Henry III (1207–1272), king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
by H. W. Ridgeway

Henry III (1207–1272), king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine, called Henry of Winchester from his birthplace, was the eldest of the five children of and his second wife, . He was born on 1 October 1207 and named after his grandfather . His fifty-six-year reign, the fourth longest in English history, may be conveniently divided into four periods. The first, of some sixteen years, was largely that of the king's minority, during which policy was to a considerable extent directed by others. It was followed by a brief period of turbulence, from 1232 to 1234, which was formerly regarded as one in which the king began to take control of affairs, but is better seen as one in which Henry was still the tool of faction, but in different hands. The years from 1234 to 1258 were those of Henry's personal rule: it was a period of political peace, albeit with intermittent difficulties arising from rivalries within the royal family, finance, and foreign policy. In 1258, however, factional struggles at court, combined with wider discontents in the country at large, launched an extended period of instability which lasted almost until the end of the reign. At first a sudden but peaceful coup by what is often mistakenly referred to as a ‘baronial reform movement’ produced three years of conciliar government, not unlike that of the minority; however this developed, in response to the king's recovery of power in 1261, into a period of civil war from 1263 to 1267. Henry emerged victorious and in his last years resumed his personal rule, over a kingdom shakily at peace when he died. Unable to reverse the disasters of 1204–5, he maintained the continental claims of his forebears until forced by pressures at home to surrender most of them in 1259. In England his reign was at its best characterized by peace and prosperity for most of propertied society; it also saw important institutional, legal, and social developments. Hardly a stereotypically ideal king, Henry none the less restored the fortunes of the Angevin dynasty in England after the disasters of his father's reign.

Childhood and early reign, 1207–1219

Not much is known about Henry's childhood. He saw little of his father, but was close to his mother. He later pensioned his wet-nurse—Ellen, wife of William Dun—comfortably at Havering. In 1209 John ordered a general oath to Henry, and about 1212 handed him over to the guardianship of his Touraingeau henchman Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester. Des Roches supervised Henry's education until he was fourteen. He commissioned for him a 2200-line grammar from Master Henry of Avranches. By the age of nine Henry spoke with unusual ‘gravity and dignity’ (Paris, Historia Anglorum, 2.196); years later he could still recite lists of barons and sainted kings of England, perhaps from early lessons. Des Roches probably influenced Henry's reverence for his Angevin ancestors (especially Richard I and Eleanor of Aquitaine), his taste for art, and his devotion to Anglo-Saxon saints. Henry's knightly training under des Roches's Breton retainer Philip d'Aubigny was less successful. Ralph of St Samson, Henry's bodyguard, may have taught him to ride.

The civil war of 1215–17 following John's repudiation of Magna Carta left a lasting impression on Henry, detectable in documents of fifty years later. John died unexpectedly on 19 October 1216. Nine months later, Isabella deserted her children and returned to France to remarry. Henry did not see her again until 1230. Not surprisingly, he became dependent on father figures until well into his twenties.

Against the background of civil war the throne was an uncertain legacy. But John had secured the pope's protection, personified by the legate Guala, and nearly all the higher clergy were loyal, permitting the royalists to arrange Henry's coronation at Gloucester Abbey on 28 October. It was poorly attended. Henry came over from Devizes and William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, knighted him on 27 October. During the coronation Guala tactfully permitted the bishops of Winchester, Worcester, and Exeter to anoint Henry and crown him with a lady's chaplet. Henry immediately performed homage to Guala and, four days later, took the cross. William Marshal assumed regency of the realm, and it was decided on 12 November to issue a modified form of Magna Carta in order to enhance the royal cause's popularity.

The rebels imported as their leader Louis, son of King Philip Augustus of France, who had a claim to the throne. Few defected, and stalemate was broken only by military victory, at Lincoln on 20 May 1217, when the regent captured many rebels, and on 24 August when Louis's supply fleet was defeated by Hubert de Burgh's navy near Sandwich. Louis lost heart and was bribed to depart, while his supporters were treated leniently. Magna Carta, further modified, was reissued in a great council held at Westminster in October and November, with a new charter of the forest. Alexander II of Scots came to peace but Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great) of Gwynedd kept most of his recent conquests.

Guala discreetly deferred to the regent, whose prestige and diplomatic skills slowly restored order to government. In November 1218 Henry was given a great seal, entrusted by common consent to Ralph Neville; no perpetual grants could be made, however, until the king came of age. Progress was slowed, though not halted, by the Marshal's last illness. On 9 April 1219 he resigned Henry to the protection of a new legate, Pandulf. He also warned him not to follow the example of a ‘criminal ancestor’ (King John) or else God would deny him a long life, advice which Henry heeded. At a council in Reading next day des Roches reasserted his rights as tutor, boldly seizing the boy-king by the head, but was rebuked by the bystanders. The Marshal died a month later.

The minority and its problems, 1219–1227

A great council at Oxford in April sanctioned a triumvirate, confirming Pandulf as ‘first counsellor and chief of the kingdom’ (Carpenter, Minority, 128), with Hubert de Burgh as justiciar and Peter des Roches as Henry's tutor. This lasted until 1221. From the start Pandulf permitted the justiciar to dominate. In spite of its continuing impoverishment the regime performed Henry's second coronation with pomp in Westminster Abbey on 17 May 1220, and in the years which followed continued its work of rebuilding the administrative machinery disrupted by civil war, a process which advanced as much through bribery as force. The leading figure in its manoeuvrings and machinations was increasingly Hubert de Burgh. Pandulf resigned in July 1221 and des Roches's tutorship of the king was terminated in the autumn, and in the next three years Hubert steadily consolidated his position. Des Roches's influence was marginalized. At a council held in London in June 1222, after concessions including suspension of a forest eyre, a measure to resume the royal demesne was agreed, nearly doubling the king's income. While at Oxford with the king after Christmas, Hubert ensured that Henry confirmed the charters before a council at Westminster in January 1223, offsetting opposition to another inquiry into royal rights. In the following months war broke out in Wales where Hubert's ally, the earl of Pembroke, conquered most of the south-west, undermining Llywelyn's dominance. Hubert brought the king, decked in his first suit of armour adorned with the royal coat of arms, to relieve Builth on 23 September and then found a new castle at Montgomery, where on 7 October he received Llywelyn's submission.

On 10 December at Westminster, Archbishop Langton connived with Hubert to give Henry nominal control over his own seal. The government then demonstrated its domestic strength, at least, by forcing the remaining supporters of Peter des Roches to resign their shrievalties and royal castles. In summer 1224 the revolt of another former loyalist to King John, the dangerous Falkes de Bréauté, was suppressed. Falkes's castle of Bedford was captured after an eight-week siege (20 June – 15 August). The young Henry was present when it fell. He may himself have ordered, or more probably was induced by Hubert to order, that the entire garrison, over eighty knights, should be hanged.

These power struggles were exploited by Philip Augustus's successor, Louis VIII (r. 1223–6). In July 1224 he overran Poitou, capturing La Rochelle. Henry secretly blamed the justiciar for this. However, Hubert planned for its recovery. In a council at London in February 1225 he exploited rumours of another French invasion to obtain £40,000 through a fifteenth on movables, the first major tax of the reign, in return for what proved to be a definitive reissue of the charters. The success of the 1225 tax (and of other taxes until 1237), in contrast to the failure of the 1217 scutage and 1220 carucage, helped to establish the principle of political concessions in return for taxation. In the end it hamstrung Henry III's government, making the king financially dependent for major undertakings on the consent of great councils and later of parliaments. But although the charters imposed constraints on the crown's exploitation of feudal incidents and local government, notably the forest, their repeated confirmation constituted in the short term a series of timely concessions to gain acceptance for the re-establishment of royal government in the localities, for instance through a general eyre in 1218 and a forest eyre in 1221.

In the longer term the reissues established the charters and the principles they represented in the public imagination and gave them the force of law. Increasingly regarded as the yardstick for acceptable standards of royal government, they were especially highly regarded by knights and gentry, a development which helped stimulate a rapid increase in recourse to the increasingly professionalized royal courts. Henry III later committed himself publicly to the principles of the charters, often exhorting the barons to uphold them in their dealings with their own men. In 1255 he ordered the sheriffs to have them proclaimed in the county courts and to see that they were observed by all, on pain of punishment. But at the same time royal lawyers and local officials worked hard to find and exploit ambiguities and loopholes.

In August 1225 the king's sixteen-year-old brother , now styled count of Poitou, who was knighted and created earl of Cornwall in February, nominally headed an expedition which recovered Gascony by the end of the year, perhaps the high water mark of Henry III's minority. 1226, by contrast, was probably a year of disillusion, thanks to disagreements with the papacy over ecclesiastical taxation and frustrated hopes of campaigning in France. In November, following the death of Louis VIII, Henry sent embassies to Normandy, Anjou, Brittany, and Poitou, plotting against the Capetians. Then on 8 January 1227, now in his nineteenth year, he held a council at Oxford at which ‘by common counsel’ he declared himself of full age, thereby ending the minority.

The dominance of Hubert de Burgh, 1227–1232

Henry did not really begin to rule in 1227, he merely assumed the power to make charters to buttress Hubert's justiciarship. He created Hubert earl of Kent and over the next year enriched him and his family, culminating in Hubert's barefaced elevation on 27 April 1228, ostensibly ‘on the advice of the magnates’, to the justiciarship of England for life. After this, Hubert's popularity declined, while between 1227 and 1231 Henry built up an independent household of nearly seventy knights and began to interfere in government, bringing him into periodic conflict with Hubert. However, he long lacked the resolve to part with his fatherlike justiciar.

In 1227 Henry's declaration of majority was turned into profit by forcing the confirmation of earlier royal charters, and the holding of general and forest eyres; several areas were reafforested. This produced a reaction, exploited by the king's brother Richard, who had only been invested earl of Cornwall during pleasure in May and resented Hubert's tutelage. Supported by seven earls, he threatened civil war, but was easily bought off. But Hubert continued to lose ground, his authority decisively dented first by his failure to strengthen Montgomery Castle, threatened by Llywelyn in September 1228, despite the levying of a scutage of 2 marks per fee, and then by his lukewarm attitude towards the recovery of the Angevin continental lands. Henry celebrated Christmas at Oxford in 1228 and received invitations from the nobility of Normandy and Poitou to invade. 1229 was spent ostensibly preparing for this. However, despite much warlike talk, a scutage of 3 marks per fee, and a tallage of the royal demesne, plans were bungled. There was no muster at Portsmouth before 13 October, the principal feast day of Henry's patron St Edward, too late for any fighting, and the fleet proved too small. Departure had to be postponed; only an alliance with Brittany was achieved. Henry is said to have blamed Hubert and to have attacked him with a sword. He had reason for suspicion: in secret negotiations with the French regent in 1229, Hubert had envisaged renunciation of Normandy, in order to concentrate on recovering Poitou. Nevertheless, after Henry spent Christmas 1229 at York with the king of Scots, another scutage was raised, and on 3 May 1230 Henry, decked in crown, sceptre, and a white silk mantle, landed at St Malo with a substantial force. But although Normandy was poised to revolt, Hubert is said to have advised against attacking Normandy, and there was little fighting, discouraging allies from rebellion. Subsequent efforts concentrated on Poitou, and there was an expedition as far as Bordeaux, but few permanent gains resulted. By the autumn Henry and Richard were ill, tired, and short of money. They retreated to Brittany. Leaving a token force, Henry sailed home to Portsmouth on 28 October. The campaign, arguably the last opportunity to recover Normandy, was a costly fiasco.

Upon his return, in a petty bid for independence, Henry began to use a privy seal in communicating with the chancellor. Even in Brittany in June 1230 he overrode justiciar and council and requested a papal legate (none arrived until 1237). None the less, Hubert continued his domination for more than another year. He entertained Henry for Christmas at Lambeth and received important wardships, including the lands and heirs of the earl of Gloucester. On 15 April 1231 to his grief, Henry's brother-in-law, William (II) Marshal, earl of Pembroke, died. Henry's exclamation at the Temple Church funeral, ‘Woe is me! Is not the blood of the blessed martyr Thomas fully avenged yet?’ (Paris, Chron., 3.201), reflected gratitude to William (I) Marshal, and perhaps also wider frustrations. Once more government languished as faction-fighting broke out at its centre. Hubert persuaded Henry to prevent the younger William Marshal's estranged brother Richard from succeeding to the earldom of Pembroke, claiming that his Norman lands made him a liegeman of the king of France. Richard Marshal's subsequent revolt, abetted by Richard of Cornwall, prevented Henry making any headway against Llywelyn in an early autumn campaign. Then Peter des Roches, Hubert's bitter enemy, returning heroically from the crusade, was received back to court with his supporters and gradually gained an ascendancy over the king. In an acrimonious council held at Westminster at the end of October, Henry was persuaded by Richard Marshal and the duke of Brittany to abandon plans to marry the youngest sister of the king of Scots in favour of the duke of Brittany's daughter Yolande, reviving prospects of another French campaign. According to Matthew Paris, Hubert had for years been blocking other marriage proposals by spreading rumours that Henry was malformed and impotent. Henry now snubbed Hubert, his customary host since 1224, by spending Christmas at Winchester, lavishly entertained by Peter des Roches.

Hubert's final decline started in January 1232 when des Roches was appointed a baron of the exchequer and began promised financial reforms. In truth few of these achieved much, but they generated wild expectations in the king, who was running into debt. Henry's recent failure in France had exposed his financial weakness, now compounded by the expense of campaigning in Wales and maintaining foreign subsidies, for instance to the duke of Brittany. Thanks to Hubert's patient restoration of government, the king's ordinary annual revenue by 1230 was about £24,000, a great improvement on the mere £8000 of 1218, but even without allowance for inflation only two-thirds of average income in the early years of John's reign. The limitations placed on royal finance by concessions resulting from civil war and the reissues of the charters meant that Henry's freedom to manoeuvre depended largely on his ability to bargain for subsidies from great councils. He could not even enjoy his remaining revenues to the full, as corrupt bailiffs pocketed the profits of office, well-connected ‘curial’ sheriffs kept the exchequer's receipts from the counties, the shire ‘farms’, at traditionally low rates while themselves harvesting most of the true profits, and royal manors were leased on unduly generous terms. Schemes to reverse this situation greatly exercised the king in the 1230s and 1240s. But until the mid-1240s they brought only temporary improvements, the curtailment of royal patronage implicit in fiscal reform generating more political tension than any moderate increase in revenue warranted. As was repeatedly demonstrated, only a long period of peace could produce the savings necessary for the king to live of his own—an admission of his limitations not to Henry's taste. Consequently his resources were never sufficient for his ambitions, and inadequate finance remained a fatal weakness of Henry's rule, one that dogged him throughout his reign.

