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WHO WAS SIMON DE MONTFORT, EARL OF LEICESTER?*

  • John Maddicott (a1)

Abstract

This paper surveys the political career and personal life of Simon de Montfort. Derived largely from the author's biography of Montfort, it lays stress on his initial position as an outsider in English politics whose military abilities, diplomatic usefulness and personal charisma fostered his rise to power at the court of Henry III, but who subsequently fell out with the king and eventually became his fiercest opponent. It describes his position as lord of the honour of Leicester, from which town he expelled the Jews, and it goes on to assess the paradoxical and contrasting elements in Montfort's character, which combined deep piety and religious fervour with avarice and a self-seeking desire for his own and his family's advancement. It argues that personal differences, based largely on a strong sense of grievance and reflecting some of these character traits, rather than constitutional principles, lay behind his opposition to Henry III. It concludes by reviewing Montfort's role in the period of baronial reform and rebellion, 1258–65, and by describing his legacy, both to Henry III in his later years and to Edward I.

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This lecture followed the opening of the De Montfort University Heritage Centre by the Royal Historical Society's president and formed part of the university's parliamentary and Magna Carta commemorations.

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1 A full account of Montfort's career will be found in Maddicott, J. R., Simon de Montfort (Cambridge, 1994), which provides comprehensive references to the sources.

2 Bémont, C., Simon de Montfort (Paris, 1884), 343–53.

3 Maddicott, Montfort, 1–7.

4 Nichols, J., The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester (4 vols. in 8, 1795–1815), i. i. appendix, 38; The Letters of Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, trans. Mantello, F. A. C. and Goering, J. (Toronto, 2010), 65–9; Maddicott, Montfort, 15–17.

5 Flores Historiarum, ed. H. R. Luard, Rolls Series (3 vols., 1890), ii, 504; Maddicott, Montfort, 109, 308.

6 The Chronicle of William de Rishanger of the Barons’ Wars, ed. J. O. Halliwell, Camden Society (1840), 6; Maddicott, Montfort, 9, 350–1.

7 Maddicott, Montfort, 49–52. For Eleanor's life, see now L. J. Wilkinson, Eleanor de Montfort: A Rebel Countess in Medieval England (2010).

8 L. W. V. Harcourt, His Grace the Steward and Trial of Peers (1907), 112–14; Maddicott, Montfort, 23.

9 Maddicott, Montfort, 24–8.

10 Ibid ., 106–24. For the trial, see Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. H. R. Luard, Rolls Series (7 vols., 1872–83), v, 287–96, and The Letters of Adam Marsh, ed. and trans. C. H. Lawrence (2 vols, Oxford, 2006–10), ii, 78–91.

11 Maddicott, Montfort, 127–8.

12 Maddicott, J. R., ‘Magna Carta and the Local Community’, Past and Present, 102 (1984), 44–8; Carpenter, D., The Struggle for Mastery: Britain, 1066–1284 (Oxford, 2003), 350–1; Maddicott, Montfort, 126.

13 Weiler, B. K. U., Henry III of England and the Staufen Empire, 1216–1272 (Woodbridge, 2006), 147–70; Maddicott, Montfort, 128–9.

14 Maddicott, Montfort, 50, 129–33.

15 Treaty Rolls, i: 1234–1325, ed. P. Chaplais (1955), 48; Maddicott, Montfort, 183.

16 Maddicott, Montfort, 135–7.

17 Manners and Household Expenses of England in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, ed. T. H. Turner, Roxburghe Club (1841), xviii–xix; Paris, Chronica Majora, v, 366, 371–2; Maddicott, Montfort, 30, 76, 121.

18 Maddicott, Montfort, 90–2, 101–2, 205–6, 243–4.

19 Chronica de Mailros, ed. J. Stevenson, Bannantyne Club (Edinburgh, 1835), 207–16; Chronicle of William de Rishanger, ed. Halliwell, 6–7; Maddicott, Montfort, 87–90.

20 Maddicott, Montfort, 79–84, 91–5.

21 Ibid ., 4–6.

22 Letters of Grosseteste, trans. Mantello and Goering, 171–2; Maddicott, Montfort, 99–100, 176.

23 Chronicle of William de Rishanger, ed. Halliwell, 6–7.

24 Maddicott, Montfort, 100–1.

25 Ibid ., 47, 149.

26 Ibid ., 150–72, 178–9, 184–5; Brand, P., King, Barons and Justices: The Making and Enforcement of Legislation in Thirteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 2003), 1541 .

27 Documents of the Baronial Movement of Reform and Rebellion, 1258–1267, ed. R. F. Treharne and I. J. Sanders (Oxford, 1973), 222–3; Maddicott, Montfort, 158, 261, 361.

28 Maddicott, Montfort, 166–9, 353–4.

29 Flores Historiarum, ed. Luard, ii, 227; Maddicott, Montfort, 84–7, 161–2, 170, 363.

30 Maddicott, Montfort, 183–8, 218–19, 358–60.

31 Ibid ., 270–8.

32 Ibid ., 284–9, 314–17; Maddicott, J. R., The Origins of the English Parliament, 924–1327 (Oxford, 2010), 254–61.

33 Maddicott, Montfort, 314–15.

34 Ibid ., 322–7.

35 Flores Historiarum, ed. Luard, ii, 504; Maddicott, Montfort, 310.

36 Rishanger, William, Chronica et Annales, ed. Riley, H. T., Series, Rolls (1865), 32 ; Maddicott, Montfort, 327–9.

37 Maddicott, Montfort, 331–42. For the slaughter in the abbey, see de Laborderie, O., Maddicott, J. R. and Carpenter, D. A., ‘The Last Hours of Simon de Montfort: A New Account’, English Historical Review, 115 (2000), 411–12.

38 Maddicott, Montfort, 366–7; Brand, Kings, Barons and Justices, 185–6.

39 For the cult, see ‘Miracula Simonis de Montfort’, in Chronicle of William de Rishanger, ed. Halliwell, 67–110, and Valente, C., ‘Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, and the Utility of Sanctity in Thirteenth-Century England’, Journal of Medieval History, 21 (1995), 2749 .

40 ‘Annales de Dunstaplia’, in Annales Monastici, ed. H. R. Luard, Rolls Series (5 vols., 1864–9), iii, 217; Maddicott, Montfort, 214.

41 See Johnson, The Rambler, No. 93, Tuesday, 5 Feb. 1751.

42 Chronicle of William de Rishanger, ed. Halliwell, 41–2; Maddicott, Montfort, 317–18.

* This lecture followed the opening of the De Montfort University Heritage Centre by the Royal Historical Society's president and formed part of the university's parliamentary and Magna Carta commemorations.

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Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
  • ISSN: 0080-4401
  • EISSN: 1474-0648
  • URL: /core/journals/transactions-of-the-royal-historical-society
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