When the legate becomes the pope

In the aftermath of Simon de Montfort’s victory at Lewes in May 1264, Cardinal Guy Foulquois tried to go to England to take up his office as papal legate. Simon and the coterie of bishops that supported his cause saw only trouble from it and denied him entry. The cardinal gave them a deadline of 1 September to admit him (that’s today) else he’d excommunicate the lot of them. As for that Peace of Canterbury they sent him, the legate had only one question: Were you out of your goddamn minds? They really expected him to approve a parliamentary state that subjected the king to a constitutional monarchy? When Guy informed Louis IX of this first ever form of government in Europe, the king of France was outraged and sneered that he would rather stare at the rumps of oxen in the field than rule like that (‘quod mallet post aratrum glebas frangere, quam huiusmodi principatum habere’). Peace talks dragged on until Guy was summoned back to Rome to elect a pope to succeed the one that had just died. And the winner is… Guy Foulquois. Now Clement IV, he told the new legate not to seek any ‘false peace’ until Montfort and all his progeny were ‘plucked out of the realm of England’. So angry was he with Simon that he told one Spanish prince that he could marry anyone he wanted as long it was no relation of that ‘pestilent man’. Perhaps later hearing what happened to Montfort’s corpse at Evesham softened his fury and not quite two years after the battle he ordered inquiries to be made whether Simon had died absolved and therefore his sentence of excommunication could be lifted.

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