Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester

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The Simons de Montfort relief in the US House of Representatives

Simon V of Montfort (* 1208 ; † August 4, 1265 ), 6th  Earl of Leicester , was an English nobleman of French descent from the noble family Montfort-l'Amaury and brother-in-law of King Henry III. of England . Montfort was the leader of the first revolution on English soil, de facto ruler of England and with the exclamation named after him De Montfort's Parliament but the founder of the "House of Commons" ( House of Commons ). He died fighting his brother-in-law's troops.


Montfort was the youngest son of Simon IV of Montfort and Alix de Montmorency . He was probably born shortly before the start of the Albigensian Crusade , which his father had led until his death in 1218. As a younger son, Montfort grew up almost penniless in France, but from 1226 participated in the revolt against the regent Blanka of Castile , whereupon he had to leave the country. In April 1230 he was first at the court of King Henry III. called in England.

Montfort was of Anglo-Norman descent through his paternal grandmother and thus had inheritance rights in England. This legacy consisted mainly of the Earldom of Leicester , but since his father had once declared himself loyal to the French king as a member of the French nobility , the English Montfort lands were owned by King Henry III. withdrawn and later given elsewhere. Simon de Montfort as well as his older brother, Amalrich , are now campaigning for the restitution of the disputed property. In the winter of 1230, the brothers agreed on a mutual renunciation of inheritance demanded by the monarchs of England and France, which was intended to prevent an overlapping of family interests in both kingdoms. While the older brother, Amalrich, kept the family estates in France, Simon was to take over the English inheritance. In addition, he performed on August 13, 1231 towards King Heinrich III. the feudal oath for his grandmother's inheritance and when Ranulph de Blondeville, 4th Earl of Chester , died without heir in October of that year , he was actually able to take possession of most of it, because the Earl of Chester had owned Montfort in previous years - Inheritance has been transferred.

With this, Simon de Montfort was naturalized into the English nobility and became a close confidante of King Henry III. ascended. But despite his family origins, he was viewed with suspicion by the established Anglo-Norman feudal society. The English barons assigned him to the circle of those nobility ( called Poitevins ) who came from the mainland and who had a strong position at court and a great influence of trust in the king.

Marriage and advancement

The coat of arms of Simons de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester

On January 7, 1238, with the consent of the king, Montfort married the king's sister, Eleanor, in the royal chapel of Westminster (St. Stephen) . When the marriage became public, it immediately provoked protests from the leading representatives of the nobility, headed by the brother of the King, Richard of Cornwall , who felt they had been neglected in this matter. To accommodate the barons, Montfort was expelled from the royal council. The marriage also met with criticism from the English clergy, as Eleanor had agreed to take the veil after the death of her first husband, William Marshal , in 1231. Although she had not sworn this under oath, Montfort was assigned to travel personally to Rome to have the marriage approved by the Pope there. On his journey he made the acquaintance of Emperor Friedrich II , whom he met after his victory at Cortenuova and from whom he received a personal recommendation for the Pope. On May 10, 1238, Montfort received from Pope Gregory IX. finally the legitimizing dispensation for his marriage. On October 14, 1238, Montfort was back in England, where shortly afterwards his wife in Kenilworth gave birth to their son Henry , named after the king. On February 2, 1239, he was finally named Earl of Leicester in full form and in June 1239 he became the godfather of his nephew and later King Eduard Plantagenet .

On August 9, 1239, while going to church together, there was a surprising personal break between Montfort and the king. The chronicler Matthäus Paris reported that the king suddenly made serious accusations against his brother-in-law about the marriage with his sister, which was canonically unlawful. The previous papal dispensation, through which the marriage was ultimately legitimized, seemed to be ignored by the king. Montfort and his family left London on the same day and then went into exile in France.

Recent historical research suspects a political motive above all behind the king's criticism of Montfort's marriage. Because only a few months earlier, Emperor Friedrich II. From Pope Gregory IX. banned, which started a great conflict between the two highest secular powers of the Christian world. Apparently, King Henry III intended. of England to distance himself from his imperial brother-in-law in order not to lose papal favor, especially since he had once placed his own kingdom under papal protection against the threat to France. The removal of Montfort from the royal court, who had become friends with the emperor on his trip to Rome, may have represented a further commitment by the king to the papal cause.