On 7 March 1232, at a council held at Westminster, Hubert's enemies ensured rejection of a major tax on movables, greatly weakening the regime and forcing Henry into negotiations with Llywelyn. In May, Henry and Hubert left for the marches; on the 19th they stopped at Worcester to see the body of King John translated to a splendid new tomb, and on the 23rd met inconclusively with Llywelyn at Shrewsbury. During their return, on 11 June, des Roches's kinsman Peter de Rivallis was granted the treasurership of the king's household for life. Even now Henry was still balanced between factions. Seeking inspiration, he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Rood at Bromholm, Norfolk, and was entertained by Hubert de Burgh on 2 July, where he confirmed Hubert and his followers in all their offices for life; the justiciar, on the king's orders, swore to coerce Henry into keeping his oath.

During July, however, Henry turned decisively against Hubert. Des Roches reported (probably correctly) that Hubert had plotted riots against Italian clerics appointed by the pope to English benefices. Mindful of old obligations to the papacy, Henry ordered the arrest of several of Hubert's men. Finally, Hubert himself precipitated a breach, if Matthew Paris can be believed. For a king now aged twenty-four their violent quarrel at Woodstock was one liberty too many, and he dismissed Hubert as justiciar.

The regime of Peter des Roches, 1232–1234

The fall of Hubert de Burgh merely permitted the rise of Peter des Roches, another father figure, as well as initiating two years of almost continuous political tension. At first des Roches shared power with Richard Marshal and the stewards of the household. Hubert was quickly stripped of his offices and lands, and fled into sanctuary. His eventual trial in London in November before his peers may have been Henry's idea, reflecting either his leniency towards courtiers or his preference for baronial consent, following Magna Carta, chapter 39. Nevertheless, sentence was severe: indefinite detention at Devizes and confiscation of his treasure, albeit retaining his title and hereditary lands. This met with general approval. In September the council at Lambeth voted the fortieth on movables refused in March, the only time a grant was made without conditions throughout Henry's reign; but thanks to the poor harvests, it raised only £16,500.

Des Roches quickly took control of government. Despite posing as a financial reformer, he purged opponents and enriched followers with shrievalties and royal castles. Some of his party were foreigners, and his regime was generous to the Angevins' continental allies. However, he was less interested in Henry's continental ambitions than in his own accumulation of patronage. In January 1233 Gregory IX renewed Henry's authority to recover crown rights, permitting cancellation of charters to de Burgh's supporters; over fifty were overturned ‘by royal will’ alone. The beneficiaries were des Roches's men. This provoked opposition. In particular the regime quarrelled with Richard Marshal, who resented the advancement of des Roches's men at the expense of his own retainers. In February 1233 Richard retired to Wales and Ireland; by August he was in revolt.

For some six months or so there was a sharp, but limited, civil war. Richard Marshal was the only insurgent magnate. Although he courted popularity as a champion of Englishmen against foreign favourites—winning the chroniclers' sympathy—he was never supported by more than sixty knights, and King Henry, directing forces supplemented by foreign mercenaries, was able to reduce his castles of Hay, Ewyas, and Usk between 28 August and 8 September. Henry then characteristically offered negotiations, at a council summoned to Westminster for 2 October. This was delayed a week by Hubert de Burgh's escape into sanctuary. However, talks broke down. Goaded by his affinity the Marshal rebelled again, now allied with Llywelyn, while his retainer Richard Siward snatched Hubert de Burgh from Devizes. By 12 November, much to his discomfort, Henry resumed campaigning in the marches. While at Grosmont he suffered the humiliating capture of his baggage train in a night raid. After that the campaign ground to a halt during the winter. In the following February further fighting was averted only by the Marshal's sudden withdrawal to Ireland. Llywelyn then opened negotiations.

There was a stalemate. Henry was short of funds. In a council at Westminster on 2 February 1234 Edmund, the archbishop-elect of Canterbury, and several bishops denounced the regime. As baronial irritation at des Roches's autocratic rule increased, Henry promised to follow Edmund's advice as soon as he could. He then escaped on a tour of East Anglian shrines as the strain took its toll. He fell ill, and after gathering relics for his private chapel he ordered a silver votive-statue of himself to be deposited at Bromholm commemorating his recovery. On 8 March a council in Northampton authorized the bishops to treat with Llywelyn. Henry attended Edmund's consecration at Canterbury on 2 April; des Roches still sat next to him, but the other bishops theatrically faced them across the choir. At a council at Westminster on 9 May, Edmund threatened excommunication unless there was a change of regime. Henry thereupon ordered des Roches to retire to his diocese, while de Rivallis and other henchmen were dismissed. Thereafter the rebels were appeased by concessions, while des Roches's disseisins per voluntatem were reversed. Henry displayed grief on receiving news of Richard Marshal's death, possibly by assassination, in Ireland. However, his fortuitous demise curtained the most embarrassing process whereby Henry truly learned his lesson in kingship.

Marriage and the achievement of stability, 1234–1242

Henry III's personal rule began well, establishing a political stability which not only remained largely unbroken for over fifteen years, but was also resilient enough to persist for several years more after tensions began to revive in the early 1250s, finally succumbing only to the coup of 1258. Henry cultivated courtiers who were largely indifferent to the old factions, men like John Mansel, Robert Passelewe, Henry of Wingham, Bertram de Criol, William de Cantilupe, John of Lexinton, Paulinus Piper, and Robert Waleran; these men and their clans formed a tightly knit community. There were favourites, but none achieved the hegemony of the ministers of the minority. A new generation of magnates was wooed into peaceful political activity in parliament. Under the influence of Archbishop Edmund, Henry made his peace with Peter des Roches and Hubert de Burgh, both of whom received pardons before their deaths in 1238 and 1243 respectively. Their followers had almost all been restored to office by 1236. Henry could not afford further warfare. In June 1234 the archbishop secured a two-year truce with Llywelyn, extended until the latter's death in 1240. Another truce with the king of Navarre in January 1235 protected Gascony. In the following August a four-year truce was agreed with Louis IX, following the collapse in November 1234 of Henry's alliance with the duke of Brittany.

1235 was largely devoted to family matters. Henry's sister married the emperor Frederick II in May, producing an ally against Louis IX, albeit at a cost of a dowry of £20,000. Himself almost into middle age, early in 1235 Henry proposed to Jeanne, heir to Ponthieu, but Louis IX persuaded the pope to prohibit the match. Nothing daunted, Henry turned to Raymond Berengar, count of Provence, for the hand of his eleven-year-old daughter . She was not a rich match: Henry proposed a dowry ranging from 20,000 to only 3000 marks and was at one stage prepared to take her for nothing; the 10,000 marks eventually agreed was never fully paid. However, she was excellently connected; her elder sister had recently married Louis IX, while her mother's family, the counts of Savoy, controlled the passes into north Italy and were courted by both pope and emperor in their wars against each other. Thus Henry both gained leverage in the papal curia and significantly improved his relations with Louis IX, now his brother-in-law.

Betrothed at Canterbury on 14 January 1236, Eleanor and Henry were married at Westminster on the 20th by Archbishop Edmund, her coronation setting new standards of lavish ceremonial. Beautiful and clever, Eleanor quickly monopolized Henry's affections, helping him to break fully with earlier influences, though she favoured policies of moderation and reconciliation. She had been accompanied by one of her brilliant uncles, William of Savoy, bishop-elect of Valence, and early in April, Henry suddenly reconstructed his council at Windsor as a sworn body of twelve headed by William. Financial reforms—resumptions of demesne, exploitation of royal manors, increments on the shire farms—which increased the king's revenues by about 10 per cent were made tolerable in the shires by the dismissal of courtiers as sheriffs, to be replaced by local men on oaths of good conduct. Moreover, William was no Peter des Roches, for he cultivated men from all factions, supported the jurist and administrative reformer William of Raleigh, and promoted few foreigners. He also maintained peaceful relations with Scotland and France.

Richard of Cornwall resented his demotion after Henry's marriage. He boycotted the court for the next two years and to boost his position took the cross at Winchester in June 1236. But the discontent he hoped to foment was deftly offset by William of Savoy and Raleigh at a great council at Westminster in January 1237, a large assembly which may also have been attended by representatives of burgesses and knights: Magna Carta was reissued, and recent resumptions of royal demesne were abandoned; three magnate victims of resumptions were even co-opted on to the king's council. In return, Henry III was granted a thirtieth on movables; the last major parliamentary tax for over thirty years, it raised some £22,500. William of Savoy was so secure that he could even go abroad from February to April, while in June the newly arrived papal legate Otto (another moderating influence) publicly reconciled Hubert de Burgh with Peter des Roches. In September Alexander II relinquished ancient claims to the northern counties of England in return for lands worth £200 p.a. William of Savoy's brother, Thomas, married the countess of Flanders in the autumn, bringing Henry further allies.

The reissue of the charters in 1237 marked the culmination of a period of important legal development: ordinances enacted in great councils regulated watch and ward in 1233, and the holding of and attendance at local courts in 1234, while 1236 saw wide-ranging legislation in the form of the Statute of Merton, which dealt with such issues as the rights of widows, access to common pasture, and the payment of dead men's debts. The final separation of the court coram rege from the common bench, probably in 1234, marked the continued development and sophistication of royal justice, itself celebrated about that time in the famous legal treatise known as Bracton. The initiative in these processes, however, came less from Henry III himself, who except in artistic concerns was rarely (unlike his royal predecessors) the initiator of significant developments, than from his ministers and from the legal profession. Indeed, apart from a provision of 1253 concerning Jews, which though much to Henry's taste was essentially ecclesiastical in origin, there was little further legislation before the enactments of the period after 1258. Unlike King John, Henry interfered little in the workings of the courts, except in a handful of notorious cases to delay proceedings against favourites. The principal complaint which emerged against royal justice seems to have been its growing complexity, remoteness, and expense, which tended to favour richer litigants who could afford the means to influence its workings. This attitude may help to explain the appeal in some quarters during the 1240s and 1250s of a call to reform via a return to old ways: the revival of the lapsed offices of justiciar and chancellor, both subject to public scrutiny.

William of Savoy was again abroad when Simon de Montfort, a rising star at court, began a liaison with Henry III's widowed sister, . To hush up the scandal, Henry planned their secret marriage in his chamber chapel at Westminster on 7 January 1238. This provoked Richard of Cornwall into rebellion supported by Gilbert Marshal, earl of Pembroke, and the earl of Winchester; they denounced Montfort and other favourites and condemned the marriage as contracted without magnate consent, winning much sympathy. On 23 February they met Henry in arms at Stratford-le-Bow, but he retreated to the Tower until 2 March. This was Henry's sharpest crisis until the 1260s. It was resolved by William of Savoy. Richard was bought off with 16,000 marks for his crusade, about half the proceeds of the thirtieth, and remained loyal for the remainder of the reign. On 4 March, now reconciled, Richard and Henry attended the deathbed of their sister , at Havering.

In May 1238 William of Savoy left to assist Frederick II in Italy and never returned. In June, Henry proposed William for the bishopric of Winchester, but lacking his counsel, bungled the election. The usually co-operative monks first proposed William of Raleigh and then, despite Henry's intervention, elected Ralph de Neville; enraged, Henry appealed to Rome and deprived Ralph of the chancellorship on 28 August. He soon relented, returning the title and emoluments of office to Ralph until his death in 1244. Soon afterwards, on the night of 9 September, Henry narrowly escaped assassination at Woodstock by a deranged clerk associated with William de Marisco and the pirates of Lundy. In November Henry was at Kenilworth for the baptism of Eleanor and Simon de Montfort's eldest son, Henry, a sign of Montfort's continuing advancement, which culminated in February 1239 when Henry created him earl of Leicester. William of Raleigh retired in April and a more relaxed policy towards the exploitation of the shires and the royal manors followed. Henry did have other resources at his disposal, and his finances remained reasonably healthy for several years. As well as feudal incidents, tallages, and the profits of justice, his right to the revenues of vacant bishoprics was important, and between 1240 and 1244 he derived 10 per cent of his income from them, thanks to the coincidence of vacancies at Winchester (exploited with unusual thoroughness), Canterbury, and London. Henry's officers often pushed his rights to the utmost, particularly through the general and forest eyres, but they still had to contend with the constraints imposed by the charters. To offset the resultant drop in income Henry adopted a new policy of tallaging the Jews, which exhausted their resources during the 1240s.

On the night of 17 June 1239, confounding rumours of sterility, Queen Eleanor gave birth at Westminster to a boy. While the Londoners celebrated by torchlight, Henry's clerks sang the ‘Christus vincit’. The infant was baptized by the legate at Westminster Abbey three days later; Richard of Cornwall and Simon de Montfort were the godparents. Henry's choice of as a name for his heir (a departure from Angevin tradition) proclaimed his devotion to Edward the Confessor. Edward's birth ensured that Eleanor would henceforth be Henry's principal adviser. The number of Savoyards and Provençals at court began to grow, while Henry suddenly quarrelled with Simon de Montfort at the queen's churching and drove him into exile with his wife. King and earl were reconciled in the following April, but Simon's influence was never the same again.

Although Henry III was greatly grieved by the news of William of Savoy's death at Viterbo in November 1239 (Matthew Paris reports that he tore his clothes and threw them into the fire), 1240 and 1241 were good years for the English king. He took advantage of the death in April 1240 of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth of Gwynedd to exploit a succession dispute. He threw his weight behind Llywelyn's son Dafydd against his half-brother Gruffudd, and in a theatrical ceremony at Gloucester on 15 May knighted Dafydd and received his homage, reducing him to a client ruler. On 10 June at Dover, Henry and the legate saw Richard of Cornwall off to crusade; then, after a reconciliation with Henry possibly effected by the queen, who could now afford to be generous, Simon de Montfort departed on his own crusade. On 29 September, to further public joy, Eleanor produced a daughter who was baptized , probably after Eleanor's sister, the queen of France.

