England’s first political party

With UK elections less than two weeks away, it should be noted that on 25 April, in 1263, Simon de Montfort returned from self-imposed exile in France to lead what was in essence England’s first political party. Their makeup was like a blueprint for political parties to this day. A charismatic and determined leader, able lieutenants, spiritual guides, idealists and preachers in the field, even disaffected members of the royal family. The platform of the founding meeting in Oxford was to force Henry III to submit to reform once and for all. Within three months, the king capitulated and the Montfortians marched into London with next to no bloodshed. Of course, every party has its disreputable likes, and here they were the Marcher lords, Edward’s former friends who were mainly out for revenge and personal gain. Their goal was to get rid of all foreigners (namely the queen’s family and Edward’s new friends) and launched a violent campaign against Italian clergy, French merchants and the Jews. Montfort himself was a foreigner, so it was no surprise that, after a chastened Edward agreed to take them back (for a price naturally), the Marchers threw Montfort over and his government, the first one in England led by a premier, collapsed.English political parties

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