Post-classical history

The Disinherited

WITH great Simon dead, it might be expected that the record of the years immediately following Evesham would have some of the dreariness of anticlimax. Instead they resound with excitement; what is of much more interest, they produced important results. Something worth while was salvaged from defeat. Of these sorry days there is much, therefore, to be told.

Henry has been praised because he sent none of the prisoners to execution. This is hardly worth comment. There was no need for block or gallows tree after the murder of Evesham. So much blood had been spilled there that the most sanguinary natures recoiled from wasting more. The demands for vengeance, short of death, however, were so insistent that the wise counsels of Edward, the giver of victory, were swept aside. His brother Edmund, who had played no part in the fighting, clamored for the utmost severity, being rewarded himself with the earldom of Leicester and the state offices of the dead leader. Nothing in the way of punishment and confiscation was sweeping enough for the rapacious Mortimer, the demanding Giffard of Bath, the King’s Men and the Queen’s Men, who returned with outstretched palms for a share of the spoils. Henry himself was in favor of wholesale confiscation, which would relieve him of debt. His hands itched for the feel, if not of the throat of London, at least of its pockets.

A meeting of Parliament was held at Winchester on September 8 to settle the question. The moderate party of Edward, to which Gilbert of Gloucester allied himself at first in an outburst of generosity, suffered a defeat. Resolutions were adopted which gave the conquered over to the violence of the conquerors. All the adherents of Simon de Montfort, which meant a full half of the substantial owners of property in the country, were disinherited and their lands given to the King for disposal. The charter of London was annulled. The De Montforts were stripped of everything and banished from the kingdom. The heads of religious houses and the militant bishops were summoned to buy their forgiveness.

The King, sufficiently normal in spirits to order the cleansing of a painting in an altar where he had prayed and to issue explicit instructions for the reception of Edward’s wife, who was now expected to join the prince, left Winchester for Windsor and from there gave instructions for mobilizing such forces as might be needed to subdue London. The citizens did not wait for any action of this kind. They gave in and were told to send forty of their number to Windsor under safe-conduct to make their submission, The Lord Mayor elected to go himself, accompanied by the richest and most influential of his fellows. In spite of the safe-conduct, they were seized and lodged in cells in the tower of the castle. Henry refused to see them. He left for London, leaving orders that they were to be held in solitary custody at his pleasure, save the Lord Mayor and four others, who were judged the special prisoners of Prince Edward, to be disposed of in any way he saw fit.

In London the King proceeded to administer the punishment he had been storing up for the men who provided so much of the wealth of the kingdom, the hated bran dealers and soap boilers. The houses of many of them were handed over to friends of the King. Merchandise was seized and disposed of, and much of the land held outside the walls by residents was escheated to the Crown. The city was fined twenty thousand marks, half of which was to be paid at once. A charter of remission was granted the city, reading in part, “Know ye, that in consideration of twenty thousand marks—that we have, and do, by these our presents, remit, forgive, acquit …” None of the other fines and seizures were remitted, however, and it was not until all this had been done that the forty prisoners at Windsor were released.

It soon became apparent that the policy of Winchester had been a mistake. Had the followers of Simon been subjected to heavy fines, they would have paid gladly enough and the royal coffers would have overflowed, for the first time in the whole course of this long and troubled reign. Finding themselves faced instead with confiscation and with nothing to lose save their lives (life without honor and possessions meant little to men of their stamp), they elected to fight on. Resistance centered in Kenilworth and in the Isles of Ely and Axholme. The ships of the Cinque Ports were loaded with the families and possessions of the owners and set out to sea, where they resorted to piracy as the only means of subsistence. Every county had its sanctuary in the woods where some of the Disinherited stood out against the King’s vengeance. In the South there arose a remarkable champion, one Adam Gurdon, a knight as tall and powerful as Edward himself. Once a bailiff at Alton in Hampshire, Adam had fought under Simon and he now proceeded to make himself as troublesome to the King’s men as Willikin of the Weald had been to the French in the first year of the reign.

