Lewes, 13 May 1264

The next day, 13 May 1264, Montfort moves his men closer to Lewes, near a bend in the River Ouse before it runs in a southerly direction east of the town. The terrain in front of him is marshy and will work to his advantage if he can provoke Henry into attacking him there. Since to attack the king himself constitutes rebellion and therefore the forfeiture of land and title, Montfort sends a letter to his ‘most excellent lord’, assuring him they are doing all this for his safety. They want to free him from the clutches of the evil advisers around him. Henry is having none of it. He writes back, ‘We do not care for your safety or your affection, but defy you as our enemies’. Richard and Edward are furious at being accused of giving the king false counsel. They send their own letter to Montfort and his cohorts, warning they will do everything in their power to ‘injure your persons and property’. Edward even boasts of ‘hanging or drawing’ the lot of them after it’s over. After receiving these letters, Montfort leads his men through the ritual of withdrawing their homage and fealty to the king. As night falls, they ascend the South Downs where, out of sight of the town, he knights the young nobles and addresses the troops. The men pray, are absolved by the bishops, and paint white crosses on their outer garments. Below in the priory, Henry earmarks money for the aid of the Holy Land, a sign that his unfulfilled crusader’s vow is bothering him. He’s a man with a phenomenal memory and knows that tomorrow is the 45th anniversary of the death of William Marshal, the man who knighted him when, as a fair-haired boy of nine, he was called to throne in the middle of another civil war.

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