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History of the English People - Book III The Charter, 1204-1307
The Baron's War 1232-1272
by Green, John Richard (M.A.)

The Aliens Henry and the Baronage
Simon of Montfort Simon's early action
Simon in Gascony Simon's temper
Matthew Paris Wales
Wales and the Normans The Welsh Revival
The Welsh Poetry The Bards
Llewelyn ap Jorwerth Llewelyn and the Bards
The Welsh hopes The Provisions of Oxford
Government of the Barons      Simon and the Baronage
The Counter Revolution Simon's rising
Mise of Amiens Battle of Lewes
Simon's rule Summons of the Commons
Simon's difficulties Edward and Gloucester
Battle of Evesham The Royalist reaction
Edward Simon's Miracles
The Younger Simon Ban of Kenilworth
Close of the Struggle  

The Aliens

Once master of his realm, Henry the Third was quick to declare his plan of government. The two great checks on a merely personal rule lay as yet in the authority of the great ministers of State and in the national character of the administrative body which had been built up by Henry the Second. Both of these checks Henry at once set himself to remove. He would be his own minister. The Justiciar ceased to be the Lieutenant-General of the king and dwindled into a presiding judge of the law-courts. The Chancellor had grown into a great officer of State, and in 1226 this office had been conferred on the Bishop of Chichester by the advice and consent of the Great Council. But Henry succeeded in wresting the seal from him and naming to this as to other offices at his pleasure. His policy was to entrust all high posts of government to mere clerks of the royal chapel; trained administrators, but wholly dependent on the royal will. He found equally dependent agents of administration by surrounding himself with foreigners. The return of Peter des Roches to the royal councils was the first sign of the new system; and hosts of hungry Poitevins and Bretons were summoned over to occupy the royal castles and fill the judicial and administrative posts about the Court. The king's marriage in 1236 to Eleanor of Provence was followed by the arrival in England of the new queen's uncles. The "Savoy," as his house in the Strand was named, still recalls Peter of Savoy who arrived five years later to take for a while the chief place at Henry's council-board; another brother, Boniface, was consecrated on Archbishop Edmund's death to the highest post in the realm save the Crown itself, the Archbishoprick of Canterbury. The young Primate, like his brother, brought with him foreign fashions strange enough to English folk. His armed retainers pillaged the markets. His own archiepiscopal fist felled to the ground the prior of St. Bartholomew-by-Smithfield who opposed his visitation. London was roused by the outrage; on the king's refusal to do justice a noisy crowd of citizens surrounded the Primate's house at Lambeth with cries of vengeance, and the "handsome archbishop," as his followers styled him, was glad to escape over sea. This brood of Provençals was followed in 1243 by the arrival of the Poitevin relatives of John's queen, Isabella of Angoulême. Aymer was made Bishop of Winchester; William of Valence received at a later time the earldom of Pembroke. Even the king's jester was a Poitevin. Hundreds of their dependants followed these great nobles to find a fortune in the English realm. The Poitevin lords brought in their train a bevy of ladies in search of husbands, and three English earls who were in royal wardship were wedded by the king to foreigners. The whole machinery of administration passed into the hands of men who were ignorant and contemptuous of the principles of English government or English law. Their rule was a mere anarchy; the very retainers of the royal household turned robbers and pillaged foreign merchants in the precincts of the Court; corruption invaded the judicature; at the close of this period of misrule Henry de Bath, a justiciary, was proved to have openly taken bribes and to have adjudged to himself disputed estates.


Henry and the Baronage

That misgovernment of this kind should have gone on unchecked in defiance of the provisions of the Charter was owing to the disunion and sluggishness of the English baronage. On the first arrival of the foreigners Richard, the Earl Marshal, a son of the great Regent, stood forth as their leader to demand the expulsion of the strangers from the royal Council. Though deserted by the bulk of the nobles he defeated the foreign troops sent against him and forced the king to treat for peace. But at this critical moment the Earl was drawn by an intrigue of Peter des Roches to Ireland; he fell in a petty skirmish, and the barons were left without a head. The interposition of a new primate, Edmund of Abingdon, forced the king to dismiss Peter from court; but there was no real change of system, and the remonstrances of the Archbishop and of Robert Grosseteste, the Bishop of Lincoln, remained fruitless. In the long interval of misrule the financial straits of the king forced him to heap exaction on exaction. The Forest Laws were used as a means of extortion, sees and abbeys were kept vacant, loans were wrested from lords and prelates, the Court itself lived at free quarters wherever it moved. Supplies of this kind however were utterly insufficient to defray the cost of the king's prodigality. A sixth of the royal revenue was wasted in pensions to foreign favourites. The debts of the Crown amounted to four times its annual income. Henry was forced to appeal for aid to the great Council of the realm, and aid was granted in 1237 on promise of control in its expenditure and on condition that the king confirmed the Charter. But Charter and promise were alike disregarded; and in 1242 the resentment of the barons expressed itself in a determined protest and a refusal of further subsidies. In spite of their refusal however Henry gathered money enough for a costly expedition for the recovery of Poitou. The attempt ended in failure and shame. At Taillebourg the king's force fled in disgraceful rout before the French as far as Saintes, and only the sudden illness of Lewis the Ninth and a disease which scattered his army saved Bordeaux from the conquerors. The treasury was utterly drained, and Henry was driven in 1244 to make a fresh appeal with his own mouth to the baronage. But the barons had now rallied to a plan of action, and we can hardly fail to attribute their union to the man who appears at their head. This was the Earl of Leicester, Simon of Montfort.


Simon of Montfort

Simon was the son of another Simon of Montfort, whose name had become memorable for his ruthless crusade against the Albigensian heretics in Southern Gaul, and who had inherited the Earldom of Leicester through his mother, a sister and co-heiress of the last Earl of the house of Beaumont. But as Simon's tendencies were for the most part French John had kept the revenues of the earldom in his own hands, and on his death the claim of his elder son, Amaury, was met by the refusal of Henry the Third to accept a divided allegiance. The refusal marks the rapid growth of that sentiment of nationality which the loss of Normandy had brought home. Amaury chose to remain French, and by a family arrangement with the king's sanction the honour of Leicester passed in 1231 to his younger brother Simon. His choice made Simon an Englishman, but his foreign blood still moved the jealousy of the barons, and this jealousy was quickened by a secret match in 1238 with Eleanor, the king's sister and widow of the second William Marshal. The match formed probably part of a policy which Henry pursued throughout his reign of bringing the great earldoms into closer connexion with the Crown. That of Chester had fallen to the king through the extinction of the family of its earls; Cornwall was held by his brother, Richard; Salisbury by his cousin. Simon's marriage linked the Earldom of Leicester to the royal house. But it at once brought Simon into conflict with the nobles and the Church. The baronage, justly indignant that such a step should have been taken without their consent, for the queen still remained childless and Eleanor's children by one whom they looked on as a stranger promised to be heirs of the Crown, rose in a revolt which failed only through the desertion of their head, Earl Richard of Cornwall, who was satisfied with Earl Simon's withdrawal from the Royal Council. The censures of the Church on Eleanor's breach of a vow of chaste widowhood which she had made at her first husband's death were averted with hardly less difficulty by a journey to Rome. It was after a year of trouble that Simon returned to England to reap as it seemed the fruits of his high alliance. He was now formally made Earl of Leicester and re-entered the Royal Council. But it is probable that he still found there the old jealousy which had forced from him a pledge of retirement after his marriage; and that his enemies now succeeded in winning over the king. In a few months, at any rate, he found the changeable king alienated from him, he was driven by a burst of royal passion from the realm, and was forced to spend seven months in France.


Simon's early action

Henry's anger passed as quickly as it had risen, and in the spring of 1240 the Earl was again received with honour at court. It was from this moment however that his position changed. As yet it had been that of a foreigner, confounded in the eyes of the nation at large with the Poitevins and Provençals who swarmed about the court. But in the years of retirement which followed Simon's return to England his whole attitude was reversed. There was as yet no quarrel with the king: he followed him in a campaign across the Channel, and shared in his defeat at Saintes. But he was a friend of Grosseteste and a patron of the Friars, and became at last known as a steady opponent of the misrule about him. When prelates and barons chose twelve representatives to confer with Henry in 1244 Simon stood with Earl Richard of Cornwall at the head of them. A definite plan of reform disclosed his hand. The confirmation of the Charter was to be followed by the election of Justiciar, Chancellor, Treasurer, in the Great Council. Nor was this restoration of a responsible ministry enough; a perpetual Council was to attend the king and devise further reforms. The plan broke against Henry's resistance and a Papal prohibition; but from this time the Earl took his stand in the front rank of the patriot leaders. The struggle of the following years was chiefly with the exactions of the Papacy, and Simon was one of the first to sign the protest which the Parliament in 1246 addressed to the court of Rome. He was present at the Lent Parliament of 1248, and we can hardly doubt that he shared in its bold rebuke of the king's misrule and its renewed demand for the appointment of the higher officers of state by the Council. It was probably a sense of the danger of leaving at home such a centre of all efforts after reform that brought Henry to send him in the autumn of 1248 as Seneschal of Gascony to save for the Crown the last of its provinces over sea.


Simon in Gascony

Threatened by France and by Navarre without as well as by revolt within, the loss of Gascony seemed close at hand; but in a few months the stern rule of the new Seneschal had quelled every open foe within or without its bounds. To bring the province to order proved a longer and a harder task. Its nobles were like the robber-nobles of the Rhine: "they rode the country by night," wrote the Earl, "like thieves, in parties of twenty or thirty or forty," and gathered in leagues against the Seneschal, who set himself to exact their dues to the Crown and to shield merchant and husbandman from their violence. For four years Earl Simon steadily warred down these robber bands, storming castles where there was need, and bridling the wilder country with a chain of forts. Hard as the task was, his real difficulty lay at home. Henry sent neither money nor men; and the Earl had to raise both from his own resources, while the men whom he was fighting found friends in Henry's council-chamber. Again and again Simon was recalled to answer charges of tyranny and extortion made by the Gascon nobles and pressed by his enemies at home on the king. Henry's feeble and impulsive temper left him open to pressure like this; and though each absence of the Earl from the province was a signal for fresh outbreaks of disorder which only his presence repressed, the deputies of its nobles were still admitted to the council-table and commissions sent over to report on the Seneschal's administration. The strife came to a head in 1252, when the commissioners reported that stern as Simon's rule had been the case was one in which sternness was needful. The English barons supported Simon, and in the face of their verdict Henry was powerless. But the king was now wholly with his enemies; and his anger broke out in a violent altercation. The Earl offered to resign his post if the money he had spent was repaid him, and appealed to Henry's word. Henry hotly retorted that he was bound by no promise to a false traitor. Simon at once gave Henry the lie; "and but that thou bearest the name of king it had been a bad hour for thee when thou utteredst such a word!" A formal reconciliation was brought about, and the Earl once more returned to Gascony, but before winter had come he was forced to withdraw to France. The greatness of his reputation was shown in an offer which its nobles made him of the regency of their realm during the absence of King Lewis from the land. But the offer was refused; and Henry, who had himself undertaken the pacification of Gascony, was glad before the close of 1253 to recall its old ruler to do the work he had failed to do.


Simon's temper

The Earl's character had now thoroughly developed. He inherited the strict and severe piety of his father; he was assiduous in his attendance on religious services whether by night or day. In his correspondence with Adam Marsh we see him finding patience under his Gascon troubles in a perusal of the Book of Job. His life was pure and singularly temperate; he was noted for his scant indulgence in meat, drink, or sleep. Socially he was cheerful and pleasant in talk; but his natural temper was quick and ardent, his sense of honour keen, his speech rapid and trenchant. His impatience of contradiction, his fiery temper, were in fact the great stumbling-blocks in his after career. His best friends marked honestly this fault, and it shows the greatness of the man that he listened to their remonstrances. "Better is a patient man," writes honest Friar Adam, "than a strong man, and he who can rule his own temper than he who storms a city." But the one characteristic which overmastered all was what men at that time called his "constancy," the firm immoveable resolve which trampled even death under foot in its loyalty to the right. The motto which Edward the First chose as his device, "Keep troth," was far truer as the device of Earl Simon. We see in his correspondence with what a clear discernment of its difficulties both at home and abroad he "thought it unbecoming to decline the danger of so great an exploit" as the reduction of Gascony to peace and order; but once undertaken, he persevered in spite of the opposition he met with, the failure of all support or funds from England, and the king's desertion of his cause, till the work was done. There was the same steadiness of will and purpose in his patriotism. The letters of Robert Grosseteste show how early Simon had learned to sympathize with the Bishop in his resistance to Rome, and at the crisis of the contest he offered him his own support and that of his associates. But Robert passed away, and as the tide of misgovernment mounted higher and higher the Earl silently trained himself for the day of trial. The fruit of his self-discipline was seen when the crisis came. While other men wavered and faltered and fell away, the enthusiastic love of the people clung to the grave, stern soldier who "stood like a pillar," unshaken by promise or threat or fear of death, by the oath he had sworn.


Matthew Paris

While Simon had been warring with Gascon rebels affairs in England had been going from bad to worse. The scourge of Papal taxation fell heavier on the clergy. After vain appeals to Rome and to the king, Archbishop Edmund retired to an exile of despair at Pontigny, and tax-gatherer after tax-gatherer with powers of excommunication, suspension from orders, and presentation to benefices, descended on the unhappy priesthood. The wholesale pillage kindled a wide spirit of resistance. Oxford gave the signal by hunting a Papal legate out of the city amid cries of "usurer" and "simoniac" from the mob of students. Fulk Fitz-Warenne in the name of the barons bade a Papal collector begone out of England. "If you tarry here three days longer," he added, "you and your company shall be cut to pieces." For a time Henry himself was swept away by the tide of national indignation. Letters from the king, the nobles, and the prelates, protested against the Papal exactions, and orders were given that no money should be exported from the realm. But the threat of interdict soon drove Henry back on a policy of spoliation in which he went hand in hand with Rome. The temper which this oppression begot among even the most sober churchmen has been preserved for us by an annalist whose pages glow with the new outburst of patriotic feeling. Matthew Paris is the greatest, as he in reality is the last, of our monastic historians. The school of St. Alban's survived indeed till a far later time, but its writers dwindle into mere annalists whose view is bounded by the abbey precincts and whose work is as colourless as it is jejune. In Matthew the breadth and precision of the narrative, the copiousness of his information on topics whether national or European, the general fairness and justice of his comments, are only surpassed by the patriotic fire and enthusiasm of the whole. He had succeeded Roger of Wendover as chronicler at St. Alban's; and the Greater Chronicle with an abridgement of it which long passed under the name of Matthew of Westminster, a "History of the English," and the "Lives of the Earlier Abbots," are only a few among the voluminous works which attest his prodigious industry. He was an artist as well as an historian, and many of the manuscripts which are preserved are illustrated by his own hand. A large circle of correspondents--bishops like Grosseteste, ministers like Hubert de Burgh, officials like Alexander de Swereford--furnished him with minute accounts of political and ecclesiastical proceedings. Pilgrims from the East and Papal agents brought news of foreign events to his scriptorium at St. Alban's. He had access to and quotes largely from state documents, charters, and exchequer rolls. The frequency of royal visits to the abbey brought him a store of political intelligence, and Henry himself contributed to the great chronicle which has preserved with so terrible a faithfulness the memory of his weakness and misgovernment. On one solemn feast-day the king recognized Matthew, and bidding him sit on the middle step between the floor and the throne begged him to write the story of the day's proceedings. While on a visit to St. Alban's he invited him to his table and chamber, and enumerated by name two hundred and fifty of the English baronies for his information. But all this royal patronage has left little mark on his work. "The case," as Matthew says, "of historical writers is hard, for if they tell the truth they provoke men, and if they write what is false they offend God." With all the fulness of the school of court historians, such as Benedict and Hoveden, to which in form he belonged, Matthew Paris combines an independence and patriotism which is strange to their pages. He denounces with the same unsparing energy the oppression of the Papacy and of the king. His point of view is neither that of a courtier nor of a churchman but of an Englishman, and the new national tone of his chronicle is but the echo of a national sentiment which at last bound nobles and yeomen and churchmen together into a people resolute to wrest freedom from the Crown.



The nation was outraged like the Church. Two solemn confirmations of the Charter failed to bring about any compliance with its provisions. In 1248, in 1249, and again in 1255 the great Council fruitlessly renewed its demand for a regular ministry, and the growing resolve of the nobles to enforce good government was seen in their offer of a grant on condition that the great officers of the Crown were appointed in the Council of the Baronage. But Henry refused their offer with scorn and sold his plate to the citizens of London to find payment for his household. A spirit of mutinous defiance broke out on the failure of all legal remedy. When the Earl of Norfolk refused him aid Henry answered with a threat. "I will send reapers and reap your fields for you," he said. "And I will send you back the heads of your reapers," replied the Earl. Hampered by the profusion of the court and the refusal of supplies, the Crown was in fact penniless; and yet never was money more wanted, for a trouble which had long pressed upon the English kings had now grown to a height that called for decisive action. Even his troubles at home could not blind Henry to the need of dealing with the difficulty of Wales. Of the three Welsh states into which all that remained unconquered of Britain had been broken by the victories of Deorham and Chester, two had long ceased to exist. The country between the Clyde and the Dee had been gradually absorbed by the conquests of Northumbria and the growth of the Scot monarchy. West Wales, between the British Channel and the estuary of the Severn, had yielded to the sword of Ecgberht. But a fiercer resistance prolonged the independence of the great central portion which alone in modern language preserves the name of Wales. Comprising in itself the largest and most powerful of the British kingdoms, it was aided in its struggle against Mercia by the weakness of its assailant, the youngest and feeblest of the English states, as well as by an internal warfare which distracted the energies of the invaders. But Mercia had no sooner risen to supremacy among the English kingdoms than it took the work of conquest vigorously in hand. Offa tore from Wales the border-land between the Severn and the Wye; the raids of his successors carried fire and sword into the heart of the country; and an acknowledgement of the Mercian overlordship was wrested from the Welsh princes. On the fall of Mercia this overlordship passed to the West-Saxon kings, and the Laws of Howel Dda own the payment of a yearly tribute by "the prince of Aberffraw" to "the King of London." The weakness of England during her long struggle with the Danes revived the hopes of British independence; it was the co-operation of the Welsh on which the northmen reckoned in their attack on the house of Ecgberht. But with the fall of the Danelaw the British princes were again brought to submission, and when in the midst of the Confessor's reign the Welsh seized on a quarrel between the houses of Leofric and Godwine to cross the border and carry their attacks into England itself, the victories of Harold reasserted the English supremacy. Disembarking on the coast his light-armed troops he penetrated to the heart of the mountains, and the successors of the Welsh prince Gruffydd, whose head was the trophy of the campaign, swore to observe the old fealty and render the old tribute to the English Crown.


Wales and the Normans

A far more desperate struggle began when the wave of Norman conquest broke on the Welsh frontier. A chain of great earldoms, settled by William along the border-land, at once bridled the old marauding forays. From his county palatine of Chester Hugh the Wolf harried Flintshire into a desert, Robert of Belesme in his earldom of Shrewsbury "slew the Welsh," says a chronicler, "like sheep, conquered them, enslaved them and flayed them with nails of iron." The earldom of Gloucester curbed Britain along the lower Severn. Backed by these greater baronies a horde of lesser adventurers obtained the royal "licence to make conquest on the Welsh." Monmouth and Abergavenny were seized and guarded by Norman castellans; Bernard of Neufmarché won the lordship of Brecknock; Roger of Montgomery raised the town and fortress in Powysland which still preserves his name. A great rising of the whole people in the days of the second William won back some of this Norman spoil. The new castle of Montgomery was burned, Brecknock and Cardigan were cleared of the invaders, and the Welsh poured ravaging over the English border. Twice the Red King carried his arms fruitlessly among the mountains against enemies who took refuge in their fastnesses till famine and hardship drove his broken host into retreat. The wiser policy of Henry the First fell back on his father's system of gradual conquest. A new tide of invasion flowed along the southern coast, where the land was level and open and accessible from the sea. The attack was aided by strife in the country itself. Robert Fitz-Hamo, the lord of Gloucester, was summoned to his aid by a Welsh chieftain; and his defeat of Rhys ap Tewdor, the last prince under whom Southern Wales was united, produced an anarchy which enabled Robert to land safely on the coast of Glamorgan, to conquer the country round, and to divide it among his soldiers. A force of Flemings and Englishmen followed the Earl of Clare as he landed near Milford Haven and pushing back the British inhabitants settled a "Little England" in the present Pembrokeshire. A few daring adventurers accompanied the Norman Lord of Kemeys into Cardigan, where land might be had for the winning by any one who would "wage war on the Welsh."


The Welsh Revival

It was at this moment, when the utter subjugation of the British race seemed at hand, that a new outburst of energy rolled back the tide of invasion and changed the fitful resistance of the separate Welsh provinces into a national effort to regain independence. To all outer seeming Wales had become utterly barbarous. Stripped of every vestige of the older Roman civilization by ages of bitter warfare, of civil strife, of estrangement from the general culture of Christendom, the unconquered Britons had sunk into a mass of savage herdsmen, clad in the skins and fed by the milk of the cattle they tended. Faithless, greedy, and revengeful, retaining no higher political organization than that of the clan, their strength was broken by ruthless feuds, and they were united only in battle or in raid against the stranger. But in the heart of the wild people there still lingered a spark of the poetic fire which had nerved it four hundred years before through Aneurin and Llywarch Hen to its struggle with the earliest Englishmen. At the hour of its lowest degradation the silence of Wales was suddenly broken by a crowd of singers. The song of the twelfth century burst forth, not from one bard or another, but from the nation at large. The Welsh temper indeed was steeped in poetry. "In every house," says the shrewd Gerald de Barri, "strangers who arrived in the morning were entertained till eventide with the talk of maidens and the music of the harp." A romantic literature, which was destined to leaven the fancy of western Europe, had grown up among this wild people and found an admirable means of utterance in its tongue. The Welsh language was as real a developement of the old Celtic language heard by Cæsar as the Romance tongues are developements of Cæsar's Latin, but at a far earlier date than any other language of modern Europe it had attained to definite structure and to settled literary form. No other mediæval literature shows at its outset the same elaborate and completed organization as that of the Welsh. But within these settled forms the Celtic fancy played with a startling freedom. In one of the later poems Gwion the Little transforms himself into a hare, a fish, a bird, a grain of wheat; but he is only the symbol of the strange shapes in which the Celtic fancy embodies itself in the romantic tales which reached their highest perfection in the legends of Arthur.


The Welsh Poetry

The gay extravagance of these "Mabinogion" flings defiance to all fact, tradition, probability, and revels in the impossible and unreal. When Arthur sails into the unknown world it is in a ship of glass. The "descent into hell," as a Celtic poet paints it, shakes off the mediæval horror with the mediæval reverence, and the knight who achieves the quest spends his years of infernal durance in hunting and minstrelsy, and in converse with fair women. The world of the Mabinogion is a world of pure phantasy, a new earth of marvels and enchantments, of dark forests whose silence is broken by the hermit's bell and sunny glades where the light plays on the hero's armour. Each figure as it moves across the poet's canvas is bright with glancing colour. "The maiden was clothed in a robe of flame-coloured silk, and about her neck was a collar of ruddy gold in which were precious emeralds and rubies. Her head was of brighter gold than the flower of the broom, her skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, and fairer were her hands and her fingers than the blossoms of the wood-anemone amidst the spray of the meadow fountain. The eye of the trained hawk, the glance of the falcon, was not brighter than hers. Her bosom was more snowy than the breast of the white swan, her cheek was redder than the reddest roses." Everywhere there is an Oriental profusion of gorgeous imagery, but the gorgeousness is seldom oppressive. The sensibility of the Celtic temper, so quick to perceive beauty, so eager in its thirst for life, its emotions, its adventures, its sorrows, its joys, is tempered by a passionate melancholy that expresses its revolt against the impossible, by an instinct of what is noble, by a sentiment that discovers the weird charm of nature. The wildest extravagance of the tale-teller is relieved by some graceful play of pure fancy, some tender note of feeling, some magical touch of beauty. As Kulwch's greyhounds bound from side to side of their master's steed, they "sport round him like two sea-swallows." His spear is "swifter than the fall of the dewdrop from the blade of reed-grass upon the earth when the dew of June is at the heaviest." A subtle, observant love of nature and natural beauty takes fresh colour from the passionate human sentiment with which it is imbued. "I love the birds" sings Gwalchmai "and their sweet voices in the lulling songs of the wood"; he watches at night beside the fords "among the untrodden grass" to hear the nightingale and watch the play of the sea-mew. Even patriotism takes the same picturesque form. The Welsh poet hates the flat and sluggish land of the Saxon; as he dwells on his own he tells of "its sea-coast and its mountains, its towns on the forest border, its fair landscape, its dales, its waters, and its valleys, its white sea-mews, its beauteous women." Here as everywhere the sentiment of nature passes swiftly and subtly into the sentiment of a human tenderness: "I love its fields clothed with tender trefoil" goes on the song; "I love the marches of Merioneth where my head was pillowed on a snow-white arm." In the Celtic love of woman there is little of the Teutonic depth and earnestness, but in its stead a childlike spirit of delicate enjoyment, a faint distant flush of passion like the rose-light of dawn on a snowy mountain peak, a playful delight in beauty. "White is my love as the apple-blossom, as the ocean's spray; her face shines like the pearly dew on Eryri; the glow of her cheeks is like the light of sunset." The buoyant and elastic temper of the French trouveur was spiritualized in the Welsh singers by a more refined poetic feeling. "Whoso beheld her was filled with her love. Four white trefoils sprang up wherever she trod." A touch of pure fancy such as this removes its object out of the sphere of passion into one of delight and reverence.


The Bards

It is strange to pass from the world of actual Welsh history into such a world as this. But side by side with this wayward, fanciful stream of poesy and romance ran a torrent of intenser song. The spirit of the earlier bards, their joy in battle, their love of freedom, broke out anew in ode after ode, in songs extravagant, monotonous, often prosaic, but fused into poetry by the intense fire of patriotism which glowed within them. Every fight, every hero had its verse. The names of older singers, of Taliesin, Aneurin, and Llywarch Hen, were revived in bold forgeries to animate the national resistance and to prophesy victory. It was in North Wales that the spirit of patriotism received its strongest inspiration from this burst of song. Again and again Henry the Second was driven to retreat from the impregnable fastnesses where the "Lords of Snowdon," the princes of the house of Gruffydd ap Conan, claimed supremacy over the whole of Wales. Once in the pass of Consilt a cry arose that the king was slain, Henry of Essex flung down the royal standard, and the king's desperate efforts could hardly save his army from utter rout. The bitter satire of the Welsh singers bade him knight his horse, since its speed had alone saved him from capture. In a later campaign the invaders were met by storms of rain, and forced to abandon their baggage in a headlong flight to Chester. The greatest of the Welsh odes, that known to English readers in Gray's translation as "The Triumph of Owen," is Gwalchmai's song of victory over the repulse of an English fleet from Abermenai.


Llewelyn ap Jorwerth

The long reign of Llewelyn the son of Jorwerth seemed destined to realize the hopes of his countrymen. The homage which he succeeded in extorting from the whole of the Welsh chieftains during a reign which lasted from 1194 to 1246 placed him openly at the head of his race, and gave a new character to its struggle with the English king. In consolidating his authority within his own domains, and in the assertion of his lordship over the princes of the south, Llewelyn ap Jorwerth aimed steadily at securing the means of striking off the yoke of the Saxon. It was in vain that John strove to buy his friendship by the hand of his natural daughter Johanna. Fresh raids on the Marches forced the king to enter Wales in 1211; but though his army reached Snowdon it fell back like its predecessors, starved and broken before an enemy it could never reach. A second attack in the same year had better success. The chieftains of South Wales were drawn from their new allegiance to join the English forces, and Llewelyn, prisoned in his fastnesses, was at last driven to submit. But the ink of the treaty was hardly dry before Wales was again on fire; a common fear of the English once more united its chieftains, and the war between John and his barons soon removed all dread of a new invasion. Absolved from his allegiance to an excommunicated king, and allied with the barons under Fitz-Walter--too glad to enlist in their cause a prince who could hold in check the nobles of the border country where the royalist cause was strongest--Llewelyn seized his opportunity to reduce Shrewsbury, to annex Powys, the central district of Wales where the English influence had always been powerful, to clear the royal garrisons from Caermarthen and Cardigan, and to force even the Flemings of Pembroke to do him homage.


Llewelyn and the Bards

England watched these efforts of the subject race with an anger still mingled with contempt. "Who knows not," exclaims Matthew Paris as he dwells on the new pretensions of the Welsh ruler, "who knows not that the Prince of Wales is a petty vassal of the King of England?" But the temper of Llewelyn's own people was far other than the temper of the English chronicler. The hopes of Wales rose higher and higher with each triumph of the Lord of Snowdon. His court was crowded with bardic singers. "He pours," sings one of them, "his gold into the lap of the bard as the ripe fruit falls from the trees." Gold however was hardly needed to wake their enthusiasm. Poet after poet sang of "the Devastator of England," the "Eagle of men that loves not to lie nor sleep," "towering above the rest of men with his long red lance," his "red helmet of battle crested with a fierce wolf." "The sound of his coming is like the roar of the wave as it rushes to the shore, that can neither be stayed nor hushed." Lesser bards strung together Llewelyn's victories in rough jingle of rime and hounded him on to the slaughter. "Be of good courage in the slaughter," sings Elidir, "cling to thy work, destroy England, and plunder its multitudes." A fierce thirst for blood runs through the abrupt, passionate verses of the court singers. "Swansea, that tranquil town, was broken in heaps," bursts out a triumphant bard; "St. Clears, with its bright white lands, it is not Saxons who hold it now!" "In Swansea, the key of Lloegria, we made widows of all the wives." "The dread Eagle is wont to lay corpses in rows, and to feast with the leader of wolves and with hovering ravens glutted with flesh, butchers with keen scent of carcases." "Better," closes the song, "better the grave than the life of man who sighs when the horns call him forth, to the squares of battle."


The Welsh hopes

But even in bardic verse Llewelyn rises high out of the mere mob of chieftains who live by rapine, and boast as the Hirlas-horn passes from hand to hand through the hall that "they take and give no quarter." "Tender-hearted, wise, witty, ingenious," he was "the great Caesar" who was to gather beneath his sway the broken fragments of the Celtic race. Mysterious prophecies, the prophecies of Merlin the Wise which floated from lip to lip and were heard even along the Seine and the Rhine, came home again to nerve Wales to its last struggle with the stranger. Medrawd and Arthur, men whispered, would appear once more on earth to fight over again the fatal battle of Camlan in which the hero-king perished. The last conqueror of the Celtic race, Cadwallon, still lived to combat for his people. The supposed verses of Taliesin expressed the undying hope of a restoration of the Cymry. "In their hands shall be all the land from Britanny to Man: ... a rumour shall arise that the Germans are moving out of Britain back again to their fatherland." Gathered up in the strange work of Geoffry of Monmouth, these predictions had long been making a deep impression not on Wales only but on its conquerors. It was to meet the dreams of a yet living Arthur that the grave of the legendary hero-king at Glastonbury was found and visited by Henry the Second. But neither trick nor conquest could shake the firm faith of the Celt in the ultimate victory of his race. "Think you," said Henry to a Welsh chieftain who joined his host, "that your people of rebels can withstand my army?" "My people," replied the chieftain, "may be weakened by your might, and even in great part destroyed, but unless the wrath of God be on the side of its foe it will not perish utterly. Nor deem I that other race or other tongue will answer for this corner of the world before the Judge of all at the last day save this people and tongue of Wales." So ran the popular rime, "Their Lord they will praise, their speech they shall keep, their land they shall lose--except wild Wales."


The Provisions of Oxford

Faith and prophecy seemed justified by the growing strength of the British people. The weakness and dissensions which characterized the reign of Henry the Third enabled Llewelyn ap Jorwerth to preserve a practical independence till the close of his life, when a fresh acknowledgement of the English supremacy was wrested from him by Archbishop Edmund. But the triumphs of his arms were renewed by Llewelyn the son of Gruffydd, who followed him in 1246. The raids of the new chieftain swept the border to the very gates of Chester, while his conquest of Glamorgan seemed to bind the whole people together in a power strong enough to meet any attack from the stranger. So pressing was the danger that it called the king's eldest son, Edward, to the field; but his first appearance in arms ended in a crushing defeat. The defeat however remained unavenged. Henry's dreams were of mightier enterprises than the reduction of the Welsh. The Popes were still fighting their weary battle against the House of Hohenstaufen, and were offering its kingdom of Sicily, which they regarded as a forfeited fief of the Holy See, to any power that would aid them in the struggle. In 1254 it was offered to the king's second son, Edmund. With imbecile pride Henry accepted the offer, prepared to send an army across the Alps, and pledged England to repay the sums which the Pope was borrowing for the purposes of his war. In a Parliament at the opening of 1257 he demanded an aid and a tenth from the clergy. A fresh demand was made in 1258. But the patience of the realm was at last exhausted. Earl Simon had returned in 1253 from his government of Gascony, and the fruit of his meditations during the four years of his quiet stay at home, a quiet broken only by short embassies to France and Scotland which showed there was as yet no open quarrel with Henry, was seen in a league of the baronage and in their adoption of a new and startling policy. The past half-century had shown both the strength and weakness of the Charter: its strength as a rallying-point for the baronage and a definite assertion of rights which the king could be made to acknowledge; its weakness in providing no means for the enforcement of its own stipulations. Henry had sworn again and again to observe the Charter and his oath was no sooner taken than it was unscrupulously broken. The barons had secured the freedom of the realm; the secret of their long patience during the reign of Henry lay in the difficulty of securing its right administration. It was this difficulty which Earl Simon was prepared to solve when action was forced on him by the stir of the realm. A great famine added to the sense of danger from Wales and from Scotland and to the irritation at the new demands from both Henry and Rome with which the year 1258 opened. It was to arrange for a campaign against Wales that Henry called a parliament in April. But the baronage appeared in arms with Gloucester and Leicester at their head. The king was forced to consent to the appointment of a committee of twenty-four to draw up terms for the reform of the state. The Twenty-four again met the Parliament at Oxford in June, and although half the committee consisted of royal ministers and favourites it was impossible to resist the tide of popular feeling. Hugh Bigod, one of the firmest adherents of the two Earls, was chosen as Justiciar. The claim to elect this great officer was in fact the leading point in the baronial policy. But further measures were needed to hold in check such arbitrary misgovernment as had prevailed during the last twenty years. By the "Provisions of Oxford" it was agreed that the Great Council should assemble thrice in the year, whether summoned by the king or no; and on each occasion "the Commonalty shall elect twelve honest men who shall come to the Parliaments, and at other times when occasion shall be when the King and his Council shall send for them, to treat of the wants of the king and of his kingdom. And the Commonalty shall hold as established that which these Twelve shall do." Three permanent committees of barons and prelates were named to carry out the work of reform and administration. The reform of the Church was left to the original Twenty-four; a second Twenty-four negotiated the financial aids; a Permanent Council of Fifteen advised the king in the ordinary work of government. The complexity of such an arrangement was relieved by the fact that the members of each of these committees were in great part the same persons. The Justiciar, Chancellor, and the guardians of the king's castles swore to act only with the advice and assent of the Permanent Council, and the first two great officers, with the Treasurer, were to give account of their proceedings to it at the end of the year. Sheriffs were to be appointed for a single year only, no doubt by the Council, from among the chief tenants of the county, and no undue fees were to be exacted for the administration of justice in their court.


Government of the Barons

A royal proclamation in the English tongue, the first in that tongue since the Conquest which has reached us, ordered the observance of these Provisions. The king was in fact helpless, and resistance came only from the foreign favourites, who refused to surrender the castles and honours which had been granted to them. But the Twenty-four were resolute in their action; and an armed demonstration of the barons drove the foreigners in flight over sea. The whole royal power was now in fact in the hands of the committees appointed by the Great Council. But the measures of the barons showed little of the wisdom and energy which the country had hoped for. In October 1259 the knighthood complained that the barons had done nothing but seek their own advantage in the recent changes. This protest produced the Provisions of Westminster, which gave protection to tenants against their feudal lords, regulated legal procedure in the feudal courts, appointed four knights in each shire to watch the justice of the sheriffs, and made other temporary enactments for the furtherance of justice. But these Provisions brought little fruit, and a tendency to mere feudal privilege showed itself in an exemption of all nobles and prelates from attendance at the Sheriff's courts. Their foreign policy was more vigorous and successful. All further payment to Rome, whether secular or ecclesiastical, was prohibited, formal notice was given to the Pope of England's withdrawal from the Sicilian enterprise, peace put an end to the incursions of the Welsh, and negotiations on the footing of a formal abandonment of the king's claim to Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Poitou ended in October 1259 in a peace with France.


Simon and the Baronage

This peace, the triumph of that English policy which had been struggling ever since the days of Hubert de Burgh with the Continental policy of Henry and his foreign advisers, was the work of the Earl of Leicester. The revolution had doubtless been mainly Simon's doing. In the summer of 1258, while the great change was going on, a thunderstorm drove the king as he passed along the river to the house of the Bishop of Durham where the Earl was then sojourning. Simon bade Henry take shelter with him and have no fear of the storm. The king refused with petulant wit. "If I fear the thunder, I fear you, Sir Earl, more than all the thunder in the world." But Simon had probably small faith in the cumbrous system of government which the Barons devised, and it was with reluctance that he was brought to swear to the Provisions of Oxford which embodied it. With their home government he had little to do, for from the autumn of 1258 to that of 1259 he was chiefly busied in negotiation in France. But already his breach with Gloucester and the bulk of his fellow councillors was marked. In the Lent Parliament of 1259 he had reproached them, and Gloucester above all, with faithlessness to their trust. "The things we are treating of," he cried, "we have sworn to carry out. With such feeble and faithless men I care not to have ought to do!" The peace with France was hardly signed when his distrust of his colleagues was verified. Henry's withdrawal to the French court at the close of the year for the formal signature of the treaty was the signal for a reactionary movement. From France the king forbade the summoning of a Lent Parliament in 1260 and announced his resumption of the enterprise against Sicily. Both acts were distinct breaches of the Provisions of Oxford, but Henry trusted to the divisions of the Twenty-four. Gloucester was in open feud with Leicester; the Justiciar, Hugh Bigod, resigned his office in the spring; and both of these leaders drew cautiously to the king. Roger Mortimer and the Earls of Hereford and Norfolk more openly espoused the royal cause, and in February 1260 Henry had gained confidence enough to announce that as the barons had failed to keep their part of the Provisions he should not keep his.


The Counter Revolution

Earl Simon almost alone remained unshaken. But his growing influence was seen in the appointment of his supporter, Hugh Despenser, as Justiciar in Bigod's place, while his strength was doubled by the accession of the King's son Edward to his side. In the moment of the revolution Edward had vehemently supported the party of the foreigners. But he had sworn to observe the Provisions, and the fidelity to his pledge which remained throughout his life the chief note of his temper at once showed itself. Like Simon he protested against the faithlessness of the barons in the carrying out of their reforms, and it was his strenuous support of the petition of the knighthood that brought about the additional Provisions of 1259. He had been brought up with Earl Simon's sons, and with the Earl himself his relations remained friendly even at the later time of their fatal hostilities. But as yet he seems to have had no distrust of Simon's purposes or policy. His adhesion to the Earl recalled Henry from France; and the king was at once joined by Gloucester in London while Edward and Simon remained without the walls. But the love of father and son proved too strong to bear political severance, and Edward's reconciliation foiled the Earl's plans. He withdrew to the Welsh border, where fresh troubles were breaking out, while Henry prepared to deal his final blow at the government which, tottering as it was, still held him in check. Rome had resented the measures which had put an end to her extortions, and it was to Rome that Henry looked for a formal absolution from his oath to observe the Provisions. In June 1261 he produced a Bull annulling the Provisions and freeing him from his oath in a Parliament at Winchester. The suddenness of the blow forbade open protest and Henry quickly followed up his victory. Hugh Bigod, who had surrendered the Tower and Dover in the spring, surrendered the other castles he held in the autumn. Hugh Despenser was deposed from the Justiciarship and a royalist, Philip Basset, appointed in his place.


Simon's rising

The news of this counter-revolution reunited for a moment the barons. Gloucester joined Earl Simon in calling an autumn Parliament at St. Alban's, and in summoning to it three knights from every shire south of Trent. But the union was a brief one. Gloucester consented to refer the quarrel with the king to arbitration and the Earl of Leicester withdrew in August to France. He saw that for the while there was no means of withstanding Henry, even in his open defiance of the Provisions. Foreign soldiers were brought into the land; the king won back again the appointment of sheriffs. For eighteen months of this new rule Simon could do nothing but wait. But his long absence lulled the old jealousies against him. The confusion of the realm and a fresh outbreak of troubles in Wales renewed the disgust at Henry's government, while his unswerving faithfulness to the Provisions fixed the eyes of all Englishmen upon the Earl as their natural leader. The death of Gloucester in the summer of 1262 removed the one barrier to action; and in the spring of 1263 Simon landed again in England as the unquestioned head of the baronial party. What immediately forced him to action was a march of Edward with a body of foreign troops against Llewelyn, who was probably by this time in communication if not in actual alliance with the Earl. The chief opponents of Llewelyn among the Marcher Lords were ardent supporters of Henry's misgovernment, and when a common hostility drew the Prince and Earl together, the constitutional position of Llewelyn as an English noble gave formal justification for co-operation with him. At Whitsuntide the barons met Simon at Oxford and finally summoned Henry to observe the Provisions. His refusal was met by an appeal to arms. Throughout the country the younger nobles flocked to Simon's standard, and the young Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert of Clare, became his warmest supporter. His rapid movements foiled all opposition. While Henry vainly strove to raise money and men, Simon swept the Welsh border, marched through Reading on Dover, and finally appeared before London.


Mise of Amiens

The Earl's triumph was complete. Edward after a brief attempt at resistance was forced to surrender Windsor and disband his foreign troops. The rising of London in the cause of the barons left Henry helpless. But at the moment of triumph the Earl saw himself anew forsaken. The bulk of the nobles again drew towards the king; only six of the twelve barons who had formed the patriot half of the committee of 1258, only four of the twelve representatives of the community at that date, were now with the Earl. The dread too of civil war gave strength to the cry for a compromise, and at the end of the year it was agreed that the strife should be left to the arbitration of the French king, Lewis the Ninth. But saint and just ruler as he was, the royal power was in the conception of Lewis a divine thing, which no human power could limit or fetter, and his decision, which was given in January 1264, annulled the whole of the Provisions. Only the Charters granted before the Provisions were to be observed. The appointment and removal of all officers of state was to be wholly with the king, and he was suffered to call aliens to his councils if he would. The Mise of Amiens was at once confirmed by the Pope, and, crushing blow as it was, the barons felt themselves bound by the award. It was only the exclusion of aliens--a point which they had not purposed to submit to arbitration--which they refused to concede. Luckily Henry was as inflexible on this point as on the rest, and the mutual distrust prevented any real accommodation.


Battle of Lewes

But Henry had to reckon on more than the baronage. Deserted as he was by the greater nobles, Simon was far from standing alone. Throughout the recent struggle the new city governments of the craft-gilds, which were known by the name of "Communes," had shown an enthusiastic devotion to his cause. The queen was stopped in her attempt to escape from the Tower by an angry mob, who drove her back with stones and foul words. When Henry attempted to surprise Leicester in his quarters at Southwark, the Londoners burst the gates which had been locked by the richer burghers against him, and rescued him by a welcome into the city. The clergy and the universities went in sympathy with the towns, and in spite of the taunts of the royalists, who accused him of seeking allies against the nobility in the common people, the popular enthusiasm gave a strength to the Earl which sustained him even in this darkest hour of the struggle. He at once resolved on resistance. The French award had luckily reserved the rights of Englishmen to the liberties they had enjoyed before the Provisions of Oxford, and it was easy for Simon to prove that the arbitrary power it gave to the Crown was as contrary to the Charter as to the Provisions themselves. London was the first to reject the decision; in March 1264 its citizens mustered at the call of the town-bell at Saint Paul's, seized the royal officials, and plundered the royal parks. But an army had already mustered in great force at the king's summons, while Leicester found himself deserted by the bulk of the baronage. Every day brought news of ill. A detachment from Scotland joined Henry's forces. The younger De Montfort was taken prisoner. Northampton was captured, the king raised the siege of Rochester, and a rapid march of Earl Simon's only saved London itself from a surprise by Edward. But, betrayed as he was, the Earl remained firm to the cause. He would fight to the end, he said, even were he and his sons left to fight alone. With an army reinforced by 15,000 Londoners, he marched in May to the relief of the Cinque Ports which were now threatened by the king. Even on the march he was forsaken by many of the nobles who followed him. Halting at Fletching in Sussex, a few miles from Lewes, where the royal army was encamped, Earl Simon with the young Earl of Gloucester offered the king compensation for all damage if he would observe the Provisions. Henry's answer was one of defiance, and though numbers were against him, the Earl resolved on battle. His skill as a soldier reversed the advantages of the ground; marching at dawn on the 14th of May he seized the heights eastward of the town, and moved down these slopes to an attack. His men with white crosses on back and breast knelt in prayer before the battle opened, and all but reached the town before their approach was perceived. Edward however opened the fight by a furious charge which broke the Londoners on Leicester's left. In the bitterness of his hatred for the insult to his mother he pursued them for four miles, slaughtering three thousand men. But he returned to find the battle lost. Crowded in the narrow space between the heights and the river Ouse, a space broken by marshes and by the long street of the town, the royalist centre and left were crushed by Earl Simon. The Earl of Cornwall, now King of the Romans, who, as the mocking song of the victors ran, "makede him a castel of a mulne post" ("he weened that the mill-sails were mangonels" goes on the sarcastic verse), was taken prisoner, and Henry himself captured. Edward cut his way into the Priory only to join in his father's surrender.


Simon's rule

The victory of Lewes placed Earl Simon at the head of the state. "Now England breathes in the hope of liberty," sang a poet of the time; "the English were despised like dogs, but now they have lifted up their head and their foes are vanquished." But the moderation of the terms agreed upon in the Mise of Lewes, a convention between the king and his captors, shows Simon's sense of the difficulties of his position. The question of the Provisions was again to be submitted to arbitration; and a parliament in June, to which four knights were summoned from every county, placed the administration till this arbitration was complete in the hands of a new council of nine to be nominated by the Earls of Leicester and Gloucester and the patriotic Bishop of Chichester. Responsibility to the community was provided for by the declaration of a right in the body of barons and prelates to remove either of the Three Electors, who in turn could displace or appoint the members of the Council. Such a constitution was of a different order from the cumbrous and oligarchical committees of 1258. But it had little time to work in. The plans for a fresh arbitration broke down. Lewis refused to review his decision, and all schemes for setting fresh judges between the king and his people were defeated by a formal condemnation of the barons' cause issued by the Pope. Triumphant as he was indeed Earl Simon's difficulties thickened every day. The queen with Archbishop Boniface gathered an army in France for an invasion; Roger Mortimer with the border barons was still in arms and only held in check by Llewelyn. It was impossible to make binding terms with an imprisoned king, yet to release Henry without terms was to renew the war. The imprisonment too gave a shock to public feeling which thinned the Earl's ranks. In the new Parliament which he called at the opening of 1265 the weakness of the patriotic party among the baronage was shown in the fact that only twenty-three earls and barons could be found to sit beside the hundred and twenty ecclesiastics.


Summons of the Commons

But it was just this sense of his weakness which prompted the Earl to an act that has done more than any incident of this struggle to immortalize his name. Had the strife been simply a strife for power between the king and the baronage the victory of either would have been equally fatal in its results. The success of the one would have doomed England to a royal despotism, that of the other to a feudal aristocracy. Fortunately for our freedom the English baronage had been brought too low by the policy of the kings to be able to withstand the crown single-handed. From the first moment of the contest it had been forced to make its cause a national one. The summons of two knights from each county, elected in its county court, to a Parliament in 1254, even before the opening of the struggle, was a recognition of the political weight of the country gentry which was confirmed by the summons of four knights from every county to the Parliament assembled after the battle of Lewes. The Provisions of Oxford, in stipulating for attendance and counsel on the part of twelve delegates of the "commonalty," gave the first indication of a yet wider appeal to the people at large. But it was the weakness of his party among the baronage at this great crisis which drove Earl Simon to a constitutional change of mighty issue in our history. As before, he summoned two knights from every county. But he created a new force in English politics when he summoned to sit beside them two citizens from every borough. The attendance of delegates from the towns had long been usual in the county courts when any matter respecting their interests was in question; but it was the writ issued by Earl Simon that first summoned the merchant and the trader to sit beside the knight of the shire, the baron, and the bishop in the parliament of the realm.


Simon's difficulties

It is only this great event however which enables us to understand the large and prescient nature of Earl Simon's designs. Hardly a few months had passed away since the victory of Lewes when the burghers took their seats at Westminster, yet his government was tottering to its fall. We know little of the Parliament's acts. It seems to have chosen Simon as Justiciar and to have provided for Edward's liberation, though he was still to live under surveillance at Hereford and to surrender his earldom of Chester to Simon, who was thus able to communicate with his Welsh allies. The Earl met the dangers from without with complete success. In September 1264 a general muster of the national forces on Barham Down and a contrary wind put an end to the projects of invasion entertained by the mercenaries whom the queen had collected in Flanders; the threats of France died away into negotiations; the Papal Legate was forbidden to cross the Channel, and his bulls of excommunication were flung into the sea. But the difficulties at home grew more formidable every day. The restraint upon Henry and Edward jarred against the national feeling of loyalty, and estranged the mass of Englishmen who always side with the weak. Small as the patriotic party among the barons had been from the first, it grew smaller as dissensions broke out over the spoils of victory. The Earl's justice and resolve to secure the public peace told heavily against him. John Giffard left him because he refused to allow him to exact ransom from a prisoner, contrary to the agreement made after Lewes. A greater danger opened when the young Earl of Gloucester, though enriched with the estates of the foreigners, held himself aloof from the Justiciar, and resented Leicester's prohibition of a tournament, his naming the wardens of the royal castles by his own authority, his holding Edward's fortresses on the Welsh marches by his own garrisons.


Edward and Gloucester

Gloucester's later conduct proves the wisdom of Leicester's precautions. In the spring Parliament of 1265 he openly charged the Earl with violating the Mise of Lewes, with tyranny, and with aiming at the crown. Before its close he withdrew to his own lands in the west and secretly allied himself with Roger Mortimer and the Marcher Barons. Earl Simon soon followed him to the west, taking with him the king and Edward. He moved along the Severn, securing its towns, advanced westward to Hereford, and was marching at the end of May along bad roads into the heart of South Wales to attack the fortresses of Earl Gilbert in Glamorgan when Edward suddenly made his escape from Hereford and joined Gloucester at Ludlow. The moment had been skilfully chosen, and Edward showed a rare ability in the movements by which he took advantage of the Earl's position. Moving rapidly along the Severn he seized Gloucester and the bridges across the river, destroyed the ships by which Leicester strove to escape across the Channel to Bristol, and cut him off altogether from England. By this movement too he placed himself between the Earl and his son Simon, who was advancing from the east to his father's relief. Turning rapidly on this second force Edward surprised it at Kenilworth and drove it with heavy loss within the walls of the castle. But the success was more than compensated by the opportunity which his absence gave to the Earl of breaking the line of the Severn. Taken by surprise and isolated as he was, Simon had been forced to seek for aid and troops in an avowed alliance with Llewelyn, and it was with Welsh reinforcements that he turned to the east. But the seizure of his ships and of the bridges of the Severn held him a prisoner in Edward's grasp, and a fierce attack drove him back, with broken and starving forces, into the Welsh hills. In utter despair he struck northward to Hereford; but the absence of Edward now enabled him on the 2nd of August to throw his troops in boats across the Severn below Worcester. The news drew Edward quickly back in a fruitless counter-march to the river, for the Earl had already reached Evesham by a long night march on the morning of the 4th, while his son, relieved in turn by Edward's counter-march, had pushed in the same night to the little town of Alcester. The two armies were now but some ten miles apart, and their junction seemed secured. But both were spent with long marching, and while the Earl, listening reluctantly to the request of the King who accompanied him, halted at Evesham for mass and dinner, the army of the younger Simon halted for the same purpose at Alcester.


Battle of Evesham

"Those two dinners doleful were, alas!" sings Robert of Gloucester; for through the same memorable night Edward was hurrying back from the Severn by country cross-lanes to seize the fatal gap that lay between them. As morning broke his army lay across the road that led northward from Evesham to Alcester. Evesham lies in a loop of the river Avon where it bends to the south; and a height on which Edward ranged his troops closed the one outlet from it save across the river. But a force had been thrown over the river under Mortimer to seize the bridges, and all retreat was thus finally cut off. The approach of Edward's army called Simon to the front, and for the moment he took it for his son's. Though the hope soon died away a touch of soldierly pride moved him as he recognised in the orderly advance of his enemies a proof of his own training. "By the arm of St. James," he cried, "they come on in wise fashion, but it was from me that they learnt it." A glance however satisfied him of the hopelessness of a struggle; it was impossible for a handful of horsemen with a mob of half-armed Welshmen to resist the disciplined knighthood of the royal army. "Let us commend our souls to God," Simon said to the little group around him, "for our bodies are the foe's." He bade Hugh Despenser and the rest of his comrades fly from the field. "If he died," was the noble answer, "they had no will to live." In three hours the butchery was over. The Welsh fled at the first onset like sheep, and were cut ruthlessly down in the cornfields and gardens where they sought refuge. The little group of knights around Simon fought desperately, falling one by one till the Earl was left alone. So terrible were his sword-strokes that he had all but gained the hill-top when a lance-thrust brought his horse to the ground, but Simon still rejected the summons to yield till a blow from behind felled him mortally wounded to the ground. Then with a last cry of "It is God's grace," the soul of the great patriot passed away.


The Royalist reaction

The triumphant blare of trumpets which welcomed the rescued king into Evesham, "his men weeping for joy," rang out in bitter contrast to the mourning of the realm. It sounded like the announcement of a reign of terror. The rights and laws for which men had toiled and fought so long seemed to have been swept away in an hour. Every town which had supported Earl Simon was held to be at the king's mercy, its franchises to be forfeited. The Charter of Lynn was annulled; London was marked out as the special object of Henry's vengeance, and the farms and merchandise of its citizens were seized as first-fruits of its plunder. The darkness which on that fatal morning hid their books from the monks of Evesham as they sang in choir was but a presage of the gloom which fell on the religious houses. From Ramsey, from Evesham, from St. Alban's rose the same cry of havoc and rapine. But the plunder of monk and burgess was little to the vast sentence of confiscation which the mere fact of rebellion was held to have passed on all the adherents of Earl Simon. To "disinherit" these of their lands was to confiscate half the estates of the landed gentry of England; but the hotter royalists declared them disinherited, and Henry was quick to lavish their lands away on favourites and foreigners. The very chroniclers of their party recall the pillage with shame. But all thought of resistance lay hushed in a general terror. Even the younger Simon "saw no other rede" than to release his prisoners. His army, after finishing its meal, was again on its march to join the Earl when the news of his defeat met it, heralded by a strange darkness that, rising suddenly in the north-west and following as it were on Edward's track, served to shroud the mutilations and horrors of the battle-field. The news was soon fatally confirmed. Simon himself could see from afar his father's head borne off on a spear-point to be mocked at Wigmore. But the pursuit streamed away southward and westward through the streets of Tewkesbury, heaped with corpses of the panic-struck Welshmen whom the townsmen slaughtered without pity; and there was no attack as the little force fell back through the darkness and big thunder-drops in despair upon Kenilworth. "I may hang up my axe," are the bitter words which a poet attributes to their leader, "for feebly have I gone"; and once within the castle he gave way to a wild sorrow, day after day tasting neither meat nor drink.



He was roused into action again by news of the shameful indignities which the Marcher Lords had offered to the body of the great Earl before whom they had trembled so long. The knights around him broke out at the tidings in a passionate burst of fury, and clamoured for the blood of Richard of Cornwall and his son, who were prisoners in the castle. But Simon had enough nobleness left to interpose. "To God and him alone was it owing" Richard owned afterwards, "that I was snatched from death." The captives were not only saved, but set free. A Parliament had been called at Winchester at the opening of September, and its mere assembly promised an end to the reign of utter lawlessness. A powerful party, too, was known to exist in the royal camp which, hostile as it had shown itself to Earl Simon, shared his love for English liberties, and the liberation of Richard was sure to aid its efforts. At the head of this party stood the young Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert of Clare, to whose action above all the Earl's overthrow was due. And with Gilbert stood Edward himself. The passion for law, the instinct of good government, which were to make his reign so memorable in our history, had declared themselves from the first. He had sided with the barons at the outset of their struggle with Henry; he had striven to keep his father true to the Provisions of Oxford. It was only when the figure of Earl Simon seemed to tower above that of Henry himself, when the Crown seemed falling into bondage, that Edward passed to the royal side; and now that the danger which he dreaded was over he returned to his older attitude. In the first flush of victory, while the doom of Simon was as yet unknown, Edward had stood alone in desiring his captivity against the cry of the Marcher Lords for his blood. When all was done he wept over the corpse of his cousin and playfellow, Henry de Montfort, and followed the Earl's body to the tomb. But great as was Edward's position after the victory of Evesham, his moderate counsels were as yet of little avail. His efforts in fact were met by those of Henry's second son, Edmund, who had received the lands and earldom of Earl Simon, and whom the dread of any restoration of the house of De Montfort set at the head of the ultra-royalists. Nor was any hope of moderation to be found in the Parliament which met in September 1265. It met in the usual temper of a restoration-Parliament to legalize the outrages of the previous month. The prisoners who had been released from the dungeons of the barons poured into Winchester to add fresh violence to the demands of the Marchers. The wives of the captive loyalists and the widows of the slain were summoned to give fresh impulse to the reaction. Their place of meeting added fuel to the fiery passions of the throng, for Winchester was fresh from its pillage by the younger Simon on his way to Kenilworth, and its stubborn loyalty must have been fanned into a flame by the losses it had endured. In such an assembly no voice of moderation could find a hearing. The four bishops who favoured the national cause, the bishops of London and Lincoln, of Worcester and Chichester, were excluded from it, and the heads of the religious houses were summoned for the mere purpose of extortion. Its measures were but a confirmation of the violence which had been wrought. All grants made during the king's "captivity" were revoked. The house of De Montfort was banished from the realm. The charter of London was annulled. The adherents of Earl Simon were disinherited and seizin of their lands was given to the king.


Simon's Miracles

Henry at once appointed commissioners to survey and take possession of his spoil while he moved to Windsor to triumph in the humiliation of London. Its mayor and forty of its chief citizens waited in the castle yard only to be thrown into prison in spite of a safe-conduct, and Henry entered his capital in triumph as into an enemy's city. The surrender of Dover came to fill his cup of joy, for Richard and Amaury of Montfort had sailed with the Earl's treasure to enlist foreign mercenaries, and it was by this port that their force was destined to land. But a rising of the prisoners detained there compelled its surrender in October, and the success of the royalists seemed complete. In reality their difficulties were but beginning. Their triumph over Earl Simon had been a triumph over the religious sentiment of the time, and religion avenged itself in its own way. Everywhere the Earl's death was looked upon as a martyrdom; and monk and friar united in praying for the souls of the men who fell at Evesham as for soldiers of Christ. It was soon whispered that heaven was attesting the sanctity of De Montfort by miracles at his tomb. How great was the effect of this belief was seen in the efforts of King and Pope to suppress the miracles, and in their continuance not only through the reign of Edward the First but even in the days of his successor. But its immediate result was a sudden revival of hope. "Sighs are changed into songs of praise," breaks out a monk of the time, "and the greatness of our former joy has come to life again!" Nor was it in miracles alone that the "faithful," as they proudly styled themselves, began to look for relief "from the oppression of the malignants." A monk of St. Alban's who was penning a eulogy of Earl Simon in the midst of this uproar saw the rise of a new spirit of resistance in the streets of the little town. In dread of war it was guarded and strongly closed with bolts and bars, and refused entrance to all strangers, and above all to horsemen, who wished to pass through. The Constable of Hertford, an old foe of the townsmen, boasted that spite of bolts and bars he would enter the place and carry off four of the best villeins captive. He contrived to make his way in; but as he loitered idly about a butcher who passed by heard him ask his men how the wind stood. The butcher guessed his design to burn the town, and felled him to the ground. The blow roused the townsmen. They secured the Constable and his followers, struck off their heads, and fixed them at the four corners of the borough.


The Younger Simon

The popular reaction gave fresh heart to the younger Simon. Quitting Kenilworth, he joined in November John D'Eyvill and Baldewin Wake in the Isle of Axholme where the Disinherited were gathering in arms. So fast did horse and foot flow in to him that Edward himself hurried into Lincolnshire to meet this new danger. He saw that the old strife was just breaking out again. The garrison of Kenilworth scoured the country; the men of the Cinque Ports, putting wives and children on board their barks, swept the Channel and harried the coasts; while Llewelyn, who had brought about the dissolution of Parliament by a raid upon Chester, butchered the forces sent against him and was master of the border. The one thing needed to link the forces of resistance together was a head, and such a head the appearance of Simon at Axholme seemed to promise. But Edward was resolute in his plan of conciliation. Arriving before the camp at the close of 1265, he at once entered into negotiations with his cousin, and prevailed on him to quit the island and appear before the king. Richard of Cornwall welcomed Simon at the court, he presented him to Henry as the saviour of his life, and on his promise to surrender Kenilworth Henry gave him the kiss of peace. In spite of the opposition of Roger Mortimer and the Marcher Lords success seemed to be crowning this bold stroke of the peace party when the Earl of Gloucester interposed. Desirous as he was of peace, the blood of De Montfort lay between him and the Earl's sons, and the safety of the one lay in the ruin of the other. In the face of this danger Earl Gilbert threw his weight into the scale of the ultra-royalists, and peace became impossible. The question of restitution was shelved by a reference to arbitrators; and Simon, detained in spite of a safe-conduct, moved in Henry's train at Christmas to witness the surrender of Kenilworth which had been stipulated as the price of his full reconciliation with the king. But hot blood was now stirred again on both sides. The garrison replied to the royal summons by a refusal to surrender. They had received ward of the castle, they said, not from Simon but from the Countess, and to none but her would they give it up. The refusal was not likely to make Simon's position an easier one. On his return to London the award of the arbitrators bound him to quit the realm and not to return save with the assent of king and baronage when all were at peace. He remained for a while in free custody at London; but warnings that he was doomed to lifelong imprisonment drove him to flight, and he finally sought a refuge over sea.


Ban of Kenilworth

His escape set England again on fire. Llewelyn wasted the border; the Cinque Ports held the sea; the garrison of Kenilworth pushed their raids as far as Oxford; Baldewin Wake with a band of the Disinherited threw himself into the woods and harried the eastern counties; Sir Adam Gurdon, a knight of gigantic size and renowned prowess, wasted with a smaller party the shires of the south. In almost every county bands of outlaws were seeking a livelihood in rapine and devastation, while the royal treasury stood empty and the enormous fine imposed upon London had been swept into the coffers of French usurers. But a stronger hand than the king's was now at the head of affairs, and Edward met his assailants with untiring energy. King Richard's son, Henry of Almaine, was sent with a large force to the north; Mortimer hurried to hold the Welsh border; Edmund was despatched to Warwick to hold Kenilworth in check; while Edward himself marched at the opening of March to the south. The Berkshire woods were soon cleared, and at Whitsuntide Edward succeeded in dispersing Adam Gurdon's band and in capturing its renowned leader in single combat. The last blow was already given to the rising in the north, where Henry of Almaine surprised the Disinherited at Chesterfield and took their leader, the Earl of Derby, in his bed. Though Edmund had done little but hold the Kenilworth knights in check, the submission of the rest of the country now enabled the royal army to besiege it in force. But the king was penniless, and the Parliament which he called to replenish his treasury in August showed the resolve of the nation that the strife should cease. They would first establish peace, if peace were possible, they said, and then answer the king's demand. Twelve commissioners, with Earl Gilbert at their head, were appointed on Henry's assent to arrange terms on reconciliation. They at once decided that none should be utterly disinherited for their part in the troubles, but that liberty of redemption should be left open to all. Furious at the prospect of being forced to disgorge their spoil, Mortimer and the ultra-royalists broke out in mad threats of violence, even against the life of the Papal legate who had pressed for the reconciliation. But the power of the ultra-royalists was over. The general resolve was not to be shaken by the clamour of a faction, and Mortimer's rout at Brecknock by Llewelyn, the one defeat that chequered the tide of success, had damaged that leader's influence. Backed by Edward and Earl Gilbert, the legate met their opposition with a threat of excommunication, and Mortimer withdrew sullenly from the camp. Fresh trouble in the country and the seizure of the Isle of Ely by a band of the Disinherited quickened the labours of the Twelve. At the close of September they pronounced their award, restoring the lands to all who made submission on a graduated scale of redemption, promising indemnity for all wrong done during the troubles, and leaving the restoration of the house of De Montfort to the royal will. But to these provisions was added an emphatic demand that "the king fully keep and observe those liberties of the Church, charters of liberties, and forest charters, which he is expressly and by his own mouth bound to preserve and keep." "Let the King," they add, "establish on a lasting foundation those concessions which he has hitherto made of his own will and not on compulsion, and those needful ordinances which have been devised by his subjects and by his own good pleasure."


Close of the Struggle

With this Award the struggle came to an end. The garrison of Kenilworth held out indeed till November, and the full benefit of the Ban was only secured when Earl Gilbert in the opening of the following year suddenly appeared in arms and occupied London. But the Earl was satisfied, the Disinherited were at last driven from Ely, and Llewelyn was brought to submission by the appearance of an army at Shrewsbury. All was over by the close of 1267. His father's age and weakness, his own brilliant military successes, left Edward practically in possession of the royal power; and his influence at once made itself felt. There was no attempt to return to the misrule of Henry's reign, to his projects of continental aggrandizement or internal despotism. The constitutional system of government for which the Barons had fought was finally adopted by the Crown, and the Parliament of Marlborough which assembled in November 1267 renewed the provisions by which the baronage had remedied the chief abuses of the time in their Provisions of Oxford and Westminster. The appointment of all officers of state indeed was jealously reserved to the crown. But the royal expenditure was brought within bounds. Taxation was only imposed with the assent of the Great Council. So utterly was the land at rest that Edward felt himself free to take the cross in 1268 and to join the Crusade which was being undertaken by St. Lewis of France. He reached Tunis only to find Lewis dead and his enterprise a failure, wintered in Sicily, made his way to Acre in the spring of 1271, and spent more than a year in exploits which want of force prevented from growing into a serious campaign. He was already on his way home when the death of Henry the Third in November 1272 called him to the throne.


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Referenced Works