After several years of struggle to bring the country to subjection, during which Henry had to keep armies in the field at a ruinous cost, his rosy dreams of affluence changed to despair. He was close to the brink of bankruptcy when he gave in finally and allowed the terms which the moderates had advised in the beginning.

2

On October 29, 1265, Queen Eleanor returned to England, landing at Dover and accompanied by Doña Eleanora, the young wife of Prince Edward. The King and his heir met them at Dover with becoming state and ceremony.

Doña Eleanora, who must henceforth be called by the Anglicized form of Eleanor by which she is known in history, was now twenty years old. She had been in England at intervals before the start of the war and had borne her husband two children, a boy named John and a daughter. The great romance of the thirteenth century which links their names may be said to have started, however, on this bright October day when Edward saw that the bright-eyed princess who had been wedded to him at Las Huelgas had developed into a lovely woman, as sweet and gracious and intelligent, moreover, as she was beautiful. Her quite unusual attractiveness may have been due to the mixture of blood in her veins. Her grandmother had been the Alice of France who was affianced to Richard of the Lion Heart and whose charms had won the affections of Richard’s father, Henry II. Her mother was the Joan of Ponthieu who would have been Henry Ill’s wife if he had not become so enamored of the reputation of Eleanor La Belle of Provence (not to mention the lush romance she had penned) and who subsequently married Ferdinand III of Castile. Eleanor had lived through the years of turmoil with her widowed mother at Ponthieu.

If Alice of Angoulême had ever held any real place in Edward’s affections, which is doubtful, she was never given a serious thought from that moment on. Certainly Edward gave Gilbert of Gloucester no further reason for jealousy on the score of his flirtatious Alice. Eleanor suited him so completely that he was happy only in her company. She is given credit for the mellowing of his character, which began to manifest itself at this stage.

Although he had been against the measures which now embroiled his father in the hornets’ nest of continued civil war, Edward was saddled with the responsibility for all military operations. He had won over the garrison at Dover the day before his wife and mother arrived and had arranged the departure for France of Eleanor de Montfort and her two youngest sons, Amauri and Richard. His treatment of the widow of the slain leader had been most considerate, and he had promised to see that the members of her household were restored to their homes, a promise he did not fail to carry out, sending written instructions in the matter and referring to the unfortunate lady as “my dear aunt.”

In the late fall of that year the Disinherited roused themselves to serious resistance and the prince led a force into the northern counties. He captured Alnwick Castle, where John de Vescy held out bravely but briefly, and then proceeded against the Isle of Axholme, where the young Simon de Montfort was in command. The latter was prevailed upon to cease resistance and to have a personal interview with the old King. Richard of Cornwall took Simon in to see Henry, and the talk seems to have passed off well enough. Young Simon agreed to surrender Kenilworth Castle in return for certain concessions. Once again, however, the extremists gained the King’s ear and the concessions were referred to arbitration, with the certainty that they would be rejected. Under these circumstances the garrison at Kenilworth refused to give in, asserting that they held the castle for the countess and could surrender only on her command. Hearing that he was to be imprisoned for life, Simon managed to make his escape from the country and joined the rest of the family in France.

In the meantime Edward was taking energetic measures to restore order in the country. He sent Henry of Almaine to subdue what disaffection was left in the North and gave command in the Marches to Mortimer. He himself took the southern shires in hand. At Whitsuntide he defeated Adam Gurdon’s little army in Alton Wood and in doing so provided the annals of English chivalry with one of the most pleasant and colorful of stories. In the course of the battle he encountered the leader of the band, and the two tall men decided to fight it out singlehanded. As in the case of Fitz-James and Roderick Dhu in Scott’s Lady of the Lake, the mighty champions clashed with broadsword in one hand, shield on arm, the woods ringing with the sound of clashing steel. They seem to have been evenly matched, but in the end the youth of Edward told and the result was the same as in the other contest; the commoner went down to defeat.

