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The Second Barons War

The Second Barons War took place from 1264 to 1267. It was a civil war in England led by Simon de Montfort and the barons against King Henry III. The first battle was fought at Northampton and the royal forces captured Northampton Castle from the barons.

  

When he was crowned in 1216, King Henry III regained the support of the rebel barons and helped end the First Barons War. However, he became increasingly unpopular for being a poor leader and waging costly foreign wars for his personal gain.

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As opposition to his rule increased, Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, became the leader of the barons who wanted to reduce the King’s power. When Henry called Parliament in 1258 to ask for more money, the barons forced him to accept reforms in return. The resulting 'Provisions of Oxford' introduced a system of councils to supervise the monarchy.

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Within a few years, however, Henry had the reforms repealed by the Pope. The barons asked King Louis IX of France to Work with disagreeing parties to reach an agreement.mediate, but he also sided with Henry. King Louis’ verdict in 1264, called the Mise of Amiens, sparked civil war.

The first battle between King Henry's Royalist army and the rebel barons took place in Northampton in April 1264. Students from Oxford and Cambridge, who had set up a university in Northampton, joined the rebel barons in defending the town. However, as King Henry attacked from the south, his son Prince Edward (the future King Edward I who built the Eleanor Crosses) attacked from the north. The barons and students were overwhelmed. The Royalist army destroyed the town, killed many local people, and captured de Montfort’s son. The remaining barons surrendered Northampton Castle. Partly as punishment for supporting the rebels, Henry took back Northampton’s licence to have a university.

The tide soon turned and a month later, the rebel barons defeated the Royalists at the Battle of Lewes. The barons captured King Henry and Prince Edward, giving de Montfort significant power over the country. He continued his push for reform and, in January 1265, called a Parliament that was more representative than ever before.

However, Edward escaped imprisonment and re-joined his army. At the Battle of Evesham in 1265, the Royalists defeated the rebel barons and killed de Montfort and 4000 of his soldiers. The barons kept fighting, but after two long sieges, they were finally defeated.

The war ended in 1267 and the monarchy’s powers were restored. De Montfort did not die in vain though. After Henry died in 1272, his son, King Edward I carried out many of de Montfort’s reforms.

To see - A small door is the only part of Northampton Castle that survives. It is near the train station.
For teachers - Northamptonshire Archives Service has an education pack on 'Medieval Realms', 1066-1500 for classroom use with KS3 students.

Image acknowledgements:

The Battle of Lewes © Timewatch Images / Alamy Stock Photo

The Death of de Montfort from A Chronicle of England, cropped © the Trustees of the British Museum, licenced under a Creative Commons Licence

Northampton Castle postern gate © Public domain, licenced under the GNU Free Documentation Licence

Medieval knight © Northamptonshire Archives Service

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If your question is research-related, please contact the Northamptonshire Archives.