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Henry III

Henry III


Henry IIIHenry III King of England, was born at Winchester, on the 1st of October, 1207. He was the eldest Son of King John by his queen, Isabella of Angouleme. He was only nine years old at the time of his accession to the throne, and the Dauphin of France, Louis, at the head of a foreign army, and supported by a faction of English nobles, had assumed the reins of government. The cause of the young king was espoused by the Earl of Pembroke, and he was solemnly crowned in the abbey-church of St. Peter, at Gloucester, by the papal legate, Guala. In a short time Louis was compelled to sue for peace and quit the kingdom.


Pembroke was appointed Regent, and the first act of the new reign was to confirm Magna Charta, its sixty-one chapters having been reduced to forty-two. Parliament began to consider it as the fundamental law of the nation, and its observance as the condition of their grants. Pembroke having died in the third year of his regency, the power was divided between Hubert de Burgh and Peter de Roches, a Poitevin, who was Bishop of 'Winchester. They did not agree, and Paudulph, the Pope's legate, had much trouble in preventing an open quarrel. However, when Henry was declared of age at seventeen, De Burgh became chief favorite and De Roches retired from the kingdom. Meanwhile, on the 17th of May, 1220, Henry, in consequence of some doubts being entertained about the efficacy of the former ceremony, had been crowned a second time at Westminster, by Laugton, Archbishop of Canterbury.


A war broke out with France in 1225, which, however, was carried on with little spirit on either side, and produced no events of note, although Henry, in May, 1230, conducted in person an expedition to the Continent, from which great things were expected by himself and his subjects. He incurred the charge of having wasted his own time and the people's money in idle revelry, but be cast the blame on De Burgh, who speedily fell into disgrace. An account of money received during his time of office was demanded; he could not give it, and fled to the altar of Boisars Church, whence he was carried, half naked and tied on a horse, to London. The king, fearing that the violation of a sanctuary would rouse the anger of the priests, sent him back, but ordered the sheriff to blockade the building. A moat was dug, palisades were raised round the church, and in forty days hunger forced Hubert to yield. Transferred from prison to prison, he at length escaped to Wales, and after some time made his peace with the king. One of the first false steps taken by Henry III. was in thus discarding his ablest and most faithful minister.


His marriage, in 1236, with Eleanor, daughter of the Count of Provence, contributed to subject him to foreign influence. She was accompanied to England by a large train of aliens, among whom were many Italians. To these rapacious and unprincipled aliens Henry gave free scope, and he also received De Roches back again to favor. This minister's administration was a steady course of insulting preference for his countrymen and other foreigners, and of open hostility to the Great Charter and the whole body of the national liberties. It speedily proved unbearable to both barons and commons, and a confederacy of the laity and the clergy, with Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, at its bead, compelled the dismissal 'of De Roches within little more than a year after his restoration to power. The archbishop now became chief minister.


Henry, at the urgent request of his mother, who had married her old lover, the Count of Marche, engaged in a second war with Louis but this expedition was still more unfortunate and disgraceful than the former. After being beaten by Louis in a succession of actions, he was glad to get home again, with the loss of army, money, baggage, and everything. A new truce for five years was then agreed to between the two countries. These events of course did not tend to put the nation in better humor with the king, or to dispose the Parliament to greater liberality. In 1253 he, however, succeeded in obtaining a grant of money by consenting to a solemn ratification of Magna Charta. Sir Edward Coke states that this document has been ratified in all thirty~ two times. Grievances accumulated and excited continual efforts on the part of the nobles and people to enforce redress. Henry's unadvised acceptance of the crown of Sicily, offered him by the Pope, involved him in vast debts, which he in vain applied to the Parliament to discharge.


In consequence of this continued misgovernment, the Barons at length revolted under Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, the king's brother~in-law. His desertion or Henry, together with the departure for Germany of Richard, the king's younger brother, who had greatly distinguished himself in the Fourth Crusade, and had just been created King of the Romans, shook the throne, and raised the hopes of those who desired its overthrow. At Westminster the Barons came to the council in full armor; and, when they again assembled at Oxford, June 11, 1258, in what is called the Mad Parliament," they placed the whole authority of the State in the hands of a committee of government, consisting of twelve persons appointed by the barons and as many by the king. This committee enacted-1. That four knights should come to Parliament to represent the freeholders of every county 2. That sheriffs should be chosen annually by vote; 3. That accounts of the public money should be given every year; 4. That Parliament should meet three times a year-in February, June, and October.