Henry III spent Christmas at Westminster, fêting the legate before his departure in January 1241. This left Henry even more dependent on Eleanor's family. Another of her uncles, Peter of Savoy, arrived and was knighted on 5 January, the feast of St Edward's deposition, in a great ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Soon dominant in Henry's council, where he favoured a continuation of moderate policies, Peter was granted the honour of Richmond in April, while in February another of Eleanor's uncles, Boniface, was elected archbishop of Canterbury. Tension rose briefly early in 1242 when it was thought that Richard of Cornwall might oppose the rise of the Savoyards when he returned from the east, but the court's fears came to nothing. When Richard landed at Dover on 7 January he was met by both the king and queen. Feasted on the 28th in London, which was decorated in his honour, he was immediately won over to the new regime by the flattery of Peter of Savoy, who offered to resign but was recalled by the king. Richard was probably too impoverished after his crusade to cause much trouble. Moreover Peter may have persuaded him that he could profit from an expedition to Poitou, of which he was still nominally count.

The expedition to Poitou, 1242–1243

Henry III had continued to hope to recover his father's lost continental lands. In August 1241 he had surprisingly halted an attempted rebellion by Dafydd of Gwynedd after only a fortnight's bloodless campaign, assisted by Welsh defections and unusually clement weather. At Gwerneigron Dafydd readily accepted a compromise, surrendering Gruffudd and his son Owain as hostages. For Wales was far less interesting to Henry than Louis IX's investiture of his brother Alphonse as count of Poitou in June 1241, a calculated snub to Angevin claims and one which immediately gave rise to plans for revenge. His eventual intervention in Poitou was, however, an ill-considered piece of opportunism, one that he threw himself into before he was ready, when Hugues de Lusignan, count of La Marche, and his wife, Isabella of Angoulême, Henry's own mother, rebelled against Louis IX at the end of 1241, shortly after making an alliance with the English king. Henry lacked effective allies, while his income, at this time about £40,000 per annum, was dwarfed by that of the French king, whose resources, worth over £70,000 per annum, made him a truly formidable adversary. Parliament was summoned to Westminster in January 1242 but whether from realism (having regard to Henry's lack of generalship and money) or from selfishness (few of them claimed lands in Poitou) the magnates refused taxation besides a scutage because there was a truce in force with King Louis. However, Henry was in religious mood and not easily deflected, and after a tour of his favourite East Anglian shrines, he sailed for Poitou in May in his ship fitted with panelled chambers, leaving the archbishop of York as regent. He ordered fifteen man-sized candles to burn perpetually around the shrine of St Edward at Westminster throughout his absence abroad. In the event of his father's death Edward would be protected by Queen Eleanor and her uncles, an interesting reflection on the position of Richard of Cornwall. Henry brought about £35,000, scraped together from a 20,000 mark Jewish tallage and other resources. Although seven earls accompanied him his forces were inadequate—hardly 200 knights, half of them from the household—and this doomed the expedition from the start.

Henry landed on 12 May, but did not reach Pons in Saintonge until the 20th. At first he characteristically delayed, preferring negotiations. He may have hoped that Louis would buy him off, or he may have sought a cause to generate more support in England. He recruited allies, betrothing Richard of Cornwall to Sanchia, another daughter of the count of Provence, and so freeing the count of Toulouse, who was engaged to her, to make a marriage alliance with the Lusignans. Then on 8 June he ended his truce with Louis and advanced first to Saintes (11–19 June) and then to Taillebourg on the Charente (30 June). But the additional troops he had summoned from England and Gascony failed to appear, and by 19 July he was back in Saintes. Louis now began reducing Lusignan castles; whereupon Henry suddenly dashed to secure Taillebourg, only to fall into a trap. Louis moved up on 20 July and surrounded him, heavily outnumbering his forces. Henry escaped only thanks to Richard of Cornwall, whose services on crusade led to the English army being given a day's grace by the French knights. Richard advised Henry to ‘get out of here quickly’ (Paris, Chron., 4.212) and they fled, Henry losing a coronet in the rush. Some English knights and Simon de Montfort were able to distinguish themselves on 22 July, beating off a French night ambush, but Saintes was abandoned. Only Louis IX's illness halted the French. Hugues and Isabella defected back to Louis on 1 August, destroying the Poitevin revolt. Only the isles of Oléron and Ré remained in Henry's hands in Poitou.

The failure was caused largely by inadequate finance. In the autumn Henry was forced to borrow at Bordeaux; a further £20,000 reached him from England and Ireland only after several months. In a letter to the emperor in September 1242 Henry castigated Poitevin treachery, a line followed by Matthew Paris. But his own inadequate generalship was also to blame: his indecision, inactivity, and tendency to fall into traps meant that allies lost confidence, as they had in 1230. Well might Simon de Montfort declare at Saintes that Henry, like Charles the Simple, should be locked up by his subjects—an insult the king remembered twenty years later.

Henry remained at Bordeaux for a year, making no further forays, and on 5 April he came to terms with Louis, renewing the truce for five years. Concern for the queen delayed him: she had been pregnant at the start of the campaign and at Bordeaux on 25 June 1242 gave birth to a daughter, Beatrice, named after Henry's mother-in-law, Beatrice of Provence, who visited them in the following May. In August 1243 Henry made a new and more ample dowry settlement for his wife. Failure in Poitou had made him even more dependent on her, causing another quarrel with Richard of Cornwall, who returned to England in September 1242. Henry had probably granted Gascony to Richard in gratitude for saving him at Taillebourg, only to change his mind a few weeks later on the advice of Eleanor who wanted Gascony for the Lord Edward. Richard was bought off with wedding gifts from his brother. Henry's expedition to Poitou cost him a clear £80,000, leaving debts of £15,000. Limited fighting had kept costs low, and his debts were cleared by the end of 1244, while Henry stubbornly maintained his claims to Normandy and Poitou for another fifteen years. Nevertheless, he found this fiasco difficult to live down.

The aftermath of Poitou, 1243–1245

After Poitou, Henry avoided major confrontation for many years. He continued to be much influenced by the queen and her kinsmen, and by ministers like John Mansel. Thanks mainly to heavy taxation of the Jews, and to a decade of almost unbroken peace, his finances gradually recovered. It is significant that there was no rebellion against him on his return like the one that had confronted John after Bouvines. Fortuitous minorities in the ruling dynasties of Scotland and Wales, and among the English magnates, assisted him. Henry deliberately cultivated good relations with the baronage, to whom he was lavish with hospitality and generous with patronage. He was indulgent towards their debts to the crown, and relaxed in his approach to their liberties; although his justices periodically investigated these, Henry took no action to reduce them and sometimes even added to them. He paraded his unity with the aristocracy in major artistic commissions, for example for Westminster Abbey and Dublin Castle. For several years sustained criticism of his rule came only from those ranks of society which were excluded from court: merchants, county knights, and lesser clergy. Henry's government did at times show itself responsive to the grievances of these men. But as long as he kept the magnates on his side any opposition could be controlled.

Ceremonial repaired Henry's dented image somewhat. He sailed back to Portsmouth on 9 October 1243, to be received at Westminster four days later with a religious procession lit by innumerable tapers. Eleanor's sister, Sanchia, with their mother, Beatrice of Provence, arrived at Westminster on the 18th, and on 23 November Richard of Cornwall married Sanchia in Westminster Abbey. To mark the occasion Henry gave the abbey a gold-worked banner with his arms interwoven with those of the count of Provence. Richard renounced his claims to Gascony and was promised lands worth £500 p.a. Eleanor's vigilance over Edward's interests explains why Richard simultaneously waived claims to Ireland. Beatrice of Provence finally reconciled Henry to Simon and Eleanor de Montfort and Henry granted them 500 marks p.a. and Kenilworth Castle. Beatrice departed in the new year and Henry gave her an enormous jewelled eagle in gold and a loan of 4000 marks, and ordered that all the churches between London and Dover be lit up in her honour.

Finance remained a problem, one exacerbated by temporarily strained relations with Scotland, whose king was showing unwelcome signs of independence—in 1239 Alexander II had married Marie de Coucy, a French noblewoman. In the summer of 1244 Henry raised an army consisting largely of mercenaries supplied by Thomas of Savoy, but the differences were resolved without fighting, and on 15 August, Alexander agreed that his son and heir, another Alexander, aged three, should marry Henry's three-year-old daughter Margaret. A fresh Welsh rebellion, too, was cause for expense. Efforts to raise money prompted resentment, and in November, Henry faced criticism at a parliament of magnates and prelates (the latter objecting to recent challenges to monastic liberties and episcopal elections) in the refectory of Westminster Abbey.

Henry appealed in person for a major subsidy, foolishly emphasizing his need to settle debts arising from Poitou. Nobles and clergy elected a committee of twelve, mainly courtiers, to negotiate their response. They suggested a mild concession, modelled on that of 1237, in return for taxation: on their advice, Henry should appoint a justiciar and a chancellor, presumably in the belief that great officials would make Henry more popular with lesser subjects. Even when Henry refused, disliking the element of compulsion involved, they mildly replied that if he would voluntarily appoint these officials and take the committee's advice on expenditure, they would secure him an aid. It is most unlikely (despite a rubric stating the contrary) that a more radical ‘paper constitution’ (preserved by Matthew Paris), which would have effectively recreated the minority regime, was actually presented or approved by the king; it cannot have met with magnate approval and probably emanated from a radical minority of the clergy. Henry then attempted to negotiate a separate grant of clerical taxation, but in vain. What ultimately kept him afloat financially was perhaps the enormous Jewish tallage of 60,000 marks proclaimed in 1244; gradually collected, it had raised about 40,000 marks by 1249.

When parliament reassembled at London in February 1245, a compromise was agreed underlining Henry's warm relations with the magnates. The birth of his second son on 16 January, after concerns for Eleanor's health, won him sympathy; amid celebration, the infant was named after the great East Anglian saint. Henry was also committed to intervention in Wales. Consequently parliament agreed to an aid for the marriage of Henry's eldest daughter, while Henry promised to uphold the charters, and the bishops renewed the excommunication of those infringing them. Henry thus requested magnate consent even to prerogative taxation: it was levied at an old rate with low yield, but it cleared his debts as intended. In March, Henry made a thanksgiving pilgrimage to St Albans and Bromholm. He began his greatest work, the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey, and, perhaps in a bid for popularity, snubbed an attempt by the pope to tax the English clergy.

Westminster Abbey provides the main visual evidence for Henry's artistic tastes, a field in which his close personal interest, extending to the colours of vestments and the shape of windows, is recorded in scores of detailed written commissions. The abbey's lofty French-derived architecture, lavish use of statuary and coloured glass, and exotic decoration in Italian Cosmati marble were intended to project an image of the majesty of monarchy; Henry was deliberately copying Louis IX and Frederick II, mighty rulers whom he hoped to rival in magnificence even if he could not defeat them on the battlefield. Similarly intended to impress were his great palace complex at Westminster, which became the focus for a court life in whose ceremonial piety was as much in evidence as pageantry, and the numerous other commissions—wall and panel paintings full of symbolic figures and images of favoured saints like Edward the Confessor, statues, stained-glass windows, gold-worked embroidery—which transformed the appearance of over three-quarters of the royal residences, even those he never visited. Notable works included a processional gateway into the Tower of London (which collapsed in 1241) and a great hall at Winchester which still survives. Henry also lavished extravagant offerings, particularly statues of precious metal, on his favourite shrines at Westminster, Canterbury, and Walsingham. Like Charles I, Henry was a distinguished collector as well as patron. He amassed jewels (of which he was particularly fond), regalia, precious objects, and clothes, the latter of both English and foreign workmanship, intending them both for his personal use and for distribution as munificent gifts. Much of his collection had to be pawned in the 1260s.

It is sometimes argued that Henry's taste for splendour was intended to reinforce an absolutist ideology of kingship. He certainly enjoyed the company of kings, and was jealous of his prerogatives throughout his reign, from the 1240s onwards repeatedly rejecting proposals which might have limited them. He was no less determined in asserting his rights, especially that of choosing his own councillors, as he showed in the 1260s. But in practice Henry was a ruler who usually accepted some restraints, not least those imposed by the charters. This was in keeping with current legal doctrine, as expressed in Bracton, that the king was under the law. Henry did not coerce parliaments into submission, and even co-operated with conciliar measures from the 1240s onwards which were intended to preserve the interests of ‘the crown’ at the expense of the man who wore it. None the less, the fact that his councillors were among those who rebelled against him in 1258 suggests that he was far from consistent in accepting these limits, and that it is this inconsistency which provides an important key to the political tensions of his personal rule.

Family, France, and finance, 1245–1249

In June 1245 Welsh aggression finally caused Henry to summon the feudal host. He arrived at Chester on 13 August, dawdled there a week, and by the end of the month had reached the Conwy river. Here he characteristically got bogged down for two months, constructing Deganwy (or Gannoc) Castle. Amid demoralizing shortages and Welsh raids he may have lost control of his troops, who expressed their anger in savage sorties. He finally withdrew at the end of October, having accomplished little. Richard of Cornwall gave considerable assistance to the campaign in the form of loans, but his attempt to gain the earldom of Chester from Henry was thwarted by Queen Eleanor and Peter of Savoy, once more defending the claims of Henry's sons. Welsh resistance was effectively broken by Dafydd's sudden death, without a direct heir, early in 1246.

Henry continued to look abroad. In January 1246 he accepted the homage of the count of Savoy for key castles and transalpine routes in return for 1000 marks and an annual pension of 200 marks. This deal, concocted by the Savoyards, was approved by the council, in the hope that it would give Henry leverage in the succession to Provence. But in spite of murmurings in parliament, and Henry's own attempts at further resistance, papal taxation of the English clergy could no longer be prevented. Perhaps Henry was too pious, or grateful, to withstand the pope for long; he may, too, have feared excommunication, remembering King John or the recently deposed Emperor Frederick II. But he was also alarmed by Innocent IV's rapprochement with Louis IX, which soon enabled Louis to occupy Provence. In May he ordered his chaplains at Dover to pray day and night that death might be averted from the king and his household.

