Oxford Parliament (1258)

Last updated

The Oxford Parliament (1258), also known as the Mad Parliament and the First English Parliament, assembled during the reign of Henry III of England. It is best known for the Provisions of Oxford, a set of constitutional reforms that forced the king to govern according to the advice of a council of barons.



The parliament came to be known as "Mad" as a result of an entry in the Latin chronicle Liber de Antiquis Legibus which read "Hoc anno fuit illud insane parliamentum apud Oxoniam". However, historians A.G. Little and R.L. Poole have shown that the word insane was overwritten in the original text, and may have originally read insigne instead. [1] Therefore, it would have originally read "illud insigne parliamentum" ("that distinguished parliament"). [2]


Westminster Hall, where the barons confronted Henry III Westminster Hall - geograph.org.uk - 2988043.jpg
Westminster Hall, where the barons confronted Henry III

By the 1250s, there was widespread resentment among the barons against Henry III. The causes included the favoritism he showed to his Lusignan half-brothers, William and Aymer de Valence. There was also opposition to Henry's unrealistic plans to conquer the Kingdom of Sicily for his second son, Edmund Crouchback. In 1255, the king informed parliament that as part of the Sicilian campaign he owed the pope the huge sum of £100,000 [note 1] and that if he defaulted England would be placed under an interdict. The king had other debts as well. [4] [5] Through 1256 and 1257, however, the barons refused to grant Henry the taxes he needed to solve his financial problems. The king's position was weakened further when English armies suffered several defeats at the hand of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in Wales. [6]

Desperate for funds, the king summoned a parliament to meet at Westminster on 9 April. [7] On 12 April, a group of lay magnates came together to offer united resistance to the king's demands for funds. These were Richard de Clare, Roger Bigod, Simon de Montfort, Peter of Savoy, Hugh Bigod, John FitzGeoffrey, and Peter de Montfort. The barons were given three days to consider their response to the king's request, and on the appointed day a group of earls, barons, and knights confronted the king and his eldest son, the future Edward I, fully armed inside Westminster Hall. They demanded the king agree to reforms, and Henry swore on the Gospels to agree to whatever they advised. [8]

An agreement was recorded in two letters patent dated 2 May. In the first, the king agreed that by Christmas he would introduce reforms on the advice of his barons and in return the barons would consent to new taxes for the king. If the king failed to keep his word, he would be excommunicated. In the second document, the king agreed that a reform programme should be prepared by a council of twenty-four—half from the king's council and half elected by the barons—that was to meet at Oxford on 11 June. The Twenty-four would then present their suggestions at a parliament summoned to meet in that city. [7]


At the Oxford Parliament on 11 June, [9] Henry accepted a new form of government, laid out in the Provisions of Oxford, in which power was placed in the hands of a council of fifteen members who were to supervise ministerial appointments, local administration and the custody of royal castles. Parliament, meanwhile, which was to meet three times a year, would monitor the performance of this council. [10]

Henry agreed to these terms, and the council of fifteen was formed. The members included Simon de Montfort, Peter de Montfort, Boniface of Savoy in his role as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Walter de Cantilupe as the Bishop of Worcester, the Earl of Norfolk, the Earl of Gloucester, the Earl of Hereford, the Earl of Warwick, the Earl of Albemarle, Hugh Bigod, Peter II of Savoy, Roger de Mortimer, James de Audeleye and John Maunsel. [11]


The resolution of the Parliament did not last for long. The Pope excused the King of his obligations related to the throne of Sicily, meaning that he no longer required the funds provided by the additional taxation given to him by Parliament. [12] The issue was one which was brought before King Louis IX of France, acting as arbitrator between Henry and the Barons at the Mise of Amiens. Louis made a decision entirely in favour of his fellow King, [13] overturning the agreement made at the Oxford Parliament and absolved Henry's need to allow Parliament to appoint ministers, instead restoring that power to him. [14]

This soon resulted in the Second Barons' War, with forces led by Simon de Montfort rebelling against the King. Following an initial attack by the Barons, Henry's feudal army was summoned and won a battle at Northampton. [15] The forces of Montfort and Henry failed to come to terms, resulting in the Battle of Lewes where the Barons were victorious and the Mise of Lewes resulted. [16] [17] Prince Edward escaped his captors within a few months, [18] and began to re-conquer England. The forces of Montfort found themselves trapped at Evesham, and in the ensuing battle, he was killed and his forces were routed by Edward's. [19] The Barons continued to resist, but the Dictum of Kenilworth in October 1266 granted pardons, resulting in their surrender. [20]


Peter de Montfort's role as parlour or prolocutor was the forerunner for Speaker of the House of Commons which officially began in 1377. [21]

See also


  1. The Bank of England's inflation calculator estimates that £100,000 in 1255 would be worth £125,142,401.27 in 2021. [3]

Related Research Articles

Dictum of Kenilworth 1266 treaty

The Dictum of Kenilworth, issued on 31 October 1266, was a pronouncement designed to reconcile the rebels of the Second Barons' War with the royal government of England. After the baronial victory at the Battle of Lewes in 1264, Simon de Montfort took control of royal government, but at the Battle of Evesham the next year Montfort was killed, and King Henry III restored to power. A group of rebels held out in the stronghold of Kenilworth Castle, however, and their resistance proved difficult to crush.

Edward I of England King of England from 1272 to 1307

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 defeated the baronial leader Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Within two years the rebellion was extinguished and, with England pacified, Edward joined the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land. He 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.

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

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, later 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.

Battle of Lewes 1264 battle of the Second Barons War resulting in the Mise 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.