In royal service

During his exile, Montfort corresponded with a number of influential English clerics of his time: Robert Grosseteste , Bishop of Lincoln , Walter de Cantilupe , Bishop of Worcester , and the Franciscan Adam Marsh . In April 1240, he owed his resumption of royal favor to the intercession of the former, combined with his return to the English royal court. Together with his brother-in-law, Richard of Cornwall, he took the cross and took part in the English procession of the crusade of French barons ( Crusade of the Barons ), which was initiated by King Theobald I of Navarre in 1239. While his brother-in-law was sailing directly from Marseille to Acre , Simon and his wife made a stop in Brindisi , Italy , to meet again with Emperor Frederick II. While his wife then traveled back to England alone, he followed the crusade to Palestine. In the Holy Land, Montfort enjoyed such an outstanding reputation among the local barons that they asked their imperial rulers to appoint him their regent. After the emperor rejected this request, Montfort traveled back to Europe in the summer of 1241.

It is possible that he met the emperor again on the journey in Apulia, but in any case his brother Amalrich, who had also participated in the crusade, died there.

Once in France, Montfort immediately joined King Henry III's army. who is currently on a campaign against King Ludwig IX. led by France. In the Battle of Taillebourg (July 1242), however, the English troops suffered a defeat against the French. Back in England, Montfort was once again in the favor of Henry III, from whom he was now given Kenilworth Castle. In October 1247 he negotiated an extension of the armistice with France from 1242 to a further five years in Paris as an English agent. In the following year he took the cross again to join the crusade of Louis IX. to Egypt ( Sixth Crusade ) to join, but then renounced to participate after he was led by Henry III. had been appointed Seneschal of Gascony , the last French possession of the Plantagenets . In Gascony, Montfort had to fight against the threat from Castile and ongoing resistance from local vassals, especially Vice Count Gaston VII of Béarn , which was made even more difficult by a lack of financial and material support from England. Ultimately, he had to use private funds to maintain English rule in Gascony. Despite this commitment, he got through the complaints of the Gascognischen nobles with Heinrich III. again in disgrace, which is why he had to face the charge of high treason by exceeding his competencies in a regular court case in 1251. At the hearing, Montfort appeared as if he were equal to, not subject to, the king and commented on the accusation of treason: “ That word is a lie and you were not my souvereign it would be an ill hour for you when you dared utter it . ”(“ This word is a lie, and if you were not my ruler, the hour of this utterance would be a dark one for you. ”)

By defying the king, Montfort was able to win the sympathy of his English peers, to whom he ultimately owed the acquittal of all charges. Nevertheless, he returned to Gascony in 1252 and then preferred to settle in France. Financial issues in particular continued to weigh on his relationship with his brother-in-law. So Henry III hesitated. the payment of the Wittum from Eleonore's first marriage and continued to refuse compensation for Montfort's private commitment in Gascony. When the ruling Queen Blanka of Castile died in France in 1252, Montfort was reigned over the country by the French court for the time of the absence of Louis IX. which he refused. With the mediation of Louis IX, who returned home in September 1254. at least a small part of his credit was repaid to him by the English king.

Opponents of the king - the Provisions of Oxford

On the memorial stone in front of the former Abbey of Evesham , consecrated on July 18, 1965 by the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Simon de Montfort is honored as "a pioneer of a representative system of government".

While Montfort spent his years withdrawn in France, King Henry III maneuvered himself. increasingly in deep conflict with the English barons. The decisive factor was Heinrich's strong commitment to winning the Kingdom of Sicily for his younger son, Prince Edmund Crouchback . This throne was courted by Pope Alexander IV , who hoped for the destruction of the Hohenstaufen under King Manfred . King Henry III had accepted this offer without consulting the barons and levied a crusade tax to finance the company. But it was precisely this that led to profound bitterness among the barons, on whose shoulders the financial and military burden was primarily to be placed. In doing so, however, the king exceeded his status among the barons, with whom he was already heavily indebted due to an empty crown treasure. Heinrich III was also against Montfort. became a debtor due to the purchase of the County of Bigorre , in which Montfort had paid for most of the purchase price. To compensate, however, he was granted usage rights in the Bigorre.

On May 10, 1255, Montfort and Peter of Savoy negotiated another three-year armistice with France. He then returned to England, where he took over the leadership of the barons after the election of Richard of Cornwall as Roman-German King in 1257. In the same year there were major weather-related crop failures in the country, the prices of grain rose and a famine broke out. The king's inability to counteract these grievances led to the open front of influential nobles including Montfort, Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Gloucester , and Roger Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk , at the Parliament of Westminster on Easter 1258 once a generation before them, the barons believed that the king, like his father John Ohneland, represented a threat to England and that its rule had to be brought under controlled supervision, as was once provided for in the Magna Charta . Under Montfort's guidance, the barons refused to support the king's plans for Sicily and openly denounced the political influence of foreign favorites (Poitevins), especially the royal half-brother William de Valence, 1st Earl of Pembroke . King Henry III there was nothing left but to agree to a reform of the state administration, which was to take place in a subsequent meeting of twelve royal and baronial representatives in Oxford at Pentecost 1258.