Against this background the death of his mother, Isabella, at Fontevrault on 4 June must have reminded Henry of past sorrows. He mourned her with grants of alms, especially to the scholars of Oxford and Cambridge. Henry's fortunes improved in 1247, however. He was entertained for Christmas at Winchester by William of Raleigh, now restored to favour, and a parliament held at Oxford in April approved a great recoinage covering England, Ireland, and Wales, a lucrative addition to royal finances. Henry immediately farmed this out to Richard of Cornwall, thereby acquiring the means to settle many debts. Henry also seemed completely triumphant in Wales: undermined by minorities and disunity, and sapped by a trade embargo, the native princes all came to heel. At Woodstock on 30 April, Henry was accepted as feudal overlord of Wales. The crown also absorbed Chester and vast tracts of the marches, more than reversing territorial losses under King John.

But Henry's greatest triumph lay in the expansion of his family. In May, Edmund de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, and Richard de Burgh, lord of Connaught, both royal wards, were married to two of Eleanor's kinswomen, underlining the importance of marriage in linking the king with the magnates. Later that month Henry received four of his half-brothers and a half-sister of the house of Lusignan at Westminster. He had invited them over, and immediately settled three of them in England: Aymer, promised a bishopric, studied at Oxford, and became bishop-elect of Winchester in 1250; William de Valence was established in the Welsh marches in August, marrying Joan de Munchensi, a Marshal coheiress, which brought him the lordship of Pembroke; in the same month Alice married John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, another royal ward. There were fears of French expansion into Gascony at this time, so closer links with the Lusignans made political sense.

Then on 13 October, the feast of the translation of St Edward, Henry staged a propaganda set piece at Westminster in the presence of all lay and ecclesiastical magnates. He had obtained from the community of Outremer a great relic: a phial of Christ's blood. After a vigil fasting on bread and water he received the relic at St Paul's the next day and in person carried it in liturgical procession 1 mile to Westminster, even through the palace, in a show of piety influenced by the new Corpus Christi devotion. He presented the holy blood to the abbey, and the bishops of Norwich and Lincoln preached that the relic was superior even to Louis IX's holy cross. The day ended with a mass knighting in Westminster Hall, when those dubbed included William de Valence and several Poitevins and Gascons. Henry, presiding in coronet and robes of gold, ordered Matthew Paris to record everything. Such typically grand ceremonial bound Henry still closer to his magnates. Nevertheless, by the end of the year many English knights were considering joining Louis's crusade.

Henry attempted to maintain pressure on Louis in 1248, but wavered between policies. He wished to participate in Louis's crusade; indeed, he amassed a gold treasure for it and requested papal permission for a contingent under the captaincy of Gui de Lusignan. This plan failed thanks to the French king's opposition. But Henry also plotted to recover the Angevin lands once Louis had departed, and cultivated more allies for the purpose. However, all his resources were soon diverted towards Gascony, threatened by rebellion and the ambitions of Alphonse of Poitiers and the king of Navarre. Henry's failure to exploit this opportunity to turn the tables on the Capetians might seem a major mistake, but its unpopularity at home never made it a realistic option. In February he approached a very well-attended parliament (possibly including knights) for money, but failed to obtain a grant of taxation. Instead, there were complaints, especially from merchants and clergy, and demands for the election of three great officers. Henry prorogued parliament, but further sessions at Westminster in July, and in the following January and April, were equally obdurate. After the Poitou fiasco, another major war was probably rated a waste of money.

The king's advisers thought a limited expedition to Gascony would sidestep demands for change. After a pilgrimage to Walsingham and Bromholm, Henry managed in May 1248 to persuade Simon de Montfort to abandon another crusade for the lieutenancy of Gascony, with a seven-year contract so generous to be almost a bribe. Queen Eleanor pressed Montfort's appointment. Financed by sales of royal silver plate, Jewish tallages, and further loans from Richard of Cornwall (completely mortgaging the recoinage), a small army set sail in August, ironically the same month in which Louis embarked for the east. For about a year Montfort enjoyed considerable success. Yet even such a modest force strained the royal finances, prompting Henry to try to raise a loan from the principal English abbots in December, and to step up the fiscal pressure on sheriffs and royal bailiffs, a development which did little for the popularity of his rule in the localities and Wales.

Indeed, from this point the conduct of Henry's government strained his observance of the charters. His refusal to burden the magnates meant that the weight of his rule fell instead on his lesser subjects. Judicial and forest eyres became much more exacting, and there were attempts at reafforestations. The exchequer demanded increments on the shire farms that were sometimes treble or quadruple those imposed in the 1230s, driving the sheriffs—often of the harshest professional type and strangers in their counties—into introducing new obligations or reviving old ones, and imposing a whole host of petty exactions. Merchants complained about the abuses of royal purveyance, goods taken for the king's household but not paid for. Alan de la Zouche extorted double the sums raised by his predecessors from Henry's ‘new conquest’ of the Four Cantrefs in north-east Wales. The oppressions of government were if anything made worse by the wide variety in its intensity (it was relatively lenient in some counties), as well as by high levels of corruption. The king sold hundreds of franchises in this period, many of them involving exemption from the burdens of knighthood and local administration; these prolonged the acceptability of his rule in some quarters but exacerbated social divisions in general. But though there were grumblings Henry did not hear them, and his mood remained assured and relaxed. In September 1249, on the advice of Queen Eleanor and Peter of Savoy, he bestowed Gascony on the Lord Edward, and two months later was so confident of success in the duchy that he pardoned the rebel Gaston de Béarn.

Crusading plans and Gascon crisis: the beginnings of decline, 1250–1254

Louis IX's defeat at Mansourah in February 1250 spurred Henry, flushed with his apparent success in Gascony, into taking the cross in a grand public ceremony presided over by the archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster on 6 March. He planned to take the queen, who supported the plan, and most courtiers with him. Henry's crusading is now considered sincere; he undertook to embark in 1256 and meanwhile earnestly began to collect funds. The pope granted a crusading tenth of clerical revenues for three years. From now on, Henry prevented English crusaders, even his half-brother William de Valence, from sailing independently. Meanwhile, imitating Louis IX's crusading preparations, he ordered the reduction of expenses of the royal households and inquiries into alienations from his demesne, demanded further taxation of the Jews, and made promises of better government. Even Henry's artistic commissions had a crusading theme, with Antioch chambers ordered at Winchester, Clarendon, and Westminster. After witnessing the dedication of Richard of Cornwall's Cistercian foundation at Hailes, Gloucestershire, in November 1251, the king spent Christmas at York, where, in further preparations for the crusade, the alliance with Scotland was renewed, with her new king, Alexander III, marrying Henry's eldest daughter, Margaret, amid scenes of great pageantry. Henry knighted Alexander, who performed homage for his English lordship (in accordance with the 1237 treaty) but not for Scotland itself.

However, as with so many of his schemes, Henry's crusade came to nothing, greatly to his disappointment, due to the eruption of rebellion in Gascony against Montfort's harsh rule. While at York, Henry forbade Montfort to return to Gascony; concerned to protect Edward's interest, Eleanor narrowly prevented a quarrel. But when Henry sent envoys to investigate Montfort's rule, a harvest of complaints resulted. On 28 April 1252, on Peter of Savoy's advice, he attempted to mollify opposition by regranting Gascony to Edward, while from May to June Montfort was forced to answer charges put by leading Gascons before the king in parliament. Henry took the Gascons' side and had some sharp exchanges with Montfort, who claimed that the king had undermined his lieutenancy. Thanks to the support of Eleanor, Richard of Cornwall, and other powerful magnates, Montfort escaped condemnation, but he refused to resign, and the only way to prevent further rebellion was for Henry to announce on 13 June that he would pacify Gascony in person before the following February. He planned to arrive in October but could not complete his preparations in time. Montfort returned to Gascony and started up another fierce conflict, forcing Henry to dismiss him in October, and ultimately to buy him out of his contract at a humiliatingly high price.

Unfortunately the Gascon rebellion continued to escalate, to the extent that Gaston de Béarn, its leader despite his recent pardon, invited Alfonso X of Castile to revive his ancestral claims to Gascony. Henry's failure to obtain taxation from parliament in October forced delay. The clergy, led by Robert Grosseteste, opposed the papal crusading tenth because it was to be levied at a new rate, and the laity refused taxation without the participation of the clergy. There also seems to have been confusion over Henry's ambitions in France. Even now he still hoped for a cheap victory while the French were weak: in June he wrote blusteringly to Louis IX at Acre offering to sail sooner than 1256 if Louis restored the Angevin lands.

However, Henry now encountered serious domestic political difficulties, ominously foreshadowing later developments. In his frustration over Gascony he quarrelled with Eleanor, their first public breach since 1236. Eleanor had sympathized with Montfort; their differences persisted throughout the year. But after Geoffrey de Lusignan intervened in Gascony in February and negotiated a truce, his success encouraged Henry to rely on the military contacts of his half-brothers. The political influence of the Lusignans began to grow and their arrogance made them unpopular. On 3 November, relying on Henry's support, they even raided the palaces of Eleanor's uncle, Archbishop Boniface of Canterbury. The tension grew into a sharp crisis reminiscent of that of twenty years earlier: the court divided into factions, and four earls threatened armed support for one side or the other.

Such was the Gascon emergency that Henry and Eleanor hastened to resolve their differences; in January 1253, assisted by the bishops, they pacified the baronial factions. Significantly, Eleanor became pregnant in the spring—perhaps her first successful pregnancy for eight years. The well-attended parliament which met in May proved more amenable. Alfonso of Castile's threat to Gascony strengthened Henry's case. Henry characteristically bargained again for prerogative taxation, but the magnates and knights only granted him an aid for the knighting of Edward, in return for reissuing Magna Carta. On 3 May the charters were confirmed in Henry's presence in Westminster Hall. But the aid met a bare fraction of the costs of the campaign, which was financed only by the exploitation of all available resources, including Irish revenues and a tallage on Jews and the demesne. Still intent on his crusade, in January Henry imposed restrictions on the Jews. In May the clergy consented to a crusading tenth for three years, provided that the magnates oversaw expenditure.

Henry drew up his only extant will on 1 July 1253. He made Eleanor sole custodian of his children and realm until Edward's majority, binding her and his executors to implement his crusade. She was given an enlarged dower and appointed regent during her husband's absence, assisted by Richard of Cornwall and a council. Henry probably hoped that Gascony could be speedily pacified. In May he negotiated for Edward to marry Alfonso's half-sister Eleanor, but too late to prevent a campaign. Eventually he set sail from Portsmouth on 6 August, to the last delayed by tardy preparations and contrary winds. He was reluctant to leave Eleanor when she was pregnant, and in July asked Alexander of Scots to let Margaret return to keep her mother company.

Henry arrived at Bordeaux on about 24 August. His Gascon campaign was unpopular: the feudal summons was poorly supported, and some of the magnates, notably the earl of Gloucester, arrived late; there were many quarrels, even desertions. Henry brought about 300 knights, many from the royal household. He also had his crusading treasure, approximately £20,000, which partly explains why this was his only successful overseas campaign. He was soon assisted by over 100 Poitevin knights recruited by the Lusignans. As ever, Henry's strategy was cautious. Fortunately potential enemies like the kings of France and Castile did not intervene. Bordeaux and Bayonne remained loyal, and the Dordogne valley was quickly secured. Only in the valley of the Garonne was there a serious resistance, needing a full year to overcome, albeit with a break in the winter. Bergerac was taken at the beginning of July 1254, La Réole in August, after which Henry could return to Bordeaux.

As usual Henry was generous with the aim of winning supporters. Gascons received pensions, concessions, and a new seneschal. Rebels who submitted were pardoned and restored to their lands. By February, Henry even offered to mediate between Simon de Montfort and Gaston de Béarn, but Gaston refused. Montfort, who had received overtures from the French, was enticed back to Henry at Benauges in October 1253 by a financial settlement which was not only generous in itself, but which even gave Montfort a claim on the revenues of several counties ahead of the royal exchequer. Alphonse of Poitiers's complaints received immediate compensation of £3000. Henry lavished grants on the Lusignans and others. Not surprisingly, by Christmas he was impoverished and had to borrow at Bordeaux before Queen Eleanor sent fresh supplies of money.

Essential to Henry's position in Gascony was peace with Alfonso of Castile. In February 1254 John Mansel and the Savoyard bishop of Hereford negotiated the marriage of Edward and Alfonso's half-sister Eleanor. Edward was in the same month put in possession of a huge appanage, including Gascony, Ireland, Chester, and the Channel Islands, nominally worth £10,000 p.a., but in fact worth £6000, while his future wife was offered a substantial dowry. Late in March, Henry heard rumours of a planned Castilian invasion, and wrote for assistance from England. Queen Eleanor had in February summoned a parliament for 26 April, its membership to include two knights from each shire and representatives of the parish clergy. Henry might have been voted a tax, albeit under most stringent conditions, had Montfort not returned with news that the emergency was over: on 31 March, Alfonso proposed peace, renouncing claims to Gascony in return for the marriage alliance and Henry's assistance in a crusade to north Africa, conditions only partly met. On 11 June, Eleanor, well recovered from giving birth to Princess Katherine on 25 November 1253, arrived at Bordeaux, accompanied by Edward, Edmund, and the archbishop of Canterbury. Richard of Cornwall tactfully remained in England. Edward, with a fairly modest retinue, was sent to Burgos. To Henry's disappointment, since he had planned a grand ceremony for him in England, Edward was to be knighted by Alfonso. The marriage took place on 1 November in the abbey of Las Huelgas. Three weeks later Edward and his consort returned, but Henry did not see them for nearly a year, for Edward remained in Gascony as ruler until the following summer.

As he waited for La Réole to fall in 1254, Henry dabbled in further and grander schemes. On 12 February 1254, now that Richard of Cornwall and Charles of Anjou had withdrawn their candidatures, he sent proctors to receive the crown of Sicily for Edmund from the pope. Confirmation from Innocent IV was received in May. In March he had prepared to dedicate Westminster Abbey in October 1255 before he departed for the Holy Land. Now he hoped to crusade from Sicily.