Edward treated Adam Gurdon with great generosity. He saw to it that his opponent’s wounds were bound up and then rode by his side from the shade of the Berkshire woods into the higher country of the chalk Downs. Here, standing high above the market town of the same name, was the castle of Guildford which had been given to Princess Eleanor as her official residence. It was Guildford Castle which Henry had ordered to be prepared for the beautiful Spanish bride, specifying that her chamber was to have “glazed windows, a raised hearth, a chimney, a wardrobe, and an adjoining oratory.” When the prince and his company came within sight of the place it was apparent that something was afoot. Flags in profusion flew above the battlements, and the sound of trumpets greeted them as they rode in under the portcullis. Inside it was found that the stables were filled with horses and that smoke was pouring from all the kitchen chimneys as evidence that much food was being prepared. Edward realized from the buff-and-blue costumes of the armed men in the outer bailey that his mother had honored him with a visit, for these were the colors of Queen Eleanor’s Brabanters.

The young chatelaine was frightened when she found that her blond giant of a husband had returned in a badly battered condition. Edward reassured her and led the way to the Great Hall, giving orders for Adam Gurdon to follow. There he told the story of the Homeric conflict, blow by blow, and at the finish the two Eleanors agreed that so gallant an opponent should be given his pardon.

Adam Gurdon was not only pardoned but was taken into the service of the prince, being given a post at Windsor. He is mentioned as fighting under Edward in the Welsh wars in succeeding years. The two tall men remained the best of friends thereafter.

Eleanor brought another son into the world, as handsome as the first one, and he was named Henry after his royal grandfather. Edward was fond of his little brood but had small chance to see them. He still had the reduction of Kenilworth on his hands and he was dreaming of going on what he had hoped would prove the final Crusade. Until the Disinherited had given in fully he could not be spared. It was not until the spring of 1270 that he was free to fulfill his great ambition. Eleanor was determined to go with him.

“Nothing ought to part those whom God hath joined,” she declared. “The way to heaven is as near, if not nearer, from Syria as from England or my native Spain.”

3

When the two Eleanors had arrived at Dover they were accompanied by the new papal legate, Ottobuoni Fiesco, the cardinal deacon of St. Adrian, who had been sent by Pope Clement to assist in restoring peace. Since the death of the “pestilent man,” Clement had been in a forgiving mood and his instructions to Ottobuoni had been to lend the weight of the papacy to a more moderate view than was prevailing at that moment. “Clemency is the strength of a realm,” wrote the Pontiff to King Henry.

Ottobuoni, an old and somewhat feeble man, was not an entirely unfamiliar figure to the English. He was distantly related to Queen Eleanor, and quite a few of his relatives had been holders of English benefices. He was an able administrator. His name meant, literally, Eight Good Men, and his admirers asserted that he was the equal of a thousand. In spite of this, there was some uneasiness over his selection as mediator. His first moves increased the tension because they had to do with the question of the punishment of the prominent churchmen who had been closely leagued with Simon de Montfort. Walter de Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester, was in dying condition, and the consequences of the excommunication which had been pronounced on him allowed him no peace of mind. To have the ban raised, the old man went through a form of recantation, asserting that he had been wrong in supporting Simon. The three remaining bishops who had been militantly engaged against the King, London, Winchester, and Chichester, were packed off to Rome to face an inquiry before the Pope himself. The Bishop of Winchester died while there. London and Chichester remained firm and outspoken in their faith, asserting that the baronial cause had been a just one and that it had been necessary to take up arms against the King in the interests of the people. They were held for seven years in a severity of exile which amounted almost to imprisonment. Finally they were allowed to return, old and saddened men but still firm in the faith.

Ottobuoni’s share in the negotiations with the outlaws was more to his credit. He strove earnestly to convince the King that he must be more moderate in his demands and to bring the Disinherited to the acceptance of terms; and in the end he succeeded in both.

