Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Who Are All These Kings?: Simon

[An image showing Who Are All These Kings?: Simon]Simon de Montfort rarely, if ever, features in lists of Kings of England.

This is understandable to a certain extent, as he was never the crowned King, but he did wield the power of a King for a few months in 1265.

Simon was born in 1208, the son of another Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who showed enormous cruelty as one of the leaders of the Albigensian crusade against the Cathars.

The elder Simon was killed at the siege of Toulouse in 1218. His sons, Simon and Amaury, agreed to split their father`s claims to land in England (Simon) and France (Amaury).

Simon, who had been with his father on the Albigensian campaign, pursued his claims to the Earldom of Leicester with little initial success.

In 1238, he married Eleanor, the sister of Henry III. She had previously been married to the powerful Wlliam Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, after whose death she took a vow of perpetual chastity, which she disregarded to marry Simon.

He was finally invested as Earl of Leicester in 1239, and went on Crusade in 1240.

But his relations with his brother-in-law, never good, began to deteriorate, and in 1263 he took over the leadership of the Barons` Revolt.

Simon and his army won the crucial Battle of Lewes in 1264, after which he effectively took over the government of England, while holding Henry captive, notably at Kenilworth Castle.

Simon is credited with bringing in democracy to England. He called to Parliament representatives of the boroughs and shires, which was a step in the right direction, as it no longer consisted necessarily of the King`s friends and supporters.

It wasn`t democracy, of course. The Barons` Revolt sought to limit the power of the King and put it in the hands of the baronial class. But it was a first step, and he did start making some reforms.

However, some of these reforms went a little too far for some of the other barons, and he started to lose support.

In 1265, Henry`s son Edward (later the redoubtable Edward I) defeated Simon at the massacre known as the Battle of Evesham, and Henry was restored to the throne.

Simon was killed in the battle, and parts of his body were sent to various of his supporters, including his widow. His head was displayed on London Bridge, a fate reserved for prominent traitors.

What was left of Simon was buried at Evesham Abbey, where a cult grew up around his grave.

Simon`s son Henry de Montfort was also killed in the battle, although according to some stories he is the original Blind Beggar, remembered in the public house of that name in Whitechapel.

One of Simon`s captains, Roger Godberd, became the leader of a band of outlaws in Sherwood Forest, and may be the original of Robin Hood.