrong people
London Bridge – the royal family chose to mess with the wrong people

England’s first constitution

May - June 1264
King and Witan
King and Witan

The battle won, Simon quickly secured the surrender of Henry and Edward by agreeing to two important concessions. The first allowed the Provisions to be revisited and, if necessary, amended, a move designed to assuage the king’s wounded pride and coax him out of the priory. The second called for the release of the marcher barons, who Edward was counting on to continue the struggle while he remained in custody. Although there were still patches of royalist opposition, Montfort had no trouble mobilizing the countryside to repel an expectant invasion from the continent being organized by Queen Eleanor with money and connivance from Louis. The threat died away as the summer wore on and she was no longer able to support her army of mercenaries. A papal legate dispatched by Rome was similarly rebuffed when he attempted to gain entry into the kingdom. He had to settle for sending letters across the channel excommunicating everyone involved in Henry’s undoing. The letters were instantly seized and tossed into the sea. The legate tried to reinforce his spiritual boycott with an economic one by forbidding all exports to England. Simon brushed him off, declaring that the English could fend for themselves. He was, however, still open to the idea of the French arbitrating again on the Provisions, perhaps hoping Louis would act with more common sense this time around and confer legitimacy on the turn of events. And to ensure he understood there was no going back, Montfort summoned parliament to meet in Westminster for the purpose of setting up a provisional government until a permanent settlement could be reached. The result was an Ordinance enacted on 28 June 1264, which essentially made the Provisions constitutional in character. It created a council of nine to advise the king, with three of them forming an inner circle, and one of these always at his side. All business of the realm, all appointments, now went to committee. Whatever initiative Henry took, whatever foolhardy scheme came into his head or those of his relatives, henceforth required consent. Just as important was the consent given to Montfort’s plan of government by this ground-breaking parliament. Consisting of knights representing their local communities, the “people of the kingdom of England” gave its seal of approval to this new dawn in the age of English politics. Henry, naturally, was less enthusiastic but endorsed it, perhaps under the threat of deposition. The constitution was incorporated as part of the Peace of Canterbury and sent to the king of France for his approval. Louis was outraged. Better to be a farmer, this most humble of kings proclaimed, than to rule under such principles.

Victory for the common enterprise

14 May 1264
Lewes battlefield
The Battle of Lewes

For all the savagery of the civil war, the strategy was about chipping away at the enemy’s strength. Neither army had faced the other in the field, none of the men had ever fought in a real battle. Now on 14 May 1264, with Henry lodged in the priory and Edward in the castle, their men billeted all about the town, Simon marched his men up to the high ground above Lewes. The lone sentinel on guard was found asleep and dispatched. By the time a pre-dawn foraging party raised the alarm, Simon’s army was in position above the city. He had several thousand foot soldiers and 500 cavalry, the royalists probably three times that number. Henry, Richard and Edward quickly held a council of war while their men mustered in front of the city walls, though it’s doubtful if all of them got into action in time. Commanding Henry’s right wing, Edward started things off just after dawn with a ferocious charge led by knights on horseback, the points of their lances bearing down hard on Simon’s left. After smashing through the cavalry contingent, his men, led by the vicious likes of Roger Mortimer and William de Valence, began mowing down the reformist soldiers, many of them London levies and street urchins armed with no more than a sling. It was reported that Edward took special delight in this slaughter, knowing they were Londoners and so perhaps had insulted his mother from London Bridge. He and sixty knights chased them for four miles, causing many of them to drown in the river Ouse, before circling back toward the high ground to take his uncle by surprise in the rear. They spied a coach there flying Simon’s banner, obviously the vehicle he had been using to get around in with his broken leg. After killing the guard detail, they called on the leader of the populist cause to come outside. They found four men inside instead, Londoners taken prisoner by Simon after they had tried to betray him. Whether Edward’s men understood this or not, they slew the lot of them and set fire to the coach. From their position, they had the same commanding view of the battlefield below that Simon had had. Directly in the center would have been Richard’s division opposite Gloucester; on the right the king against the Montfort sons. Only all the action was now within the town walls, for the rebels had long since broken through the two royalist divisions and were scattering their forces. Using the advantage of the terrain, and Edward’s blunder, Simon’s army had charged down the slope against the king’s men, who were trudging their way uphill under a hail of stones and arrows. Montfort threw in his reserve division and the added pressure was too much for Henry’s army on the field. Richard was the first to take flight, finding refuge in a nearby windmill. He was taunted to come out, and the figure that emerged, covered in sweat and grime but still wearing his crown, became the object of endless ridicule. Henry fought with more bravery. Two horses were killed under him and he was much beaten about with sword and mace before his attendants got him to safety behind the walls of the priory. They were able to beat off every reformist assault with flaming arrows that ended up setting the whole town afire. Edward’s response to the disaster he helped create was to fight his way inside the priory to join his father; Bigod, Warenne, and Henry’s brothers William and Guy fled for their lives.