After three months (August–October) in Bordeaux settling Gascony, Henry set off home. He requested permission from Louis IX to cross France, partly because he disliked the long sea-crossing, but principally so that he could befriend Louis, thereby ensuring the security of Edward and Gascony when he departed on crusade. He is also said to have admired this recently returned crusader, and wished to meet him. Accompanied by Eleanor, Edmund, Archbishop Boniface, William de Valence, and others, Henry progressed through Poitou and Anjou in November. He reached Fontevrault on the 15th where with typical filial piety (which also pleased the Lusignans) he ordered his mother's tomb to be moved inside the abbey. He then made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Edmund at Pontigny. At Chartres he admired the cathedral with a connoisseur's eye and finally met King Louis. He paid a week-long state visit to Paris at the start of December, staying first at the Old Temple and then at the royal palace. Henry was reputedly eager to see all the city's churches and buildings, especially Louis's Sainte Chapelle. He won admiration from the Parisians for feeding crowds of poor at the Old Temple, for his spectacular state banquet for Louis and the king of Navarre, and for gifts to the French nobility. The occasion cemented the links between the two kings created by their marriages. Queens Marguerite and Eleanor, and Beatrice of Provence and her daughter, Beatrice, attended; Sanchia of Cornwall travelled over to complete the family party. Henry and Louis established a lasting understanding which set in motion an eventual peace-settlement. At the same time the presence of Thomas of Savoy, putative captain of Henry's expeditionary force, probably meant that Louis gave his blessing to the Sicilian plan. Henry had hoped to spend Christmas in England, but was delayed at Boulogne by bad weather. But he was able to cross on the 27th, and by 5 January, the feast of St Edward, he was back at Westminster. A few months later Louis sent him the impressive present of an elephant, the first seen in England, which was kept in his menagerie at the Tower.

The growth of political opposition, 1255–1258

Henry returned from Gascony in debt, having spent his crusader's gold treasure and incurred obligations to Edward, the Savoyards, the Lusignans, and Simon de Montfort, in vain efforts to calm tensions within the royal family. His finances were in disarray. His resources were shrinking: indulgence towards too many of his family in a period when escheats and great wardships were scarce reduced his supply of patronage; the English Jews, formerly such a good source of revenue, were drained dry, and in 1255 Henry made them over to Richard of Cornwall; the market for sales of liberties was shrinking. Yet he made no economies, and did not try to call in long-standing debts from the magnates. Instead he tried to live of his own, further intensifying the pressure on the localities (which served to increase the corruption of his officials) and resorting to occasional levies like tallages, for instance one of £2000 on London in February 1255. He also borrowed from his family: in the same month Richard of Cornwall advanced £5000 for his household expenses. As he sank further out of his depth in the Sicilian project, Henry's increasing dependence on his family and leading courtiers had the effect of making him ever more indulgent towards them, ignoring their arbitrary behaviour and permitting them a whole host of liberties, while simultaneously reducing his capacity to respond to the grievances which his exactions and their misconduct provoked. Thus the fuse was lit for the 1258 explosion.

Henry hardly changed policy. He again collected gold for the crusade, and by 1257 had £4000. In April 1255 his request to a large parliament of prelates and magnates, and perhaps wider representation, for help in settling his debts was refused. There were demands for three great officials responsible to parliament, perhaps signalling discontent in the localities, but Henry was still able to refuse. His trump card was the crusade and Sicily, which he thought the clergy and magnates could not obstruct. In April, using crusading funds, he bought up Frederick II's pawned crown jewels. An extension of the truce with Louis IX was negotiated in June. Pope Alexander IV, desperate for Henry's aid against the Hohenstaufen, committed himself to Edmund, and in May permitted Henry to substitute the Sicilian scheme for his crusading vow. In October the deal with Pope Alexander, which Henry and his council had already accepted, was published in parliament. Henry's undertaking to pay the papacy 135,000 marks by Michaelmas 1256, on pain of excommunication, and his vision of leading an army overland to Sicily through France, alike met with a frosty reception. Yet there was no effective opposition, and Edmund was invested as king of Sicily by the bishop of Bologna.

Many English ecclesiastics did not regard Sicily as a worthy destination for a crusade, illustrating the ambivalence of Henry's relations with the church. Unlike John, he was himself conspicuously pious. He and his wife were personally interested in ecclesiastical reform and gave generous support to friars and poor scholars. He was also grateful for the support of the papacy and its legates during his minority. But royal policy inevitably brought clashes with sections of the church. The potential grounds for disagreement were numerous. The English church expected the king to protect it against papal taxation and papal provisions to benefices (hence the riots of 1231–2 against the latter), but Henry found it difficult to do this and retain the pope's support. The first clause of Magna Carta declared that the church was to be free, but the king always needed to be able to reward his servants with bishoprics and to maintain his regalian rights over vacant sees; he also needed to be able to tax the clergy. From the 1240s, moreover, royal lawyers had a reputation for challenging ecclesiastical liberties, which made him many enemies and especially among the monks—this is reflected in the hostile image of Henry's rule projected in the writings of Matthew Paris of St Albans. Henry usually had his way, though not without occasional confrontations, but he was much more hesitant in imposing his will than his predecessors had been. The fact that he ruled in a period of ecclesiastical reform, personified by bishops like Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln, in which the church aspired to greater independence and higher standards, was a further cause of friction. Although Henry usually retained the backing of the papacy, ecclesiastics formed some of his most implacable—and also articulate—opponents in the 1260s.

During 1256 Henry remained committed to the crusade. He added his Dominican confessor, John of Darlington, to his council, and considered an expedition to north Africa with Alfonso of Castile; his order in April that landholders with estates worth £15 p.a. should take up knighthood or pay a fine, which deepened his unpopularity among the gentry, was probably designed to swell his campaigning fund. But the parliament which met at the end of April was unco-operative, and magnates who lacked confidence in his generalship tried to dissuade him from going. Ever optimistic—his querulously ineffective speech at the exchequer in October, ordering all sheriffs and bailiffs to account regularly in person, perfectly encapsulates his overconfidence at this time—Henry countered with another plan, to install Richard of Cornwall on the throne of Germany. After months of negotiations, the archbishop of Cologne came to Westminster at Christmas, and announced Richard's election to the crown of Germany. Encouraged by Henry and the Lusignans, Richard accepted. Henry could now impress magnates with his royal relations.

Within months Henry's plans collapsed. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, master of Gwynedd after the battle of Bryn Derwin (June 1255), launched a widespread Welsh revolt in November 1256 and overran the Four Cantrefs. Meanwhile, Richard's election backfired: Alfonso of Castile was a rival candidate, and again threatened Gascony. An Anglo-German alliance alarmed Louis IX, and Henry had to begin negotiations to detach him from Alfonso. Above all, Henry's crusading hopes floundered, following the defeat and capture of Thomas of Savoy in Italy. The lack of enthusiasm of the English magnates proved decisive. In January 1257 Henry was refused aid by an assembly of Cistercian abbots, while in March, Richard of Cornwall's election as German emperor was greeted with dismay by parliament because of his reputation for moderate counsel and for keeping Henry solvent (in February the latter had planned to accompany Richard to his coronation). When Henry and the bishop of Messina theatrically presented Edmund in Apulian dress and again requested taxation, there was uproar. Magnates and prelates composed a dossier of objections exposing the expedition's impracticality and complaining of lack of consultation; the clergy made the gesture of conditionally offering £52,000 to pay Henry's debts to the pope, but also began to organize opposition. Henry started to capitulate, and asked the pope for an extension of his terms.

Richard was crowned at Aachen on 17 May. Before his departure Henry's council, hoping to counteract opposition, took a new oath of good conduct which was envisaged as embracing other officials of central and local government and generating reform. On 10 April, desperate to keep his household solvent, Henry ordered that payment of fees should cease; the treasurer could disregard even Henry's personal orders to the contrary. These schemes were ineffective, but they helped inspire the reforming ideas of the following year. Meanwhile, Henry mourned the death on 3 May of his sickly three-year-old daughter, Katherine. Eleanor fell ill with grief at Windsor, and Henry suffered a long fever at Westminster. Katherine received a lavish funeral and monument in the abbey.

There were further disappointments in Wales. The disastrous defeat of Stephen Bauzan in the Tywi valley in June led to an escalation of the Welsh revolt. Very belatedly a two-pronged English riposte was prepared, but although the earl of Gloucester made headway in the south, Henry himself, operating from Chester, made little progress, and on 4 September, already fearing the onset of winter, he called off the campaign. It seems he was already in financial trouble. A better-prepared attack was planned for May 1258. In the meantime north Wales was left entirely in Llywelyn's hands, while in Scotland the magnates threw off the English tutelage established two years earlier and made a treaty with Llywelyn. The Londoners complained to the king's face of Henry's over-valued and impractical gold coinage, introduced in August 1257, while Archbishop Boniface ignored a royal ban and convened the first English convocation of prelates and lower clergy, which remonstrated against royal and papal exactions. Hopes of a settlement with Louis IX, including the return of Angevin territories, came to nothing.

Henry's wayward policies in the years 1254–8, like the problems of the close of the minority, can be explained by the breakdown of his court into factions. The Lusignan ascendancy, which began after the Gascon emergency which Henry believed they had helped him resolve, stung Eleanor and the Savoyards into action. They opposed this challenge to their long monopoly over Henry: Edmund's candidature for Sicily, and Henry's rapprochement with Louis IX, represented their bid to reassert themselves. By 1257 its perceived failure played into the hands of the Lusignans. They were celebrated warriors, and may well have encouraged Henry and Edward to reassert Angevin claims against the Capetians. After Richard of Cornwall's departure Henry found it difficult to hold the balance between factions, especially as he needed loans from the Lusignans, who were the principal beneficiaries of his order of about November 1256, forbidding writs in chancery against favourites. They quarrelled with Simon de Montfort and the earls of Gloucester, Norfolk, and Hereford, and were unpopular with courtiers who generally co-operated with the moderate Savoyards, not least because their claims on royal patronage were often thwarted by Henry's generosity to his half-brothers. The Lusignans' harsh estate officials, too, were hated. Their arrogance only intensified with the Welsh emergency, which made them indispensable. Most importantly, perhaps, late in 1257 they forged an alliance with the Lord Edward, who had hitherto been nurtured exclusively by Savoyards but now, anxious to assert his political independence, blamed Eleanor and the king's older councillors for Henry's inability to contain Llywelyn. He began to borrow from the Lusignans, completing the ascendancy of the latter in a new alignment which precipitated the 1258 revolution.

Crisis, 1258

Against a background of harvest failure and famine, defeat in Wales, and worsening relations with the church over his debt to the pope, Henry summoned a parliament to Westminster for early April 1258. But his hopes of financial relief were disappointed when the magnates split into factions, a development precipitated by Aymer de Lusignan's attack of 1 April on John fitz Geoffrey, a veteran royal servant and confidant of the queen, at Shere in Surrey. When John demanded justice, Henry refused. On the 12th, probably with the queen's blessing, a group of magnates led by Peter of Savoy, Simon de Montfort, and the earls of Gloucester and Norfolk swore to support one another against the Lusignans; on the 28th, finally provoked into action by Henry's request for aid against Llywelyn, they stormed into the palace, armed, with an ultimatum.

Faced with opposition within his own court, Henry capitulated, and on 2 May swore to accept a committee of twenty-four to reform the realm by Christmas, in return for a vague promise that the magnates would request taxation from the community of the realm, provided in turn that Alexander IV improved the terms for the Sicilian business. The twenty-four would settle Henry's debts and outstanding claims for patronage, and war against Llywelyn was to continue. This compromise was doomed to failure. Entitled to nominate half the committee, Henry mainly chose Lusignans and their adherents, but was so isolated that he could not find twelve suitable men. Another parliament was fixed for June, but in the meantime Henry's objections to peace with Louis IX were at last overruled, and on 8 May emissaries who included Simon de Montfort, Peter of Savoy, and—in a futile attempt to delay matters—the Lusignans began negotiating the renunciation of Normandy; they quickly drew up articles for peace.

Parliament reconvened at Oxford about 11 June, while a large assembly of knights mustered for a land and sea campaign in Wales. However the Lusignans' enemies had worked on Henry to negotiate with Llywelyn, whose emissaries were therefore present. Against a background of disputes over patronage, the magnates realized that the Lusignans must be removed. Since Henry and Edward had foiled their previous attempt in April, they canvassed the support of the ‘community of the realm’, promising a general reform which would embrace the localities and making the Lusignans scapegoats for Henry's misrule. A collection of grievances, the ‘petition of the barons’, was drawn up, and a common oath taken in the Dominican church against ‘mortal enemies’. Henry III's rule disintegrated, as the magnates resurrected the justiciarship, appointing Hugh Bigod to bring justice to high and low, while the war against Llywelyn was abandoned. On 22 June, Henry consigned the principal royal castles to magnate-appointed castellans, and on the same day four electors chose fifteen magnates, mostly courtiers, to form a royal council. The transfer of power from Henry to that council was quickly enacted under the so-called provisions of Oxford. About 28 June, in a foolhardy gesture of defiance, the Lusignans and the Lord Edward fled from Oxford to Aymer de Lusignan's castle at Winchester. The magnates pursued them and their resistance collapsed. Edward took his oath to the provisions on 10 July, and four days later the Lusignans left the realm, completing Henry's defeat.

The rise and fall of the magnate regime, 1258–1262

The new regime lasted three years. Although Henry complained in 1261 that he had hated his initial demotion he was slow to act, even when the magnate council fell into disarray, perhaps because he feared civil war—unlike his father in 1215. He was kept in honour and comfort, his beloved palaces and building projects well maintained. The council, by contrast, quickly consolidated its authority to prevent the Lusignans' return, and dominated the thrice-yearly parliaments, undermining the king's position. By 4 August four knights from each county had been ordered to collect grievances against officials, royal and seigneurial, and report to parliament by October. In addition the new justiciar toured some half-dozen counties, hearing complaints against officials and gaining much popularity. Envoys finalized a truce with Llywelyn and restored relations with the Scottish council; papal support was sought for the provisions, for renegotiating the Sicilian business, and for the deposition of Aymer de Lusignan from Winchester. When parliament met in October, Henry endorsed the council's actions and ordered all his subjects to swear obedience to its statutes. A further ordinance denounced the misdeeds of sheriffs and promised improvements. These proclamations went out in Latin, French, and English, a novelty and also effective propaganda. Baronial retainers were installed as treasurer and as a co-steward of the king's household. In November, Simon de Montfort's attempts to dominate the Anglo-French negotiations at Cambrai were foiled only because Louis IX refused to recognize Simon's emissaries.

