Battle of Evesham

For all its bloodshed, the battle of Evesham, fought on this day of 4 August in 1265, has a certain underlying poignancy. Henry III and Simon de Montfort had been great friends once and became brothers-in-law in 1238 with Simon’s marriage to Henry’s sister Eleanor. But the following year the king, having discovered some unseemly information about Simon, banished him from court. Simon never forgave him for it, nor for putting him on trial in 1252 over his excessive zeal in governing Gascony. Their relationship was broken by the time the reform movement began in 1258. Simon was determined to get his revenge and got it in 1264 after his victory at Lewes. He subjected Henry to the humiliation of the captive monarchy, and even when the game was up, he forced the king into battle at Evesham undistinguished by his royal rank. Like King Lear, Henry found himself in a raging storm with no kingdom, assailed by his would-be rescuers and lucky to escape with just a shoulder wound. It was left to his son Edward, the victor at Evesham, to deal with the aftermath, including burying his cousin Henry de Montfort. While recovering, the king might have remembered that day in late November of 1238 when he received word that his sister had given birth to her and Simon’s first child. He immediately left Woodstock for Kenilworth so he could attend the baptism of the lad named after him.

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