The road to Lewes

1264
Lewes battlefield
Lewes battlefield

As usual, the initial fighting broke out in the west. Henry de Montfort scored an early triumph by bottling up Edward in Gloucester, but then unwisely accepted his cousin’s call for a truce. He had no sooner withdrawn his forces when Edward sacked the town and slipped away, causing Simon to bitterly reproach his son. The king meanwhile began gathering a large army at Oxford, where one of his first acts was to expel the student population. His intention, he explained, was to protect them from the savagery of his Scottish allies, but in fact he was clearly miffed by their true sympathies. Henry’s growing strength allowed him to brush aside a last-ditch offer by his opponents to respect Louis’ ruling on every point except the alien officials. The advantage was all his after he seized the Montfortian stronghold of Northampton, which was betrayed by local clergymen. The loss was devastating. Among the eighty barons and knights made prisoner were the younger Simon and many leading members of the movement. Montfort refused to despair. “War is such that the advantage first goes to these, then to those,” he declared and followed up by predicting that the enemy would be consumed by fear and confusion before May was out. London, however, was gripped by panic as word spread it was about to be betrayed like Northampton, resulting in the plunder and massacre of the Jews. As royalist forces burned and butchered their way through local hamlets, Simon attempted to draw them south by laying siege to their garrison in Rochester, whose inhabitants were subjected to a similar bloodletting. With barely London left to the reformist party, Simon gambled everything on seeking out and giving battle to the king. The two sides squared off in Sussex, with the royalists encamped in and around the village of Lewes and the Montfortians eight miles away in Fletching. Simon sent his bishop friends to Henry to reiterate his offer of peace if the king would observe only the provision prohibiting alien officials, sweetening it now to include 30,000 marks in compensation. Henry was inclined to accept, but Richard, aggrieved that his property had been ransacked, was against it, as was Edward. The one-time idealist and reformer declared that peace was only possible if his uncle and the others came to them with halters around their necks.

Unmindful of his own honour

January 1264
Louis in all his glory
Louis in all his glory

A truce was to be observed during the course of arbitration. Henry being Henry, he ordered Roger Mortimer, an exceedingly violent man even for a marcher baron, to attack Simon’s manors in the hope of preventing his adversary from attending the proceedings in person. He knew the reformist side hinged on Montfort’s powers of persuasion and his friendship with Louis. In the end, all it took was a hole in the ground. While heading south for Dover, Montfort suffered a broken leg when his horse stumbled and fell. Forced to stay behind, he was no doubt confident the king of France would still rule close to his original affirmation of the Provisions. Louis, however, stunned everyone by completely nullifying them in his Mise of Amiens issued on 23 January 1264. Acting “unmindful of his own honour,” in the words of one chronicler, he declared that Henry had the right to appoint any official he saw fit, whether native-born or not. He tried to evade responsibility by insisting that the pope had nullified the Provisions first, then hedged by assuring the people of England that Magna Carta was in no way affected by his ruling. Sworn to abide by the award, Simon and his associates justified their continuing resistance by arguing that the Provisions were founded on the principles of Magna Carta. Louis’ betrayal, which was variously attributed to bribes, nagging or some concerted action with the papacy, rankled deeply. “Though all may forswear me, I will stand firm with my sons in the just cause to which my faith is pledged,” Simon proclaimed, adding gloomily that of all the lands he had been to, never had he met with more treachery than in England. But he did get some help when Gilbert de Clare finally decided to join forces with him and London remained firmly committed to the reformist cause. Civil war was now inevitable.

