Henry III at Westminster: the Building of the Abbey

Seven hundred years ago King Henry III was defeated at Lewes by Simon de Montfort; their abiding joint memorial is Edward the Confessor’s Abbey which Henry III refounded. By Martin Holmes.

Seven centuries ago there was trouble and bloodshed in England. Henry III and Edward his son were arrayed in arms against some of the greatest barons of the land, with Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, at the head of them. Earl Simon and his party maintained that Henry was extravagant, irresponsible and not always very honest, and that he must be controlled and made to observe some sort of self-restraint if the country was not to be ruined. Henry, in his turn, held that Simon and the barons were stiff-necked and officious, self-righteously arrogating to themselves an intolerable degree of power in giving orders to the King to whom they owed allegiance. Both sides were basically correct in their allegations and, in consequence, the two parties met in battle at Lewes in the summer of 1264. The Londoners in the baronial army were routed; Prince Edward pursued them with great slaughter, burning to avenge an insult they had offered to his mother, but this pursuit took him away from the main battle. When he returned, it was to find that the fortunes of the day had gone very differently without him, and that Simon de Montfort was master of the field, and of his father the King.

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