Battle of Lewes

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Battle of Lewes
Part of Second Barons' War
Lewes.jpg
Plan of the Battle of Lewes
Date14 May 1264
Location
Result Baronial victory
Belligerents
Baronial forces Royal forces
Commanders and leaders
Armoiries seigneurs Montfort.svg Simon de Montfort
CoA Gilbert de Clare.svg Gilbert de Clare
Arms of John Segrave, 2nd Baron Segrave (d.1325).svg Nicholas de Segrave
Royal Arms of England (1198-1340).svg Henry III
Arms of Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk.svg Prince Edward
Arms of Richard of Cornwall, Earl of Cornwall.svg Richard of Cornwall
Strength
c. 5,000 c. 10,000
Monument to the Battle of Lewes LewesBattle Big.jpg
Monument to the Battle of Lewes

The Battle of Lewes was one of two main battles of the conflict known as the Second Barons' War. It took place at Lewes in Sussex, on 14 May 1264. It marked the high point of the career of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, and made him the "uncrowned King of England". Henry III left the safety of Lewes Castle and St. Pancras Priory to engage the Barons in battle and was initially successful, his son Prince Edward routing part of the baronial army with a cavalry charge. However Edward pursued his quarry off the battlefield and left Henry's men exposed. Henry was forced to launch an infantry attack up Offham Hill where he was defeated by the barons' men, defending the hilltop. The royalists fled back to the castle and priory and the King was forced to sign the Mise of Lewes, ceding many of his powers to Montfort.

Battle part of a war which is well defined in duration, area and force commitment

A battle is a combat in warfare between two or more armed forces. A war usually consists of multiple battles. Battles generally are well defined in duration, area, and force commitment. A battle with only limited engagement between the forces and without decisive results is sometimes called a skirmish.

Second Barons War 1260s civil war in England

The Second Barons' War (1264–1267) was a civil war in England between the forces of a number of barons led by Simon de Montfort against the royalist forces of King Henry III, led initially by the king himself and later by his son, the future King Edward I. The war featured a series of massacres of Jews by Montfort's supporters including his sons Henry and Simon, in attacks aimed at seizing and destroying evidence of Baronial debts. After a rule of just over a year, Montfort was killed by forces loyal to the King in the Battle of Evesham.

Lewes Historic town in East Sussex, England

Lewes is the county town of East Sussex and by tradition of all of Sussex. Lewes remains the police and judicial centre for all of Sussex and is home to Sussex Police, East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, Lewes Crown Court and HMP Lewes. It is a civil parish and is the centre of the Lewes local government district as well as the seat of East Sussex County Council at East Sussex County Hall. The population of Lewes is now around 17,000. The settlement is a traditional market town and centre of communications and, in 1264, it was the site of the Battle of Lewes. The town's landmarks include Lewes Castle, the remains of Lewes Priory, Bull House, Southover Grange and public gardens, and a 16th century timber-framed Wealden hall house known as Anne of Cleves House. Other notable features of the area include the Glyndebourne festival, the Lewes Bonfire and the Lewes Pound.

Contents

Background

Henry III was an unpopular monarch due to his autocratic style, displays of favouritism and his refusal to negotiate with his barons. The barons eventually imposed a constitutional reform known as the Provisions of Oxford upon Henry that called for a thrice-yearly meeting led by Simon de Montfort to discuss matters of government. Henry sought to escape the restrictions of the provisions and applied to Louis IX of France to arbitrate in the dispute. Louis agreed with Henry and annulled the provisions. Montfort was angered by this and rebelled against the King along with other barons in the Second Barons' War. [1]

The Provisions of Oxford were constitutional reforms developed in 1258 to resolve a dispute between the English barons and King Henry III. They asserted the right of the barons to representation in the king's government and, like the earlier Magna Carta, demonstrated the ability of the barons to press their concerns in opposition to the monarchy.