Never to perjurers and apostates

1263
Louis' justice
                      Louis’ justice

The turmoil resulted in much spoliation of property, the ruffians playing a major role in it, and the demands for restitution prevented Simon from governing in any meaningful way. He succeeded in repatriating Edward’s mercenaries, but this had the unintended effect of drawing the Edwardians, whose prime mission had been to rid the country of aliens, back to their former master. Simon was also in danger of losing the friendship of Louis, who was horrified by the stories of violence and pillage relayed to him by Queen Eleanor and her relatives. But then, at an informal arbitration set up at Henry’s request, Louis surprised them all by confirming the Provisions and agreeing that England should be ruled by natives instead of foreigners. But it was a hollow victory, for when parliament convened in October 1263 to deal with restitution, Edward stole the initiative by slipping away to Windsor, seizing the castle, and fortifying himself there with Henry. They then proceeded to employ their mightiest weapon: bargaining power. With promises of grants and fees, Edward won over his cousin Henry of Almain and, more importantly, his former retainers. Collecting men and arms, Edward and Henry began rolling over the countryside with their two armies, reclaiming castles and evicting local authorities loyal to the provisional government. Their point of convergence was Simon’s dwindling forces just south of London, where they seemingly had them trapped after a group of royalists barred the city gates to them. Simon scoffed at Henry’s call to surrender. “Never to perjurers and apostates,” he declared and swore together with his men to fight to the last. His sympathizers on the other side of the walls managed to break open the gates in time and secure their safe passage inside. The way was still open to a peaceful settlement when Louis offered to officially arbitrate the dispute over the Provisions and both parties agreed to abide by his award. The letters sealed by Simon and Henry show how vast the defections from the popular movement had been. Of the royalists named as supporters of the king, nearly half had been involved at one time or another in the reform movement: Edward, Henry of Almain, John de Warenne, Roger and Hugh Bigod, Hamo Lestrange, etc. They were all now prepared to let the Provisions go by the wayside. But at least Simon could count on Louis.

On the brink

1263
London Bridge
London Bridge

Edward was the first to return. Scolded by his father for “indolence and wantoness” while the Welsh ravaged the marches, he landed with a large mercenary force of Burgundians and other French-speaking soldiers. His jilted retainers had half-expected him to take them back into his service, but he completely ignored them and bestowed castles and other key posts on his new, alien followers. Incensed, they welcomed Simon de Montfort home as the one leader who had always been faithful to the Provisions, who was capable of enforcing the one provision they desired above all else: expulsion of the aliens. It was, of course, the great irony of this conflict that the English would turn to an alien for this purpose. Simon’s military reputation and unwavering defense of the Provisions made him the undisputed leader of this rebellious force that gathered in Oxford, where the reform program had been launched five years earlier. New adherents included many younger members of the baronage, among them Henry’s nephew Henry of Almain and the new earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare, men later decried for being pliable as wax in the hands of a man like Montfort. He would need such idealists to offset the violence and unruliness of the Edwardians, who immediately went to work after Henry rebuffed one last call to observe the Provisions. They struck east, targeting the Savoyards and other aliens, even making knowledge of English a prerequisite to avoid reprisals. Locals long fed up with nobles, knights and clergymen who couldn’t speak their language joined in the mayhem until Henry found himself faced with a full-scale uprising. Richard rode off to intercede with Simon, but missed him on his march to secure the coast and trap Henry in London. But even that city was lost after Edward, needing money to pay off his mercenaries, staged the first great bank robbery in English history when he broke into the New Temple and seized the private deposits there. His mother grew sufficiently alarmed by the growing hostility to try to flee to Windsor by boat, but her barge was turned back after being pummeled with all manner of filth and flying objects thrown at her by a jeering crowd on London Bridge. She and her kinsmen eventually escaped to the continent, but for Henry it was all too much. He agreed to the restraints on his power enacted in 1258 and to the council naming his officials and conducting official policy. The only difference was the council was now controlled by Simon de Montfort.

