Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Battle of Evesham

A part of the Second Barons' War, the Battle of Eesham took place on August 4, 1265.  The battle pitted Prince Edward - later Edward I of England - against Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester. 

Leicester in 1265 was the most powerful person in England.  He had defeated King Henry III in 1264 at the Battle of Lewes, and held Henry and his sons Edward and Richard as captives.  Edward escaped in May 1265, with the aid of Gilbert de Clare, a former ally of Leicester's. 

Edward soon displayed some of the military prowess, and ruthlessness that marked his reign.  He gathered Royalist forces, and made a surprise attack on Kenilworth Castle, where Simon de Montfort's son Simon was in charge.

The elder Simon was en route to Kenilworth at the time, reaching Evesham on August 3rd.  The battle the following day was one-sided, with Edward having the advantage in terms of position and numbers.  Leicester and his son Henry were slaughtered on the field of battle, along with most of their forces.

Walter Scott set his novel "Kenilworth" in the historical Kenilworth Castle, with this description from the text:

'At length the princely Castle appeared, upon improving which, and the domains around, the Earl of Leicester had, it is said, expended sixty thousand pounds sterling, a sum equal to half a million of our present money.

The outer wall of this splendid and gigantic structure enclosed seven acres, a part of which was occupied by extensive stables, and by a pleasure garden, with its trim arbours and parterres, and the rest formed the large base-court or outer yard of the noble Castle. The lordly structure itself, which rose near the centre of this spacious enclosure, was composed of a huge pile of magnificent castellated buildings, apparently of different ages, surrounding an inner court, and bearing in the names attached to each portion of the magnificent mass, and in the armorial bearings which were there blazoned, the emblems of mighty chiefs who had long passed away, and whose history, could Ambition have lent ear to it, might have read a lesson to the haughty favourite who had now acquired and was augmenting the fair domain. A large and massive Keep, which formed the citadel of the Castle, was of uncertain though great antiquity. It bore the name of Caesar, perhaps from its resemblance to that in the Tower of London so called. Some antiquaries ascribe its foundation to the time of Kenelph, from whom the Castle had its name, a Saxon King of Mercia, and others to an early era after the Norman Conquest. On the exterior walls frowned the scutcheon of the Clintons, by whom they were founded in the reign of Henry I.; and of the yet more redoubted Simon de Montfort, by whom, during the Barons' wars, Kenilworth was long held out against Henry III...'

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