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester 13th-century Anglo-Norman nobleman and rebel

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, sometimes referred to as Simon V de Montfort to distinguish him from his namesake relatives, was a nobleman of French origin and a member of the English peerage, who led the baronial opposition to the rule of King Henry III of England, culminating in the Second Barons' War. Following his initial victories over royal forces, he became de facto ruler of the country, and played a major role in the constitutional development of England.

Louis IX of France 13th-century King of France

Louis IX, commonly known as Saint Louis, was King of France, the ninth from the House of Capet, and is a canonized Catholic and Anglican saint. Louis was crowned in Reims at the age of 12, following the death of his father Louis VIII; his mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled the kingdom as regent until he reached maturity. During Louis' childhood, Blanche dealt with the opposition of rebellious vassals and put an end to the Albigensian Crusade which had started 20 years earlier.

The war was not initially openly fought, each side toured the country to raise support for their army. A series of massacres of Jews in Worcester, London, Canterbury and other cities were conducted by Montfort's allies. [2] [3]

By May the King's force had reached Lewes where they intended to halt for a while to allow reinforcements to reach them. [1] The King encamped at St. Pancras Priory with a force of infantry, but his son, Prince Edward (later King Edward I), commanded the cavalry at Lewes Castle 500 yards (460 m) to the north. [4] De Montfort approached the King with the intention of negotiating a truce or failing that to draw him into open battle. The King rejected the negotiations and de Montfort moved his men from Fletching to Offham Hill, a mile to the north-west of Lewes, in a night march that surprised the royalist forces. [1] [4]

Edward I of England 13th and 14th-century King of England and Duke of Aquitaine

Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. Before his accession to the throne, he was commonly referred to as The Lord Edward. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved from an early age in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons. In 1259, he briefly sided with a baronial reform movement, supporting the Provisions of Oxford. After reconciliation with his father, however, he remained loyal throughout the subsequent armed conflict, known as the Second Barons' War. After the Battle of Lewes, Edward was hostage to the rebellious barons, but escaped after a few months and joined the fight against Simon de Montfort. Montfort was defeated at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, and within two years the rebellion was extinguished. With England pacified, Edward joined the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land. The crusade accomplished little, and Edward was on his way home in 1272 when he was informed that his father had died. Making a slow return, he reached England in 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 19 August.

Lewes Castle Grade I listed ruins in Lewes, United Kingdom

Lewes Castle is a medieval castle in the town of Lewes in East Sussex, England. Originally called Bray Castle, it occupies a commanding position guarding the gap in the South Downs cut by the River Ouse and occupied by the towns of Lewes and Cliffe.

Fletching, East Sussex village in the United Kingdom

Fletching is a village and civil parish in the Wealden District of East Sussex, England. It is located three miles (4.8 km) to the north-west of Uckfield, near one of the entrances to Sheffield Park. The A272 road crosses the parish. The settlement of Piltdown is part of the parish. The Piltdown Man discovery in 1912 was thought to be the 'missing-link' between humans and apes. The significance of the specimen remained controversial until, amidst great publicity, and much embarrassment in scientific circles, it was exposed as a forgery in 1953.

Deployment

The royalist army was up to twice the size of de Montfort's. [5] Henry held command of the centre, with Prince Edward, William de Valence, 1st Earl of Pembroke, and John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey, on the right; and Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, and his son, Henry of Almain, on the left. [6] [7] The barons held the higher ground, overlooking Lewes and had ordered their men to wear white crosses as a distinguishing emblem. [8] De Montfort split his forces into four parts, giving his son, Henry de Montfort command of one quarter; Gilbert de Clare with John FitzJohn and William of Montchensy another; a third portion consisting of Londoners was placed under Nicholas de Segrave whilst de Montfort himself led the fourth quarter with Thomas of Pelveston. [7]

William de Valence, 1st Earl of Pembroke Anglo-Norman noble, allied with Henry III

William de Valence, born Guillaume de Lusignan, was a French nobleman and knight who became important in English politics due to his relationship to King Henry III of England. He was heavily involved in the Second Barons' War, supporting the King and Prince Edward against the rebels led by Simon de Montfort. He took the name de Valence after his birthplace, Valence, near Lusignan.

