The New Student's Reference Work/Montfort, Simon de

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Montfort (mont′fẽrt), Simon de, Earl of Leicester, an English general and statesman, the leader in the war of the barons against Henry III (q. v.), was born in the beginning of the 13th century. The king was surrounded with foreigners who fared sumptuously at the expense of the people; bad harvests and famine added to their discontent; and in 1258 the barons appeared in arms before Parliament and demanded the driving out of the foreigners and the appointment of a committee of 24 to manage affairs. Later in the same year Parliament drew up laws called the Provisions of Oxford, which the king agreed to. By these provisions the foreigners were to surrender their castles, and Montfort gave up Kenilworth and Odiham. In 1261 the king repealed the act of parliament, which brought Montfort to the front as leader of the barons. He surprised the king's army at Lewes and captured the young prince, May 14, 1264. In his arrangements for a peaceable settlement of the difficulties a parliament was called, in which the barons, bishops and abbots sat, with four knights chosen from each shire and, for the first time in England, two representatives from certain towns. This may be looked upon as the germ of the modern parliament. He was, however, ahead of his times; the barons were dissatisfied and Gloucester deserted; the young prince escaped; and, joining with Gloucester, defeated Montfort, Aug. 4, 1265. He was killed on the field of battle (Evesham), but his memory survives among the people, who know him as St. Simon. The Song of Lewes, first printed in a collection of political songs in 1839, is a full account of this constitutional struggle of the barons. See Constitutional History of England by Stubbs and the Life by Prothero.