In Medieval England political martyrs were not uncommon, particularly in periods of political unrest, expressed in deeply religious terms and, in many cases that hostility was directed toward two kings, Henry III (r.1216-1272) and Edward II (r.1307-1327). The ‘community of the realm’; the lay and ecclesiastical elites, the townsmen and the peasantry needed figures through whom they could express their discontent, a counterbalance to the misrule of the king. Two leaders of political reform and opposition came to prominence: Simon de Montfort and Thomas of Lancaster. In life they presented a dangerous opposition to an over-powerful monarchy, yet in death they joined a long line of anti-royal saints and martyrs, allowing their followers to continue in their resistance. The popularity their cause received whilst they were alive continued after their death, making them political martyrs and their burial places the epicentres of unofficial saints’ cults.
Adapting from his MA dissertation, Edward Gamble develops his thesis to investigate the political,religious, social and cultural phenomena that were political cults in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.