John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey English Earl and general

John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey was a prominent English nobleman and military commander during the reigns of Henry III of England and Edward I of England. During the Second Barons' War he switched sides twice, ending up in support of the king, for whose capture he was present at Lewes in 1264. Warenne was later appointed a Guardian of Scotland and featured prominently in Edward I's wars in Scotland.

Henry of Almain English noble

Henry of Almain was the son of Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall and his first wife Isabel Marshal. His surname is derived from a vowel shift in pronunciation of d'Allemagne, so called by the elites of England because of his father's status as the elected German King of the Romans.

Battle

The baronial forces commenced the battle with a surprise dawn attack on foragers sent out from the royalist forces. The King then made his move. Edward led a cavalry charge against Seagrave's Londoners, placed on the left of the baronial line, that caused them to break and run to the village of Offham. Edward pursued his foe for some four miles, leaving the King unsupported. [7] [9] Henry was forced to launch an attack with his centre and right divisions straight up Offham Hill into the baronial line which awaited them at the defensive. Cornwall's division faltered almost immediately but Henry's men fought on until compelled to retreat by the arrival of de Montfort's men that had been held as the baronial reserve. [7]

The King's men were forced down the hill and into Lewes where they engaged in a fighting retreat to the castle and priory. Edward returned with his weary cavalrymen and launched a counterattack but upon locating his father was persuaded that, with the town ablaze and many of the King's supporters having fled, it was time to accept de Montfort's renewed offer of negotiations. [7] The Earl of Cornwall was captured by the barons when he was unable to reach the safety of the priory and, being discovered in a windmill, was taunted with cries of "Come down, come down, thou wicked miller." [10]

Aftermath

The King was forced to sign the so-called Mise of Lewes. Though the document has not survived, it is clear that Henry was forced to accept the Provisions of Oxford, while Prince Edward remained a hostage of the barons. [11] This put Montfort in a position of ultimate power, which would last until Prince Edward's escape, and Montfort's subsequent defeat at the Battle of Evesham in August 1265. [1] Following the battle, debts to Jews were cancelled, and the records destroyed; this had been a key war aim. [3] [2]

In 1994, an archaeological survey of the cemetery of St Nicholas Hospital, in Lewes, revealed the remains of bodies that were thought to be combatants from the battle of Lewes. [12] However, in 2014 it was revealed that some of the skeletons may actually be much older, with a skeleton known as "skeleton 180" being contemporary with the Norman invasion. [13]

Location

There remains some uncertainty over the location of the battle with Offham Hill's eastern and lower slopes covered by modern housing. The top and southern slopes remain accessible by footpaths through agricultural land and the ruins of the priory and castle are also open to visitors. [1]

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Battle of Lewes". UK Battlefields Resource Centre. Battlefields Trust. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  2. 1 2 Robin R. Mundill (2010), The king's Jews, London: Continuum, ISBN   9781847251862, LCCN   2010282921, OCLC   466343661, OL   24816680M , see p 88-90
  3. 1 2 PD-icon.svg  Jacobs, Joseph (1903). "England". In Singer, Isidore; et al. (eds.). The Jewish Encyclopedia . 5. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. pp. 161–174.
  4. 1 2 Maddicott, p. 271
  5. Burne, p. 146.
  6. Prestwich, p. 45.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 English Heritage Battlefield Report: Lewes 1264
  8. Maddicott, p. 271.
  9. Prestwich, pp. 45–6.
  10. "THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE WINDMILL". Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  11. Maddicott, pp. 272–3; Prestwich, p. 46.
  12. Luke Barber and Lucy Siburn. The medieval hospital of St Nicholas, Lewes, East Sussex in SAC Vol. 148. pp. 79–109
  13. Edwina Livesay. Skeleton 180 Shock Dating Result in Sussex Past and Present Number 133. p. 6

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References

Coordinates: 50°52′43″N0°0′50″W / 50.87861°N 0.01389°W / 50.87861; -0.01389