More arbitration, more disaffection

1262
Poor little Gilbert
Poor little Gilbert

When the two sides could not agree on any amendments to the Provisions, the arbitrator, Richard of Cornwall, ruled in favor of his brother and restored to him the sole right to appoint and dismiss officials. Henry would continue to rule with a packed court and the death of the earl of Gloucester in the summer of 1262 left the baronage without a nominal leader. Emboldened by events, the king sailed to France to meet his antagonist in court, where he hoped to destroy Montfort, at least in the eyes of the French. Queen Margaret was the arbitrator now, a dowdy woman who once looked amiss at all the attention Henry was paying to his niece Alice. She no doubt considered the vindictiveness of both sides unseemly, but her chance to rule on the case was interrupted when Henry was laid low by dysentery. Simon returned for the October parliament, where contrary to the order of the justiciar, he published his own papal bull, acquired through a baronial agent in Rome, affirming the Provisions. But a new threat arose to Henry’s consolidation of power, this time involving an alienated group of young men not connected to Montfort. They included Edward’s former retainers, proscribed by the queen and her Savoyard relatives in an attempt to tighten control over the heir, and Gilbert de Clare, Alice’s husband, who was supposed to succeed his father as the earl of Gloucester, only Henry, now in a completely vindictive mood, moved to deny him at least part of his inheritance. On top of this came another uprising by the Welsh, brought about when the tenants of Roger Mortimer, one of the barons cowed back into the royalist camp, revolted against his harsh rule. Local opposition also began to surge, forcing Henry to publicly proclaim that he accepted the Provisions by his own free will. The situation became so fraught that Henry, after his return home for Christmas 1262, wrote to Louis, begging him to find a successful resolution to his arbitration with Simon. Louis reported that Simon had told him that he truly believed Henry wished him only the best, but his advisers thought otherwise. He had therefore asked Louis not to concern himself any more with their case. He was preparing to return to England to have it out with the king once and for all.

Henry resurgent, Simon goes into exile

1261
Sheriff and serfs
Sheriff and serfs

Henry’s basic grievance was that the barons had gone beyond the intentions of the Provisions. They had met and acted without him, kept him impoverished while enriching themselves, failed him in his foreign policy pursuits, all undeniably true and lamentable since he, the king, had every desire to rule by the Provisions. His summoning parliament as required by them was the most obvious example of his good faith. Whether chastened or not, the barons were caught off guard as Henry secretly moved to usurp full authority. He secured Dover and the Cinque Ports to ensure the arrival of mercenaries, placed his own men in key positions, and relocated to Winchester, his birthplace, where he subsequently announced that the pope had absolved him of his oath to observe the Provisions. The barons united again under Gloucester and Simon, but they could no longer count on Edward’s support. At first the heir refused to accept the absolution for himself, but was eventually won over by his mother. He also arrived with William de Valence, the hated Lusignan whose deportation had been the groundwork for the original Provisions, then left again for Gascony after his uncle was restored to favor. But Henry’s treachery cost him allies too. Hugh Bigod, turned out as castellan in Dover, defected back to the barons and was joined by his half-brother John de Warenne, the only magnate who had refused the initial oath to the Provisions in 1258. The king’s biggest problem, however, was the resistance he faced on a local level. When he attempted to supplant the sheriffs with his own men, Simon saw to it that the barons installed their own rival sheriffs (referred to as “wardens” so as not to create any confusion). He then went abroad to plead their case before Louis, to raise foreign troops, and in what was perhaps his most defiant act, he and Gloucester summoned their own parliament, consisting of local knights, to meet in St. Albans and discuss what to do about the king’s subversion. Henry refused to back down and countered with his own parliament in Windsor. The standoff was broken when Gloucester again deserted to the king, this time bribed by the favors of Queen Eleanor. In a treaty made at Kingston in November 1261, the reformers agreed to renegotiate the Provisions with Richard, the king of the Romans, acting as arbitrator. This clear defeat of the reforming program left Simon disgusted. He departed for France, saying he would rather live in poverty than in perjury.

