Battle of Lewes

Battle of Lewes
Part of Second Barons' War
Lewes.jpg
Plan of the Battle of Lewes
Date14 May 1264
Location
ResultBaronial victory
Belligerents
Baronial forcesRoyal forces
Commanders and leaders
Armoiries seigneurs Montfort.svg Simon de Montfort
CoA Gilbert de Clare.svg Gilbert de Clare
Arms of John Segrave, 2nd Baron Segrave (d.1325).svg Nicholas de Segrave
Royal Arms of England.svg Henry III
Arms of Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk.svg Prince Edward
Arms of Richard of Cornwall, Earl of Cornwall.svg Richard of Cornwall
Strength
c. 5,000c. 10,000
Monument to the Battle of Lewes

The Battle of Lewes was one of two main battles of the conflict known as the Second Barons' War. It took place at Lewes in Sussex, on 14 May 1264. It marked the high point of the career of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, and made him the "uncrowned King of England". Henry III left the safety of Lewes Castle and St. Pancras Priory to engage the Barons in battle and was initially successful, his son Prince Edward routing part of the baronial army with a cavalry charge. However Edward pursued his quarry off the battlefield and left Henry's men exposed. Henry was forced to launch an infantry attack up Offham Hill where he was defeated by the barons' men, defending the hilltop. The royalists fled back to the castle and priory and the King was forced to sign the Mise of Lewes, ceding many of his powers to Montfort.

Background

Henry III was an unpopular monarch due to his autocratic style, displays of favouritism and his refusal to negotiate with his barons. The barons eventually imposed a constitutional reform known as the Provisions of Oxford upon Henry that called for a thrice-yearly meeting led by Simon de Montfort to discuss matters of government. Henry sought to escape the restrictions of the provisions and applied to Louis IX of France to arbitrate in the dispute. Louis agreed with Henry and annulled the provisions. Montfort was angered by this and rebelled against the King along with other barons in the Second Barons' War.[1]

The war was not initially openly fought, each side toured the country to raise support for their army. A series of massacres of Jews in Worcester, London, Canterbury and other cities were conducted by Montfort's allies.[2][3]

By May the King's force had reached Lewes where they intended to halt for a while to allow reinforcements to reach them.[1] The King encamped at St. Pancras Priory with a force of infantry, but his son, Prince Edward (later King Edward I), commanded the cavalry at Lewes Castle 500 yards (460 m) to the north.[4] De Montfort approached the King with the intention of negotiating a truce or failing that to draw him into open battle. The King rejected the negotiations and de Montfort moved his men from Fletching to Offham Hill, a mile to the north-west of Lewes, in a night march that surprised the royalist forces.[1][4]