Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Battle of Evesham

Evesham Abbey had existed for about five and a half centuries by the time Henry III was captured by Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Lewes in 1264. Montfort was at the head of a group of barons who felt Henry was too irresponsible as a monarch, but as Montfort introduced reforms that gave Parliamentary representation to the lower classes, the nobles started to turn on him. Evesham would be the setting for Montfort's defeat and Henry's return to power.

In 1265, Henry's son Edward was released from captivity "on parole." Those loyal to Henry began to focus on helping Edward as Montfort's popularity continued to wane after the powerful Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare, stopped supporting him. Also, de Montfort made an alliance of convenience with Llywelyn ap Gruffyd, Prince of Wales—mentioned here as "Llewelyn the Last"—which proved an unpopular move with his remaining English supporters.

Clare joined forces with Prince Edward, and together they moved to occupy Worcester. Montfort gathered his army and marched to Wales to add Llewelyn's troops. Unfortunately, while Montfort was in Wales, Edward and Clare expanded the territory over which they had control. In early August, the two armies met near Evesham Abbey, with Edward's larger force trapping Montfort's in a loop of the River Avon and blocking his only chance of escape.

Montfort was, in fact, keeping Henry with him for security. Henry came close to being killed in the cross-fighting, but the battle ended quickly once Simon de Montfort was killed and mutilated by Edward's forces. His troops were chased and cut down without mercy. Henry was restored to the throne and held a Parliament the following month in which those who turned on him were disinherited. Ultimately, after some more military engagements between the two sides, Henry's Dictum of Kenilworth  offered the nobles a chance to regain their former estates via payments to the Crown. Years later, Edward would become King Edward I.

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