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Lewes and Evesham 1264–65

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Barons' war

The following year, , the barons forced Henry to agree to hold hearings in every county, in which abuses by county sheriffs and other royal officials were investigated. As a result of these hearings a new document was drawn up, proposing radical reforms of common law which would offer greater protection to the rights of free men. This document, the Provisions of Westminster, formed the basis of English common law for the next several centuries. Once again, Henry signed the provisions under duress. Henry then appealed to Pope Alexander IV for dispensation to repudiate both provisions.

This the pope duly granted, and in Henry renounced his oaths to abide by the terms of the provisions. The rebels could not let this pass, and under pressure from the barons, Henry agreed to let King Louis IX of France mediate the dispute. Louis' judgment was issued at Amiens in January , and was known as the Mise of Amiens. In the Mise, Louis sided entirely with Henry. Predictably, de Montfort repudiated the Mise of Amiens immediately, and armed conflict broke out.

We've mentioned de Montfort's unfortunate habit of alienating those of his fellow barons who might otherwise be tempted to support him. Many of those barons went over to the king's side, while de Montfort drew much of his support from the Commons and the towns, who saw him as a champion of their burgeoning rights. The first was the Battle of Lewes in This ended in a decisive victory for de Montfort, and Henry and Prince Edward were captured.


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With the king in his power, Simon de Montfort moved to summon what can truly be called England's first 'real' Parliament. He called to Westminster a Great Council, which included elected burgesses from selected boroughs. Though far from a modern democratic assembly, it was at least a first step towards representative government that included local representation.

This was not the first occasion upon which burgesses were called to Westminster, but on previous occasions they served merely a consultative role. For the first time these elected representatives exercised a legislative role, deciding and enacting policy. But the royal faction did not give up without a fight. Prince Edward escaped from custody and joined royal supporters in the Welsh marches. De Montfort marched to join forces with his son at Kenilworth , in Warwickshire, to form a joint army which would outnumber Edward's men.

Edward struck first, and overwhelmed the younger de Montfort. When the Earl of Leicester reached Evesham, instead of meeting his son's army, he was met by Prince Edward at the head of a superior force. In the ensuing Battle of Evesham the rebel army was annihilated, and de Montfort was killed.