The siege of Kenilworth began in June 1266. Henry of Hastings had assumed command of the garrison in the absence of all the sons of the dead leader, and he waged a grimly determined defense. The castle was at the time the strongest in England. It was surrounded by a lake artificially deepened, which covered more than one hundred acres and thus formed an impassable moat, with a series of earthenworks known as the Brays around the outer edge as an additional precaution. The Norman keep, called Caesar’s Tower, stood eighty feet high on a solid rock base. There were other towers almost equally formidable, notably the Strong Tower at the northwest angle of the walls (Sir Walter Scott named this later Mervyn’s Bower), the Swan and Lunn’s. The latter had been erected by John, a cylindrical building more than forty feet high. Ironically enough, some of the strength of this great midland fortress was due to Henry’s interest in building. He had felt impelled to tinker with it and had constructed the Water Tower at his own expense.

The garrison was so confident that they kept all the gates wide open during the daytime as a gesture of defiance. Parties rode out across the moat on sudden forays, still wearing the white cross as a sign that the defeat at Evesham had not affected the validity oftheir cause. They harried the attacking forces and even raided the meadows where the royalists kept their horses and cattle. They kept the King’s army at bay so easily that Cardinal Ottobuoni found it advisable finally to come down and apply ecclesiastical pressure. Stationing himself within eyesight of Caesar’s Tower, he excommunicated all of the garrison with the customary ritual.

The ban of the Church was beginning to lose some of its potency as a result of the indiscriminate use to which it had been put for the past century or two. Men had become accustomed to seeing the lifting up and the dashing down of candles, to hearing the solemn pronouncement of the sonorous words, as bishop cursed King and abbot cursed knight and wholesale decrees were proclaimed for the most trivial reasons. The garrison at Kenilworth was so little perturbed over the doom pronounced in the thin voice of the stooped old man in his red cope that they followed with a mock ceremony of their own. One of their number, a clerk named Philip Porpeis, appeared on the walls in burlesque canonicals and went through the motions of banning every man, woman, and child on the royalist side, from the King himself to the blowziest female camp follower and the scrawniest army mule.

The castle had seemed amply stocked when the siege began, but a garrison in excess of one thousand men can consume huge quantities of food. Gradually the stores diminished and the Disinherited had to go on short rations until they became weak and thin. Time, the unbeatable weapon, was making itself felt. When the legate finally persuaded the King to save the face of the besieged by holding Parliament in the neighborhood of Kenilworth for the sole purpose of arriving at a peaceful solution, the garrison professed themselves willing to co-operate.

The Parliament selected a panel of twelve members to discuss the situation. These commissioners finally arrived at a basis on which peace could be made, not only at Kenilworth but throughout the country as well. This measure became known as the Dictum, or Ban, of Kenilworth, and because of its definition of the relationship between the King and his subjects it is worth studying. It provided first that all confiscated lands could be redeemed in whole or in part on payment of fines running as high as five years’ rental in accordance with the degree of culpability established in each individual case. It then went on to “beseech the King, and respectfully press on his piety, that he appoint such men to administer justice as, seeking not their own but what is of God and justice, may duly settle his subjects’ business according to the laws and customs of the realm.” The most important clause read as follows, “Let the King establish on a lasting foundation those concessions which he has hitherto made of his own free will and not under compulsion, and those needful ordinances which have been devised by his subjects and by his own good pleasure.”

This reinstatement of what the barons had been fighting for was accepted by the King. The temper of the people’s demands had, of course, changed. The King was beseeched to act according to the Great Charter and the Provisions and to select good ministers, whereas it had been Simon de Montfort’s contention that he must govern according to rules duly established and laid down. The dead leader had been far ahead of the times in his conception of constitutional safeguards, too far for any chance of permanent acceptance at that early stage. The Dictum of Kenilworth is chiefly important, therefore, because it established the fact that the will of the people had not changed, that the King was expected, in spite of the triumph of the royal arms, to adhere to the new basis of good government. The vanquished had not fought in vain. Simon de Montfort was dead, but out of defeat had come this recognition of the essential justice of the people’s demands.

