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The Household Roll of Eleanor de Montfort, 1265

Joan M. Fawcett utilises the household records for the Countess of Leicester, sister of Henry III, to retrace a crucial year for the de Montfort fortunes.

Personal documents are a fascinating source of historical knowledge which, although they cannot re-create for us a complete picture of any period, at least provide a vivid impression of its human background. This is particularly true of the Household Roll of the Countess of Leicester, sister of Henry III and wife of the great rebel earl, Simon de Montfort. The roll begins in February 1265, the crucial year of the de Montfort fortunes, when the earl reached the height of his power, only to plunge with startling suddenness to defeat and death. The Countess’s household accounts give us remarkable glimpses of those vital months.

By 1265, her brother the King, a man of aesthetic interests, at times charming, but quick-tempered almost to the point of insanity, as were so many Plantagenets, was monarch only in name; his forces had been defeated the previous May at the battle of Lewes. He himself was not a prisoner, but his son, Prince Edward, was held as a hostage, and his brother Richard, the Earl of Cornwall, and his sons were prisoners of de Montfort at Kenilworth Castle. The first entry on the roll is dated February 19th, when the Countess was at Wallingford Castle; the next day she set out to ride to her castle at Odiham in Hampshire, where she stayed until June 1st. With her went her youngest son Richard and her daughter Eleanor.

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