Battle of Evesham

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The Battle of Evesham was one of the two main battles of 13th century England's Second Barons' War. It marked the defeat of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, and the rebellious barons by Prince Edward – later King Edward I – who led the forces of his father, King Henry III. It took place on 4 August 1265, near the town of Evesham, Worcestershire.

With the Battle of Lewes Montfort had won control of royal government, but after the defection of several close allies and the escape from captivity of Prince Edward, he found himself on the defensive. Forced to engage the royalists at Evesham, he faced an army twice the size of his own. The battle soon turned into a massacre; Montfort himself was killed and his body mutilated. Though the battle effectively restored royal autonomy, scattered resistance remained until the Dictum of Kenilworth was signed in 1267.

Contents

Background

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, had gained a dominant position in the government of the Kingdom of England after his victory at the Battle of Lewes a year earlier. He also held the King, Prince Edward, and the King's brother Richard of Cornwall in his custody.[2] However, his sphere of influence rapidly began to deteriorate due to loss of key allies. In February, Robert de Ferrers, Earl of Derby was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower.[3] An even more important collaborator, Gilbert de Clare, the Earl of Gloucester, deserted to the side of the King in May of the same year.[4] With Gloucester's assistance, Prince Edward escaped from Montfort's captivity.[5]

With the Lords of the Welsh Marches now in rebellion, Montfort solicited the aid of Llywelyn ap Gruffyd, the Prince of Wales. Llywelyn agreed to help, in return for full recognition of his title, and the promise that he could keep all military gains. Whatever benefits this alliance might have brought Montfort, the great concessions cost him popularity at home.[6] Meanwhile Edward laid siege to the town of Gloucester, which fell on 29 June.[7] Montfort's goal now became to unite with the forces of his son Simon, and engage with the royal army, but the younger Simon moved much too slowly westwards from London. Eventually Simon made it to the baronial stronghold of Kenilworth, but Edward managed to inflict great losses on the enemy, many of whom were quartered outside the castle walls.[8] From there the Prince moved south, where, on 4 August, he managed to trap the older Montfort in a loop of the Avon, blocking off the only bridge and thereby forcing Montfort to fight without his son's reinforcements.[9] When Montfort realized this, he allegedly commented: "May the Lord have mercy upon our souls, as our bodies are theirs."

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