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Simon de Montfort, c. 1208-65

Simon de Montfort was the son of the renowned crusader and diplomat, Simon de Montfort the Elder (c. 1153-1218), and arrived in England c. 1230 to pursue his claim to the earldom of Leicestershire. Simon initially enjoyed a close relationship with Henry III and married the king’s sister, Eleanor, in 1238. Their friendship, however, soon soured and Simon was approached to champion baronial opposition against the Crown. In 1264 the royal troops were defeated at the Battle of Lewes and Simon headed a new government; in 1265 he called a parliament which included, for the first time, the representatives of the shires and boroughs. Simon’s taste for power was seen by many as a threat and in 1265 he was defeated and killed by the royalists at the Battle of Evesham. Simon has remained a controversial character, viewed by some as an idealist, by others as a man driven by greed.