Montfort was one of the most influential members of this body, which was derisively called "Mad Parliament" by its opponents. On June 11, 1258, a document that is considered to be England's first written constitution, the Provisions of Oxford, passed it . It was the baroniale party nearly enforce all their positions against the royal representatives and specify that in future, have the task of a panel of fifteen persons were only identified three of the king of which would come up with "state and royal duties" to deal ( "With the common business of the realm and of the king" ) - the state authority was de facto transferred to this body. This also stipulated a regular appointment of parliament and expulsion of all Poitevins, including their expropriation. With the brother of the Earl of Norfolk, Hugh Bigod, a grand judiciary was also appointed from the ranks of the barons, who should henceforth hold the jurisdiction. While King Henry III. Immediately recognized the validity of the commission on oath, opposed the Poitevins around William de Valence, who also enjoyed the support of Prince Edward Plantagenet and Henry of Almain . It was only after the Poitevins had gambled away their remaining sympathies by murdering a brother of the Earl of Gloucester that their front was smashed. De Valence and his ilk had to leave England by the end of 1258, their castles were handed over to the state administration. Princes Edward and Henry now also swore the commissions.

Second war of the barons

In 1259, Montfort stayed again in France with his wife and the king, where on December 4th, as representative of parliament, he was one of the signatories of the Treaty of Paris , which ended the generational conflict between the English royal family of Plantagenet and the French crown . While he immediately returned to England, Henry III extended. his stay in France. With an increasingly arrogant demeanor that sometimes assumed dictatorial features, Montfort drew the displeasure of his followers. In April 1260 the king returned to England, who immediately barricaded himself in the Tower of London. During his time in France he had strengthened his relations with the Pope, who still counted on the English king as an ally against the Hohenstaufen and therefore supported the royal position.

At a parliament in the Tower convened by the king, the king succeeded in taking the sheriff's right of appointment into his hands, which ran counter to the provisions of the Oxford Commission. Thereupon Hugh Bigod resigned from his office as chief justice officer, whereupon the barons elected a new one in Hugh le Despenser , so that the loss of authority of this office could not counteract. In the spring of 1261 the king succeeded in gaining control of London with the help of recruited mercenaries, after which William de Valence and other Poitevins returned to England. On June 14, 1261, he convened a new parliament in Winchester , which, however, was no longer composed in the form of 1258. Appealing to a papal bull, King Henry III declared himself. here exempted from all his obligations to the barons, and thus the Provisions of Oxford invalid. Then the Earl of Gloucester and other high barons went over to the royal side and the Earl of Cornwall also pleaded against the validity of the commission at Easter 1262. The baronial opposition did not end there, however, because the majority of the knighthood as well as the city citizens were on his side. And when the Earl of Gloucester died shortly afterwards, his son, Gilbert the Red , immediately confessed to the barons' cause.

In the following years the country was paralyzed between the conflicting factions, which increasingly began to fight each other militarily with mercenaries. At the beginning of 1263 Montfort gathered a large army of barons near Dover , of about 160 knights - more than the armed forces of the king and that of his son Edward  - with whom he succeeded in taking several loyal castles in the south of England. He also let the Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd go unhindered in the border marks, which especially the powers of Prince Edward could be kept in check. The queen had transferred the crown jewels to the Templars to ensure the funding of the royal mercenary troops. The king was again forced to barricade himself with his family in the Tower of London, from where Edward went on a foray into the New Temple . Under the pretext of examining the jewels or wanting to release them, he not only stole the jewels, but also the gold and silver of the Templars. This incident caused the population and citizens of London to overflow again to the side of Montfort, the Queen tried to flee to her son's troops in Windsor, but was recognized by the angry population and had to seek refuge in St Paul's Cathedral . On July 15, 1263, Montfort entered London to the cheers of the people. The king as well as the crown prince had to legitimize the commission on a new parliament on September 9th in St Paul's.

In spite of this success, the party of barons could not yet be sure of their victory, for the nobility of the north in particular still held on to the king's cause. This kept the balance of power between the conflicting parties in balance, without either of them being able to force a decision. On July 28, 1263, Pope Urban IV released the English king from all obligations and had the crusade preached against the opposition barons. In this situation, France's King Louis IX declared himself. willing to intervene as an arbitrator in the matter. From both sides Ludwig IX. had previously been asked for an arbitration award several times, but this had always refused until then. In December 1263, however, Montfort and the barons immediately declared themselves ready to recognize any judgment on the commission on the part of the French king, and the royals followed suit with a similar declaration only a few days later. On January 23, 1264, Louis IX. of France in the Mise of Amiens , where Montfort was not personally present, the Provisions of Oxford in the sense of a monarchical omnipotence as invalid.