The Battle of Evesham was one of the two main battles of 13th century England's Second Barons' War. It marked the defeat of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, and the rebellious barons by the future King Edward I, who led the forces of his father, King Henry III. It took place on 4 August 1265, near the town of Evesham, Worcestershire.

Parliament of England Legislature of England, 1215 to 1707

The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England from the 13th century until 1707 when it was replaced by the Parliament of Great Britain. Parliament evolved from the great council of bishops and peers that advised the English monarch. Great councils were first called Parliaments during the reign of Henry III. By this time, the king required Parliament's consent to levy taxation.

John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey 13th-century English nobleman and military commander

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.

Eleanor of England, Countess of Leicester 13th-century English princess and countess

Eleanor of England was the youngest child of John, King of England and Isabella of Angoulême.

The Provisions of Oxford were constitutional reforms developed during the Oxford Parliament of 1258 to resolve a dispute between King Henry III of England and his barons. The reforms were designed to ensure the king adhered to the rule of law and governed according to the advice of his barons. A council of fifteen barons was chosen to advise and control the king and supervise his ministers. Parliament was to meet regularly three times a year.

Humphrey de Bohun, 3rd Earl of Hereford English nobleman

Humphrey (VI) de Bohun, 3rd Earl of Hereford and 2nd Earl of Essex, was an English nobleman known primarily for his opposition to King Edward I over the Confirmatio Cartarum. He was also an active participant in the Welsh Wars and maintained for several years a private feud with the earl of Gloucester. His father, Humphrey (V) de Bohun, fought on the side of the rebellious barons in the Barons' War. When Humphrey (V) predeceased his father, Humphrey (VI) became heir to his grandfather, Humphrey (IV). At Humphrey (IV)'s death in 1275, Humphrey (VI) inherited the earldoms of Hereford and Essex. He also inherited major possessions in the Welsh Marches from his mother, Eleanor de Braose.

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 barons sought to force the king to rule with a council of barons rather than through his favourites. The war also featured a series of massacres of Jews by de Montfort's supporters including his sons Henry and Simon, in attacks aimed at seizing and destroying evidence of baronial debts. To bolster the initial success of his baronial regime, de Montfort sought to broaden the social foundations of parliament by extending the franchise to the commons for the first time. However, after a rule of just over a year, de Montfort was killed by forces loyal to the king in the Battle of Evesham.

Hugh Despenser (justiciar)

Hugh le Despenser, 1st Baron le Despenser was an important ally of Simon de Montfort during the reign of Henry III. He served briefly as Justiciar of England in 1260 and as Constable of the Tower of London.

Henry of Almain

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

Simon de Montfort's Parliament was an English parliament held from 20 January 1265 until mid-March of the same year, called by Simon de Montfort, a baronial rebel leader.

Events from the 1260s in England.

Mise of Amiens 1264 settlement between King Henry III of England and Simon de Montfort

The Mise of Amiens[miz ɒv a.mjɛ̃] was a settlement given by King Louis IX of France on 23 January 1264 in the conflict between King Henry III of England and his rebellious barons, led by Simon de Montfort. Louis' one-sided decision for King Henry led directly to the hostilities of the Second Barons' War.

Mise of Lewes 1264 settlement between King Henry III of England and rebellious barons led by Simon de Montfort

The Mise of Lewes was a settlement made on 14 May 1264 between King Henry III of England and his rebellious barons, led by Simon de Montfort. The settlement was made on the day of the Battle of Lewes, one of the two major battles of the Second Barons' War. The conflict between king and magnates was caused by dissatisfaction with the influence of foreigners at court and Henry's high level and new methods of taxation. In 1258 Henry was forced to accept the Provisions of Oxford, which essentially left the royal government in the hands of a council of magnates, but this document went through a long series of revocations and reinstatements. In 1263, as the country was on the brink of civil war, the two parties agreed to submit the matter to arbitration by the French king Louis IX. Louis was a firm believer in the royal prerogative, and decided clearly in favour of Henry. The outcome was unacceptable for the rebellious barons, and war between the two parties broke out almost immediately.

During the Second Barons' War, the Peace of Canterbury was an agreement reached between the baronial government led by Simon de Montfort on one hand, and Henry III of England and his son and heir Edward – the later King Edward I – on the other. The agreement was signed at Canterbury some time between 12 and 15 August 1264.


  1. Treharne & Sanders 1973, p. 72.
  2. Sayles 1974, p. 49.
  3. "Inflation Calculator". www.bankofengland.co.uk. Bank of England. 24 May 2022. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  4. Jones 2012, pp. 214–217.
  5. Starkey 2010, p. 206.
  6. Lyon 2016, pp. 68–69.
  7. 1 2 Sayles 1974, p. 50.
  8. Powell & Wallis 1968, pp. 183–184.
  9. Trevelyan 1953, p. 99.
  10. Trevelyan 1953, p. 100.
  11. "The Mad Parliament, 1258". The National Archives. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  12. Koenig, Chris (7 March 2012). "Recalling the Mad Parliament of 1258". Oxford Times. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  13. Powicke 1962, p. 183.
  14. Treharne & Sanders 1973, p. 289.
  15. Powicke 1947, pp. 459–460.
  16. Sadler 2008, pp. 55–69.
  17. Maddicott 1983.
  18. Prestwich 1997, pp. 48–49.
  19. Sadler 2008, pp. 105–109.
  20. Prestwich 1997, p. 117.
  21. "The role of the Speaker". BBC News. 18 October 2000. Retrieved 3 April 2015.