The garrison accepted the terms and marched out in December, a much-depleted and emaciated band. Meager rations for two days only were left when this peaceful termination of the spectacular siege was reached.

4

Even after the Dictum there was no peace. Properties were withheld from men who had surrendered and paid their fines. On the other hand, many of the Disinherited refused to consider themselves bound by what had happened at Kenilworth. The Marcher barons, for their part, were furious at the prospect of having to disgorge what had been given them in the first flush of victory and returned to their distant strongholds in high dudgeon.

Toward the end of March 1267, Alice of Angoulême sent word secretly to the King that her husband, the Earl of Gloucester, was planning to seize London. No serious attention was paid to this warning at first because it was known that Ottobuoni had invited the earl to come to London. His visit there, it was believed, could have no more serious purpose than a discussion with the papal legate.

The unfaithful wife had been correct, nevertheless. Earl Gilbert had been an unhappy man since the battle of Evesham, conscious of the hatred in which he was held by the old comrades he had abandoned, aware also that the King was seeking ways of escaping from the pledges to which he was committed. The young earl, it may be taken for granted, had a sincere belief in the principles which had led him into the baronial camp in the first place. Now, seemingly, he was prepared to lift the mantle which had fallen from nobler shoulders and wear it himself. When he reached London it was with a sizable army in fighting order.

Gilbert the Red camped at Southwark but was unable to hold his men in hand. Terror gripped London, a state which was added to by the unexpected appearance of John d’Eyvill, Nicholas Segrave, and William Marmion, who had been holding out on the Isle of Ely. Was another civil war in the making?

The legate now found himself in a very awkward position. His invitation to the earl had been the cause of all this trouble. Not knowing just what to do under the circumstances, the legate took what was probably the wisest course. He locked himself up in the Tower of London.

It is doubtful if the young earl intended to lead a second rebellion. His occupation of London was intended more likely as a warning to the King that the will to oppose him was not dead. He carried his gesture to a dangerous extreme, however, digging a ditch around the city walls and permitting his men to raid Westminster. The raid resulted in much looting and the killing of some royal servants.

After two months of occupation Gloucester found himself facing an army under the command of the King. Ottobuoni had been at work, however, and had convinced Henry of the wisdom of a pacific attitude. As a result a settlement of all outstanding points of dispute was reached. The terms of the Dictum would be carried out promptly and to the letter. The rights of London would be restored. On June 18 the King rode into London with the earl in his train.

The violent gesture of Gilbert the Red seems to have had the desired effect. The air cleared. The turmoil throughout the country died down. The civil war had come to a final end.

One effect of Gloucester’s drastic move was a widening of the rift with his wife, leading shortly thereafter to a divorce.

5

Ottobuoni should not be dismissed without telling how he came to be elected Pope on his return to Italy. It had taken more than two years to choose Gregory X and, to prevent anything as harmful as this from happening again, very severe regulations had been drawn up. Gregory promulgated a new constitution by which ten days only were allowed after the death of a pope for absent members of the Sacred College to arrive. The electing members were then to be locked up in one of the papal palaces. They were to be allowed no communication with the outside world, and food was to be supplied through a closely guarded window. After three days the food would be reduced to one meal a day; after five only bread and water and a little wine would be allowed.

