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Simon de Montfort in Gascony.
99 great difficulty that Simon and his adherents obtained
CHAP. an audience, but, on this being granted, he related in order all the events of his lieutenancy, proving his assertions by trustworthy witnesses. After him, his defence. partisans from Gascony, armed with letters from the commons of Bordeaux, showed to the satisfaction of all present how well Simon had discharged his duty, proving that the only reason of the opposition he encountered was the energy with which he put down sacrilege, murder, and crime of all sorts. It is very possible,' said Simon, turning to his accusers, 'that I have taken away from you privileges granted by Earl Richard and my predecessors, but it is because you got them by dissimulation and forfeited them by treachery. Who is to believe you, whom the king himself has found to be no friends, but foes and impostors?'
The earl and his party were ready to submit to Decision in trial by combat, or any other mode of decision, in
his favour. England or Gascony, whichever their opponents should choose ; but the latter would agree to nothing. At length even the king was obliged to own that the plaintiffs could not prove their case, and the whole court chimed in with its approval. Leicester then He bade the king make good his word; he had ruined demands
reparation. his estate, he said, in the kings service : the king should at least pay his debts. The king gave vent
tried, though in vain, to get the Gascons to seize him. Richard fled to England, and Henry then persuaded the Gascons by large sums of money to exchange their allegiance. Richard and he had never been on good terms since. In presenting Edward to the Gascons in 1252, Henry said his brother did not care ever to see Gascony again ; the sea-voyage was unpleasant to him, and the province cost more than it brought in. This may have been true, though Henry got more than 1,000 marks a year from Bordeaux alone, but if so it was his own fault.
CHAP. to his vexation at the failure of the trial in the hasty IV.
answer, that with a traitor and supplanter like him he 1252
thought it no shame not to keep his word. ThereQuarrel between upon Simon could keep his temper no longer; he Simon and the king.
sprang to his feet and gave the king the lie. And but that thou bearest the name of king,' he added, it had been a bad hour for thee when thou utteredst such a word. Who would believe thou art Christian ? Hast thou ever confessed?' I have,' said the king. What is confession worth without repentance?' asked de Montfort. • Never did I repent of aught so much,' retorted Henry, ‘as of suffering thee to enter England, and win honour and land therein, that thou mightest grow fat and kick.' The scene was cut short by the intervention of the bystanders; it remains as a valuable illustration of the two men, the weakness and vehemence, the injustice and imprudence, which characterised the king; the equally violent passions, the impatience of contradiction and control, which were the most conspicuous blots on the character of de Montfort. His moral
superiority over Henry is evident throughout. The Altitude of attitude of the rest of the baronage towards LeicesBaronage. ter is very remarkable. Sixteen years before they
had joined to thrust him from the country as an alien and an upstart, and it was all Henry could do to protect him from their wrath. The same body now assembled to defend him from the injustice of his sovereign, and when Henry again brought the subject before them, in the autumn of
Compare the accounts in Matt. Par. 836_839, and Mon. Franc. 122–128. ' In this and other portions of the trial one may remark the sarcastic tendency of Simons oratory ; the allusion to confession was a home-thrust at Henrys excessive but superficial devoutness.
1252, they turned upon him with reproaches, tauntingly alluding to his failures, and declared it was right well done if the earl had striven to destroy the whole pack of Gascon thieves.
The trial was over, and Simon gave the king the The king alternative, .of letting him return to Gascony with Gascony full powers, whether the matters in dispute were partially decided or not, or of allowing him to resign, on con- own hands. dition that he and his should be secured from loss or damage of any kind. But the king, as usual, preferred half-measures; he sought to prevent disturbance by a series of edicts, to hold good till he should appear in person; guardians of the truce were appointed, being the two Gascons who had acted as commissioners in Bordeaux ; jurors were to be chosen equally from the two parties. Meanwhile Bertram of Egremont had been set at liberty ; authority was given to the Bishop of Bordeaux to examine into certain questions in dispute ; the power of the kings lieutenant could hardly have been less had he been formally deposed. The province was given over again to its former state of anarchy. Simon was then dis- Dismissal missed with the words ‘Go back to Gascony, thou who lovest to stir up war; there thou mayst find plenty, and get the same well-merited reward which thy father got before thee.' This too before the Gascons, who, we are told, were highly delighted by the kings wit, and the taunting reference to the elder Simon and his fate. But the earl only answered, Willingly do I go, and I will not return till I have subdued thy rebellious subjects, and placed thy enemies
beneath thy feet.' With that he retired, and cross
ing at once with his eldest son Henry to France, soon 1252
drew together in the country of his birth, by the help
of his family and friends, a sufficient force, with England,
which, burning for revenge, he marched upon Gascony. He stayed some time at Boulogne on his way, and seems to have wished to see and consult Adam Marsh on affairs of importance. The Countess of Leicester went to Oxford, but failed to persuade the Franciscan to undertake the journey. A little later Adam wrote to the earl, announcing the approaching confinement of his wife, and rebuking him for carrying off the parish priest at Odiham to be his chaplain.
The delegates returned to Gascony in high dis
pleasure at the attitude of the English nobility, havGascony.
ing first done homage to Prince Edward, on whom the king now formally conferred the province. But
on their arrival they found the earl awaiting them. Fresh out- The ridiculous precautions taken by the king in the hostilities. hope of keeping peace were seen in a moment to be
worthless; both sides at once proceeded to hostilities. The Gascons had at first a slight success, and, routing an ambuscade set for them, carried off a certain knight, a dear friend of the earl. Thereupon Simon roused himself as if out of sleep. Asking him who brought the news whether the enemy were far off, he at once set spurs to his horse, and, without waiting for his followers, attacked the enemy with all the headlong vehemence which distinguished him in battle. He speedily
and returns to
I Matt. Par. 844.
? Mon. Franc. 262, 336. These letters are probably to be referred to this date.
released the prisoner, but was unhorsed and sur- CHAP.
IV. rounded. The Gascons turned all their force against him, and he was in the greatest danger, when the knight whom he had rescued clove his way through the press, and, mounting the earl upon his horse, brought him out unharmed. The battle lasted half Victory of the day, but ended in the complete rout of the enemy. Five of the chief nobles were taken, and the Gascons did not dare again to meet de Montfort in the field.' Soon after this the news of Henrys last attempt against him, alluded to above, was brought to the earl, who only remarked, 'I knew the king would make the attempt, in order to enrich some Poitevin or Provençal with my earldom.'2 Meanwhile however strenuous efforts were being made at home by the countess in his behalf, and in her attempts to mitigate the kings anger she was supported by the queen, with whom she was on excellent terms.3 Eleanors influence over her brother, that of a strong character over a weak one, had always been considerable, and doubtless contributed largely to the change we find taking place shortly after these events in the kings attitude towards the earl.
Towards the end of the year 1252 Simon retired He retires into France. It is a striking testimony to his wide- into
France. spread fame, and the general respect for his character,
Matt. Par. 845, nec sunt ausi amplius inimici ejus contra ipsum . obgrunnire. 2 Id. 853 ; see above, pp. 100, 101.
Mrs. Greens suggestion (Princesses ii. 106), that the letters of Adam Marsh (Mon. Franc. 393, 394) relative to the above are to be referred to this period, is most probable ; but that authoress seems to have no ground for saying that Simon returned to England this winter, though Adam expects he will next spring, and warns him to beware of danger ; the dismissal of which she gives an account on p. 107, appears also to be misplaced.