A little help from Tom and George

The battle of Lewes was fought on this day of 14 May in 1264. After being stomped about by Henry III for the better part of two months, Simon de Montfort chanced everything on one pitched encounter. It started off badly for him when Lord Edward demolished his left wing with a ferocious charge, but instead of wheeling about and smashing into Simon’s exposed flank, Edward kept up the chase and disappeared from view. Simon threw in his hidden reserves and, charging downhill, rolled over Henry’s troops. It was not a complete victory, though, and the concessions Henry wrung out of him for his surrender the next day ultimately proved Simon’s downfall.

For now, he could rejoice. They took the long way back to London, stopping in Canterbury to recount the battle for the local chronicler. Simon considered his movement a crusade and sure enough God had been on his side. He even sent two trusty lieutenants, St Thomas and St George, to assist them. Yes, Simon’s men saw their apparitions on the battlefield, spurring them on to greater glory. It was religiously-inspired propaganda of this sort that had propelled Simon to power and he was keen to keep cultivating it. His church supporters were happy to oblige, but most drew a line here. Chroniclers often copied each others’ work, but in this case the yarn about Tom and George never made it past Canterbury.

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