With a son like Edward

The Downs, where Montfort's troops appeared on the slope

14 May 1264, the battle of Lewes and Simon de Montfort’s victory over Henry III, leading to conciliar control of the kingdom for the next fifteen months. The main battle raged where the houses stand today, between the ridge where Montfort assembled his forces and the town walls. The outcome was put down to divine intervention but even then everyone knew Edward had cost his father the battle by riding off after it began. Commanding the right wing of the royal army, his initial charge completely scattered Montfort’s left, composed mainly of lightly-armed, poorly-trained Londoners, and he and his knights hunted them down instead of regrouping. It was said that Montfort deliberately baited him, knowing he had it in for the Londoners, who had mistreated his mother, and would become intoxicated with slaughtering them. In all likelihood, Montfort put the Londoners there because it was the lowest part of the field. He wanted to use the high ground as the staging post for his crack troops to steamroll down the hill into Henry’s center. Seeing Edward abandon the battle, he threw in his reserves and that sent the center under Henry’s brother Richard of Cornwall reeling and fleeing back into town, where Richard sought safety in a windmill. Henry was the only one of the three royalist commanders to distinguish himself that day. He continued to fight it out as his division was pushed back around the edge of the town into the mudflats, exchanging blows of the mace and losing two horses in close-quartered combat. He and his bodyguard eventually retreated inside Lewes priory, intending to hold out indefinitely. It might have worked. Edward finally returned with his squadron and was in a position to hit the Montfortians in the rear. Somehow or other they got the worst of it. Most of them fled but Edward ended up in captivity, to become a hostage for his father’s good behavior under the new government. When he escaped and raised an army to confront Montfort at Evesham in August 1265, he showed how much he had learned from his blunder and humiliation. He would wait till victory was certain before commencing the slaughter.

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