Tag Archives: Roger Bigod

Never to perjurers and apostates

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.

More than all the thunder and lightning in the world

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

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?’

Another royal wedding


It was into this atmosphere of ill-will and hostility that Simon strode on another cold January day two years later at Henry’s behest. The king led Montfort into his private chapel and the arms of his sister Eleanor, who had evidently fallen in love with the handsome, dynamic nobleman despite her vow of chastity. Simon had been prepared to marry an older widow to advance his fortunes, now the king was offering him the chance to become his brother-in-law, and Eleanor a normal family life. Naturally it was all done in secret because of the indignation that was sure to follow. As expected, the magnates were furious that Henry had married his sister a second time around to a commoner, again without bothering to consult them. Even Richard had been left in the dark, but was quickly placated with a substantial subsidy for the crusade he was about to embark on. Other magnates like Roger Bigod, another future reformer who had already clashed with Simon over the claim to the honorary title of Steward, were left to growl about this alien upstart. Convincing the church was an altogether more delicate problem. Eleanor had freely given herself to Christ; redeeming her vow would not come cheaply. With money from Henry and a tenant who claimed Montfort had applied extortion (earning him a stern rebuke from Grosseteste), Simon stuffed his saddle full of gold and headed off to Rome to seek approval.