Henry’s moves against Simon backfire…for now

1261
Tower of London
Tower of London

Father and son were soon reconciled, mostly because Henry, whatever his other faults, was a devoted family man. Relations between the Lord Edward, as he was called at the time, and his uncle remained amiable, even after the king vengefully ordered Montfort to stand trial for obstructing the peace treaty and defying his orders. Clare, worried that his part in defaming Edward would become known, managed to get the trial delayed. Then an uprising by the Welsh forced Henry to turn to Simon for his military skills and the trial soon was shelved for good. The parliament of October 1260 marked Montfort’s return to government as an ally of Edward, who knighted his sons Henry and Simon. The council even allowed him to appoint Richard’s son Henry of Almain to represent him in his official capacity as steward of England, another move which offended the king. More notably, he reached a compromise with Clare to have the top crown officials replaced with his supporters and Edward’s in return for agreeing to modify local reforms to better suit the interests of magnates like Clare. Even so, one of the first acts of the new justiciar, Montfortian Hugh Despenser, was to hear cases against magnate Peter of Savoy, one of the Seven but now completely in the king’s camp. Henry fumed about these appointments, but his circle of advisers – the queen and her Savoyard relatives – urged him to bide his time. They had a plan in place that would quash the Provisions and make Henry the master of his realm again. The first part called for letting Edward go abroad to joust and carouse with a large retinue that included his Montfort cousins. The removal of these young idealists would give Henry a free hand to purge his council of Clare and Simon, who in any case had gone to France with Eleanor for the probate action she launched against her Lusignan half-brothers. While there, Simon asked Louis to arbitrate between him and Henry, and both kings agreed. As desperate as Henry was to mollify his sister and brother-in-law, his more immediate concern was carrying out the second part of the plan. As stipulated by the Provisions, he summoned parliament to meet in February 1261, only the venue was the Tower of London. Clare, Simon and the other magnates arrived to find armed militia waiting in the wings. “Now, gentlemen,” said the king.

