Résumé of the ‘English’ de Montfort Family

During the course of 2016 there has been a lot of interest in Simon de Montfort, the 2nd Barons’ War and the Great Siege of Kenilworth. Numerous talks have been delivered on these subjects and two questions have been repeatedly asked:

13th century image of Simon de Montfort "the younger" or Simon VI de Montfort
13th century image of Simon de Montfort “the younger”

Firstly: “Why did the young Simon de Montfort not return from France with an army to assist his fellow rebels still inside Kenilworth Castle?”

Secondly: “What became of the remainder of Earl Simon de Montfort’s family?”

I will endeavour to answer these questions as best I may.

Young Simon, and his brother Guy (the most warlike and volatile of the two), did indeed try to raise an army but King Louis IX took steps to ensure that they were not successful. England may have been France’s hereditary enemy but King Louis did not wish to create a precedent by helping rebels against another anointed King.

Guy of Montfort (1244)
Guy of Montfort (1244)

Simon and Guy eventually entered the service of the Count of Anjou. Guy soon distinguished himself in battle, was created Count of Nola and married into one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Italy – the Aldobrandeschi family.

In March of 1271, whilst in Tuscany, they heard that their cousin, Henry of Almain, had just arrived in the nearby town of Viterbo where they went intent upon revenge for the killing of their father and elder brother at Evesham. They found their cousin at prayer in the church of San Silvestro where they murdered him as he clung to the altar begging for mercy. Both Simon and Guy were excommunicated and Guy was stripped of his titles but, with the assistance of his very influential family, he escaped justice and re-joined the Count of Anjou. Several years later, whilst on campaign in Sicily Guy was captured and eventually died in a Sicilian prison. Simon became a wandering fugitive, weighed down by guilt for the sacrilege committed at Viterbo, and soon died in Siena. Interestingly, 40 years after Guy de Montfort’s death, his infamous reputation had not diminished. Danté, when creating his ‘Divine Comedy’, placed Guy de Montfort in the 7th Circle of Hell in his ‘Inferno’ where he “slid into a river of boiling blood” – clearly what Danté considered to be his just deserts!

Eleanor Countess of Leicester
Eleanor Countess of Leicester

Of the remainder of Earl Simon’s family his Countess, Eleanor, went into exile in France after her husband’s death where she lived out her life at Montargis in a house rented from the nuns. She was eventually buried in Montargis Abbey.

Their son Amaury who was the most highly educated and charismatic of the de Montfort siblings had a very successful career in the Church; studied medicine in Padua; became a Papal Chaplain and was instrumental in persuading Pope Clement to intercede with King Henry III to have Earl Simon’s mangled remains exhumed and reinterred in consecrated ground back at Evesham Abbey.

Richard, their youngest son, died in France aged around 20.

Edward I of England
Edward I of England

So, that just leaves their only surviving daughter Eleanor who, prior to the battle of Evesham, had been betrothed to her father’s ally Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales. Following Earl Simon’s defeat and death Llewelyn withdrew from the betrothal and Eleanor accompanied her mother into exile in France. Several years later Llewelyn renewed his suit and Eleanor, accompanied by her brother Amaury, set sail for Wales. Unfortunately their ship was captured by pirates and they were delivered into the hands of their cousin Edward, now King Edward I of England. Edward has sworn revenge on all of the de Montfort brothers for the murder of their cousin Henry of Almain. Amaury is known to have been in Padua at the time of the murder but, nonetheless, Edward had him incarcerated in the notorious stronghold of Corfe castle where he languished for several years before he was eventually released and returned to France.

Meanwhile Eleanor had been forced to remain at court ostensibly as Edward’s honoured guest though in reality as a hostage for Prince Llewelyn’s good behaviour. He did eventually let her go and she did marry her Welsh Prince but sadly died giving birth to their only child, a daughter, the Princess Gwenllian. Llewelyn was later killed in an ambush and King Edward had the child Gwenllian delivered to the nuns at the isolated Sempringham Priory in Lincolnshire where she grew up and joined the very strict Gilbertine Order, eventually dying aged 58 – the last of the ‘English’ de Montfort line.

