The Rebellion of Simon de Montfort
Rebecca Smith, Dickson College 1999

Almost ten years of political unrest marked the latter half of the reign of King Henry
III of England. This climaxed in a civil war in 1264, led by Simon De Montfort, Earl
of Leicester, the King's brother-in-law. Although a prominent character in this
movement, De Montfort was not entirely responsible for this unrest. The causes of
this rebellion were not only due to the actions of Henry himself, but also to those of
his barons, who actually instigated the rebellion themselves, before Simon de
Montfort's involvement. There was a fight for support of such barons causing more
unrest in the nobility, and Henry's choice of associates also raised a few questions.
Henry and Simon De Montfort's uneasy relations, which had already existed for
around twenty years, may also have contributed to this situation.

One of the major causes of discontent was Henry's demands on his barons, especially
for money. Those barons who felt that the King ignored their advice, attempted to
recover their power and correct matters which offended them. They were after such
changes as the reaffirmation of the Great Charter, resistance to papal taxes, dismissal
of Henry's foreign favourites, and the appointment of a permanent committee of the
Great Council to control the crown. The barons were united due to resentment against
the King, and were not united under the private grievances of one magnate until
Simon De Montfort became their leader towards the end of this movement. The
barons tried to curb the King's incapacity and irresponsibility (Knowles from
Churchill, 1969: p.547), with the Provisions of Oxford formed in 1258, planning to
rule for the duration of Henry's reign. After this a council of fifteen magnates was set
up to advise the King, Simon De Montfort among them. In 1261 however, the Pope
released Henry from his oaths to the Provisions of Oxford, and of Westminster
(previous to Oxford), Henry deposing ministers and officials appointed by the barons.
There were now two major conflicting parties in the government. Not long after this,
Simon began to take control of the opposition, so bringing Simon and Henry into
direct conflict. However, even though Simon was becoming the leader of the barons,
he had not previously played a leading role in creating the Provisions of Oxford and
the like.

Another main cause of open rebellion in England at this time, as Churchill informs us,
was competition for support of the barons. During the first part of the rebellion, Henry
had great trouble in retaining the barons' support, seeming only to be able to perform
those things that displeased them. During the latter part, once Simon De Montfort
became the leader, the two men began to compete for popular support. Simon did not
have as much support from the barons as had been with the rebellion in the beginning,
however, as many had returned to Henry's side. On several occasions during the
course of the rebellion, some barons, such as Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester,
switched their positions of support, depending on the situations, achievements and
influences of either side. Such changing support and changing opposition would have
assisted in causing extra conflict in the rebellion, especially between Simon and
Henry as they competed for the support of the many barons.

The King's favourites also became a cause of conflict. In 1247, Henry's Lusignan halfbrothers
arrived in England. Ever since that time, power and patronage quickly
became the privileges of a close-knit group of the King's favoured relations and royal clerks. According to the chronicler Matthew of Paris:

"At about this time (1251) Henry III was daily and rapidly losing the
affection of his native-born subjects. Like his father John before him,
Henry attracted and enriched all the foreigners he could find.
Englishmen were spurned and deprived as outsiders were brought in:

the king's brother, Richard, earl of Cornwall; the queen's uncle,
Boniface of Savoy, archbishop of Canterbury, and his brother Peter,

Count of Savoy; Aymer de Valence, the king's half-brother and bishopelect
of Winchester; and Peter of Aigueblanche, bishop of Hereford,
among others invited in from all quarters. … What was more, the
Poitevins busily oppressed the nobles of England…in thousands of
ways. If one were to recount only the injuries inflicted by William de
Valence, another half-brother of the king… it would be enough to
bring tears to the eyes." (in Hallam, 1995,p72).

Many magnates, Simon De Montfort among them, found themselves being gradually
excluded from the inner circle of influence, so they became increasingly distrustful of
the King's conduct of affairs, and disliked those favourites who had robbed them of
their esteemed positions in the royal court. Henry's dealings with his foreign
favourites (Hoffman/Flynn, 1955: p.177), and also his ill-judged dealings with

particular foreigners outside of England, caused resentment among many of his
barons, as well as loss of trust and support.

Simon De Montfort, being brother-in-law to Henry, often enough had private
grievances to press. According to Churchill, Eleanor would vigorously back her
husband's demands for satisfaction. However Henry was very grudging in giving
financial provisions to his sister. This resulted in recurrent squabbling between Henry
and Simon. The list of complaints and unresolved grievances steadily lengthened, the
crises in their personal relationship becoming more and more strained. Despite all of
this, Simon still had a high position in court, and was never long out of royal favour.
This meant he was often at the centre of public affairs. Things that were said and done
in their personal relationship early on however, may well have been the cause of
problems in later years, during the rebellion, especially when Simon turned directly
against Henry, becoming the leader of the movement.

Even though Simon De Montfort was certainly involved in the unrest of King Henry
III's reign, it can be seen that he was not entirely responsible for what occurred. His
strained personal relationship with Henry, his involvement with the rebellious barons
and his dislike of Henry's favourites would certainly all have contributed to the
problems of the unrest. However, other factors that influenced the movement's
development were the dissatisfied barons, the struggle to gain the support of the
barons, and the dislike of Henry's favourites and his foreign dealings. Many a time
Simon De Montfort is considered the leader and instigator of this rebellion, but when
the evidence is examined, it is clear that De Montfort didn't contribute as much to the
situation as his reputation mistakenly informs us.
Rebecca Smith, Dickson College 1999

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Hallam, Elizabeth(ed.), 1995, Chronicles of the Age of Chivalry, Tiger Books
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