Charles of Anjou, the overbearing French prince who had married Beatrice, the youngest and loveliest of the four Provençal princesses, and was now King of Sicily, had very decided views as to the choice of popes. He wanted a friendly pope so much that he decided to go even farther than the regulations prescribed in Gregory’s Ubi Periculum. He had the Lateran Palace, where the nineteen cardinals had assembled, walled up so securely that only air, and not much of that, could find its way in. He was watchful to see that, after the fifth day had passed, nothing reached the embattled cardinals but the prescribed bread and water; although it was said at the time that some way had been found to supply plenty of warm and sustaining food to the French cardinals who were striving for the election of someone favorable to Charles—one of themselves, no doubt. It is difficult to see how this could have been done, as a common existence had been decreed. The cardinals had their meals together, such as they were, and they were not allowed separate cells for sleeping.

Days passed and still no smoke arose from the chimney to announce that a decision had been reached and the ballots burned. Finally a rather meek message was sent out for Charles of Anjou. Would he consider Ottobuoni Fiesco a suitable choice?

Ottobuoni had not been the candidate Charles favored, but the latter gave the matter consideration. His answer was, Yes, Ottobuoni would do.

The cardinals, weak from long fasting and the bitterness of the contest, emerged like wraiths. The most reduced of them all was the new Pope, who had taken the name of Adrian V. When his relatives came forward in a body to congratulate him, he answered in a rather dismal tone:

“Why are you glad? A live cardinal could do more for you than a dead pope.”

It was realized later that there had been a note of prophecy in this cheerless speech. A few weeks later the new Pope was dead at Viterbo, where he had gone to escape the summer heat. There had not been time even for him to be inducted into holy orders.

Dante charges this brief holder of the holy office with love of gain and tells of encountering him in the fifth cornice of hell where “the effect of avarice is here made plain in purging of converted souls.” This seems a harsh judgment on a man who, in the most serious labor of his life, the mission to England, strove most earnestly and successfully to achieve peace without any thought of personal advantage. The mission had the distinction of elevating three members of its personnel to the papacy. One member, Teobaldo Visconti, had already served as Gregory X. A third, belonging to the family of Gaetani, took office later as Boniface VII.

6

When Simon the younger rode back to Kenilworth on the day of Evesham and told the story of his father’s death, the castle was filled with rage and despair. The dead leader had gained such a hold on the affections of his men that they wanted to avenge his death. Richard of Cornwall was still being held a prisoner in the castle, and it required all the authority that young Simon could exert to prevent them from taking the King of the Romans and treating him in like manner. They wanted to hack him in pieces, to cut off his head and elevate it on the point of a lance, to sever his limbs from his body and roughly dandle what was left of him on the paved courtyard. Richard knew the peril in which he stood and always thereafter gave Simon credit for saving his life.

In the meantime the newly made widow had been allowed by Edward to depart for France, accompanied by three of her children, the two youngest sons, Amauri and Richard, and her daughter, the Demoiselle. The sons took the sum of eleven thousand marks with them. It was alleged later that some of the money belonged to York Minster, where Amauri, who had entered the Church, had served as canon and treasurer. This charge was never proven.

Eleanor hired French ships to carry her furniture and personal belongings across the Channel, fearing that she would never see England again. The vessels were attacked by pirates and everything of value was taken, so that the once proud princess arrived in France in a destitute condition. She went finally to the Dominican convent of Montargis. It was not, however, to a quiet and contemplative life that she resigned herself. Her spirit refused to be subdued by disaster. From her retreat she sent a continuous stream of demands to her brother and later to Edward. In a tone which bordered on the shrill she beseeched the championship of Louis of France and of the Pope for her claims. Henry had banished her from England forever and from this decision he would not depart, but he finally agreed to allow her a pension from her dower lands, amounting to five hundred pounds a year.

The family of De Montfort was one of the most powerful in Europe, still centering at Montfort l’Amauri in Normandy, where the archives were kept. It was not as homeless exiles, therefore, that the sons of dead Simon lived but as scions of a famous family with influence of the most potent kind behind them. Guy, the third son, seems to have inherited much of his father’s military genius. He joined the forces of Charles of Anjou in Italy and he did so well, particularly at the decisive battle of Alba, that Charles made him vicar-general of Tuscany. He married Margherita Aldobrandescia, the daughter and heiress of the count palatine of Pitigliano.

