The speech Simon reportedly addressed to the troops before Lewes is full of religious hyperbole, with little indication of the oratory skills he was renowned for. He might have used his favourite expression ‘by the arm of St. James’, though unlikely to the extent that Shakespeare’s Henry V invokes St. Crispin before Agincourt. What is certain is that his march out of London to give battle to the king was an incredible act of courage, even if he did have few other options, and such a speech would have to reflect his supreme confidence. Henry V may tell his men that the lion’s share of honour awaits those who survive. Simon simply tells his to take heart, because the day is already won.
‘My lords and men. The king has rejected our offer for peace. He refuses to recognize our fidelity and has spurned us as enemies. And so I say unto you that since there never was a good king who denied his subjects their rights, we hereby renounce our homage to him and offer our fidelity instead to the majesty that is England.
‘Many if not all of you have never been in battle before. Your faith has beckoned you here and that alone shall become the security of this great land. At midnight, we shall commence our ascent to the high ground above Lewes. As Moses before us, so too shall we climb the mountain. And when dawn breaks behind the backs of our enemies, the first glow of light in the heavens shall be a testament, an affirmation of our oath and will in all things. It shall avow that which we know is already true, that the day ahead of us has already been won, for honour and justice are on our side.’
From Simon de Montfort, a play in four acts