Battle of Evesham
After the Battle of Lewes the previous year, Simon de Montfort’s position seemed strong, but events went against him time and again thereafter. Key ally the Earl of Derby was captured and taken to the tower. Worse still, the Earl of Gloucester defected to Henry ’s cause in May 1265, and helped secure the escape of Prince Edward who then rallied forces to fight for the king. The Royalists were aided by de Montfort’s error in making an alliance with the Welsh Prince Llewelyn ap Gruffyd and offering him major concessions.
After some manoeuvrings by both sides Simon de Montfort and an army of some 5,000 to 6,000 men (the majority Welsh allies with little heart for the fight), faced Prince Edward’s army of between 10,000 and 15,000. Cornered in the town of Evesham de Montfort - as at Lewes - gambled on a charge, trying to split the Royalist force in two, rather than risk retreating under attack while crossing the sole bridge over the loop of the River Avon that enclosed his forces.
But this time he was charging uphill, probably hampered by foul weather, and Edward, who had chosen the battleground well, commanded his forces equally skilfully. A dozen of his knights were ordered to target Simon personally. Cresting the brow of the hill de Montfort’s foot-soldiers saw the enemy multitude, panicked and ran, untold numbers drowning in the Avon. With the wings of the Royalist army attacking de Montfort’s flanks the remaining rebels were cut to pieces, with few prisoners taken – King Henry, Simon’s prisoner and forced to wear his colours, was nearly killed unrecognized by his own army in the savage bloodletting.
De Montfort was reputedly slain by a foot-soldier, having had his horse cut-down beneath him, and his body was horribly mutilated on the field of battle.
With so many rebel barons dead at Evesham the conflict was in practical terms over, Prince Edward able to succeed his father without opposition when Henry died in 1272.
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