Battle of Lewes
Henry III was king for 11 years before he truly ruled, advisors running the country on the child king’s behalf until his coming of age in 1227, when he proceeded to undo the good work they had done expelling the French and strengthening the country’s desperate finances.
Henry III raised taxes aggressively to fund foreign adventures and religious building, succeeding in disaffecting the barons with his demands. He also vexed them by filling positions of power with Frenchmen at the insistence of his stronger-willed wife, Eleanor of Provence.
The situation descended into civil war in 1258, the barons led by Henry’s brother-in-law Simon de Montfort , and might have culminated in a change of ruler when Simon won a stunning victory at the Battle of Lewes in 1264.
The Barons’ forces led by de Montfort numbered perhaps 5,000 men, only half the strength of Henry’s army. A parley on the 12th May proved useless, and de Montfort manoeuvred his men, wearing white crosses to mark them out, in a dawn march to the high ground above Lewes on the 14th.
The weakest division of de Montfort’s army, ill-armed and ill-prepared Londoners, was demolished by Henry’s son Edward , who is then thought to have hared after the spoils of the Baronial baggage wagons.
De Montfort is believed to have charged down the hill at the remaining royal army in an all-or-nothing move before Edward could rally to outflank him. The king’s army was routed near the town, and thousands slaughtered on the outskirts and then in Lewes itself before a truce was negotiated, the King and his son captives in all but name. Simon de Montfort, for a year at least, held the reigns of power in England.
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