Amauri went to the University of Padua and later was appointed a papal chaplain. He continued to call himself treasurer of York and, having in full measure the contentious spirit of his mother, he spent the rest of his life in litigation, petitioning for this and suing for that, getting a great deal of support in high places but achieving no substantial satisfaction.

Richard, the youngest of the sons, disappeared from the scene early. There is no record of his death, and some writers have assumed that he passed the rest of his days in obscurity. It seems highly improbable, however, that any member of this spectacular family could remain for long unnoticed and unidentified. It is more probable that the unkind fate hanging over the progeny of the dead earl marked young Richard for an early death before he could be brought to notice in the tempestuous twilight of the family.

Eleanor, her perturbed spirit never at rest, spent the balance of her life at Montargis. The Demoiselle had fulfilled the promise of her girlhood and had ripened into a beauty of beauties. She lived with her mother, dreaming of the day when it would be possible for her to join her lover in Wales. Llewelyn ab Gruffydd, Prince of Wales, had visited Kenilworth during the year of great power when Simon de Montfort had been head of the state, and he had been attracted instantly to the daughter of the house. It had been settled then that they would marry when the Demoiselle became old enough. The shadow of Evesham had fallen between the lovers, and it must have seemed to the pining beauty at Montargis that she would never see Llewelyn again.

The unhappy countess died in the spring of 1275, and only Amauri and the Demoiselle were with her. It was a sad ending for the once gay and always ambitious sister of the English King. It had been her hope to establish a dynasty, to see her handsome and virile sons in high places and her beautiful daughter on a throne of her own; and it had come to this, only two of her brilliant progeny beside the narrow cot on which her last hours were spent, the austere walls of her cell close about them. Her will divided the sum of six hundred pounds between the surviving children, all that was left of her great fortune.

After Eleanor’s death the Welsh prince took matters into his own hands, with the result that he and the Demoiselle were married by proxy. Somewhere around the close of 1275 the bride set out to join him, accompanied by her churchman brother, Amauri, and a party of French and Welsh knights; the name of De Montfort still having enough magic to make the marriage a matter of international importance. The vessel on which they sailed was captured off the Scilly Islands by four English ships which had been lying in wait. The bride was held in captivity at Windsor for three years, a great asset for Edward in the struggle he was waging with the head of the Welsh state. At the end of the three years, despairing of union by any other means with the wife he had not seen, Llewelyn made his submission to Edward. The couple were formally married at Worcester on October 13, 1278. Edward, having achieved his purpose, was in attendance in a benign mood.

It seems to have been a happy marriage, but the same unkind fate which hovered over the sons of Simon de Montfort overtook the Demoiselle (the childhood name clung to her throughout her life) in the end. She died in childbirth in 1282, and the daughter who thus cost the princess her life was taken to England when Llewelyn died in battle shortly after. The little Princess Gwenllian now presented the same problem as the unfortunate Pearl of Brittany had in the first half of the century. The high authorities did not want the line of Simon de Montfort perpetuated nor that of the Welsh royal family. And so the infant, while still in her cradle, was taken to Sempringham and spent her life there as a nun.

7

It was at Viterbo that the most tragic scene in the story of the De Montforts was enacted. The lava-paved town, lying high above Rome on the main road to Florence, had been making history for centuries. Here it was that England’s only Pope, Adrian IV, met the all-powerful Emperor of Germany, Frederick I, and compelled that haughty monarch to dismount and hold the papal stirrup. Here popes came to spend the midsummer months in the shady gardens of the beautiful old town. Here many pontifical elections were held; here many of the popes died and were buried. Here the wars of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines surged back and forth about the high stone walls. But never had it seen anything to equal what happened on a warm morning in March 1271.