Rulers of England and the end

Contrary to their word, the barons around Montfort did not intend to recognize the Amiens arbitration award and again prepared for battle. On January 15, 1264, King Henry III returned. returned from France, with a papal legacy in his wake, which reaffirmed the judgment in March. Montfort now openly allied with Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and fortified his castles in the border marks. He was able to successfully repel an attack by the Crown Prince on Gloucester on March 13, and on April 5 he suffered a defeat against him in Northampton , in which his son, Simon the Younger , fell into captivity. On May 6th, Montfort made a final request for peace to the king, with the condition that the commission be recognized, but this was immediately rejected. Only a few days later, on May 14th, he won the Battle of Lewes over the united royal army, the king, the crown prince and several of their supporters were captured. To calm the country down, Montfort sent peacekeepers to all counties. On June 23, 1264, however, he called a new parliament in London, in which not only barons and church princes, but also four knights from each county and delegations from all the communes of the country should be represented. In order to restore peace between the crown and the people, a three-member council was to be elected from Parliament in future, which in turn was to determine a nine-member supervisory body, according to whose advice the king could issue decrees. Only parliament could make changes to the staff of these councils. King Henry III In his imprisonment there was nothing left to do but to acknowledge these events. In addition to Montfort himself, the Bishop of Chichester and the Earl of Gloucester were elected to the first council of three , with Montfort as the dominant force, de facto rule over England.

The first parliamentary system of rule in both English and European history was hardly established when there was severe criticism of Montfort's rule. Critics recognized him as a usurper who primarily pursued the interests of his family. The further imprisonment of the king and the royal family also caused a stir. The royals who had escaped at Lewes gathered on the Flemish coast, whereupon Montfort gathered an army at Canterbury . Diplomatic negotiations with France in Boulogne , aimed at recognizing the new British government, were unsuccessful. Also on the part of Rome no concession was to be expected as long as Henry III. was in captivity. On October 20, 1264, the excommunication of the Earls of Leicester, Gloucester and Norfolk took place. In the winter of 1264, some knights from the Welsh Marche tried to free the Crown Prince from his prison in Wallingford , whereupon he was transferred to Kenilworth, where he was allowed a splendid court, in the presence of Montfort's wife and aunt of the Prince.

At the same time, King Heinrich III. approve the calling of a new Parliament at Westminster Hall. This should consist mainly of spiritual prelates, but also of five counts and two knights each from all counties and the cities of York and Lincoln , as well as two citizens from each of the other “ boroughs ” and four men each from the “ Cinque Ports ”. For the first time ever, Parliament met in such a form. The large number of communal representatives vis-à-vis the aristocratic members stands out in particular and illustrates the growing importance of the common class in the political and economic field in England in the 13th century. With De Montfort's Parliament so that the reasoning of the "House of Commons" (used in the writing of history House of Commons ) equated. It met on January 20, 1265 and was primarily intended to deal with the release of the Crown Prince from captivity. On February 15th it broke up again. On March 31, Crown Prince Edward undertook to accept a general amnesty and to refrain from any future persecution of Montfort, Gloucester and the citizens of London. Furthermore, he should no longer tolerate any foreign men as counselors, nor should the Pope ever be allowed to intervene in English affairs. King Henry III, Princes Edward and Henry of Almain, and ten bishops swore this agreement, which was to be valid in all parts of the plantation rule, including Ireland, Gascon and Scotland. On March 19, Montfort met his wife and royal nephew in Odiham .

Simon de Montfort and his son Henry are killed in the Battle of Evesham. (Illustration from the 13th century)