During these months Henry was isolated. As Matthew Paris noted, he was acutely afraid of Montfort. Between July and October 1258 he accompanied the justiciar, but thereafter Bigod acted independently, and Henry retreated into religion. On 30 September he attended the dedication of Salisbury Cathedral; and in November and December, still mourning Katherine, paid visits successively to St Albans, Bury St Edmunds, and Waltham abbeys. Richard of Cornwall's return from Germany in January 1259 may have aroused Henry's hopes of reinstating the Lusignans, but it seems he was too impoverished to help his brother and immediately took the oath to the provisions.

It is a measure of Henry's persisting weakness that for much of 1259 he was almost entirely inactive, even though serious divisions opened up within the baronial regime, over the pace of reform and also over the Anglo-French peace negotiations. But the council was still strong enough in August to foil his attempt to admit a papal nuncio, sent to demand Aymer de Lusignan's restoration to Winchester—a rare gesture of royal independence, and a futile one. Nor could Henry prevent a rapprochement between Montfort and the Lord Edward, both of whom objected to the renunciations proposed in the negotiations with France. In October, following a protest against the council by the ‘community of the bachelors of England’, the provisions of Westminster enacted long-awaited reforms in law and government, and decreed a well-planned general eyre to hear complaints against royal and seigneurial officials. Nevertheless, at the same time the council retreated from the provisions of Oxford by allowing newly appointed sheriffs to farm their offices.

Only in November did Henry begin to recover some freedom of manoeuvre, when with Eleanor, Peter of Savoy, the earl of Gloucester, and some of the council he crossed to France to conclude the treaty with Louis, leaving Bigod and the remaining councillors in charge of the realm. By 26 November the party had reached Paris, to be warmly entertained by Louis and his queen. It was later said that because Henry tried to hear mass in every Parisian church he passed, Louis jocularly had them all closed to prevent him delaying business. On 4 December peace was proclaimed. Henry formally surrendered all the lost Angevin territory and received Gascony as a vassal with border concessions and a pledge to finance 500 knights for two years, probably for a crusade. In the apple orchard of Louis's palace Henry knelt, swore homage, and became a peer of France, with the title duke of Aquitaine. Although Louis reserved 15,000 marks due under the treaty until the claims of the Montforts had been met, the latter had lost their leverage. Montfort offensively deserted Henry later in December, to join Edward in plots against their enemies on the council.

After Christmas in Paris, Henry delayed another four months in France. He spent much of January 1260 in religious exercises at St Denis. He was much affected by the sudden death of Prince Louis, the French king's heir, and on 14 January acted as a pall bearer at his funeral at Royaumont. On the 22nd Louis and his queen reciprocated by attending the marriage at St Denis of Henry's daughter Beatrice to Jean, son of the duke of Brittany. Shortly afterwards, news came that Llywelyn had broken the truce and was now besieging Builth Castle. Instead of returning home Henry moved to St Omer, on the coast, for another three months. In vivid letters to the justiciar and council he explained his delay as resulting from further diplomatic negotiations; then went down with tertian fever in March and was visited by Louis IX during Holy Week. His delay cannot be seen as a deliberate tactic to postpone parliament, in defiance of the provisions. Rather Henry was controlled by faction. The queen and the earl of Gloucester sought time to raise mercenaries to crush Edward and Montfort's rebellion: the latter plotted to manipulate parliament, depose Peter of Savoy from the council, and restore the Lusignans. Late in March, Gloucester returned and both sides mustered around London where Henry summoned a handpicked armed parliament. It was rumoured that Edward planned to dethrone his father. Richard of Cornwall and the justiciar intervened to prevent this, with little fighting. Financed by a loan from Louis, 100 mercenaries escorted Henry and Eleanor home.

Henry landed at Dover on 23 April and entered London on the 30th. The rebellion largely collapsed. Some of Montfort's associates were removed from their castles and posts in the royal household, but Henry did not overthrow the provisions, and early in May he was reconciled to Edward by Richard of Cornwall and the archbishop of Canterbury. Moderation was necessary because Henry lacked the money to keep his mercenaries beyond July. Edward and Montfort had much support, partly because the treaty of Paris was widely unpopular. Their alliance lasted another year. On 5 June, perhaps acting on Gloucester's advice to bid for wider support, Henry cancelled the general eyre. Then, urged on by Eleanor and Gloucester, he arranged a public investigation of Montfort's recent actions before parliament in July. This was aborted after Builth Castle fell to Llywelyn. However, Gloucester prevented war by engineering a truce, waiving Llywelyn's proffered payment for a settlement, a disgraceful arrangement which Henry refused to ratify for several months.

Montfort and Edward were still working together in parliament in October, and were able to establish a grip on government, their supporters being elected to the great offices, so that even Gloucester came to terms. They prevented the revival of Montfort's trial, menacing the king's proctors, but at the same time the provisions were modified, so that no new sheriffs were appointed and the magnates were licensed to discipline their own officials. Henry knighted the duke of Brittany's son Jean, but he too defected to Edward, and the two young men departed with two of Montfort's sons for tournaments in France. A newly elected council remained in session until the end of the year and began to undermine the position of Peter of Savoy. Henry's only consolation for his continuing powerlessness was the visit at the end of October of his daughter Margaret, who was now pregnant, with her husband Alexander III of Scots. In December, Henry learned to his grief that Aymer de Lusignan had died at Paris, still plotting to return.

Aymer's death allowed Eleanor and Peter of Savoy to persuade Henry during Christmas at Windsor to move against the provisions. In January 1261 John Mansel's nephew and namesake, one of Eleanor's closest confidants, was sent to Rome to secure papal annulment of Henry's oath to the provisions. Help was also requested from Louis IX. But Henry's mood was far from confident and on 9 February, in an apparent moment of panic, he dashed into the Tower of London. He proceeded to bid for baronial support while exploiting Eleanor's contacts to recruit mercenaries in Flanders. He also compiled a manifesto of grievances while pretending to support the provisions. During the parliament of February–March he negotiated from the Tower until on 14 March the council, unwilling to risk civil war, agreed to an arbitration over his grievances while the Montforts undertook to appeal to Louis IX over their disputes with the king. Although arbitration failed late in April, Henry could now present himself as a moderate. Early in May he sallied from the Tower, catching his opponents off guard, and seized Dover Castle and the Cinque Ports. This enabled papal bulls to be landed, and also about a hundred mercenary knights whom Henry retained until August. Late in May he moved to Winchester where about 12 June he published the papal annulment of the provisions and then appointed his own supporters as justiciar and chancellor. Soon afterwards he named new sheriffs and castellans as well.

The result was confusion and disorder, as Gloucester, Montfort, and their followers appealed to Louis IX and the pope, and also tried to appoint sheriffs of their own in several counties. There was also something of a propaganda war. On 16 August, Henry issued a general manifesto, stressing the peaceful benefits of his long reign, and promising to deliver the shires from magnate domination, and followed this up in October, by summoning all who owed military service to London and requesting help from ‘friends’ abroad. But by the start of November, before foreign assistance could arrive, the opposition collapsed. Gloucester and his supporters came to negotiate at Kingston, and on 28 November terms were finalized, with a compromise over shrievalties and agreement that points of variance would be adjudicated by a committee from both sides, with Richard of Cornwall mediating in the event of disagreement, and the possibility of a final appeal to Louis IX. Henry left the Tower, where he had been since October, and was back at Westminster for Christmas. Full pardons were offered to all sealing this ‘treaty of Kingston’. Early in 1262 its benefits to Henry matured. Richard of Cornwall's arbitration was invoked in February; by the end of May he inevitably awarded Henry full power to appoint sheriffs. In March the new pope, Urban IV, confirmed his predecessor's annulment of the provisions, whereupon Henry revived the profitable general eyre. His victory seemed so complete that Richard of Cornwall returned to Germany in June, while Henry himself visited France in July.

Recovery and relapse, 1262–1264

Henry owed his victory in 1261 principally to the advice of Eleanor, Peter of Savoy, and Richard of Cornwall, along with his old ministers John Mansel and Robert Waleran. He had avoided war and appeased opponents with arbitrations and grants, even allowing earls to retain some castles gained in 1258–61. He kept the justiciarship, the more willingly because Philip Basset, its new holder, was Richard of Cornwall's retainer, and unlikely to be independent. The magnates, remembering John's reign, were reluctant to cause civil war, and soon lost any chance of a legitimate figurehead when Edward returned from France and was won over by Eleanor late in May; in August he departed for Gascony. Eleanor even allowed Henry to recall William de Valence and the remaining Lusignans in April. Montfort was often abroad, pleading his disputes with Henry before Louis IX, and Gloucester, now a sick man, had less military ability. The majority of the barons, tired of instability, supported Henry's recovery of power as they had after 1234. His sheriffs, often loyalist local barons, held their offices under advantageous financial terms. The famine of the late 1250s was over and the shires gave little trouble, while Henry was careful not to abandon London to his opponents. The provisions also lacked international support. Henry craftily ratified the truce with Llywelyn in March. Louis IX's subsidies underpinned his success. With the pope and the kings of Scots and Germany also supporting him, Henry's coup in 1261 constituted his greatest political triumph.

Over the next two years, however, Henry made several miscalculations. In May 1262 he ordered his absolution from observing the provisions to be proclaimed in the shires and commanded the arrest of all preaching against him. For a while he even revived the Sicilian business, only for Urban IV to revoke it in July 1263. He also blundered into disastrous quarrels which further divided his court by mishandling his patronage. Early in 1262 Queen Eleanor secured the disgrace of Roger of Leybourne and other leading knights of Edward's household, sowing trouble for the future. In July the earl of Gloucester died, and Henry hamfistedly delayed admitting his son, Gilbert de Clare, to his inheritance, even though Clare was supported by William de Valence. In November he wooed Valence from Gilbert by granting him part of the latter's lands consequently driving the new earl of Gloucester into rebellion in 1263.

Most importantly Henry failed to reconcile Montfort. On 14 July 1262, in a remarkable gesture, he sailed with Eleanor from Dover, leaving the justiciar in charge, to resolve differences with Montfort through the queen of France's adjudication. Anticipating victory, Henry raked up every grudge since the start of Montfort's career, but when proceedings began in Paris in August they proved inconclusive. In September, moreover, Louis's court was hit by an epidemic, killing about sixty of Henry's entourage. Henry himself nearly died. On 30 September he wrote to Richard of Cornwall that he was still so weak that he could only leave his bed for short walks. He sent reassuring messages concerning his condition, but on 8 October also warned the justiciar that the arbitration had failed and that Montfort might cause trouble. It would appear that in October, Montfort did indeed return briefly to England, where he attempted to persuade parliament to observe the provisions. But still enfeebled, Henry delayed in France, travelling on pilgrimage to Rheims in November despite news of a new Welsh insurrection. Only on 20 December did he return to England. After Christmas at Canterbury, he was back at Westminster early in January.

Henry lay ill at Westminster for three months. Part of his palace was destroyed by fire in January, to his distress. In January he republished the provisions of Westminster, with additions, ‘of the mere and free will of the king and in his full and free power’ (CPR, 1258–66, 253). At the same time he wrote to Louis IX urging another effort to conciliate Montfort; on 22 February, Louis reported his failure. On 22 March, Henry ordered all to swear to maintain Edward as his heir. Tewkesbury monks mistook this to mean that Henry had died. Disorder followed, fanned by rumours about a succession struggle.

About 25 April, Montfort finally returned to England to co-ordinate an uprising around Leybourne and the other knights who had been ousted from Edward's retinue in favour of foreign mercenaries. The conspirators met Montfort at Oxford where they were joined by the earl of Gloucester, Richard of Cornwall's son Henry, and other malcontents, forming a narrow, but powerful, coalition which rallied around renewed oaths to the provisions of Oxford, and gained popularity by denouncing aliens. At the same time Henry, responding to Edward's initiatives, attempted to rally support through efforts to relieve Llywelyn's pressure on the Welsh marchers. Edward began an alliance with Roger Mortimer, and on 25 May Henry summoned the feudal host to Worcester. This was foiled by the opposition's sharp campaign of violence directed primarily against Eleanor, her kinsmen and associates, and against Edward; rebels imprisoned the bishop of Hereford, and ravaged the estates of Peter of Savoy and the archbishop of Canterbury. Outmanoeuvred and short of money, Henry retreated to the Tower on 19 June, whereupon Montfort dashed from the midlands and secured the Cinque Ports, cutting off the possibility of help from Louis IX. By 12 July, moreover, Montfort had secured the support of the Londoners, after a radical faction overthrew the city oligarchy. Henry vainly offered concessions, perhaps advised by Richard of Cornwall. Edward raided the New Temple and retreated with mercenaries to Windsor; other courtiers and aliens fled abroad. Eleanor, who had lost faith in Henry, attempted to leave the Tower to join Edward on 13 July, but was driven back with insults by the London mob. Two days later the rebels entered the city, and on the 16th, bottled up in the Tower, Henry had to accept their terms: restoration of the provisions, all offices and castles consigned to natives, and the banishment of all aliens except for those specifically excepted. Then, joined by Eleanor, he returned to Westminster.

Baronial nominees took control of government both at the centre and in the shires, but the new regime had little baronial and only modest knightly support; its main supporters were the clergy. It was quick to make a truce with Llywelyn, and even offered him peace in August, but it had no programme of reform and soon disintegrated. Montfort, acting as hereditary steward of England, alienated his allies by granting offices principally to his personal supporters, and by failing to implement the promise to restore plundered estates which he made to parliament early in September. He even allowed Henry to appeal to Louis IX in person, possibly a tactic suggested by Eleanor.

