Tag Archives: Richard de Clare

More arbitration, more disaffection

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’s moves against Simon backfire…for now

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.

Cracks in the opposition

Richard of Cornwall
Seal of Richard of Cornwall

In January, two years after he was elected King of the Romans, Richard prepared to return home. The barons were apprehensive about this most unexpected visit and sent messengers to him in Germany demanding he take the oath to observe the Provisions before landing in Dover. Richard was indignant that the magnates had instituted reforms without consulting him and therefore refused. Hearing this, and fearing that he may try to sneak one or more of his half-brothers into the kingdom, the magnates insisted on welcoming Richard with a force of arms. The King of the Romans disembarked with no Lusignans and willingly followed his brother the king and the magnates to Canterbury, where Richard de Clare, the earl of Gloucester and Richard’s former stepson, delivered the oath. The occasion marked the last complete show of unity among the barons. The next month a quarrel broke out over the progress of reform. Gloucester was in no hurry to see the new statutes apply to him or the other magnates directly, and besides he had no personal quarrel with the king. Only a few years before Henry had done him the honor of marrying his seventeen-year-old niece Alice, daughter of his now deceased half-brother Hugh Lusignan, to de Clare’s ten-year-old son Gilbert. Simon accused Gloucester of reneging on reform, and he in turn accused Montfort of delaying the peace treaty for his own benefit. When Simon left for France, saying he had had enough of his shady partner, the other magnates warned Gloucester to clean up his own domains, otherwise they would join forces and attack him. This he agreed to do, but it was the beginning of a feud between the Montfort and Clare clans that would determine the entire course of the conflict.

The third hour of the third day

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?’