In the year 1250

In March of this year, Henry III and his wife Eleanor of Provence took the cross in an elaborate ceremony in the Great Hall at Westminster. No English king was less suited to wear armour in the searing heat than Henry, but he had a stampede to stop. All of his nobles were anxious to go east and share in the glory of the crusade under the French. They had captured Damietta in Egypt in one day, they would be in Jerusalem in no time. In fact, the army of Louis IX was just then being mauled on the banks of the Nile and would be captured wholesale within a month. One of the nobles who had sworn to go to Egypt was Simon de Montfort, but he still trying to stamp out a guerrilla war in Gascony. He got ruthless and cut the grapevines of the rebels or seized their land. He even seized a whole town and gave it to his barber in return for 2 cheeses and 10 pears. Meanwhile Henry was furious at one of his barons, Walter de Clifford, for making his messenger eat the letter he brought him, including the wax seal. That lunch cost Walter a fine of £665, about half a million in today’s cash.

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