Tag Archives: Lusignans

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.

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?’

The lord Edward

1257
Edward I
Edward I

The Lusignans were despised for their arrogance and lawlessness, not least by Queen Eleanor. She saw these ill-bred in-laws among other things as competition for Henry’s patronage, despite the fact that her own relatives had been fed well at the royal trough. But when the two French factions came to blows, Henry stood by his brothers, even temporarily depriving Eleanor of her queen’s gold as a warning against her meddling. Once she got her income back, much of it had to be diverted to free her Uncle Thomas, just as a large part of Henry’s resources were being used to prop up his Sicilian scheme. That left a meager parental allowance for Edward, now a long-legged prince with his own affinity for lawless behavior. Since returning from the continent, he and his retinue had been running roughshod over the countryside, pillaging and plundering whatever they pleased. Bereft of money from his parents, Edward found that his uncles, the Lusignans, were doing nicely buying up Jewish bonds on the cheap and threw in his lot with them. Eleanor fretted over her eldest son, the heir to the throne, consorting with these disreputable thugs, but Henry refused to be budged from his allegiance to them. They offered him the thing he valued most, unconditional loyalty, especially at a time when even the weather and Welsh had turned against him.

The Lusignans come to England

1247
Isabella Angouleme
Isabella Angouleme

Isabella and Hugh were later embroiled in another plot against Louis, involving poison and cooks who talk a lot under torture. The former queen of England ended her days practically walled up in a nunnery. Hugh died a few years later, better remembered for his stint as a troubadour than his inglorious attempt to check the growing power of the French monarchy. Of their large brood of children, Henry invited four of them to come to England to enjoy the bounty of the north. They were a most disagreeable lot, full of boasting and swaggering with a sense of entitlement. Among those none too pleased with their overbearing reach were the Savoyards, the queen’s relatives who had at least tried to make an effort to assimilate. Things finally came to a head when Henry’s half-brother Aymer, appointed Bishop of Winchester despite being illiterate and ignorant, decided to encroach on the authority of the queen’s uncle Boniface, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury despite being soldierly and intemperate. The two sides had it out in a flurry of violence and excommunications until Henry stepped in and organized a truce one morning over a sumptuous breakfast. While the rest of the country found the antics of these bickering Frenchmen good entertainment, they were hardly amused by the drain on national resources required to sustain them. It was Simon’s own conflict with the scheming Lusignans that would eventually single him out as a leader of the opposition to Henry’s circle.

Enter the Lusignans

1242
Henry in Acquataine
Henry in Acquataine

This time the conflict was instigated by Henry’s mother, Isabella d’Angoulême. She was just a teenager when King John snatched her from her intended, Hugh Lusignan, the insignificant and very brown count of La Marche. After John’s death and the crowning of Henry, Isabella went back to the continent to oversee the marriage of her ten-year-old daughter to the same Hugh she left empty-handed twenty years earlier. When Hugh saw that Isabella had lost none of her beauty, he decided he preferred the mother to the daughter, who would have to settle for the King of Scotland. Isabella had born five children with John; she now proceeded to bear another nine with Hugh. But the former queen had lost none of her haughty spirit and seethed over her loss of status. One very public snub from her adversary, the equally haughty dowager queen of France, finally set her off. She assured both her husband and son that between them, they could wrest the province of Poitou back from the French. Henry was still keen on recapturing the glory days of his grandfather’s Angevin Empire, but the magnates refused to go along. He landed anyway in 1242 in the expectation of finding his stepfather at the head of an uprising. What he found instead was his brother-in-law, King Louis, ready to bag the lot of them.