April 30, 2019|Reports

“Simon De Montfort and the First English Revolution” – Dr Sophie Ambler

Wickham owes its market square to a charter from Henry III (1207-1272) so it was disappointing to hear from Dr Sophie Ambler that he was not one of our better kings.

Sophie’s family live in Hampshire but she lectures in medieval history at the University of Lancaster and 65 member and visitors were present on 23rd April to take advantage of a rare Hampshire opportunity to hear her excellent talk on Simon de Montfort’s “English revolution”.

The De Montfort’s were a close knit French crusader family and Simon, the younger son, came to England to make his fortune through a claim the lands of the Earl of Leicester – which included land at Odiham in Hampshire.

De Montfort was initially favoured by the King and married his sister. He became very critical of the King’s disastrous and expensive French wars and in a fury told the King he should be “locked up” for his poor leadership when in 1241 De Montfort had to fight a desperate rearguard action to protect the King.

Matters came to a head in 1258, largely because of resentment at the behaviour of the Lusignan family – distant relatives of Henry invited to England from France and treated as above the law by the King. De Montfort became the leader of the most radical group of barons and in 1264 captured the King and his son Edward at the battle of Lewes. His initial success turned to failure as his coalition of barons fragmented and Edward escaped and De Montfort was killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265.

De Montfort was a charismatic, determined and effective leader. Sophie suggested it was the family commitment to the crusader ideal that made him such an effective leader and revolutionary. He also introduced the idea of Parliaments meeting regularly to provide a check on the King’s authority (and legitimise his own) and so helped pave the way for another English revolution.

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