Biography of Simón de Conde de Leicester Montfort (ca. 1208-1265)

Anglo-French aristocrat, born in île-de-France to 1208 and died in Evesham (United Kingdom), 4 August 1265. As the second son of Simon de Montfort, lived his early years in the Parisian Señorío de Montfort, by the King of France, Felipe Augusto and, after the death of his father (1218) and this Monarch (1223), protected by the new King, Luis VIII, who had fought to the Cathars under the orders of the great French military. However, after the death of Luis VIII (1226) and the advent of San Luis, Simon de Montfort situation changed completely, given the enmity that kept with Blanche of Castile, wife of Luis VIII and Regent of France for the minority of her son. Apparently, Simon had decided to marry Jeanne, Countess of Flanders, matrimonial connection to which the Queen was opposed. This prompted Simon, despairing, decided to emigrate to England, although to do so he/she had to do an assignment on rights to his brother Amaury. This, by parental Testament, had corresponded, in addition to the possessions in the South of France, the dignities that the Montfort kept the British Kingdom (Earl of Leicester and Seneschal of the Crown), while had corresponded to Simon de Montfort County and other adjacent territories in île-de-France. Before emigrating, Simon ceded all French possessions to his brother Amaury, in Exchange for the perks that in England: such was his decision not to return to France ever.

Promotion at the English Court (1228-1248)

Arriving in England, approximately in 1228, found a nasty surprise: the titles of the Montfort family in the Kingdom had been emptied of effect, in retaliation of the English monarchy to the occupation of Normandy (English stronghold on the Mainland) by Felipe Augusto, carried out during the first years of the 13th century. In spite of this, and thanks to the recommendation of his cousin Ranulfo, Earl of Chester, entered the service of Henry III, who, in 1229, reversed existing sanctions against the Montfort, so Simon de Montfort was titular Earl of Leicester and Seneschal of England. During those years, Simon supported deeply the policy of Enrique III, faced with the strong man of the Kingdom, Pierre des Roches, Bishop of Winchester. As a reward for this support, in 1236 the monarch appointed him his steward on the occasion of the link between the English King and his wife, Leonor de Provence, in addition to granting him a high income of 500 frames. Subsequently, and to fully certify the ascendant in the Court, 7 January 1239 Simon de Montfort married Leonor Plantagenet, sister of the King, although the marriage took place after some Pontifical and legal vericueto.

Leonor was widow of William Pembroke, and after his death, had made vow of chastity, so his new marriage much angered the Pope Gregory IX. At the same time, the British Parliament was offended because he/she had not been consulted about this marriage, which led to the brother of King Enrique III, Ricardo, Duke of Cornualles, to lead a revolt of the barons, fed up with the excesses of the Kings. Faced with this situation, the King advised the new couple to leave England until tempers were calmed, but Simon de Montfort appeared before Cornualles Ricardo, excuses for not having respected the Parliament requested, and as compensation, offered to accompany to the Holy Land, in the crusade that the brother of the King would go in 1240. Ricardo's Cornualles, strongly impressed by the character of Simon, gladly accepted his spear, for what, from 1240 to 1242, the Earl of Leicester ensured weapons where his late father won military fame. And, certainly not you must have it do nothing wrong, since some of the Knights proposed to the German Emperor Federico II, while King of Jerusalem, distinguish Simon with the post of Viceroy while his absence last. However, at the end of that same year Simón returned to England, called urgently for Enrique III.

The pacification of Gascony (1242-1252)

Back in England, Simon participated in the foiled attempt at invasion of Normandy (1242) by the British monarch, and managed to almost more recognition that already had when, after the defeat of the English troops in Saintes, the Earl of Leicester risked his own life so that Enrique III could escape the lurking enemy. As a reward, the King gave the castle of Kenilworth, Royal residence, where Montfort settled with his wife and where he/she established a sort of courtly circle, which included such personalities as the Archbishop of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste, philosopher and theologian, reformer, or oxoniense Professor Adam of Marsco, Franciscan theologian. For about six years, Simon left the military life to take part in the political life of the Kingdom, both embassies to other European courts as Rome, as well as defending Enrique III of the fulminations of its parliamentarians, as the crisis that took place in 1244.

Perhaps longing for its activity military and warrior, Simon de Montfort was on the verge of accepting the offer of San Luis, King of France, to accompany to the Holy land in the new crusade which the French monarch was promoting; but until his affirmative answer would have been pronounced, King Enrique III asked that it be, as absolute Governor, Gascony, a small territory in France which was vassal of the English King and was altered by the rebellion of the nobles. Simon accepted reluctantly, only tempted by the unusual conditions offered by Enrique III, among which included are full power and an economic stipend very elevated. Perhaps for this reason, the Government of the Earl of Leicester in Gascony was characterized by tyranny and cruelty: restored order to the Gascon rebels at the expense of bloodshed. The main opponent of Gascony, Gastón de Béarn, even request in 1252 is to refer to trial the tyranny of the Governor. Although the English Parliament cleared the Earl of Leicester's charges, prudence forced Henry to remove Government from Gascony to personally take charge of the pacification. Simon accepted the economic deal, but it flew into a rage when, in 1253, the own Enrique had to call you urgently to help in the pacification, because he/she could not with the noble Gascon.

