December 1264 - March 1265
The peak of Simon’s power came in December 1264 when he sent out a summons for parliament to meet in January, principally to take up the matter of Edward’s freedom. The assembly would later become noted for its breadth of representation. While the magnates were represented too little and the clergy too much, they sat as a body together with knights from the counties and, for the first time, ordinary townsfolk from the boroughs. The Great Parliament, as it’s been called, was very much a partisan gathering, and there’s no evidence to suggest Montfort envisioned the inclusion of commoners as part of a permanent arrangement. He needed the support of local communities to shore up his political base now that the barons were all but lost to the cause. But an innovation it was and in time Edward himself would come to recognize the value of soliciting support beyond the notoriously undependable nobility. In the case of this particular parliament, it was agreed that Edward should be released on his oath to abide by the Ordinance, meaning he too, as king, would have to rule according to advice and consent. He also had to accept an exchange of land and castles with Montfort, which was meant to isolate him from his marcher friends. Simon still wasn’t taking any chances and had the newly-freed heir guarded over by a train of knights under his son Henry. But he did undertake one action designed to placate Edward, the arrest of Robert Ferrers, the earl of Derby, who was using Edward’s captivity to ravage his lands as payback for their private feud. Clare, however, took the arrest to mean he could be next. The final break came when Henry de Montfort and his brothers challenged Gilbert and his brother Thomas to a tournament near Dunstable. Simon, who was still trying to bring order back to the land by prohibiting armed men from roaming about, quickly put a stop to it, telling his sons that he was more than willing to lock them up where they would have the benefit of neither sun nor moon. Gilbert was nevertheless incensed on account of all the money he had spent preparing for the tournament and so stalked off to sulk. When he refused an offer of an alternative date and venue, Simon marched to Gloucester to confront his difficult partner. Clare made a pretense of negotiating; he was already in collusion with the royalists and playing for time until a force under William de Valence and John de Warenne landed in Wales. Simon was still in a good position to put down any serious uprising. He had the king, his chief advisers and enough men to deal with whatever treachery Clare was planning. And then Edward escaped.
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