Parliament Elizabeth Term Paper

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British History

Simon De Montford And Parliament

According to J.S. Roskill, around the year 1265 during the Medieval Period in England, the sole institution "which soon came to be viewed as the co-protector of England and the Crown was parliament" (167). At the time, this new entity, created by Simon de Montfort, was still somewhat similar to the royal council of ecclesiastics, controlled predominantly by rich and powerful English barons. In the eyes of many of these barons, the King of England, Henry III Plantagenet, was quite biased toward them, for he was "well-known for giving high offices. Bishoprics and land to his foreign courtiers," a situation which forced the newly-created parliament to assert "some rather outlandish claims, one being the right to approve, veto or even dismiss the King's selection of high-ranking officers and royal advisors" (Roskill, 171).

Not surprisingly, King Henry III saw this as interfering with his God-given right to govern England as he wished, thus creating a great personal resolve to resist parliament every step of the way. This tension soon led to civil war, the capture of the king himself and to a "revolutionary crisis that can be favorably compared to the bloody civil wars of the seventeenth century" in England (Sayles, 182).

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While much pressure was being exerted by the English common citizen, nobles and church clerics for governmental reform, the person who "ultimately came to speak and act on the behalf of the English community " was Simon de Montford, once described as possessing "an eloquent intelligence and a peculiar air of confident self-assertion that made his presence forcefully felt," especially related to King Henry III whose "periodic bickering with his brother-in-law (Montford was married to Eleanor, the king's sister) took on much more serious implications" regarding Montford's position of power within parliament and his devotion to the common English citizenry (Schama, 174).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Parliament Elizabeth Assignment

In July of 1264, following many battles, victories and defeats between King Henry III and Simon de Montford, it soon became apparent that this period in time would turn out to be "an extraordinary episode in the history of England's politics, one that came close to creating a republic before the 17th century" (Schama, 180). At this pivotal moment, the serious threat of invasion from France loomed in the air which forced de Montfort's government to send urgent messages to a whole host of bishops, abbots, earls, knights and common English freedmen to participate in the creation of an army, an act which infuriated King Henry III.

Four days after the battle of Evesham, in which King Henry had triumphed against de Montfort, one Peter de Nevile, a royalist esquire, was captured and was accused of treason "against the community of the realm" which soon inspired de Montford to "drum up anger" against those whom he despised, especially the Jews whom he had "expelled from Leicester in 1231, much to the delight of the Church" (Schama, 181).

Many British historians of the 19th century, while exploring this "epic of English parliamentary liberalism," maintain that de Montfort's parliamentary meetings were "deliberated with much calm and sensibility," but in reality, de Montfort's "English revolution took place during a time of great social and political upheaval which, as the problems between King Henry III and de Montfort intensified, threatened to become utterly out of control" (Roskill, 213). As Schama relates, the English parliament of 1265 was "utterly unlike the old royal councils, both in their composition and the topics deemed proper to discuss and debate" (181). The main difference between Montfort's parliament and the old royal councils was the attendance of many ordinary English citizens plus the presence of barons and church leaders, knights and town and city mayors. Thus, Montfort's parliament symbolized "an enlargement of the political community" which at the time was "breathtakingly radical" and ultimately changed the course of English history by "inaugurating the union between patriotism and insubordination" via the relationship between the Crown and the people (Schama, 181).

However, Montfort's parliament of 1265 was not designed to be a permanent entity, for in many instances, it served as an "emergency war council" (Sayles, 183). One example has much to do with the capture of King Henry's son Edward by de Montfort and his armies. As J.S. Roskill describes it, de Montfort realized the true value of Edward as a hostage, yet it is not clear if de Montfort did any bodily harm to Edward, considering de Montfort's "red-hot temper and his utter hatred for King Henry III and his reign." However, after Edward pledged complete allegiance to the Provisions of Oxford, which could be described as a "political canon and a touchstone of allegiance" for the common Englishman, and handed over a large part of his estates via "their transfer to the de Montfort family," Edward was given his freedom to return to his outraged father King Henry III.

Apparently, de Montfort had gained somewhat of a reputation as an egotists, due to reports about "the greed and rapicity of his family," an indication that de Montfort had ulterior motives for wishing to set up parliament at a time when the Crown yielded supreme power over all the lands of England. In addition, there were a number of high-ranking officials who were very upset with de Montfort's actions and those of his immediate and very wealthy family. After some of de Montfort's ardent supporters abandoned him, they began to "convey messages to Prince Edward about the movements and activities of potential de Montfort supporters," including the likes of Roger Mortimer, one of de Montfort's most bitter enemies. One of these messages allegedly informed Prince Edward that Mortimer's army was a very short distance away and was heading directly for London (Schama, 182).

When Prince Edward managed to finally escape the powerful bonds of Simon de Montfort in May of 1265, it became clear to those who supported the Crown that Edward had become the living symbol for the outrageous behavior of de Montfort and his family; it was also finally realized that de Montfort and his efforts to create England's first parliamentary body was something of a ruse, "a very well thought-out plan to seize power in England and overthrow the monarchy of King Henry III" (Sayles, 221). Not surprisingly, de Montfort and his entire family were now much hated and despised, yet for some, the opposite was true, for they saw de Montfort as a hero and a patriot.

Finally, the conflict between de Montfort and the English Crown came to a very bloody end at the battle of Evesham, where de Montfort was killed by the armies of Prince Edward. Of course, King Henry III was utterly pleased and delighted with the news that de Montfort and his supporters had met their deaths at the hands of his army. However, in 1272, the king also died which led to the crowning of Prince Edward as king of England in August of 1274. In essence, Prince Edward had successfully "brought his father back to reign in all honor," yet as a reward for his defeat of de Montfort and his armies, Edward "took control of the whole management of the kingdom" and made certain that once things had settled down, all of the provisions of the Magna Carta of 1215 would be "properly observed" ("King Henry III," Internet).

Overall, the existence of an entity like parliament in the late Middle Ages was considered by many as extremely radical and something far beyond the legal and moral competence of all power in England. Clearly, although the early parliament did not possess anywhere near the power and influence of today's modern body, it did set the stage for much revolt, confusion and war between its founder Simon de Montfort and King Henry III Plantagenet. In historical terms, the future of the English parliament was certainly to experience additional problems related to the allegiance between King and country and those who fervently desired to overthrow the English monarchy in all of its future manifestations.

Works Cited

King Henry III." 2007. Internet. Retrieved at

Roskill, J.S. Parliament and Politics in Late Medieval England. UK: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000.

Sayles, G.O. The Medieval Foundations of England. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1961.

Schama, Simon. A History of Britain at the Edge of the World, 3500 B.C.-1603 a.D. New York: Hyperion Press, 2000.


On March 24, 1603, Queen Elizabeth I, considered by many historians as one of the greatest monarchs in English history, died at the age of sixty-nine from an alleged medical problem related to blood poisoning. Under the rule of this great and powerful queen, the nation of England during the 16th century prospered as never before and became a major global power via its military might and economic prowess. Also, the monarchy of Elizabeth I "encouraged the arts and great literature" by such renown authors as William Shakespeare and poets like John Donne, Christopher Marlowe and Sir Edmund Spenser.

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