Jan Cooper
December 2016

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Medieval Fare on Abbey Fields – Saturday 27th August

Medieval Fare – August Bank Holiday Weeekend Commemorative Events

Saturday 27th August – Medieval Fare on Abbey Fields – Meet King Henry  III, see the Dictum of Kenilworth and lots more. Visit the Kenilworth 750 website or the Kenilworth Web website for full details.

The Summer of Siege at Kenilworh Castle
The Summer of Siege at Kenilworh Castle

The Abbey Museum and Heritage Centre will be open from 1030 to 4.30 pm on the Saturday and again on the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday afternoons 2.30 to 4.30 pm.

The Abbey Barn
The Abbey Barn

English Heritage are staging a re-enactment of the Siege at the castle on Sunday 28th and Monday 29th, see English Heritage website for details.

English Heritage Mediaeval Fare
Image Source: English Heritage


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Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester

In January 1265 Simon de Montfort called a Parliament (in the name of King Henry III), when for the first time commoners were invited to play a small part in the decisions made. This was an early landmark in the development of Parliament which would, centuries later, result in the two house democratic parliamentary system which we have today. De Montfort’s name has been remembered through the centuries as the ‘father’ of democracy.

The de Montfort Colours
A depiction of the de Montfort colours, with a backdrop of the ruins of Kenilworth Castle.

Simon de Montfort was born at Montfort-l’Amaury, France, around 1208 and came to England in 1230 to regain the earldom of Leicester which had once been held by his family. He found favour with King Henry III, recovered the earldom and married Eleanor, the King’s sister.

Kenilworth Castle was a favourite family residence of the de Montforts. Two of their seven children were born at the castle – their eldest son, Henry, named for the King; and their last child and only surviving daughter, Eleanor. The King eventually gave the castle to Earl Simon and his wife for both their lifetimes – a generosity which he would no doubt come to regret!

Despite the fact that Earl Simon’s character and ideals were very different to those of King Henry they got on well for around 9 years but then things started to sour and they eventually found themselves on opposing sides during the so called Second Barons’ War. There was resentment of the King’s increasing power and the fact that he preferred to rely on the counsel of his foreign advisors (mainly relatives), rather than that of his own Barons, which lead to increasingly high taxation to fund some misguided and unsuccessful overseas campaigns. Notwithstanding efforts to reform the government, the situation deteriorated into civil war with Earl Simon emerging as leader of the opposition.

The arms of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester and King Henry III.
The arms of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester and King Henry III.

The battle of Lewes in May 1264 was a resounding victory for the Barons. The King, his son Prince Edward, and his brother Earl Richard of Cornwall, were taken prisoner and Earl Simon was virtual ruler of England for the next 15 months. Prince Edward escaped custody in May 1265 and began the fight to restore his father to the throne. In late July 1265 there was a skirmish at Kenilworth. Earl Simon’s second son, young Simon, was encamped with his army outside Kenilworth Castle when Prince Edward led an early morning surprise attack. Young Simon lost many men and also his banners which were subsequently used by the Prince to deceive Earl Simon into thinking that his son was approaching. By the time Young Simon and what was left of his army had recovered they were too late to save his father and elder brother from defeat and death at Evesham on 4th August 1265. Earl Simon’s body was horribly mutilated on the battle field – his head and limbs (and also his more private parts!) were hacked off and sent to different parts of the country as a warning to others.

Battle of Evesham
A 13th-century cloth depiction of the mutilation of de Montfort’s body after the Battle of Evesham. Above Simon is the body of his son Henry.

Earl Simon’s final battle was the precursor to the great siege of Kenilworth Castle which took place the following year. This was the longest siege in English Medieval history and lasted from 22nd June to 13th December 1266. 2016 is the 750th anniversary of this momentous event in Kenilworth’s history.

Bust of de Montfort in US Capitol
Plaque of Simon de Montfort from the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol. One of 23 marble relief portraits over the gallery doors depicting historical figures noted for their work in establishing the principles that underlie American law. They were installed when the chamber was remodelled in 1949-1950.

For further information concerning Simon de Montfort and the Barons’ War visit www.simondemontfort.org, the website of the Simon de Montfort Society.

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