Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester.
It was not hard for William the Conqueror to ask for whatever he wanted, and to take it, whether the owners liked or not. By the time of King John the injustice and cruelty throughout the land, forced the barons to make King John promise to keep to the rules laid down in Magna Charta. When John died he was succeeded by his son Henry who was a boy of nine years of age, at that time nearly all the government of the country was carried on by the king and the king's Ministers; that is to say, by those officers whom he appointed.There were soon many difficulties, when Henry grew old enough, he took as his wife Eleanor of Provence, who was from the south of France, and Eleanor was, of course, a foreigner, and all her friends were foreigners too. These friends came over in number to England. and they all expected to receive from King Henry some of the riches of England, either in money or in lands . Some were given castles and lands, others were made archbishops or bishops . They despised the English people, and were cruel and insolent to them, the English, both rich and poor, soon began to hate these ill-mannered foreigners, who took their land and their money, and who treated them so badly.
Simon was the son of the Frenchman, he renounced his claims on Amaury to his eldest brother, in return for the sole right to revive the Montfort claim of the earldom of Leicester. This claim derived from his father's mother, Amicia, sister of Robert IV (died 1204), the last Beaumont earl of Leicester, whose lands had been divided between Amicia and her younger sister Margaret, countess of Winchester. Simon, came over to England to see King John who had deprived Simon's father as a French subject (1207), helped by his cousin Ranulf, earl of Chester, obtained the honour of Leicester and did homage to Henry III in 1231. He became Earl of Leicester, and soon shared the feelings of the English barons, strong true and brave he became one of Henry's favourites, marrying Henry's sister Eleanor on Jan. 7, 1238, thus breaking Eleanor's earlier vow of chastity and offending the English noblemen .
Henry, alarmed, turned against Simon and Eleanor, driving them from England (August 1239). Simon went on crusade (1240-42) with Richard, with whom he was now reconciled, and won great prestige among the lords of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, who asked their absentee king, the emperor Frederick II, to appoint Simon as his viceroy there. Returning to England, Simon joined Henry's disastrous invasion of France (1242), winning distinction by covering Henry's escape after his defeat at Saintes. Reconciled with Henry, and accepting an unfavorable settlement of Countess Eleanor's dower claims, Simon now made Kenilworth Castle (a royal grant) his headquarters. He was friends with the reformer Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, and Robert's friend, the Oxford Franciscan Adam de Marisco. Although regarded as a king's man, Simon was one of the committee of 12 appointed to handle the acute crisis of 1244 between Henry and his barons.
A story is told of Simon which shows us what kind
of a man he was. The king promised that all the foreign barons should be made to give up their castles. Now Simon
himself was a foreigner, and held the two great castles of Kenilworth and Odiham.
But Simon was not going to be the first to break a law which ho had helped to make. He gave up his two castles at once. But if he was to obey the rule, he was determined that others should do so too. His enemy, William of Valence, Earl of Pembroke, vowed that, whether the king ordered it or no, he at any rate would not give up his castles. Simon turned fiercely upon him "You shall either give up your castles or your head, " said he. William of Valence was wise enough to know that what Simon de Montfort said he meant, and in order to keep his head he soon gave up his castles.
In 1248 Henry held a parliament he had took the control of government into his own hands he was guided by his favourites and foreigners. He asked Simon to pacify the English-held Duchy of Gascony, in southwestern France. Simon, was eager to join Louis IX's crusade, and accepted reluctantly, stipulating for full powers as regent for seven years, without fear of recall and with full refund of expenses incurred. Treating the Gascon nobles as rebels outside the law, he crushed the revolt and restored order; the Gascons appealed to Henry, accusing de Montfort of oppression and threatened revolt. The matter was complicated by Simon's personal contest with Gaston de Béarn, the leading rebel.
|Henry, recalled Simon de Montfort for trial, the English
magnates acquitted him (1252), and he returned to Gascony to suppress the renewed revolt, but Henry now terminated
his lieutenancy. Simon, accepting a partial financial settlement, withdrew to France, though Henry had to implore
his help in his own campaign against the rebels in 1253. Such was Simon's reputation that while Louis was on crusade,
the French magnates invited Simon to become regent. Henry's behaviour over Gascony, convinced Simon that Henry
was unfit to rule, and the King's disastrous undertaking, at Pope Innocent IV's behest, to conquer Sicily for his
son Edmund, strengthened this conviction. Discussions with Grosseteste, Marisco, and other Franciscan intellectuals
had fired Simon's mind with visions of a new order in both church and state, and he joined the other leading English
barons. A party of barons formed themselves together. At the head of them was Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester.Quarrels
soon broke out between the king and the barons.