Edward joins the movement

1259 - 1260
Henry III and Louis IX
Louis IX and Henry III

At the opening of parliament in October, a group calling itself the ‘community of the bachelors of England’ demanded that the barons quit stalling and reform the entire realm, including themselves. The bachelors were probably knights, summoned to represent the counties and clearly disappointed by the lack of progress being made on a local level. An ‘eyre’, or circuit court, had been launched during the initial phase of reform to address grievances against magnates and sheriffs, but the backlog of cases overwhelmed the justiciar, Hugh Bigod. These knights found an unwitting ally in Edward, who was all for the barons getting a taste of their own medicine. Whether shamed or bullied into action, parliament subsequently enacted the Provisions of Westminster, an updated version of the Provisions of Oxford that provided more legislative muscle for local concerns. Edward also swore an oath at this time to aid Simon in the movement. Like his uncle, Edward had wrangled with the crafty earl of Gloucester, the chief impediment to reform, though his reasons were more personal. Clare was one of the more ardent proponents of the treaty with France, which the heir to the throne saw as infringing on his future rights. The treaty itself was finally ready, and toward the end of November Henry crossed over to France to ratify it with Louis. He was expected back by the end of January, for the Provisions had set 2 February for the first of the three parliaments the king was required to hold every year. Citing unfinished business, Henry wrote to Bigod that he was delayed and that no parliament should be held without him. Simon was having none of it, and when his former confederate Bigod refused to defy the king, he and Edward began preparing for armed conflict. Clare began his own campaign, insinuating to Henry that his son was planning to seize the throne. Still, the king lingered on the continent. Not until April did he arrive, at which time he submitted a list of those who attendance in parliament he looked forward to with anticipation. Neither Simon nor Edward was on the list.

The king’s privations

1258 - 1259
Louis washing the feet
Louis washing the feet

At this point all eyes turned to Rome and Paris. The pope had threatened to excommunicate Henry if he didn’t settle the accounts for Sicily, but it was merely a ploy to get the barons to come out and rescue their monarch from the privations of hell. Henry was similarly rebuffed when he sent his clerks around to individual churches to ask them to stand surety for loans to the king. No longer the master of his own government, nor held in much esteem it would seem, the king could only watch helplessly as the deadline passed. In December 1258 Alexander informed Henry that he couldn’t wait forever and would now seek another candidate for the throne of Sicily. As for Henry’s privations, he magnanimously declared that they had been suspended “with our accustomed kindness.” Holding on to Sicily had been one of the reasons for Henry to achieve a lasting peace with France. He still pressed forward, because he genuinely liked his brother-in-law Louis and felt that by freely giving him Normandy he could extract both security for his other holdings and money to pay for mercenaries to seize back his kingdom. Of course he no longer had much love for his other brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, but saw no reason why he shouldn’t continue as the lead negotiator…until he realized just how wily he and his sister Eleanor could be. Henry was still thousands of marks in arrears to the couple, and while he had made some effort to meet his obligations, they were never a priority as were his debts and gifts to other members of the family. Nor had the king shown any interest in making advantageous matches for the Montfort sons, five in all, as he had done for other members of the nobility. When a clause appeared in the treaty calling for Henry, Richard and Eleanor, the surviving children of John, to renounce all claims to Normandy, Eleanor refused until her brother paid up. Henry was livid, suspecting that Simon had convinced the one king to demand the renunciation simply so he could extort the other. Louis worked out a compromise, but over a year would pass before the treaty was ratified. Henry would never forgive Simon or his sister for their obstructive behavior.

The new faith

1258
Three estates
The three estates

Henry’s years of misrule were seemingly at an end. The provisions adopted at Oxford were akin to an unwritten constitution that put the king in a straightjacket. No more flagrant favoritism, no more arbitrary taxation, no more foreign fiascos. For knights, tenants and townsfolk, the office of justiciar was revived to root out corrupt sheriffs and bailiffs. The provision indicated by later chroniclers as the root cause of the war was number Five, which decreed that anyone who attempted to subvert the Provisions be declared an enemy of the people. To this end, Henry was asked to swear an oath to abide by them and did so with no resistance. He had, after all, sworn to uphold Magna Carta many times and got away with every violation. After initially refusing, Edward also took the oath, as did his cousin Henry of Almaine, who had vainly sought to avoid it by saying he needed his father Richard’s permission first. The magnates themselves were leery about their own oaths. The earl of Gloucester for one had only wanted something done about the Lusignans. Reform of the realm might well endanger his position as a leading peer. Simon too supposedly wavered. A deeply introspective man, partly as the result of his friendship with Oxford scholar Adam Marsh and other Franciscans, he was troubled by the debts he had incurred, the oppressive demands he made on his tenants in order to meet them, and by Eleanor breaking her vow of celibacy to marry him. Accepting the Provisions might atone for these transgressions, but more importantly, failing to defend them would be mortifying to a man brought up in the aura of crusading virtue. His oath to this new faith, as it were, would have to be total, demanding for starters that his body and soul undergo rigors worthy of a religious conversion. Henceforth he would awake at midnight for prayer, eat frugally, dress only in plain garments, even in the company of the nobility, and abstain from sexual relations.