On 23 September, therefore, Henry, Eleanor, and their two sons crossed to Boulogne, along with Montfort and his supporters, for Louis's adjudication, promising to return immediately. Perhaps Henry muddled his case, for Louis surprisingly endorsed the July settlement, provided that the despoiled received restitution. Eleanor and Prince Edmund broke their oath and remained in France, plotting revenge, but Henry and Edward returned to Westminster for parliament in October. Amid recriminations over restitutions and Henry's demands to appoint his own officials, Montfort's regime collapsed, allowing Edward to take the initiative. From this point a strong ‘royalist’ party began to crystallize. Henry became increasingly dependent on Edward's advice and military skills, and consequently became ever more intransigent towards the Montfortians. Regardless of his mother's feelings, Edward was reconciled to Leybourne and the other knights expelled from his household eighteen months earlier, and on about 16 October he seized Windsor Castle, where Henry joined him. Most of Montfort's baronial supporters deserted him, forcing him to accept a truce negotiated on 1 November by Richard of Cornwall: Henry would maintain the provisions, pending Louis IX's further arbitration. Nevertheless, Henry marched on Oxford soon afterwards and there dismissed the ‘baronial’ treasurer and chancellor. Winchester Castle too was recovered and early in December, Henry attempted to seize Dover. Montfort himself was nearly cornered at Southwark, but was rescued by the Londoners. Across the channel Queen Eleanor raised support. On 22 November, Urban IV appointed Gui Foulquois as legate with instructions to restore the king's authority.

By now Montfort's supporters had woven together a persuasive propaganda case against Henry, portraying him as no longer fit to rule without the supervision of a council: he had consistently attempted to put himself above the law and had broken his oaths to the charters and to the provisions (it is from this period that the provisions of Westminster, which were acceptable to Henry, begin to be confused with those of Oxford, which were not); he had initiated disastrous and unpopular policies like the Sicilian project; he had violated the liberties of the church; he had abused the crusade; he had filled his court with aliens and squandered his resources; he had allowed the oppressions of his officials and his favourites in the provinces to go uncorrected. Henry answered his critics with a general proclamation reiterating his commitment to the provisions and promising to defend his people's liberties; he denied that he was planning to bring aliens into the country, as was widely preached.

On 28 December, Henry crossed to France and met baronial emissaries before Louis IX at Amiens. Both sides presented elaborate depositions setting out their claims. This time Louis's award, or ‘mise’, quashed the provisions entirely, asserting Henry's right to appoint ministers at will. Eleanor's diplomacy, papal support, irrefutable evidence that most of the magnates supported Henry, Louis's outrage over Montfortian attacks on royalist clergy, all prevailed. Montfort's absence after a riding accident could not have affected the outcome. The die seemed cast for Henry's victory.

War and peace, 1264–1267

That no easy victory ensued is explained by Henry's blunders in 1264 and Montfort's brilliant generalship. No sooner had Louis's award been published than Montfort gave the signal for rebellion, sending his sons early in February 1264 to attack enemies on the Welsh marches, probably with Llywelyn's connivance. Edward left France and managed to relieve Gloucester. Henry returned to England on 14 February, and within three weeks summoned an army. He had finally plucked up the courage to inaugurate the second civil war of his reign. He set up his headquarters at Oxford, but remained characteristically static during Lent (8 March to 3 April), though he rejected Montfort's offers to accept the mise of Amiens, provided that Henry only appoint natives to office: he again refused restraints on his prerogative. Meanwhile, the earls of Derby and Gloucester, who both hated Edward, rallied to Montfort, along with a group of younger barons, many of them formerly exploited as royal wards, to form the core of a narrowly based but still powerful rebellion.

Henry hoped to divide his enemies in the midlands. Ignoring attacks on royalists in the London area, he sallied north, and after making offerings in Oxford (thereby uncharacteristically defying the curse associated with St Frideswide on kings who entered the town) on 5 April he surprised and captured the castle and town of Northampton with its large rebel garrison, including Simon de Montfort the younger, which nearly won him victory at a stroke. These clever tactics should almost certainly be attributed to Richard and Edward. The capture of Nottingham and Leicester followed. In the meantime Montfort had besieged Rochester, whereupon Henry immediately swept south in a series of forced marches, even more uncharacteristically setting out on Easter day. He failed to surprise Montfort but relieved Rochester and captured Gloucester's castle at Tonbridge. Rebels in the Weald attempted an ambush: Henry, acting with unwonted brutality on Richard of Cornwall's advice, had 315 peasant archers beheaded in his presence at Ticehurst on 2 May, echoing the treatment of the garrison of Bedford in 1224. He reduced the Cinque Ports, and prepared to blockade London. Forced to evacuate the capital, Montfort moved south to offer battle. Alarmed, Henry began to wear armour every day. He reached Lewes by 11 May, and lodged in comfort at St Pancras's priory rather than in John de Warenne's castle. Montfort closed in and, for two days, offered terms: a diluted form of the provisions, mainly that Henry rule through Englishmen, and £30,000 damages for royalists. Henry might have accepted, rather than risk battle, but he was overruled by Edward and Richard, who refused any compromise. On the 13th the Montfortians finally renounced their allegiance.

The battle of Lewes, on 14 May, was a disaster for Henry. Although greatly outnumbered, Montfort routed him in just a few hours. Henry's error was to advance up a sharp hill along a broad front in three columns. His control over his army, often insecure, quickly broke down. Edward scattered the lightly armed London infantry, but his undisciplined pursuit left Richard, in the centre, and Henry, on the left, exposed to Montfort's charges. In fierce fighting Henry was much beaten by swords and lances and two horses were killed under him. Richard fled to a windmill; Henry's bodyguard got him back to Lewes Priory. When Edward reappeared everything was over; part of his force fled to the coast and he too retreated to the priory. Although they could have offered further resistance, the next day the royalists accepted Montfort's ‘mise of Lewes’: restoration of the provisions with contentious clauses renegotiated (terms Montfort failed to honour) and release for the marchers in Henry's entourage. Henry pointedly surrendered to Gloucester; Edward and Henry of Almain became hostages.

After nearly fifty years on the throne, Henry retained only ‘the shadow of a name’ (Flores historiarum, 2.505). He was now eclipsed by Simon de Montfort. Nominally he was supervised by a council of nine, but these and his household officers were Montfort's appointees, and he remained mainly with his captor, in relative comfort, but humiliated by having to endorse Montfort's acts. He consoled himself by repeatedly hearing the mass of Edward the Confessor. Delayed by negotiations conducted through the papal legate, Eleanor missed her chance to invade England with a mercenary army, and confined herself to securing Gascony for her husband.

Montfort's government failed to secure general acceptance. The writ summoning his ‘model parliament’ of Hilary 1265, with its ‘novel’ representation of knights and burgesses, reveals that he could count on only a handful of magnates, although over a hundred bishops and abbots were summoned. His regime was compromised by its collaboration with Llywelyn of Wales, which the marchers would never accept. Instead Montfort sought security by hiring a huge retinue of knights. While Henry spent a grim Christmas at Woodstock, Montfort feasted in splendour at Kenilworth. But his ever more exacting rule alienated his leading supporters. In February he quarrelled with Derby and ordered his arrest. Shortly afterwards Gloucester went into opposition, and on 28 May engineered Edward's escape from Hereford. Rebellion broke out in the Welsh marches, and Montfort marched west to suppress it, but was cornered by the royalists led by Edward, and routed and slain at Evesham on 4 August. Dragged along in the earl's entourage, Henry could not escape involvement in the battle. Dressed in a suit of Montfort's armour, he was wounded in the shoulder and would have perished had he not shouted, ‘I am Henry of Winchester your king, do not kill me’ (Chronicle of Walter of Guisborough, 200–02). Roger of Leybourne rescued him. Had Montfort won, Henry could not have long escaped deposition and death.

It is unlikely that Henry ordered the slaughter of the Montfortians that accompanied the battle of Evesham, or the mutilation of Simon's body; some say he ordered it an honourable burial. His own instincts were conciliatory—witness his unusual concern even for the welfare of widows and orphans of his slain enemies—but his control over the triumphant royalists was weak, and his own family, especially Edward, wanted revenge. Consequently the civil war lasted another two years. After a few weeks' recuperation, Henry summoned parliament to Winchester in September. Already, royalists had seized Montfortian property. Henry belatedly took control of the situation when parliament met by seizing these lands into his own hands before distributing them to his supporters on the advice of his secretary Robert Waleran. Few joined Richard of Cornwall in dissenting. The estates of 254 rebels were officially granted to 71 favoured royalists, the lion's share going to members of Henry's family, household knights, and officials. Faced with ruin, hundreds took to guerrilla warfare.

Over the next two years the remaining pockets of rebellion were nevertheless relentlessly reduced, a process orchestrated mainly by Edward. Henry was happy to leave the work to him: it involved hard campaigning, not to his taste. Early in October he entered London, and on the 13th celebrated the feast of St Edward again at Westminster, wearing his crown in thanks for victory. The city's punishment included a fine of 20,000 marks. Then at the end of the month, Henry greeted Queen Eleanor at Canterbury, returning with her kinsman Cardinal Ottobuono Fieschi, the new papal legate. Henry celebrated by then and there creating his son Edmund earl of Leicester and steward of England, granting him all Simon de Montfort's lands. But he also treated his widowed sister, Countess Eleanor, with magnanimity, permitting her to evacuate Dover Castle and retire to a nunnery in France. Four Montfortian bishops were suspended and exiled.

The task of breaking down Montfortian resistance went slowly on, and late in June 1266 Henry himself commenced besieging Kenilworth Castle, the last rebel stronghold. It was not easily taken. Several blundering attacks were repulsed, and Henry soon opted for a blockade. Ultimately its resistance, along with a revolt based on the Isle of Ely, forced a reconsideration of policy. At the end of August, Henry empowered a committee of magnates and bishops to recommend peace measures. The result of their deliberations, the dictum of Kenilworth, with its unprecedented declaration of royal authority, was issued on 31 October. Total forfeiture was rejected in favour of redemption of estates at fixed terms, and many lesser rebels submitted. However, specified exemptions victimized leaders, and only appalling privation forced Kenilworth's surrender in mid-December.

Henry spent Christmas at Oxford. But in February 1267 he went to Bury St Edmunds for a campaign against the Isle of Ely. He was now so impoverished that he had to pawn even the jewels adorning St Edward's shrine at Westminster Abbey. Then in April, his campaign was interrupted by the earl of Gloucester. Indignant at being insufficiently rewarded for his services in the civil war, and determined to win better terms for disinherited rebels, he marched on London which rose in his support. He blockaded Ottobuono and another civil war looked possible, as Henry and Edward prepared to besiege London and Eleanor summoned Flemish mercenaries. Fortunately Gloucester's nerve failed, and after negotiations he submitted on 16 June, having obtained a vital concession. The dictum of Kenilworth was modified: rebels could recover their estates in order to raise the fines with which to redeem them; Ottobuono even promised financial assistance from the clergy. Henry re-entered London on 18 June and on 1 July the remaining rebels submitted. In August, Henry proceeded to the Welsh marches for negotiations with Llywelyn. Although it was Ottobuono who on 29 September concluded the treaty of Montgomery recognizing Llywelyn as prince of Wales (he had taken the title in 1258 against Henry's will), and confirming his recent gains in return for his homage and a yearly payment of 3000 marks, it embodied a compromise which showed that Henry had no further stomach for war. The Statute of Marlborough, issued on 18 November by a parliament possibly attended by representatives of the commons, reaffirmed the charters, the dictum, and, in a modified form, the provisions of Westminster. Thus the civil war ended on a note of moderation, in keeping with the best qualities of Henry's long reign.

The end of the reign, 1268–1272

Henry's last years were clouded by family tensions, illness, and bereavement. Most Montfortians quickly re-entered public life, and no tenurial revolution resulted from the civil war, but much discontent remained, exacerbated by debt. Royal officers were often as unpopular as ever, while public order was menaced by outlaws and magnate feuds. The royal finances were perilously weak; clerical taxation granted by the pope in 1266 barely paid off Henry's debts.

Henry's problems were compounded by Edward's decision in June 1268 to join Louis IX's new crusade. Early in 1269 his father gave him custody of London, seven royal castles, and eight shires, revenues he could hardly spare, to increase his income. Edward's crusade also forced Henry to appeal to parliament for taxation, a process which began in the autumn of 1268 and was not concluded until April 1270, when a grant of taxation was finally made. During the interval Henry bargained with his subjects in successive parliaments, and added to the strain on his finances by Edmund's marriage to Aveline, heir to the earldoms of Aumâle and Devon, and Henry of Almain's to Constance de Béarn, both in the spring of 1269. But as the year advanced his fortunes improved. In August, Richard of Cornwall returned with his new bride, Beatrix von Falkenburg. And two months later Henry realized his dearest dream, the translation of the body of St Edward to Westminster Abbey and the shrine in it that he had been constructing over many years, even during the recent troubles. Although the church was unfinished, Henry feared further postponement might rob him of his triumph; he may also have been moved by the consideration that the calendar of this year exactly matched that of the Confessor's first translation in 1163. On 13 October, Henry, princes Edward and Edmund, and Richard of Cornwall bore St Edward's relics on their shoulders to the shrine. The pomp was tarnished, however, by disputes over precedence between citizens of Winchester and London, and between the archbishops of Canterbury and York. Nor did Henry and Eleanor wear their coronation crowns, as originally planned, owing to last-minute misgivings.

Even so the ceremony was a splendid one, witnessed by knights, burgesses, and lesser clergy, but it did not sway the parliament which met at this time. Only on 27 April 1270 was the crusading twentieth finally approved by the laity in parliament, in return for confirmation of the charters and the excommunication of those who infringed them, while clerical opposition to the tax continued for several months. The full restoration of the liberties of London on 1 June may have been a necessary concession by the king.

On 4 August, Edward took leave of Henry at Winchester and departed on crusade. He left his children and affairs in the custody of councillors loyal to both Henry and himself, headed by Richard of Cornwall. Queen Eleanor was omitted, perhaps for fear of anti-alien sentiment. From now on, it is difficult to gauge what control Henry retained over government. He may already have been ill, hence his failure to mark the death of Louis IX in the autumn of 1270. He fell so ill in March 1271 that on the 7th Richard of Cornwall was appointed to protect the realm, and the council summoned Edward to return. Henry suddenly recovered in April, however, and himself vowed to go on crusade: on 16 April the council ordered severe economies, ostensibly to begin a crusading fund. But it is significant that early in 1272 it was ordered that revenues should be paid directly into the treasury in order to prevent Henry intercepting them, echoing the provisions of Oxford. Clearly his advisers had concluded he had learned no financial prudence from the barons' war. It seems that Henry's health was never really restored: he hardly moved from Westminster for the rest of his life and missed the funerals of his nephew Henry of Almain at Hailes on 21 May, and of his grandson John, Edward's five-year-old heir, in Westminster Abbey on 8 August. These bereavements, particularly Henry's murder by his cousins Guy and Simon de Montfort at Viterbo in March, must have deeply distressed him. Another blow was Richard of Cornwall's complete incapacitation by a stroke on 12 December; he died on 2 April following.