The king broke the promises which had been made by his father in Magna Charta. Simon de Montfort and the barons took up arms against him, as the barons had done against John, and made him swear once more that he would keep to the Charter.
Seal of Simon de Montfort
In order that the barons and the people might have some way of making the king keep his promise in the future, Simon de Montfort declared that there must he a Council called to help the king in the government of the country.Henry's Provisions of Oxford (June 1258).
The reform began well, but by October 1259 divisions appeared between the conservative wing, led by Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, that sought only to limit abuses of royal power, and the radicals, led by Simon, that sought to bind the entire baronage to observe the reforms forced upon the King and his officers. Simon exacerbated the quarrel by putting himself in the wrong by attempting to secure a settlement of his own and his wife's justifiable personal claims on Henry. Henry, allying with the Gloucester faction, shattered baronial unity early in 1260, by October 1261 Henry isolated Simon, who was forced abroad; but the King's annulment of the Provisions, after he had received papal absolution from his oath to observe them, revived general disaffection (1262), and Simon returned (April 1263) to lead a rebellion that restored the Provisions (July 1263). But baronial unity had vanished, and, despite passionate support from the lesser barons, the county knights, the men of London and the Cinque Ports, and many clergy, Simon was forced to accept arbitration by Louis IX (December 1263). By the Mise of Amiens (January 1264) Louis totally annulled the Provisions and all consequent reforms:
Simon rejected the negotiations, and defeated Henry at Lewes (May 14, 1264), capturing Henry and his son, the lord Edward.Simon then governed England, striving unsuccessfully for a legal basis of consent. The first Parliament, called together over seven hundred years ago, was made up of the barons, some who were enemies of Montfort, and a hundred and twenty Churchmen, besides these there were the " Members," as we now call them, chosen from each county and town. The county members were called " Knights of the Shire," and. indeed that is what they are called to this day. But all this alienated Simon de Montforts chief ally, the young Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, who joined the royalist Marcher lords and secured Lord Edward's escape at Hereford (May 1265).
The Fall of Montfort.
Before long King Henry thought himself strong enough to take up arms a second time against de Montfort. He was joined by his son Edward, who had fought bravely by his father's side at the Battle of Lewes. Montfort. himself led his troops, and went out to, meet the king. But this time everything was against him. Under the command of Prince Edward, whom Montfort himself had long ago instructed in the duties as a soldier the King's army rapidly and skillful maneuvered Simon behind the Severn, at Kenilworth (August 1), and trapped Simon's little force at Evesham (Aug. 4, 1265) in Worcestershire. Simon rode out in front of his troops to look at the army of the enemy. When he saw it drawn up in good order, and arranged with great art, he knew at once who must be the general who had displayed so much skill. " By the arm of St. James ! " he cried, '' they come on in wise fashion but it was from me that they learnt It." He knew that his pupil, the young Prince Edward, was leading this great army against him.
The battle began, and soon the small band with Simon were cut down or forced to fly. Everywhere the victory rested with the young prince. Simon himself was struck from his horse, and, at last, fighting bravely, was killed upon the field of battle. Thus died. A foreigner by birth, but he had learnt to become one of the great men of English history.The king was glad enough to get rid of Parliament, and so this first Parliament soon came to an end.
Through Parliament the people of England have been able to speak, and to say by what laws they wished to be governed. To understand, the words " Imperial Parliament," underneath speeches and Acts which are passed in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, we must understand how it came about. It was said by those who wrote about Parliament long ago as in the time of Simon de Montfort and Henry III.,
" They who are ruled by the laws know those laws best ; they who make daily trial of them are best acquainted with them; and since it is their own affairs which are at stake, they will take more care, and will act with an eye to their own peace."
When a new Parliament is called together -, notices are sent to the Sheriff of each County Division, telling them to send to Parliament a ' Knight of the Shire for that part of the country - . There are eight knights of the shire for Devonshire. Little Rutlandshire has only one, and Yorkshire has no less than twenty-seven. But when we talk about Knights of the Shire, we generally call them " County Members. Those who are sent to Parliament to speak on behalf of the towns were called "Burgesses. We now call them " Borough Members .