64 The Personal Reign of Henry III – Part 1

Henry III brushed off his great officers of state and the period of 1234 to 1258 is a period of personal rule. Henry finds himself a wife, a new personal favourite in the form of Simon de Montfort, and makes one last attempt to regain Poitou. 

64 The Personal Rule of Henry III Part 1


The character of Henry III

Henry IIIThe word that seems to have stuck with Henry is 'simplex' – a word that could mean honest and straightforward, or stupid. Lets say it means naive in Henry's case. Henry lacks the nastiness of his father, but also his energy and strength of will. Despite the fact that he tries hard to maintain peace and happiness at court, he ends up suffering rebellion

Henry was a very pious man – who also had something of an obsession over Edward the Confessor. As a result, his first born son was landed with the outlandish, anglo saxon name of Edward, and Henry devoted massive time and resources to rebuilding Westminster Abbey. 

Eleanor of Provence

in 1235, the 12 year old Eleanor and Henry were married. Eleanor was one  of 4 daughters who married into the English and French monarchies. She was to prove a force in English politics despite all the disadvantages of the Queen's position. 

Simon de Montfort arrives

Simon de Montfort was born in 1208, the third son of Simon de Montfort and Alice de Monmorency, a remarkable couple. De Montfort the elder had been a chief prosecutor of the Albigensian crusade in the south of France and had died outside the walls of Toulouse in 1218. By 1221 his mother was also dead, and so Simon was left an orphan at the age of 13. 

Simon de MontfortDe Montfort had a vague claim to the Earldon of Leicester. He bought out his elder brother Amaury's claim for £500, and headed over to England. By 1230 he had persuaded the Earl of Chester (with some financial help) to surrender his claim, and was in place. 

In 1236, de Montfort married the king's sister Eleanor. This was political dynamite – Eleanor would have been a valuable counter in the game of international diplomacy, not someone to be chucked away on random barons. 

A couple of points about this period then; firstly, Simon's character reflects his early years. Fiercely and militaristically religious; rigid minded with enormous force of character and charisma; a silver tongue, able to talk himself out of most situations; ambitious; but also with a constant sense of financial vulnerability from the early years as a landless third son that made financially grasping and more than a bit greedy. 

Secondly, he is closer to the king in the 1230's and 1240's that almost any other baron, at the centre of the king's court. But the relationship becomes ever more uneasy; de Montfort was capable of shouting at the king in a way that no one else would dare to, and was constantly claiming that Henry owed him money. Henry was a weak man and I imagine (a guess) that after being initially dazzled by de Montfort, deep down he came to heartily hate the man as he was bullied and hectored. 

2 thoughts on “64 The Personal Reign of Henry III – Part 1

  1. Curious why you find it irritating that Edward I is considered one of the greatest kings. He absolutely was.

    1. I may be over reacting a bit, and I accept that he’s considered an innovator in lawmaking. But despite his (incredibly expensive) success in Wales militarily, his approach to Scotland broke a perfectly harmonious relationship and committed England and Scotland to decades of warfare and fractured politics. His wars in France, though less of his making, were at best a score draw.

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