But reform was delayed by disunion among the Barons i and St. Louis, King of France, being chosen umpire, decided in Henry's favor. This kindled the civil war. Leicester held London, and when the great bell of St. Paul's rang out, the citizens flocked round his banner with riot, and revelled in the pillage of foreign merchants and the murder of unhappy Jews. On the 14th of May, 1264, Henry was defeated, at. Lewes, in Sussex, and taken prisoner. Prince Edward gave himself up next day. A convention ensued, called the Mise of Lewes, which provided for the future settlement of the government by arbitration, and for the liberation of the king. This was never fulfilled, Henry and his two sons remaining in close custody. Early in the following year, a Parliament was called by Leicester, to which he summoned, along with the prelates, barons, and knights of the shire, representatives from cities and boroughs. This was the first outline of the present British Parliament, the first two classes corresponding to the House of Lords, the last two to the House of Commons. Prince Edward, having escaped from his guards, met Montfort at Evesham, in Worcestershire. The battle raged long and bloodily. The king, then in the hands of the rebels, was placed by them in the front of the battle. He fell slightly wounded, and would have been killed if he had not cried out, "I am Harry of Winchester, the king," when his voice was heard by his son, who came up and rescued him. The rebels were defeated, and the body of Leicester, who died fighting over his dead son, was mutilated by the victors.


Henry, though replaced upon the throne, was still insignificant, and the departure of his brave sou for the Holy War was a signal for the renewal of domestic commotions. The death of his brother Richard added to his disconsolate feelings, and was not long after followed by his own decease, at 'Westminster, on the 16th of November, 1272. Henry III. reigned fifty-six years, the longest in the annals of British history, with the exception of the reigns of George III. and Victoria, the present sovereign of Great Britain.




The barons having agreed to refer t.heir grievances to the arbitration of King Louis, King Henry took Eleanor with him to France, and left her there in October, 1264, with her children, at the court of her sister Marguerite. The decision of 5t. Louis did not satisfy the barons, and England was forthwith involved in the flames of civil war. After Henry bad thus placed his queen in security, and taken a tender leave of her and her young children, he returned to England to encounter the storm. On Passion Sunday, Henry gained a great victory at Northampton over the Barons, and took his rebellious nephew, the Earl of Leicester's eldest sou, prisoner, together with fourteen of the leading barons.


So well had the royal cause prospered in the commencement of the struggle, that when the rival armies were encamped within six miles of each other, near Lewes, the barons sent word to the king that they wouldd give him thirty thousand marks if he would consent to a pacification. Prince Edward, who was burning to avenge the insults which had been offered to the queen, bis mother, dissuaded Henry from accepting these terms, and the battle of Lewes followed. It was lost through the reckless fury with which the fiery heir of England pursued the flying Londoners, ill order to avenge their incivility in pelting his mother at their bridge. He followed them with his cavalry, shouting the name of Queen Eleanor, as far as Croydon, where be made a merciless slaughter of the hapless citizens. On his return to the field of battle with his jaded cavalry, he found his father had been captured, with bis uncle the King of the Romans; and Edward had do other resource than surrendering himself also to Leicester, who conveyed him, with his other royal prisoners, to the Castle of Wallingford_ The remnant of the royal army retreated to Bristol Castle, under the command of seven knights, who reared seven banners on the walls. The queen was said by some to be safe in France, but really privately in the land, for the purpose of liberating her brave son.


Simon de Montfort transferred all bis royal prisoners, for safer keeping, to Kenilworth Castle, where Edward's an at his countess, was abiding. Lord Roger Mortimer had, much against the wishes of his lady, given his powerful aid to Leicester; but having received some affront since the victory of Lewes, he now turned a complacent ear to the loyal pleadings of Lady Maud in behalf of the queen and her son. Lady Maud Mortimer having sent her instructions to Prince Edward, he made his escape by riding races with his attendants till he had tired their horses, when he rode up to a thicket, where dame Maud and ambushed a swift steed. Mounting his gallant courser, Edward turned to his guard, and bade them "commend him to his sire the king, and tell him he would soon be at liberty," and then galloped of; while an armed party appeared all the opposite hill a mile distant, and dis· played the banner of Mortimer.


Eleanor had borrowed all the money she could raise on her jewels. When she beard of her son's escape, she proceeded to muster forces and equip a Beet. While she remained wind· bound on the coast of France, the battle of Evesham was fought and won by her son, Prince Edward. Leicester mistook Prince Edward's army for that of his own son, Simon de Montfort, which the prince had intercepted and dispersed. When Leicester discovered his error, he was struck with consternation, and exclaimed, "May the Lord have mercy on our souls for our bodies are the prince's." Leicester exposed his former benefactor, King Henry, to the shafts of his own friends, by placing him in the front of the battle, where he was wounded with a javelin in the shoulder, and was in imminent danger of being slain by a royalist soldier. Slay me not; I am Henry of Winchester, your king," exclaimed the royal prisoner. An officer, hearing this, ran to his assistance, reg.. cued him from his perilous situation, and brought him to Prince Edward, who, greeting him with the tenderest affection, knelt and implored his blessing; and then, leaving a strong guard for bis protection, pursued his victorious career, gaining the battle, August 4, 1265. There was 110t a single drop of blood shed on the scaffold. Henry, with all his faults and follies, was tender of human life.-A. STRICKLAND.


Henry III

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