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Montfort, Simon de, earl of Leicester

Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, 1208?–1265, leader of the baronial revolt against Henry III of England.

Early Life

He was born in France, the son of Simon de Montfort, leader of the Albigensian Crusade. After his father's death, he received the claim to the earldom of Leicester, inherited from his grandmother. He went to England in 1229, and two years later his earldom was recognized by Henry III. He became one of the king's advisers and in 1238 married Eleanor, Henry's sister. In 1240, Simon distinguished himself on crusade in Palestine under Richard, earl of Cornwall.

The Gascon Campaigns

Returning to France in 1242, he joined Henry III in the Gascon campaigns of 1242–43. Simon was preparing to go on a new crusade when in 1248 Henry sent him to Gascony with unlimited powers to bring order out of the anarchy of petty feudal wars and rebellions against English authority. Simon was skillful and ruthless in using military force to crush the turbulent Gascon barons and achieved a somewhat unstable order. But loud Gascon protests provoked Henry in 1252 to call Simon to an inquiry in England. After a bitter quarrel with the king was temporarily ended, Simon returned to Gascony, only to be interrupted a second time by a royal order to desist in the middle of his campaign so that young Prince Edward (later Edward I) might take Gascony in charge.

Leader of the Baronial Opposition

By 1258 Simon was an active member of the baronial opposition that forced the king to turn over the power of government to a committee of 15 (of whom Simon was one), which ruled under the Provisions of Oxford, supplemented by the Provisions of Westminster of 1259. Divisions soon appeared in the baronial party, and in 1261, when a majority of the barons consented to an unfavorable compromise with the king, Simon left England. There was, however, renewed discontent in England following Henry's annulment (1262) of the provisions, and in 1263 Simon returned to assume leadership in the Barons' War.

Simon won a great victory at Lewes in 1264 and became master of England, which he intended to place under a form of government similar to that prescribed in the Provisions of Oxford. However, he could achieve no legal settlement with the king and so ruled as virtual military dictator. His famous Parliament of 1265, to which he summoned not only knights from each shire but also, for the first time, representatives from boroughs, was an attempt to rally national support, but at the same time he was alienating many of his baronial supporters. In 1265 his most powerful ally, Gilbert de Clare, 8th earl of Gloucester, deserted and with Prince Edward joined the nobles of the Welsh Marches to start the wars again. Simon de Montfort was defeated and killed at Evesham.

Bibliography

See C. Bémont, Simon de Montfort (tr. by E. F. Jacob, 1930); R. F. Treharne, The Baronial Plan of Reform (1932); F. M. Powicke, King Henry III and the Lord Edward (1947) and The Thirteenth Century (1953).

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Montfort IV, Simon de, earl of Leicester

Montfort IV, Simon de, earl of Leicester (1208–65). Earl Simon was no stranger to controversy in his lifetime, and has been the subject of extraordinary controversy ever since his death at the battle of Evesham (1265). Then, the victorious royalists dismembered his body in revengeful exultation; a detested traitor had met his end. But his followers found solace in the rapid emergence of a cult. Evesham abbey, where his mutilated remains were buried, became the centre of a pilgrimage, and the cult took hold so fast that the attempt was made to suppress it. But so strong was popular canonization that it defied suppression and, within thirteen years of his death, over 200 miracles had reputedly occurred. A ‘political’ saint was born.

It is as a supposed martyr for justice and the liberties of the realm that Simon has largely attracted both denigration and adulation ever since. Nineteenth-cent. scholars saw the baronial movement for reform, which Simon came to lead, as a formative phase in the making of the English constitution, his famous Parliament of 1265, to which knights and burgesses as well as barons and clergymen were summoned, being a crucial step on the road to democracy. A popular, creative statesman, the champion of oppressed classes, had emerged. The view of Earl Simon as a liberal statesman has been carried into our own times, most notably by Treharne, but Powicke reacted sharply, considering Simon to be a fanatic, a moral and political crusader, whose arrogance and stubbornness wrecked the early promise of the reform movement enshrined in the provisions of Oxford (1258). Recent work, particularly on the early history of Parliament, has tended to diminish Simon's reputation so far as his longer-term historical significance is concerned. What does seem clear is that Simon was no great radical or social reformer. Rather, he accepted the social order of his day and took support from whatever quarter he could once it became apparent that he could not unite the magnates behind him. But that does not necessarily mean that he was purely a cynical manipulator and self-seeker. Popular veneration suggests otherwise.

S. D. Lloyd

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"Montfort IV, Simon de, earl of Leicester." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Montfort IV, Simon de, earl of Leicester." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/montfort-iv-simon-de-earl-leicester

Montfort, Simon de, Earl of Leicester

Montfort, Simon de, Earl of Leicester (1208–65) French-born leader of a revolt against Henry III of England. Montfort distinguished himself on crusade. Resentful at being forced to cede power in Gascony to the future Edward I, Montfort led the rebel barons in the Barons' War (1263). He won the Battle of Lewes (1264), and formed a Parliament. Edward defeated and killed at Evesham.

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"Montfort, Simon de, Earl of Leicester." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Montfort, Simon de, Earl of Leicester." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/montfort-simon-de-earl-leicester