Posts Tagged ‘Simon de Montfort junior’

Sunday 9 November 1264: the Exchequer and Pevensey

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

The court spent this week at St Paul’s. There were plans to go to Northampton: the sheriff was ordered to repair the buildings of Northampton castle before the king’s arrival, as they were in danger of falling down. (CLR 1260-67, 147)

The Exchequer was operating relatively normally, having recovered from its closure in the spring of 1264, and at last had a permanent head. Roger de la Legh had been acting treasurer since November 1263, combining this post with being chancellor of the exchequer; he had been re-appointed acting treasurer by the baronial council at the beginning of Michaelmas term. On 3 November, the bishop of London and Hugh Despenser, the justiciar, presented to the barons of the Exchequer the new treasurer, Henry, prior of St Radegund’s (an abbey in Bradsole, Kent). Henry had previously held office between July and November 1263, when de Montfort was briefly in charge of the government, so may have been seen as a supporter of the baronial cause; he only remained in office until the summer of 1265, when the royalists returned to power. (E 368/39 m. 3d; Treharne, Baronial Plan, 330)

The normal business of the Exchequer was continuing. During this week, the accounts for Hampshire for 1263-64 were audited. The two sheriffs who had held office during the year owed £46, which they were to pay in January, together with a further £74 which they had not collected, but could collect. (E 368/39 m. 18-9) The Exchequer was also the site for the ceremony of the mayor of London taking his oath of office. Usually, this was a formality, but in 1263 the elected mayor, Thomas fitz Thomas, had not been admitted to office. Fitz Thomas was the populist mayor who had overthrown the traditional authority of the city magnates, represented by the aldermen. This year, the citizens of London came before the king, sitting in the Exchequer, and presented fitz Thomas as mayor; he was admitted and took the oath. (E 368/39 m. 2d, which confusingly calls the mayor Thomas fitz Richard; Cronica Maiorum, 70)

Although the threat of invasion had diminished, military operations continued against the royalists still resisting within England. Simon de Montfort junior was still besieging Pevensey castle, where royalists had held out since their escape there after the battle of Lewes. This was an expensive business, and Simon junior was to receive £800 from the bishop of Winchester, in part payment of his expenses. (CPR 1258-66, 386; CLR 1260-67, 145)

Sunday 6 April 1264

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

The Battle of Northampton

by Adrian Jobson

April’s onset witnessed the end of any lingering hopes for a negotiated settlement between Henry III and the baronial opposition. On Wednesday 2 April, the king authorised a safe conduct for Peter de Montfort, a close friend and supporter of Simon de Montfort, to meet the royal envoys at Brackley in Northamptonshire.[1] But the earl of Leicester’s recent offer to accept the Mise of Amiens in its entirety, the only proviso being that the king should ‘remove the aliens and govern through natives’, was still unacceptable to Henry as it maintained a key principle of the reformist programme that his choice of ministers should be restricted.[2] For Henry, with whom the military advantage lay, there would be no conditional peace. On Thursday 3 April, therefore, he ordered the unfurling of the royal standard at Oxford.[3] This symbolic act, which marked the formal commencement of hostilities, was the opening salvo in a six week campaign that would begin with an astonishing victory for the royalists.

Northampton, lying some forty miles north-east of Oxford, was a key strategic castle town that lay at the crossroads of several important road networks. Strongly garrisoned, it shielded the main Montfortian stronghold at Kenilworth from a royalist attack. Commanded by Simon de Montfort the Younger, the earl of Leicester’s second son, Northampton’s garrison was mainly drawn from the surrounding shires and had been reinforced by the arrival of some students from the recently dispersed University of Oxford. Henry, having received intelligence that the town’s defences were in a poor state of repair, marched his now formidable army northwards. Arriving before Northampton’s walls on the evening of Friday 4 April, his demand for admittance to both the town and castle was immediately refused.[4]

At sunrise on Saturday 5 April, therefore, the royalists launched a two pronged assault upon the town. Sending several siege engines in a diversionary attack to engage the defenders at Northampton’s southern gate, the main royalist force directed its assault upon a weakened section of the town’s north-western wall adjacent to the gardens of St Andrew’s Priory. Soon the walls were breached, possibly with some assistance from the French prior Guy de Busseria as he was subsequently said to have secretly undermined the garden’s walls in advance and shored up the damaged section with wooden props.[5] The Young Simon, having learned of the breach, bravely attempted to rally the defence, but was soon captured when his horse stumbled and threw him unharmed into the town’s ditch. News of his capture caused immediate panic. Some threw down their arms and sought sanctuary in nearby churches. Others retreated into the castle, where they intended to offer further resistance.[6] Night fell, but next morning the depleted garrison realised that the castle’s poorly maintained walls were incapable of resisting a prolonged siege. Left with little alternative and in order to avoid further unnecessary bloodshed Peter de Montfort, who had assumed the command of the rebel forces following the Young Simon’s capture, surrendered to Henry. Joining them in captivity were more than 55 barons and knights – including Baldwin Wake, Adam of Newmarket and Adam le Despencer – the loss of whom considerably weakened the rebel cause.[7] In capturing Northampton, Henry had driven a wedge between the two heartlands of Montfortian power: the Midlands and the South. For Montfort, the war had commenced with the most inauspicious of starts.


[1] CPR 1258-66, 310.

[2] J.R. Maddicott, Simon de Montfort (Cambridge, 1994), 265-6; A. Jobson, The First English Revolution: Simon de Montfort, Henry III and the Barons’ War (London, 2012), 109-110.

[3] R.F. Treharne, ‘The Battle of Northampton, 5th April 1264’, in Simon de Montfort and Baronial Reform: Thirteenth-Century Essays, ed. E.B. Fryde (London, 1986), 307.

[4] Dunstable, 229-30; C.H. Lawrence, ‘The University of Oxford and the Chronicle of the Barons’ Wars’, EHR, 95 (1980), 100, 107-10.

[5] Dunstable, 229-30; Treharne, ‘Northampton’, 309-10.

[6] Treharne, ‘Battle of Northampton’, 309-11; Jobson, The First English Revolution, 109-110.

[7] Treharne, ‘Battle of Northampton’, 312-3.