A difference of three decades

On the 20th of January in 1236, Eleanor of Provence was crowned queen of England. A mounted troop and the king’s trumpeters escorted the royal couple to the abbey, where the archbishop of Canterbury anointed the young girl and placed a gold crown of lilies on her head. But on this same day in 1265, Simon de Montfort was in control of the realm and summoned a landmark parliament to approve his radical plan to make England a constitutional monarchy forever.

Eleanor followed this debasement of her husband, Henry III, and son, the future Edward I, from France, where she had gone before Simon won the civil war he launched against the king, his former patron. For all his leadership qualities, Simon owed his success to a propaganda campaign that blamed all foreigners (and the Jews) for whatever woes afflicted the land.

After his victory, Eleanor assembled an army to invade England and drive him out of power. The queen, however, was persuaded to give peace negotiations a chance, and the wily Simon dragged them out until her army, bored stiff and owed back pay, melted away. After parliament disbanded, she organised a smaller military intervention which, following Edward’s escape from custody, formed the core of the army he used to cut down Simon and the Montfortians at the battle of Evesham.

What if any speech Eleanor made on her coronation day or later to her troops we do not know, but a popular aria from the Czech musical “Cleopatra” might suffice for our imagination. Never mind the words, the title itself “Now I’m the queen” says it all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3krZlNmJ3Y

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