I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Battle of Evesham - Friday 3rd August

As you stand on Greenhill imagine that summer’s day – August 4th, 1265 (753 years ago today as I publish this post!) interrupted by a heavy thunderstorm, as Simon, Earl of Leicester and his men rode up to meet Prince Edward’s mighty army. Simon de Montfort had challenged the King’s power and thus paved the way for the beginnings of representative and democratic government, a model to which other countries would later aspire.

It had been a long struggle between the English kings and their barons over the acceptance of the Magna Carta which decreed the king was not to be above the law. To enforce this was difficult and ultimately led to civil war. Simon had captured Henry III and his son Prince Edward at the Battle of Lewes in 1264 and governed England in the king’s name for a year. He had even called Parliaments in June 1264 and January 1265. Edward however escaped and now allied with dissidents barons led a formidable army determined to bring down Simon.

Simon had camped on the night of August 3rd at the Abbey in Evesham to rest and feed his army. His lookout had seen Edward approaching from the north and Simon decided to attack without delay although knowing he was heavily outnumbered. Here now began a massacre for Edwards vengeance was terrible. Simon was surrounded and unhorsed by Edward’s men, yet he continued fighting bravely on foot before being killed by one Roger de Mortimer. His body was cruelly dismembered. The dead and wounded lay everywhere, and blood ran through the Abbey church and stained the Monk’s choir. The Abbey and the town were pillaged. Robert of Gloucester described it as “a murder of Evesham for battle it was none.” Simon’s remains and the bodies of his son Henry and that of Hugh le Despenser were carried away by the monks and buried near the High Altar of the Abbey.
The battle was a relatively short affair with chroniclers suggesting it was over within 2 hours. Baronial casualties were estimated to be around 4,000 - almost 80% of the original force - largely due to the Royalist policy of no quarter. Almost all of the rebel Barons were killed alongside Montfort - those taken alive were stripped of their armour and hacked to death. The brutality led Robert of Gloucester to describe the battle as "the murder of Evesham, for battle it was none".

The victory at Evesham and the death of Simon de Montfort all but ended the Second Barons War. One final battle, another Royalist victory, would be fought at Chesterfield (1266) but the peace that followed, as detailed in the Dictum of Kenilworth, fully restored Royal authority. Seven years later Edward was crowned King and, unlike his father and grandfather, conformed to the medieval ideal of a strong warrior ruler. In the immediate term though the victory over the Barons freed Prince Edward to proceed on crusade where he further enhanced his military experience.

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