1264: the blog begins

Henry III versus Simon de Montfort, from the British Library manuscript Royal 16 G VI, Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, after 1332, before 1350

Henry III versus Simon de Montfort, from the British Library manuscript Royal 16 G VI, Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, after 1332, before 1350

This illustration from a French chronicle gives an attractively simplified view of the Barons’ War.  The reality was rather more complex than a mounted combat between Henry III and Simon de Montfort, picturesque as that might appear. This year, 2014, could be a good opportunity to take a closer look at events, week by week. The 750th anniversary of the battle of Lewes, and the other events of 1264, seem worth remembering, even if likely to be overshadowed by other anniversaries this year and next.

David Carpenter’s blogs for 1257 and 1261 showed how much material is available, in the fine rolls and other records of this period, to build up a detailed account. Those years were chosen because their calendars largely coincided with the years when the blogs appeared. Of course, 1264 was a leap year, and 2014 isn’t; but the calendars do align from 1 March onwards, with Easter day falling on 20 April in both years. And 1264 should provide plenty of material for a blog: Louis IX of France’s attempt at mediation, in the mise of Amiens; the drift towards all-out war; the initial royal success at Northampton; de Montfort’s victory at Lewes, and the captivity of the king; the queen massing an invasion force in France, and the popular response in defence of England’s shores; a new constitution, establishing rule by a small council, with the king as a figurehead; the papal legate’s attempts to intervene; and the war in the Welsh Marches, ending with the marchers’ submission and agreement to go into exile.

Comments and corrections would be welcome. Contributions on any aspect of the year would be even more welcome. In the absence of volunteers, arms will be twisted …

 

MParis heading

When the year began, king Henry was in France, or on his way there.1 Henry was heading for Amiens, where Louis IX was to consider the submissions of the king and his baronial opponents, and deliver his judgment on their conflicting claims. Queen Eleanor was already in France, having stayed there after Henry’s previous meeting with Louis IX in September-October 1263. There was also a group of royalist exiles in France, including the king’s influential counsellor John Mansel, who were alleged to be lobbying for French support against the baronial party. Henry had left his brother Richard of Cornwall in charge of the government in England, and it was Richard who attested the relatively few letters patent issued in England in January and February 1264. According to one chronicle, the lord Edward collected a large army after Christmas, and devoted himself to plunder and arson; but according to another, he accompanied his father to France.2

Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, recognized as the leader of the baronial movement, should have been travelling to Amiens too. He had set out from his castle at Kenilworth, and had only reached Catesby, Northamptonshire, when his horse fell. De Montfort’s leg was broken, and he had to return to Kenilworth.3

The arbitration at Amiens had been agreed late in 1263, as part of an uneasy, and widely disregarded, truce. After a year of varying fortunes, neither side could claim victory, or even a clear chance of victory. Henry had the support of most of the magnates, and had won over the lords of the Welsh Marches. One of their leaders, Roger Mortimer, had been granted de Montfort’s three manors in Herefordshire, where fighting and looting continued.4 At the end of December, the marchers had been instructed to seek a truce with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the Welsh leader who had led a successful revolt against English domination.5 Henry had resumed control of the machinery of central government, but the loyalty of the counties was less secure. On 20 December, Henry sent a propaganda letter to all the counties, denying that he had tried to bring foreigners into the country, and pledging that he would always keep his oath made at Oxford – that is, to observe the provisions for good government; a few days later, he had appointed keepers in 22 counties, with a military role distinct from the sheriffs’ administrative functions, apparently preparing for conflict.6

Henry’s opponents could rely on the city of London, run by a populist mayor who had overthrown the old city hierarchy. The Londoners had saved de Montfort from being trapped by Henry’s forces outside London on 11 December. The baronial party also held Dover castle, and thus commanded the main route into England from the Continent. Early in December, Henry had been refused entry to the castle, by a custodian loyal to the baronial council. Many of the bishops also backed reform, but the Pope had appointed a legate, Guy Foulquois, with instructions explicitly hostile to de Montfort.

Such was the situation as the year began.

  1. The classic account of this period, R.F. Treharne’s The Baronial Plan of Reform, says on p. 337 that Henry crossed to France on 27 December 1263, and on p. 387 that Henry was at Dover on 1 January 1264. The first date derives from Thomas Wykes’ chronicle, Annales Monastici [Ann Mon] IV, 139, the second from Chancery records (CPR 1258-66, 376). Unfortunately, Treharne’s work ends in January 1264, and his promised second volume, The Barons’ War, 1264-68, never appeared.
  2. Chronicle of Bury St Edmunds, 28; Ann Mon III, 227. Michael Prestwich, Edward I, 41, is clear: ‘Edward accompanied his father to Amiens for the negotiations.’
  3. Ann Mon, III, 227.
  4. Ann Mon, III, 226.
  5. Close Rolls 1261-64, 373.
  6. CPR 1258-66, 357-8.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply