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Rebellion Against Henry III: The Disinherited Montfortians, 1265–1274

Rebellion Against Henry III: The Disinherited Montfortians, 1265–1274

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Rebellion Against Henry III: The Disinherited Montfortians, 1265–1274

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4 ore
May 30, 2020


The 'Montfortian' civil wars in England lasted from 1259-67, though the death of Simon de Montfort and so many of his followers at the battle of Evesham in 1265 ought to have ended the conflict. In the aftermath of the battle, Henry III's decision to disinherit all the surviving Montfortians served to prolong the war for another two years. Hundreds of landless men took up arms again to defend their land and property: the redistribution of estates in the wake of Evesham occurred on a massive scale, as lands were either granted away by the king or simply taken by his supporters.

The Disinherited, as they were known, defied the might of the Crown longer than anyone could have reasonably expected. They were scattered, outnumbered and out-resourced, with no real unifying figure after the death of Earl Simon, and suffered a number of heavy defeats. Despite all their problems and setbacks, they succeeded in forcing the king into a compromise. The Dictum of Kenilworth, published in 1266, acknowledged that Henry could not hope to defeat the Disinherited via military force alone.

The purely military aspects of the revolt, including effective use of guerilla-type warfare and major actions such as the battle of Chesterfield, the siege of Kenilworth and the capture of London, will all be featured. Charismatic rebel leaders such as Robert de Ferrers, the 'wild and flighty' Earl of Derby, Sir John de Eyvill, 'the bold D'Eyvill' and others such as Sir Adam de Gurdon, David of Uffington and Baldwin Wake all receive a proper appraisal.
May 30, 2020

Informazioni sull'autore

David Pilling is a self-employed author and historian based in West Wales, where he was raised on a smallholding. As a child he acquired a love for the Welsh countryside and Welsh history, especially the medieval era. His particular interests lie in the Edwardian wars of the late 13th century.

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Rebellion Against Henry III - David Pilling



The Disinherited Montfortians, 1265–1274


First published in Great Britain in 2020 by


An imprint of

Pen & Sword Books Ltd

Yorkshire – Philadelphia

Copyright © David Pilling, 2020

ISBN 978 1 52676 320 4

ePUB ISBN 978 1 52676 321 1

Mobi ISBN 978 152676 322 8

The right of David Pilling to be identified as Author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

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Chapter 1 Reform and Rebellion

Chapter 2 The Murder of Evesham

Chapter 3 Greedy for Spoils

Chapter 4 Forced to Yield

Chapter 5 Plunder like Pirates

Chapter 6 To the Woods and Fields

Chapter 7 The Outlaw Knight

Chapter 8 The Bold Deyville

Chapter 9 The Great Siege

Chapter 10 Meres and Fens

Chapter 11 A Silver Shoe

Chapter 12 The Son of a Hard Heart

Chapter 13 With United Force

Chapter 14 Principal Plunderers

Chapter 15 Nowhere was there Peace

Chapter 16 The Great Swindle

Chapter 17 Leader and Master

Chapter 18 Conflict Renewed

Chapter 19 Bound with Love

Postscript The Old Seed of Malice

Case Study 1 The Healing Saint

Case Study 2 The Disinherited and Robin Hood: Genesis of a Legend?

Appendix 1 A Full Transcript of the Dictum of Kenilworth

Appendix 2 A Transcript of the Trial of Roger Godberd




The Disinherited were political rebels in England who defied King Henry III (r. 1216–72) for two years after the Battle of Evesham in 1265. They were so-called because Henry deprived them of their lands as punishment for their support of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who had held the king prisoner since his victory at Lewes the previous year. The revolt is generally thought to have ended in 1267, but there was a second phase of disturbances from 1269–74, after Henry’s son and heir, the Lord Edward, left England to go on crusade.

There has been no full-length study of the Disinherited since an unpublished thesis in 1959. They are sometimes regarded as an afterthought: William Henry Blaauw, who wrote a detailed account of the war up to Evesham, wearily remarked that ‘it is unnecessary to detail all the scattered hostilities’ that plagued the kingdom afterwards. Yet the resistance of this ‘large and distinct class of destitute sufferers’, as he called them, amounted to a great deal more than a few scattered hostilities. The whole of England was engulfed in conflict, and the legacy of this bitter, protracted war would last for decades.

In political and military terms the war of the Disinherited holds much of interest. The land resettlement after Evesham witnessed confiscation on a massive scale, as royalists were rewarded with forfeit estates or simply took what they wanted. To oppose the king’s superior forces, the Disinherited often resorted to guerilla-type warfare, establishing headquarters in wooded and fenland areas. There were few pitched battles, as the rebels concentrated on cutting royal supply lines, as well as burning and pillaging the land. This left many parts of England devastated: ‘nowhere was there peace, nowhere security’, as Walter Bower, a fifteenth-century Scottish chronicler, described the state of England at this time. In the end, despite suffering a number of defeats, the Disinherited reached a compromise with the king. The Dictum of Kenilworth, whereby rebels were permitted to buy back their lands, was an admission that the royalists could not hope to end the war by armed might alone.

Many of the Disinherited were unattractive characters, at least by modern standards; they were violent, prejudiced and avaricious, with little respect for human life. Yet these were the flaws of the age. The grit and resource of men who refused to accept the theft of their property, in the face of overwhelming odds, is worthy of remembrance.

Chapter 1

Reform and Rebellion

The background to the revolt was the civil war in England that began in 1259 and ended with the traumatic battle of Evesham, which marked the end of the first phase of the conflict. To understand the Disinherited and their motives, it is necessary to explain the background.

Broadly speaking, the wars in England were triggered by protests against the rule of Henry III. These included the king’s alleged financial extravagance, the unpopularity of his Lusignan and Poitevin kinsmen, military reverses in Wales and baronial protests against Henry’s doomed effort to place his second son, Edmund, on the throne of Sicily. In 1258 the barons attempted to limit the king’s behaviour via the Provisions of Oxford, confirmed the following year by the Provisions of Westminster. The Provisions of Oxford were an effort to control the government via a council of barons, called the Council of Fifteen. These men were ‘to give the king counsel in good faith for the government of the realm, and in all things pertaining to the king and the realm; and to amend and redress all things which they find in need of redress and amendment; to exercise power over the Justiciar and other people’.¹

King Henry swore to accept the decisions of the Council of Fifteen, and ordered his subjects to obey whatever the council should decree. Otherwise nothing could be done in affairs of state, and in all things its word was final.² The king was arguably willing to make these reforms work, but the personal duel between himself and Simon de Montfort, head of the reform movement, caused a political crisis to escalate into civil war.³

It did not take long for political tensions to slide into violence. The first serious outbreak occurred in northern England. In 1260 Sir John Deyville, a pugnacious northerner who would later play a leading role among the Disinherited, gathered a company of disgruntled barons and ravaged parts of Yorkshire. The Sheriff of York, Peter de Percy, later claimed expenses for the wages of his knights and crossbowmen in chasing John, Adam de Newmarket, Richard Foliot and their company over five days in late November.⁴ There was trouble elsewhere in Yorkshire, at Pontefract, where Robert de Ros and Alexander de Kirketon, knights, were arrested for committing acts of violence.⁵ No further details of this campaign survive, though it shows the basis of Earl Simon’s support in the north. John and his friends were a tough, close-knit bunch, and it seems Percy’s efforts to defeat them met with little success. The baronial rebels in the north would cause a great deal of trouble in future years.

There was also trouble in the Welsh March, the ‘buffer zone’ between England and Wales. This was nothing new, since violence, raiding and private war were the order of the day on the chaotic borderlands. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (r. 1246–82), lord of Gwynedd and would-be Prince of Wales, had been attacking crown territory in Wales since 1256; his ultimate goal was to unite the whole of Wales under his banner.⁶ The divisions in England gave him the opportunity to drive English garrisons from Welsh territory, though he faced stiff resistance from the lords of the March. Perhaps the most formidable of these was Roger Mortimer, lord of Wigmore and Llywelyn’s own cousin. They were both grandsons of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, known to modern generations as Llywelyn the Great. Mortimer often struggled to hold his own against Llywelyn’s incursions, but would play a vital role in the war in England.⁷

The situation in England deteriorated in the spring of 1263 when Simon returned from France, determined to enforce the baronial reform movement with himself as its leader. There was further chaos in the March where the death in 1262 of Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, removed one of Simon’s chief rivals. His heir, Gilbert ‘the Red (so-called after his shock of red hair and fiery temperament), refused to swear loyalty to the Lord Edward when ordered by Henry III. The new earl was a more radical character than his father, and may have taken a strong personal dislike to Edward.

Meanwhile, Llywelyn pressed hard on royal lands in Gwent, southeast Wales. In March an enormous Welsh host, ‘all the pride of Wales’, led by his steward Goronwy ap Ednyfed, marched to the banks of the River Usk. Here they were held for two days by an army of Marcher lords led by Sir John Grey, Roger Mortimer, Reginald FitzPeter and Peter de Montfort. On Saturday 3 March, at midday, the Marchers crossed a ford above the town of Abergavenny and stormed into the flank of the Welsh host. Goronwy’s men scattered in panic, but the victory was only a brief respite. The Welsh tenantry of Abergavenny revolted against their English lords and flocked to Llywelyn’s banner, whose forces seemed to be unstoppable. They ravaged Cheshire, forcing the English to take refuge behind the walls of Gloucester and Hereford. The Bishop of Hereford wrote to King Henry that the whole March was in a state of terror.

In April the Lord Edward, King Henry’s eldest son, returned from France at his father’s behest and advanced into the March. He did his best to shore up the defences at Hereford and then advanced into North Wales, but could do little save resupply his beleaguered castles of Deganwy and Dyserth.¹⁰ Shortly afterwards Edward was recalled to England, where the situation was sliding out of control. In the absence of royal authority, Simon’s supporters in the March took the opportunity to raid and burn the estates of the queen, Eleanor of Provence (r. 1236–72). They also broke into Hereford cathedral, dragged the terrified Bishop of Hereford from his altar and spirited him away into captivity.¹¹

King Henry was faced with a struggle to control London. After the failure of peace talks he was forced to take refuge in the Tower, though Edward mounted a desperate effort to collect funds by robbing the New Temple, a precinct of the Knights Templar in the heart of London. This further enraged the Londoners, who took up arms and attacked royalists in the city. Edward retreated to Windsor to gather his foreign mercenaries. Famously, Queen Eleanor’s attempt to sail up the Thames to join her son was aborted as she had to turn back when her barge was pelted with missiles by a mob of citizenry. When he heard of the outrage, Edward vowed revenge.¹²

Faced with a Montfortian army advancing on London, the king chose to submit and open peace talks. Edward attempted to seize Bristol, where his mercenaries were driven out by the townsfolk. The prince was trapped in the castle and only allowed to depart when the Bishop of Worcester brokered a truce. Edward shamelessly broke the truce and returned to Windsor, determined to carry on fighting; to him, oaths sworn to men he regarded as traitors had no value. Yet his situation was hopeless. Dover had fallen to the enemy, cutting off any help from abroad, and Simon was advancing on Windsor from London. At last Edward bowed to reality and submitted. He rode to London to rejoin his parents, while in July his mercenaries were escorted to the coast with orders never to return.¹³

Simon had won the opening exchange of the civil war, but the royal family was far from done. Henry appealed for aid to his brother monarch, Louis IX of France (r. 1226–70), and there was a lull as both sides argued their case before the French king at Boulogne. The advantage gradually shifted away from Simon. In October 1263 his supporters on the March were excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, while Edward quietly worked at luring the Marchers away from Simon’s allegiance. Via a series of hefty bribes he managed to gain the support of Roger Clifford, Roger Leyburn, John Vaux, Hamo Lestrange and Ralph Basset of Drayton. These men, who had torched his mother’s lands just a few months previously, now promised ‘to be his friends in all his affairs’.¹⁴

Edward made his move in mid-October, when he went to Windsor to visit his wife, Eleanor of Castile (r. 1272–90). At least that was the official reason. As soon as he arrived, Edward seized the castle, raised his banner and sent gallopers to invite his new friends to join him with all speed. The Marchers came flocking along with Edward’s cousin Henry of Almaine, John de Warenne and the Earl of Norfolk. King Henry also raced to Windsor to take advantage of his son’s audacity. In the following weeks the royalists were able to retake Oxford and Winchester, though London and Dover remained in Montfortian hands. In early December they nearly scooped the greatest prize of all by trapping Simon at Southwark, but he managed to escape their grasp with the aid of loyal Londoners.¹⁵

The stand-off that followed lasted until the end of January, when King Louis declared he found in favour of Henry. This was hardly surprising, since no monarch was likely to find in favour of restraints placed upon another monarch. Kings, Louis declared, should rule unfettered, without interference from even the greatest of their subjects. His uncompromising declaration, called the Mise of Amiens, left Earl Simon and his followers with no choice but a resort to arms. The civil war proper had begun.¹⁶

The first action took place in the Marches. In February, only a few weeks after Louis’ declaration, a rebel army moved west to ravage the lands of Edward’s friend and cousin, Roger Mortimer of Wigmore. The army was led by two of Simon’s sons, Henry and Simon the Younger: the elder Simon had broken his leg in December and was still recovering.¹⁷ King Henry responded by ordering the sheriffs of the border shires to break down all the bridges over the Severn, except those at royalist-held Gloucester, destroy all boats and obstruct all fords.¹⁸

Edward sped west to aid his allies. He found the defence of the Marches in chaos, and tried to shore up the situation by transferring the remnant of the lordship of Brecon to Mortimer. It had previously been in the hands of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, but Edward was unimpressed with his military performance against the Welsh.¹⁹ The prince also sent a group of Marcher barons, including his ally Prince Dafydd ap Gruffudd, to ravage the estates of Robert de Ferrers in Staffordshire.²⁰

The war flowed into the Severn valley. Edward attacked Gloucester and succeeded in capturing the castle, but was almost trapped when Ferrers appeared unexpectedly with reinforcements.²¹ The earl had previously sacked Worcester, destroying the Jewish quarter with great savagery, and now brought his forces to aid Henry de Montfort, earl Simon’s eldest son, but Henry allowed himself to be tricked by Edward into signing a truce. Never a very enthusiastic Montfortian, Ferrers ‘smote his steed with his spur’ and rode back to his estates in northern England.²² As soon as the barons withdrew from the town, Edward broke the terms of the truce and threw a number of the leading citizens into prison. After being allowed to sweat for a while, they were allowed to go free upon payment of a ransom. The hapless porters who had admitted the barons to Gloucester in the first place were seized and hanged by Edward’s ally, Roger Clifford.²³

Edward left Clifford in charge and rode to join his father at Oxford. Like Charles I (r. 1625–49) several hundred years later, the king had made the town his headquarters.²⁴ Henry now gathered his forces for an all-out assault upon the barons. He even had a special dragon banner made, to be carried at the head of his army. It was a splendid device, richly decorated with sapphires for eyes and a long tongue that flickered as the breeze caught and snapped at the banner.²⁵

The battle of Northampton

Henry intended to crush the rebels in the Midlands before turning to deal with Earl Simon himself in the southeast. His first target was Northampton, recently captured by Simon the Younger. The rebel garrison there threatened Henry’s position at Oxford, and could also launch an attack upon his flank if he tried to move against Earl Simon’s chief strongholds in London and at the Cinque Ports. Nor could Henry hope to approach the north and west of his kingdom without recapturing Northampton, which controlled the route to and from the Great North Road.²⁶

The king’s army was formidable, including most of the great lords of England and a phalanx of barons from the Welsh March. Notably absent was Gilbert de Clare, the ‘red earl’ of Gloucester, who for the time being had thrown in his lot with the rebels.²⁷ Simon the Younger’s forces, by comparison, were fairly meagre. Apart from Baldwin Wake, a Lincolnshire baron, and William de Ferrers, Earl Ferrers’ younger brother, he had no more than a hundred lesser knights and esquires under his command. Added to these was a crowd of pro-Montfortian students from Oxford University, driven from the town for their support of the earl. There were also a number of civilians, either persuaded or pressed into service. One reluctant conscript, Stephen de la Haye, escaped the bloodshed by swimming his horse across the river.²⁸

The royal army stormed Northampton at sunrise on Saturday 5 April. They were sung into battle by a choir of monks, assembled for the occasion by the pious King Henry, and advanced in two columns across the water meadows outside the town.²⁹ One assaulted the south gate with ladders and hurdles, while the other skirted round to the northwest and forced a breach in a section of wall. There was some suspicion that the wall had been deliberately weakened by an insider, the prior of the Cluniac House of St Andrew’s, though this was never proved. Simon the Younger raced to the spot, ‘mounted on a foaming charger’, and twice drove back the king’s infantry. Simon’s heroic stand came to an embarrassing end when his horse panicked and threw him headlong into a ditch. He might have been butchered on the spot, if his cousin Edward had not ordered him to be taken prisoner instead.³⁰

Simon’s capture signalled the end of resistance. Most of the rebels threw down their arms, with the exception of a stubborn core of diehards under Peter de Montfort (no relation to Simon) who took refuge in the castle. King Henry entered the town in triumph, while his troops set about pillaging and taking prisoners. Peter’s men only held out for a single night and surrendered the next morning, putting the gloss on Henry’s victory.

Word of the disaster at Northampton reached Earl Simon at St Albans. He had advanced from London with a relief force to aid his son, but now turned back to the capital. He could do nothing to prevent all his followers at Northampton from falling into the king’s hands. In a prelude to his later policy of disinheritance, Henry seized the lands of the prisoners and doled them out among his loyal followers.³¹

The battle of Lewes

Henry immediately pressed his advantage. Not renowned as one of England’s warrior-kings, his handling of the 1264 campaign was competent and decisive. In the days after Northampton his army rampaged through the Midlands, taking one rebel stronghold after another. Part of the army split off under Edward’s command and marched into Derbyshire to devastate the lands of his hated rival, Robert de Ferrers. Edward had previously sent his allies on the March to ravage the Ferrers estates in Staffordshire, and he now followed up the earlier raid by tearing into the heart of his enemy’s power base.³² Tutbury Castle, Ferrers’ chief castle, was demolished and his manors and estates laid waste. The manor of Wirkesworth was only spared because the townsfolk paid Edward £200 in protection money. Ferrers himself was in London with Earl Simon and could do nothing to defend his lands.³³

Simon responded to the virtual loss of the Midlands by tightening his grip on the southeast. In April he and the earl of Gloucester laid siege to Rochester, where the castle was defended by John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey. The Montfortians stormed the outer bailey, but the garrison managed to hold out inside the keep. As soon as he received word of the siege, King Henry raced south from Nottingham. His army was spearheaded by Edward, who drove off the besieging army. To cover his retreat, Simon left part of the garrison behind as sacrificial lambs. These unfortunates were captured and mutilated, their hands and feet cut off.³⁴

The king now moved towards the coast to attack the Cinque Ports, hoping to persuade them to submit and send their fleet to blockade London. On the way Henry continued to plunder the manors of those who defied him. The army plunged into the difficult wooded country of the Weald, a belt of thick forest that covered large parts of Kent and Sussex. Montfortian archers shot down many of the king’s soldiers as they struggled through the woods. Henry himself wore full armour to guard against these thirteenth-century snipers.³⁵

Finally the royalists pitched camp at Battle in Sussex. On 6 May Simon marched out of London to confront the king, who turned westward to the greater safety of the walled town at Lewes. Simon, in turn, established headquarters at Fletching, nine miles to the south, from where he sent envoys to treat with the king. Negotiations began on 12 May and ended in dismal failure, largely thanks to the aggressive attitude of Edward and his uncle, Richard of Cornwall, the king’s brother. Neither trusted the Montfortians or the peace terms offered, and the talks broke up in acrimony.³⁶

Battle was now inevitable. Simon seized the initiative and moved his army under cover of darkness to the heights of the Sussex Downs, looking down on the royalist position. At

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