Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester

(c. 1208—1265) magnate and political reformer

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Earl Simon has been the subject of controversy ever since his death at the battle of Evesham (1265). Then, the victorious royalists dismembered his body in revengeful exultation; a detested traitor had met his end. But his followers found solace in the rapid emergence of a cult. A ‘political’ saint was born.

It is as a supposed martyr for justice that Simon has largely attracted both denigration and adulation ever since. Nineteenth‐cent. scholars saw the baronial movement for reform, which Simon came to lead, as a formative phase in the making of the English constitution, a crucial step on the road to democracy. Powicke reacted sharply, considering Simon to be a fanatic, a moral and political crusader, whose arrogance and stubbornness wrecked the early promise of the reform movement enshrined in the provisions of Oxford (1258). What does seem clear is that Simon was no great radical or social reformer. Rather, he accepted the social order of his day and took support from whatever quarter he could.

Subjects: History.

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