The lord Steward

The open question following the battle of Evesham was whether Simon de Montfort had been aspiring for the throne, if not for himself then for his son Henry, who was a grandson of King John. In all likelihood not, because there were five royals with a better claim, and that’s nothing to speak of the king himself, Henry III, who was still very much alive, in good health and in command of his faculties. Certainly the Montforts could never enjoy the purple cushions of the big chair while Henry’s heir Edward was still alive. Simon had resisted all pressure to release the young man, knowing he was going to kick some ass the first chance he got, so he organized a phony early release ceremony for him, which is to say Edward was going to have a squad of parole officers dogging his every move. And to make sure he didn’t head for his lands in Cheshire and hook up with his old gang, Simon included a land swap in the ceremony. Edward was to give him Cheshire in return for some property closer to London worth three times less. This act was formalized in the patent rolls on this day of 20 March in 1265, but what’s really interesting is it mentions Simon for the first time as the Steward of England. After nearly a year in power, he was looking for any title to legitimize his rule, which suggests he knew the throne was out of reach, at least for the time being. He had every right to call himself Steward because that hereditary office belonged to the Earls of Leicester. Of course, the traditional function was to hold a water basin for the king at banquets so his grace could dip his greasy fingers in it between courses. The first known time Simon exercised this honour was at Henry’s wedding in 1236. Now nearly three decades later, Simon was licking his own chops over how far he had come, but Edward, now free to mount a horse again, was biding his time.

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