The estrangement with Henry III and rebellion (1253-1258)

The distance between the brothers-in-law increasingly seemed greatest; the count was deeply angered by this emergency call, when it was assumed that its relay in front of the gascon territory had occurred because the monarch would do it much better; with regard to the monarch, was hurt with the Earl of Leicester because, following the death of the White Queen of Castile in November 1252, and because of that the legitimate King, San Luis, it was still in the Crusades, a vast majority of French nobles had offered to Simon the Regency of the Kingdom, given the good relationship he/she maintained with the French monarch. Some researchers also argue that patronage that the count had with various members of the hierarchy ecclesiastical English, especially with the Franciscan oxonienses reformers led by Robert Grosseteste, did to Simon de Montfort reconsider the authoritarian Government of the monarchy and take open party by parliamentarism as the most appropriate solution.

This was joined by perhaps the most serious mistake made by Enrique III: the announcement of the conquest of Sicily, Crown that wanted to offer his son, Prince Edmund, with the consent and the spiritual support of Pope Innocent IV. After some long discussions in the Parliament and in the Court, finally, a huge army of stately troops of all the English barons was put under the command of the Earl of Leicester; Finally, in June 1258, harassed King Enrique III had no choice but to surrender and convene a meeting of the Parliament in Oxford, which was approved, in the month of June, a series of annexes to the Magna Carta, where more power was given to the Parliament, known by the name of provisions of Oxford. In them the barons were bases to form a permanent Royal Council, consisting of twenty-four members which, in turn, would elect the four Executive, as well as forming a new Committee, the Council of the twelve, which is subrogated the fiscal powers of the Kingdom until they were validated by the signature of the King. Parliamentarism in Simon de Montfort was widely reflected in the achievement of Oxford, although it would not take arise enemies.

Years: the dictatorship of the Seneschal (1259-1265)

The first of these was the only support of the King among the barons, Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester. Controversies in the Parliament between the Earls of Leicester and Gloucester were sweeping, the second was only agreed to limit the power of the King when this not respected parliamentary rules, not always, as advocated by Simon, which they accused of sedition. For this reason, in 1260, the King and the Earl of Gloucester faction, aided by the Pope and the King of France, San Luis, were made with the control of the Parliament and managed to expel Montfort, who went to live in his castle of Kenilworth under real surveillance. But in October 1261 Enrique III went one step further: override the provisions of Oxford, which meant a new revolt of the English barons in 1262. The Earl of Leicester refused to intervene, but the seriousness of the events, threatening with a real civil war, made it to sumase the rebels in April 1263. This presence was sufficient for Enrique III resort to the King of France, who offered to mediate in the case and decide with their prestige if they were or were not just the English nobles petitions. Simon, obviously, accepted the proposal and stopped troops, but returned them together once in the so-called Pact of Amiens (January 1264), the French monarch declared null and void all the reforms requested by the British Parliament.

Although it is always difficult to brooding with the events of the past, it is quite possible that a settlement between Enrique III and his barons would have been less harmful, because, following the intervention of the French monarch, the old unit spirit of 1258 returned to join all the establishment under the direction of Montfort in an open war against the English King. At the battle of Lewes, on 14 may 1264, both Enrique III as his son and successor, the Prince of Gales Eduardo, Eduardo Ifuture, were made prisoners by the troops of Montfort, who returned to restore the Constitution with all the previous provisions, and became, as Seneschal of the Kingdom, in the highest authority as the monarch does not accept the adoption of the law. Perhaps be fling to make such decision, because the rest of the barons was frightened at the prospects and began a new regrouping, this time under the whip of the young Gilbert de Clare, new count of Gloucester, son of the previous. The help of Gilbert, most cunning of Prince Eduardo de Gales, made to escape from his prison of Hereford (perhaps with the connivance of some barons) to Enrique III and his son. Much more equipped with remote control that her father, was the future Eduardo I, who was in charge of operations: 1 August 1265 he/she moved towards the residence of Kenilworth and got put on their side to the stately troops that, in principle, supported Simon de Montfort. Subsequently, he/she commanded a spectacular Chase for the entire course of the River Severn to the few troops remaining loyal to the Seneschal, until, finally, trapped them in Evesham. The battle produced in this English City, August 4, 1265, Simon de Montfort was killed. Nevertheless, and deterred in the lead of others, when Eduardo I succeeded his father in the English Crown, in 1272, first thing he/she did was approve the Constitution with all provisions, which had been the struggle of Montfort and the reason for his death.

Today, Simon de Montfort is regarded in England as one of the fathers of British constitutionalism. In the town of Evesham, where he/she died, a Memorial of his activity is so that the English Parliament was always in the hands of the King, and no separate issue to which he/she devoted the largest part of its vital future.


MORGAN, K.O. (Ed.) The Oxford History of England. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).

Links on the Internet; Transcript (in English) the rebellion of Simon of Montfort, written in the 13th century by the religious Matthew of Westminster. It is part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook, edited by the Centre for medieval studies of the Fordham University (New York).; Official website of the British Parliament, with data on the participation of Simon de Montfort in the consolidation of parliamentary statutes.