Tag Archives: London Bridge

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

On the brink

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.