Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester

Simon de Montfort
Earl of Leicester
Simon Leicester.jpg
Simon de Montfort, in a drawing of a stained glass window found at Chartres Cathedral, c. 1250
Title held1239 – 4 August 1265
PredecessorSimon de Montfort, 5th Earl
SuccessorNone, title forfeit
Bornc. 1208
Montfort-l'Amaury[1]
Died4 August 1265 (aged about 57)
Evesham, Worcestershire
BuriedEvesham Abbey
Spouse(s)Eleanor of England
Issue
FatherSimon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester
MotherAlix de Montmorency
OccupationSoldier and statesman

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester (c. 1208 – 4 August 1265), sometimes referred to as Simon V[A] de Montfort to distinguish him from his namesake relatives, was a nobleman of French origin and a member of the English peerage, who led the baronial opposition to the rule of King Henry III of England, culminating in the Second Barons' War. Following his initial victories over royal forces, he became de facto ruler of the country,[2] and played a major role in the constitutional development of England.

During his rule, Montfort called two famous parliaments. The first stripped the King of unlimited authority, while the second included ordinary citizens from the towns.[2] For this reason, Montfort is regarded today as one of the progenitors of modern parliamentary democracy.[3] As Earl of Leicester he expelled Jews from that city; as he became ruler of England he also cancelled debts owed to Jews through violent seizures of records. Events in London and Worcester, for instance, led to massacres.[4][5] After a rule of just over a year, Montfort was killed by forces loyal to the King in the Battle of Evesham.[2]

Family

Montfort was a younger son of Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, a French nobleman and crusader, and Alix de Montmorency. His paternal grandmother was Amicia de Beaumont, the senior co-heiress to the Earldom of Leicester and a large estate owned by her brother Robert de Beaumont, 4th Earl of Leicester, in England.

With the irrevocable loss of Normandy, King John refused to allow the elder Simon to succeed to the earldom of Leicester and instead placed the estates and title into the hands of Montfort senior's cousin Ranulf, the Earl of Chester. The elder Simon had also acquired vast domains during the Albigensian Crusade, but was killed during the Siege of Toulouse in 1218 and his eldest son Amaury was not able to retain them. When Amaury was rebuffed in his attempt to get the earldom back, he agreed to allow his younger brother Simon to claim it in return for all family possessions in France.

Simon arrived in England in 1229, with some education but no knowledge of English, and received a sympathetic hearing from King Henry III, who was well-disposed towards foreigners speaking French, then the language of the English court. Henry was in no position to confront the powerful Earl of Chester, so Simon approached the older, childless man himself and convinced him to cede him the earldom. It would take another nine years before Henry formally invested him with the title Earl of Leicester.