Despite all this, Montfort's power was in decline after the days of his parliament. In April 1265, his former chief ally, the Earl of Gloucester, withdrew from him to the Welsh Marche, where a rising was looming. Immediately afterwards the loyal Earls of Warenne and Pembroke landed with an army on the coast of Pembrokeshire . On May 28th, Crown Prince Edward took advantage of the only casual supervision of his person to flee. He immediately allied himself with Warenne, Valence and also Gloucester, who vowed to restore the old institutions of the kingdom. Montfort hastily allied again with Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in the Pipton-on-Wye Agreement . His son, Simon, was ambushed by the Crown Prince at Kenilworth on the night of July 31st, thereby imprisoning the Earl of Oxford. On August 3, Montfort was received in Evesham Abbey on his way to face Prince Edward. When the next morning at mass he was told that his son was approaching, he intended to ride out to meet him. The ruse of the Crown Prince was recognized too late, who had wielded the Montfort banner captured at Kenilworth and thus lured Montfort into a tactically disadvantageous position. Its supporters had already cut off the escape route to Evesham, which is why Montfort had to face the fight, outnumbered. The Battle of Evesham was one of the bloodiest in England's medieval history. In addition to Simon de Montfort himself, his son Henry and the chief justice officer Hugh le Despenser and at least 160 knights were killed. Even King Henry III, who was in Montfort's retinue, was almost killed by his son's knights because he had not made himself known in time.

Montfort's body was torn to pieces by the prince's soldiers, who had become uncontrollable, and his head is said to have been presented to the Lady of Wigmore. The remains of his body, which the monks of Evesham found on the battlefield, were buried in their abbey.


Simons de Montfort statue on the Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower in Leicester, built in 1868

With the death of Montfort, the movement of the barons led by him and with it the political and social upheavals they created came to an end for the time being. King Henry III and, above all, Crown Prince Edward immediately removed the provisions of the Oxford Commission and the resulting principle of a parliamentary separation of powers from the English state. Rather, they re-established themselves in the feudal-hierarchical order so characteristic of the high Middle Ages, in which the monarchical state authority proceeded from the will of the king. The privileged position of the baronial class, which he had fought for a generation earlier in the Magna Charta , of course remained untouched, which is why he continued to push for constant participation in the politics of the kingdom. Yet another 30 years would pass before another English parliament was convened.

Simon de Montfort's nephew, godson and opponent at Evesham, Edward Plantagenet, convened a parliament as King Edward I in 1295, which later became the so-called Model Parliament . The composition of this body was based entirely on that of De Montfort's Parliament from 1265 and gave both the nobility and the bourgeoisie of England a voice before the king. Just like the rebelling barons of 1215, Montfort set an important milestone in the history of English parliamentarism with his work .

In England today several squares, streets and public facilities are named after Simon de Montfort, especially in Leicester with its De Montfort University and De Montfort Hall. A statue of him is part of an ensemble of the Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower of Leicester, built in 1868, next to him are William Wigston , Thomas White and Gabriel Newton . Since 1967 a window picture can be seen in St. Andrews Church in Old Headington / Oxford , which was made in memory of the actress Vashti de Montfort-Wellborne (1869–1930). Part of the window shows the actress enthroned in the form of her namesake, Queen Vashti of Persia . The other part shows the armed Simon de Montfort on horseback with his banner in hand. In an inscription underneath, he is honored as "Founder of the English Parliament". The Wellborne family claimed a familial ascendency from the Montforts, which is why Vashti Wellborne had appropriated its name.


The following children resulted from his marriage to Eleanor of England:


  • Katherine Ashe: Montfort the Founder of Parliament. Xlibris Print, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4505-7423-5 .
  • Simon Schama: A History Of Britain 1603–1776 . BBC Worldwide, London 2001, ISBN 0-563-53747-7 .
  • Kenneth O. Morgan (Ed.): The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain . Oxford University Press, Oxford 1984, ISBN 0-19-822684-5 .
  • Reinhold Pauli : Simon von Montfort, Earl of Leicester, creator of the House of Commons. Laupp, Tübingen 1867.
  • Charles Bemont: Simon de Montfort, Comte de Leicester: Sa Vie (1207–1265), Son Role Politique en France et en Angleterre. Paris 1884.
  • JR Maddicott: Simon de Montfort. Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-521-37636-X .
  • Mandell Creighton: Life of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. Adamant Media, 2001.
  • John Sadler: Second Baron's War: Simon de Montfort and the Battles of Lewes and Evesham. Pen and Sword, Barnsley 2008, ISBN 978-1-84415-831-7 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Reinhold Röhricht , Regesta , p. 286 - the letter from the barons to the emperor is dated May 7, 1241.
  2. Simon Schama: A History Of Britain 3000BC – AD1603 . BBC Worldwide, London 2000, ISBN 0-563-38497-2 , p. 175.
  3. Simon Schama: A History Of Britain 3000BC – AD1603 . P. 177.
  4. The Montforts, the Wellesbournes and the Hughenden Effigies. Records of Bucks, 1896, Vol. VII
predecessor Office successor
Simon IV of Montfort Lord High Steward
Edmund Crouchback
Simon IV of Montfort Earl of Leicester
Edmund Crouchback