More than all the thunder and lightning in the world

1258
English parliament 3
English parliament

Roger Bigod assured Henry he was not. They asked only for the removal of the aliens and establishment of a council of 24 to guide the king in reforming the government. Henry was allowed to name half the members of the council and true to form he included two of his brothers in the list. The next parliament convened on 11 June in Oxford, with the barons again arriving armed to the hilt. Ostensibly this was a war parliament in preparation for moving against the Welsh, but the barons suspected the king and Lusignans might try to ambush them with foreign mercenaries. Dubbed by later royalists as the “mad” parliament, the barons submitted a petition to the king that called for sweeping changes in the way the monarchy operated in England. A permanent council of fifteen would henceforth advise the king in all matters of appointment, policy and patronage; parliament would meet three times a year at fixed dates, not at the king’s pleasure; and the crown would resume control over all its castles currently in the hands of aliens, which was more or less all of them. As an alien, Simon de Montfort willingly offered up his two castles, but his archenemy William de Valence refused. “Thy castle or thy head, William,” Simon warned him. Parliament broke up during the noonday lunch when the brothers stole away for the coast. Not taking any chances, the barons took off in pursuit and caught up with them at Aymer’s residence in Winchester. Riding with the baronial party, Henry and Edward managed to cut a deal for their safe conduct out of the country. At this stage the king could no more control the course of events than he could the weather. The next month the royal barge was caught in a storm on the Thames. Fearing thunder and lightning as he did, Henry ordered the boat docked at the nearest abode, which happened to be the Montfort summer residence. Simon went out to greet his majesty with all due respect, but Henry shuddered at him in terror. “Never fear, my lord, the storm has passed,” Simon reassured him. “True, but I fear you more than all the thunder and lightning in the world!”

The third hour of the third day

1258
Earls Procession to Parliam
Procession to Parliament

Henry urged Richard to accept the crown of Germany to avoid the appearance of weakness in the face of honor. Privately, he was happy to be rid of his brother. As the leading magnate, Richard had never been afraid to clash with Henry and told him flat out that since he had failed to consult the barons before agreeing to finance the papal war in Sicily, he could pay for it himself. Henry, now resigned to the loss of Normandy forever, had nothing to gain from Richard’s rigged election except removing him as an obstacle in the endgame for Sicily. And so the king had high hopes when he summoned parliament to meet in April 1258 to ask for money, an ‘aid’, to fulfill his agreement with the pope. If the barons refused, he warned him, their king would be excommunicated, a horrible penalty for the realm as a whole. How far the pope was willing to carry out his threat, and whether Henry actually believed it could happen, is a matter of conjecture. For the barons who assembled in Westminster, Sicily wasn’t the problem they had come to discuss. They had had enough of the king’s half-brothers and were determined to force a showdown with them. Aymer, who Henry had nominated as Bishop of Winchester despite his ignorance of everything English or Christian, had ordered his men to attack a party attached to one of the leading barons. Henry not only refused any redress for the victims but then allowed his other brother William to openly accuse Simon and the earl of Gloucester of conspiring with the Welsh. Together with the general complaint that Henry had bestowed too much money and patronage on these brutes and ingrates, seven of the aggrieved magnates formed a confederation for the purpose of ousting the Lusignans from the country. On 28 April the king submitted his request for an aid and got his answer on ‘the third hour of the third day’ when the barons arrived at parliament fully armed. Henry was aghast. ‘What is this, my lords, am I your prisoner?’