In the center of Viterbo there was a paved square surrounded by the stone houses of the gentry and one parish church, that of San Silvestro. From the square a narrow street led to the cathedral where for more than two years eighteen cardinals had been struggling to elect a pope in succession to Clement IV. They were almost hopelessly divided between two factions, the Italian and the French. At this stage Charles of Anjou, whose interests were in the hands of the French faction, arrived in the hope of breaking the stalemate. He was accompanied by his nephew, the new King of France, Philip III, and Henry of Almaine. The latter was returning from the Crusades, where he had won praise from Edward and had been entrusted with a mission to settle some new difficulties in Gascony. He had traveled through Italy in the royal train of Charles.

At the same time also there arrived in Viterbo Guy de Montfort, riding at the head of a party of knights and accompanied by his brother Simon and his father-in-law. He came, in all probability, to consult Charles, his liege lord, on points connected with his stewardship in Tuscany. He was twenty-eight years old and at the peak of his physical powers; handsome, full of high spirits, and certain in his own mind (a conviction generally shared) that a great career lay ahead of him. Simon was three years older, less flamboyant in appearance and talent, very much sobered, moreover, by his experiences in the civil war.

Thus by an evil coincidence the three main actors in the tragedy were brought together.

The stone houses on the square were so tall that they cast long shadows across the paved enclosure and aided the palm trees in keeping the air cool. Spring came early in Viterbo, and on March 13, 1271, the vines on the walls were a luxuriant green and there were flowers in profusion everywhere. Henry of Almaine had been assigned one of the houses as his residence while in the town, and this morning he sauntered across the square to hear mass in the little church with no more than an attendant or two to keep him company. He could not have failed on this warm, scented day to feel at peace with the world and happy in the pleasant prospects ahead of him. He was a handsome man, the blending of the Plantagenet and Marshal strains apparent in his height, his fairness of hair and skin, his well-modeled features; more Marshal than Plantagenet in disposition, for he was amiable, easy-speaking, kindly rather than proud.

Guy de Montfort was of a passionate, brooding nature. The death of his father had affected him so deeply that even during this period of his fast-mounting success he thought constantly of the revenge he would exact someday. He hated everyone who had been on the other side of the struggle. Perhaps he had a special dislike for Henry of Almaine, who had been among the first of the young men to desert Simon de Montfort. It is not believed, however, that there was pre-meditation in what followed. Guy did not seek out the son of the King of the Romans deliberately; it was, rather, part of the evil coincidence that he and his brother Simon and his father-in-law, with the usual train of knights and servants at their heels, elected also to hear mass that morning in the little church on the square. They entered in a body, and Guy recognized at once the man kneeling in prayer before the high altar.

If there had been any room for wise considerations in his mind at the moment, he would have turned instantly and left the church. He had greatness ahead of him, he had wealth and a lovely wife, he had the respect and admiration of men. But a wild upsurge of hatred banished such considerations from his mind, and he loosened the dagger at his belt.

“Traitor!” he cried in a loud voice, striding up the aisle. “Thou shalt not escape!”

One account has it that Henry gave way to panic when he saw what was in the minds of these violent men. Instead of defending himself, he clung with desperate hands to the altar, begging for mercy under the sword strokes of his assailants. He died quickly, though not mercifully, his mutilated hands losing their hold and allowing his body to fall on the stone steps of the altar.

“I have had my revenge,” said Guy, turning to leave the church. It was now almost empty, the frightened Lenten worshipers having made their way out with loud cries of alarm.

One of Guy’s knights, who had shared in the killing, was not yet satisfied. He stared down darkly at the body of their victim.

“How so?” he demanded. “They cut up the body of your father and dragged it about.”

Guy turned back. He seized the long locks of the dead prince. With the aid of his followers, who took rough hold of the arms and legs, he dragged the body down the aisle of the church and out to the cobbled square. Here they hacked the inoffensive clay, dragging it about and echoing the grim shouts of triumph which had accompanied the mutilation of Simon de Montfort on that black morning in the Vale of Evesham.

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