Posts Tagged ‘Lewes’

Sunday 11 May 1264: the road to Lewes

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

With the rebels having retreated from Rochester, Henry was now concentrating on the ports of the south-east coast. The Cinque Ports could provide ships for a blockade of London, and there was the possibility of bringing in troops from across the Channel: queen Eleanor had remained in France when Henry returned to England in February, and was trying to arrange for military support for her husband’s cause. On 7 May, she wrote to Alphonse of Poitiers, urging him to seize any English ships in his ports, which included La Rochelle; despite Eleanor’s appeal, and her references to the treachery of the barons who were striving to disinherit the king and his children, Alphone refused. (Howell, Eleanor of Provence, 209)

The gatehouse of Battle Abbey, 1792, by Michael Angelo Rooker

The gatehouse of Battle Abbey, 1792, by Michael Angelo Rooker

Henry’s forces began the week in Battle, then moved to Winchelsea, where they spent a few days ravaging the countryside and helping themselves to the wine in the port, before returning to Battle. Henry was making preparations for the next stage of his campaign in the south-east. According to Walter of Guisborough, while at Winchelsea Henry made peace with the sailors of the Cinque Ports and came to an agreement for their support. The London annals claim that some of the mayors and leading men of Winchelsea and the other ports came over to the king, believing that they would be well rewarded. The Worcester annals imply that it was a less amicable arrangement, with Henry taking hostages from the Cinque Ports to make them submit. (Henry had certainly taken hostages from Winchelsea, as the close roll records that he sent them back from Battle on 9 May, with instructions to summon ships, supplies and men to the king’s service.) Henry ordered the men of the Weald to assemble with arms in Canterbury on Monday 12 May. He may have intended to attack the rebel stronghold of Dover. This would effectively have left the rebels isolated in London, had it come to pass, but the king’s opponents were also on the move. (CPR 1258-66, 316, 359; Close Rolls 1261-64, 383-4; Battle chronicle, in Bémont, 376; Guisborough, 192; Gervase, II, 236; London annals, 62; Ann Mon, IV, 451)

De Montfort led the forces of the barons and Londoners out of the city on 6 May. As a hostile chronicler put it, de Montfort had gathered together a great multitude of barons, together with a countless crowd of Londoners, because the number of fools is infinite. Hearing that the rebels were advancing, Henry moved from Battle to Lewes, which had the advantage of a strong castle belonging to his loyal supporter John de Warenne. By 11 May, Henry was established in Lewes priory, while de Montfort was only about eight miles away at his own manor of Fletching. (Cronica Maiorum, 62; Ann Mon, IV, 148; Carpenter, Battles of Lewes and Evesham, 16-18)

Sunday 10 February 1264: preparing for war

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

While Henry III remained in northern France – by 10 February he had reached Wissant, the usual port for the Channel crossing – the news of the Mise of Amiens had led to a rapid resumption of hostilities in England. Rather than settling the dispute between king and barons, Louis IX’s total rejection of the barons’ arguments had removed the possibility of a compromise. As early as 4 February, lord Edward, Henry of Almain and earl Richard, who were then at Windsor, had heard that baronial forces were moving westward. They wrote to the sheriffs of Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire: they understood that certain barons planned to cross the Severn with horses and arms, to link up with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and attack Roger Mortimer’s castles in the Marches; the sheriffs were to break down all the bridges across the Severn, except the bridge at Gloucester, which was to be closely guarded, and to destroy the ferries and block the fords. Roger Mortimer had earlier been instructed to meet Llywelyn on 10 February, to negotiate a truce, and he was sent further, unspecified, instructions for these negotiations on 7 February. This may have been an attempt to forestall the alliance of the barons and the Welsh against the king and his supporters in the Marches, particularly Mortimer. Earl Richard himself travelled westwards, reaching Oxford on 7 February and Worcester on 9 February.1

The background to this baronial incursion into the Marches was as much personal as political. In December, Henry had granted to Mortimer three manors in Herefordshire, which had earlier been assigned to Simon de Montfort. Mortimer had looted these manors, and held de Montfort’s bailiff captive until he paid a ransom of 100 marks. It appears that de Montfort had refrained from retaliating, while awaiting the news from Amiens. He now sent his sons Simon and Henry, with a great army, to avenge their father by attacking Mortimer’s castles and towns, which they wasted and burned.2

The disorders in the Marches had their impact on the normal activities of the civil service. Little routine business was conducted – the Calendar of the Fine Rolls records only three fines between 4 February and 5 March. The Exchequer audited the accounts of the sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire on 5 February, but that was the last audit for the year. Several more had been scheduled, but they were postponed, or simply didn’t happen. In some cases, this was directly attributable to the outbreak of hostilities. The audit for Surrey and Sussex, which should have happened on 5 February, was cancelled because the sheriff was in Wales. On 9 February, earl Richard told the Exchequer to postpone the Wiltshire audit, because the sheriff had to stay in Salisbury, to ensure the security of the castle. Eventually, the pipe roll for 1263 contained only nine sheriffs’ accounts, out of a potential 28.3

Something to look forward to

who_leeds

Like The Who, but slightly quieter, the International Medieval Congress will be live at Leeds University in July. For those interested in 1264, the undoubted highlight will be a series of three sessions on Thursday 10 July, on the theme The Battle of Lewes, 1264: Reflections on the 750th Anniversary. These sessions, organized by Sophie Ambler and Kathleen Neal, cover the religious and intellectual background, the military and political events, and some immediate consequences of the battle:

I. Ideas and Principles (session 1531), moderator Michael Clanchy

  • Felicity Hill, Papal Excommunication: A Threat to the Montfortian Regime, 1264-1265?
  • Jennifer Jahner, Veritasluxcaritascalor: Metaphysical Politics and The Song of Lewes
  • Sophie Ambler, The Role of Churchmen in the Montfortian Regime, 1264-1265

II. Conflict and Combatants (session 1631), moderator Kathleen Neal

  • Andrew M. Spencer, Brothers-in-Arms: Gilbert and Thomas de Clare in the Barons’ Wars
  • Adrian Jobson, Reluctant Commander: The Military Career of Richard of Cornwall
  • Fergus Oakes, The Scots at the Battle of Lewes

III. Context and Aftermath (session 1731), moderator Adrian Jobson

  • Tony Moore, Criminal Plundering or Legitimate Distraint?: Perspectives on the Montfortian Campaign of 1263
  • Beth Hartland, Lewes: Repercussions in Ireland
  • Richard Cassidy, Simon de Montfort’s Sheriffs, 1264-65
Live at Lewes

The Argus has published an article on the events planned for May this year, in and around the town of Lewes, to mark the 750th anniversary of the battle.

  1. CR 1261-64, 374, 334. CPR 1258-66, 306.
  2. Ann Mon, III, 226-7.
  3. E 159/38 m. 7, 14. CR 1261-64, 334. E 372/107.