Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, 1208/9-1265
The 700th anniversary of his death at the Battle of Evesham was marked by the presence of the Speaker of the House of Commons and of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to dedicate a memorial to him in Abbey Park, on the site of the high altar of the former Evesham Abbey. In 2015, the 750th anniversary was also marked by the presence of the Speaker of the House of Commons and by the Bishop of Dudley, representing the two threads of Simon’s life: political and religious.
The memorial in the town park in Evesham represents his place in our national history as an advocate of new ways to make the king’s government more accountable. The Great Charter (Magna Carta of 1215) had been the first step in that direction but in practice it was very difficult to enforce. Simon and others realized that the King’s actions needed continuous supervision.
With this in view new rules were made at a Parliament which met in 1258 in Oxford but when Henry III resisted a civil war broke out in 1264. Henry was captured by Simon at the Battle of Lewes. Earl Simon then governed Eng-land in the king’s name for over a year.
By his defeat and death on Greenhill, Evesham, on August 4th 1265 royal power was restored. Lord Edward (the future king Edward) the victor at Evesham eventually accepted the need for consent which parliaments could give, and for wider representation.
Over seven centuries up to the present day the system of government passed through several periods of change as parliament evolved. In Evesham now Simon’s name is honoured, not only by his monument, but through the naming of a school, bridge and several roads. By his death on Greenhill he brought Evesham to the centre of our national history. He spent his working life away from his French birthplace and he married the king’s sister. He became as firmly rooted in England as any one of his time and learned the English language.