The king’s privations

1258 - 1259
Louis washing the feet
Louis washing the feet

At this point all eyes turned to Rome and Paris. The pope had threatened to excommunicate Henry if he didn’t settle the accounts for Sicily, but it was merely a ploy to get the barons to come out and rescue their monarch from the privations of hell. Henry was similarly rebuffed when he sent his clerks around to individual churches to ask them to stand surety for loans to the king. No longer the master of his own government, nor held in much esteem it would seem, the king could only watch helplessly as the deadline passed. In December 1258 Alexander informed Henry that he couldn’t wait forever and would now seek another candidate for the throne of Sicily. As for Henry’s privations, he magnanimously declared that they had been suspended “with our accustomed kindness.” Holding on to Sicily had been one of the reasons for Henry to achieve a lasting peace with France. He still pressed forward, because he genuinely liked his brother-in-law Louis and felt that by freely giving him Normandy he could extract both security for his other holdings and money to pay for mercenaries to seize back his kingdom. Of course he no longer had much love for his other brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, but saw no reason why he shouldn’t continue as the lead negotiator…until he realized just how wily he and his sister Eleanor could be. Henry was still thousands of marks in arrears to the couple, and while he had made some effort to meet his obligations, they were never a priority as were his debts and gifts to other members of the family. Nor had the king shown any interest in making advantageous matches for the Montfort sons, five in all, as he had done for other members of the nobility. When a clause appeared in the treaty calling for Henry, Richard and Eleanor, the surviving children of John, to renounce all claims to Normandy, Eleanor refused until her brother paid up. Henry was livid, suspecting that Simon had convinced the one king to demand the renunciation simply so he could extort the other. Louis worked out a compromise, but over a year would pass before the treaty was ratified. Henry would never forgive Simon or his sister for their obstructive behavior.

3 thoughts on “The king’s privations

  1. The treaty called for Louis to pay the costs of maintaining 500 mounted knights in Henry’s service for two years, presumably for a crusade. Since crusades came and went for Henry, Louis could simply convert the costs into a lump sum payment of 15,000 marks. This clause the magnates found the most troubling, because Henry could use the money to hire mercenaries through his Lusignan brothers. As far as Louis was concern, that wasn’t his problem. What he wanted was complete renunciation by the royal family, so he agreed to defer the payment until the Montfort claims had been settled.

  2. These claims rested primarily on Simon’s service in Gascony and Eleanor’s dower payments from her first husband’s estate. Henry had always made sure his brothers and his wife’s uncles were satisfied first at the royal trough, leaving scraps for the Montforts by way of land or fees. Arbitration always ended in failure, usually because there were so many entrenched Marshal heirs, including Simon’s compatriots Gloucester and Norfolk. A royalist chronicler would later make the claim that what the Montforts were really after was Normandy itself for their children, conveniently forgetting about Henry’s children, Richard’s children, and the fact that Normandy was gone in all but name anyway.

  3. The treaty had more than a few opponents. Many English families still held property in Normandy and the French nobility was bewildered why their king didn’t simply seize the rest of the English possessions on the continent and be done with them. But Louis was determined to play the saint, telling his council that he hoped it would achieve peace between his children and Henry’s, who were after all cousins. In time the treaty would be cited as one of the causes of the Hundred Years’ War.

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