Henry was ill again at Winchester at Christmastide 1271, and could not depart until after Epiphany. In May 1272 he wrote to the new French king, Philippe III, excusing himself from performing homage in person for Aquitaine because of sickness. In August he rallied and reconsidered a visit to France, even raising loans for it. But he was prevented by a riot in Norwich during which the cathedral was burnt down; parliament met there in September and he punished the rioters harshly. Perhaps this strain hastened his end. After a final pilgrimage to Walsingham and Ely, Henry returned to Westminster in October for the feast of St Edward. On 4 November he ordered preparations for another Christmas at Winchester. He collapsed, and while London was convulsed with riots over a mayoral election, he died at Westminster on 16 November, aged just over sixty-five, having reigned fifty-six years and twenty days. It is likely, but not certain, that Queen Eleanor was with him at the last.

Henry had left his body to Westminster, but his heart to Fontevrault, showing that he remained an Angevin to the last. On 20 November his corpse was laid in the Confessor's old coffin, dressed in full regalia, and given a magnificent funeral attended by all the magnates, headed by the earls of Gloucester, Surrey, and Hereford. For some years a cult developed around his temporary tomb, near the high altar at Westminster. The Furness chronicle noted ‘frequent’ miracles in 1275, as did the Westminster-based Flores historiarum in 1276; the bishop of Bath and Wells issued indulgences to all visiting the tomb, as did other English, Irish, and French bishops until as late as 1287. The cult was supported from the start by Eleanor of Provence. In 1274 she hoped his miraculous power would save Edward I's mortally ill son Alfonso, but was disappointed. Edward himself was openly sceptical in 1281 when a knight claimed restoration of sight through Henry's merits, but Eleanor reproved him. Construction of a tomb with niches, typical of a shrine, and adorned with Italian Cosmati work, was probably under way when Edward purchased jasper from France for it in 1279. On 11 May 1290, shortly before Eleanor's death, Edward arranged for Henry's translation to the new tomb. It took place at night, with little ceremony. According to the Annals of London, Henry's body was intact with a luxuriant beard. Edward had hoped to upstage the developing cult of Louis IX by delaying the translation, but was disappointed: the cult of Henry III had lost its appeal. Not until 10 December 1291, after Eleanor's death, was Henry's heart surrendered to the nuns of Fontevrault, in a ceremony which took place without Edward I's presence. The heart may have survived the French Revolution, finally coming to the Ursuline convent at Edinburgh. Henry's majestic tomb, flanking Edward the Confessor's shrine, remains in Westminster Abbey, topped with his magnificent stylized crowned effigy in gilded bronze, completed by William Torel on Edward I's orders in 1291.

Henry III: appearance, personality, assessment

No contemporary description of Henry's appearance survives, suggesting that it was unremarkable. Nicholas Trevet, son of a royal justice, later recorded that Henry was of medium height and strong build, with a drooping eyelid covering part of the pupil. His health was sound until late middle age but deteriorated thereafter. His tomb was opened in November 1871 but no detailed investigation followed; his coffin measurement indicates that he was only about 5 feet 6 inches tall, the same height as his father but much shorter than Edward I.

Contemporaries agreed that Henry was a vir simplex, an uncomplicated, almost naïve man, pious, and a lover of peace. His unworldliness was noted by fourteenth-century chroniclers, and also by Dante and the gossipy Franciscan Salimbene. Such a characterization is in most respects accurate. Henry preferred a quiet life at Westminster or in one of his palaces in the Thames valley (on the beautifying and domesticating of which, especially with lavatories, he had spent so much money). In contrast to John he travelled little, either in England or abroad, until the 1260s. His personal demeanour was open and accessible, and he was easily moved to tears. His bouts of anger, which were relatively rare, were short and easily appeased. Unlike his son he was a generous patron of scholars and artists, but he was certainly no intellectual—his possession of ‘a great book of romances’ probably indicates his literary tastes (Calendar of the Liberate Rolls, 1226–40, 288). He was easily dominated by advisers, hence his reputation for inconsistency. He did, however, cling to certain policies, such as the crusade, but lacked the ability to foresee their consequences. He was served by able officials, but in politics these were always subordinated to his family.

From the 1230s Henry replaced the father figures who had acted as his justiciars with an influential family circle, albeit one within which the power of its individual members varied at different periods. His marriage was happy; there were difficulties in the 1250s and 1260s, but Eleanor of Provence preserved her power over him at least until 1263. He and Eleanor were also devoted to their five children, though Edward ultimately resisted their attempts to control him, and after 1263 emerged as a power in his own right. Henry also indulged his brother, his sister and brother-in-law, his wife's relations, and his own half-brothers. Ironically, it was rivalries within the royal family, of which Henry eventually lost control, that more than anything else created the turmoil of 1258 onwards.

Henry was genuinely pious, and he was considerably influenced by friars, especially his Dominican confessors. He heard mass at least every day and ordered tabernacles for the exposition of the eucharist. He loved personal luxury and clearly regarded it—unlike Louis IX—as vital to kingship, but though he liked to have his religion, too, celebrated with pomp, glittering vestments, and music (he heard the ‘Christus vincit’ sung eight times a year), it would be unjust to regard it as shallow. He ensured that his chapels were equipped with books as well as richly decorated. He naïvely believed that piety brought good fortune, but was also moved by sermons. He set a high moral tone at his court—unlike his father and grandfather he was unfailingly faithful to his wife. Matthew Paris relates that Henry customarily prepared himself for the feasts of St Edward by fasting on bread and water, dressed in plain woollen garments. Joinville later recorded his belief that Henry washed the feet of lepers and kissed them. His lavish charity is amply documented: his feeding 500 paupers a day in the 1240s; his help for orphans; his donations, often of building materials, to innumerable religious houses, hospitals, and houses for converted Jews; his gifts of vestments to bishops. He must have been the greatest patron in his day of the friars in England. The houses of the Dominicans at Canterbury, the Carmelites at Oxford, and the Franciscans at Reading, York, Shrewsbury, and Norwich were largely built at Henry's expense. He did not actually found any others (although he took over patronage of Peter des Roches's Netley Abbey, Hampshire, claiming to be its founder, in the 1250s). His great work was the rebuilding from 1245 at his own expense of Westminster Abbey, a new royal mausoleum to replace Fontevrault, at a staggering cost not far short of £50,000. Henry's love of pilgrimage (especially at moments of crisis), for example to Bromholm, Walsingham, and St Albans, is also well-attested, as is his devotion to numerous saints. St Edward the Confessor, like Henry an orphan and reputedly a man of peace, was both his patron, his role-model, and his ‘friend’. Significantly, he chose the imagery of the Confessor for his 1257 gold penny.

Henry was essentially a man of peace, kind and merciful. Unlike Edward I he was chivalrous to his foes, their children and womenfolk, and generous to state prisoners like his cousin Eleanor of Brittany and Gruffudd ap Llywelyn of Gwynedd (who grew enormously fat during his incarceration in the Tower). Although he ordered important improvements to many royal castles, he had no military ability, hated campaigning, and took little interest in tournaments and hunting. His peacefulness was both a strength and a weakness. He tried to avoid another civil war of the kind which had nearly destroyed his dynasty during his childhood. Until the 1260s he was remarkably successful in consolidating his dynasty and maintaining peace. He fostered peaceful conduct among the magnates; indeed, he can take some of the credit for the limited scope and successful aftermath of the barons' war. However, peace was often achieved by appeasing his family, courtiers, and magnates; under Henry their power and those of their bastard feudal affinities grew in the localities at the expense of lesser men, generating many of the tensions which arose in the 1260s. His government was on the whole lax and weak. This suited his relative poverty: the charters restricted his revenues, and he lacked the will to force parliament to grant supply. Nor could he persuade parliament to fund him in the hope of successful war. In the 1230s his yearly income rose to over £20,000, while by the early 1240s more vigorous management may have doubled it to over £40,000; but by the mid-1250s, it had dropped back to under £30,000, hence his inability to respond to political difficulties. His reign made it inevitable that the crown's freedom of manoeuvre would be limited without access to parliamentary taxation.

It is sometimes argued that Henry's difficulties after 1258, which have greatly damaged his reputation, stemmed from his autocratic rule, especially his favouritism towards aliens in disregard of growing national sentiment. However, this view is anachronistic, coloured by rebel propaganda disseminated in the localities during the barons' war. His Savoyard and Lusignan favourites and their followers—nearly 200 of the former and 100 of the latter—were well rewarded but only a small proportion were resident in England, and their role in public affairs was limited; they never supplanted native Englishmen in office. Henry competed with the Capetians in buying up international support and talent, especially to further his interests in Gascony and the papal curia. He hoped to learn from John's diplomatic mistakes. He also hoped naïvely to imitate the chivalry of Louis IX. But the mystique of monarchy to which Henry aspired was an outward show designed to bind him to his magnates: neither in theory nor in practice did he challenge their liberties. Indeed, he helped to set the fashions for aristocratic luxury for the rest of the century.

Historiography

The most valuable narrative sources for the reign of Henry III are the St Albans chroniclers, Roger of Wendover and Matthew Paris. The latter, in particular, is indispensable for the years before his death in 1259 thanks to his contacts with the court, though his biases against aliens, and indeed against foreigners generally, and suspicion of anything smacking of a threat to liberties, especially ecclesiastical ones, always need to be taken into account when evaluating his writings. Other thirteenth-century monastic chronicles are less useful, being provincially focused until the 1260s and usually violently anti-royalist during the barons' wars (though a few royalist accounts were attempted under Edward I, for instance the Westminster Flores and the chronicle of Thomas Wykes). The shortcomings of these sources, however, were precisely those which gave them considerable appeal in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the causes at issue during Henry's reign, and especially in the decade after 1258—kingship, nationalism, and anti-papal sentiment—were such as to stimulate research and the publication of sources. Archbishop Matthew Parker edited Matthew Paris under Elizabeth, and in the following century religious and political partisanship caused scholars and polemicists like Sir Robert Cotton (whose Short View of the Long Life and Raigne of Henry the Third appeared in 1627), William Prynne, and Sir William Dugdale to rescue and publish many valuable documents. Prynne's investigations of parliamentary antiquities and Dugdale's of the English baronage have by no means lost their value, but present-day scholarship is still most heavily influenced by the liberal-nationalist constitutionalist historians of the second half of the nineteenth century, for whom Henry's reign was relevant particularly in their quest for the origins of parliament. They edited most of the chronicles, above all in the Rolls Series, and though they used some documents it was upon the narrative sources that they mainly relied. Given their dependence upon chronicles, it is not surprising that the accounts of Henry III by historians like Bishop William Stubbs, Sir James Ramsay, and William Hunt (author of the article on Henry in the Dictionary of National Biography) should have tended to be nationalistic in focus, accepting uncritically the complaints of the king's opponents. Their views continued to carry weight well into the twentieth century.

The means to rectify the historiographical balance started to become available in the years after 1900, as the Public Record Office published the records of central government, and above all of the chancery. This was an enterprise which not only made an immense amount of factual information easily available for the first time, but also made it possible to scrutinize the workings of government from the point of view of those who controlled it. It was against this background that in the 1920s T. F. Tout and his followers began a reappraisal of Henry's government. Tout's view of Henry was not in fact particularly favourable—‘a thriftless, easy-going temperament, desiring chiefly to be surrounded by personal friends and dependents’ (Tout, Admin hist., 2.10)—but his work brought new perspectives, and also stimulated further research among financial and judicial records which remained unprinted. One of its first fruits was E. F. Jacob's exploration of the impact of the barons' wars on the localities, published in 1925. R. F. Treharne's account of the baronial movement (1932, revised edition 1971) was old-fashioned by comparison; though well-grounded in the record sources, it perpetuated a constitutionalist interpretation of Henry's reign.

In the years immediately after 1945 Treharne's assumptions came under challenge, through biographical studies of Richard of Cornwall by N. Denholm-Young (1947) and of Hubert de Burgh by Clarence Ellis (1952), and above all in the writings of Sir Maurice Powicke, whose two-volume King Henry III and the Lord Edward (1947) immediately acquired classic status. A many-layered analysis of thirteenth-century political culture, and of the forces which moved its development, written in a somewhat romantic style, Henry III—along with Powicke's The Thirteenth Century (1953, second edition 1962), which gave proportionately more space to administrative history—created an image of Henry's reign of such weight that it went almost unchallenged for some thirty years, while the thirteenth century, which had formerly been regarded as the high point of the English middle ages, was neglected in favour of other periods. In the early 1980s, however, a revival of interest in the thirteenth century (spearheaded by biennial conferences held at Newcastle and later at Durham) began to shed new light on Henry III, as on much else. Much valuable work remains accessible only in academic journals and unpublished dissertations, yet the last fifteen years of the twentieth century saw the appearance of major studies of Edward I (Michael Prestwich, 1988), Simon de Montfort (John Maddicott, 1994), Peter des Roches (Nicholas Vincent, 1996), and Eleanor of Provence (Margaret Howell, 1998), along with David Carpenter's reinterpretation of the minority (1990) and R. C. Stacey's of royal finance (1987). The complex relationship between Henry III and the church awaits modern treatment, but at the opening of the twenty-first century the principal desideratum remains a reappraisal of the king himself, to do for a new generation what Powicke did for his.

H. W. RIDGEWAY

Sources  

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Likenesses  

W. Torel, bronze tomb effigy, Westminster Abbey, London [see illus.] · W. Torel, tomb effigy, electrotype, NPG · coins, BM · manuscript drawing, CCC Cam., MS 16, fol. 56r; see illus. in Langton, Stephen (c.1150–1228) · wax seals, BM


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Henry III (1207–1272): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12950