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Henry III - 1216-1272

Key Facts about Henry III

John's son became King at the age of nine but did not take on the government of England until 1227. During his childhood his kingdom was governed by Regents: William the Marshal, and Hubert de Burgh. Both men dealt successfully with the attempts by the French Dauphin, later Louis VIII, to take England by force.

On reaching his twentieth year Henry dismissed de Burgh and appointed Peter de Riveaux as Chancellor and Peter des Roches as Bishop of Winchester. The appointment of Frenchmen to important posts did not please the barons who rebelled under William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. Their revolt did not succeed, but there was another more valiant opponent waiting to oppose the King.

This was Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who was married to Eleanor, Henry's sister and obliged him to sign yet another document to limit his power. This was the Provisions of Oxford which, having signed, Henry repudiated. A civil war now broke out and Henry was defeated at Lewes in 1264.

After his victory De Montfort called together a parliament but differences of opinion between its delegates doomed it to failure. Henry's son Edward now entered the fray and killed de Montfort in battle at Evesham in 1265, and thus ended the first attempt at parliamentary government.

Earlier in his reign Henry had also been faced by a Welsh revolt under Owain Glendower who had survived and kept north Wales independent for eleven years with French help.

Though not a clever or forceful King, and prone to offending friends and enemies alike, Henry's reign was one of political progress and prosperity. Henry encouraged learning and three Oxford colleges were founded in his reign. The arts of writing and illustration flourished, notably in the person of Matthew Paris, the historian, who drew up the first map of England.

Henry was lucky to have an exceptionally able and loving son, Edward, named, of course, after his patron saint. In the course of his long conflict with Simon de Montfort and the barons, Henry and Edward had fought and lost the Battle of Lewes in 1264 and each had been taken prisoner. They were held in separate places but Edward managed to escape and turned the tables on Simon at the Battle of Evesham the following year. Thanks to Edward, Simon was killed and Henry was restored.

Henry returned to his church-building, and Edward, his war-loving son, went off on a crusade, together with his wife, Eleanor. It was while they were still away that three messengers arrived. The first told them that their elder boy was dead; the second told them that their second boy was dead; the third announced that Edward's father Henry was dead. Everyone who witnessed Edward's reaction to these sad tidings was somewhat surprised. He accepted the deaths of his babies with calm resignation; but he was overwhelmed with grief to hear of his father's death. When asked why, he replied: 'A man may have more sons - but never another father.' It was a sincere tribute from son to father, and tells us more about Henry than volumes of history ever can.

Henry is buried, appropriately, near his beloved Edward the Confessor in the enlarged Westminster Abbey, which is his greatest memorial.

Key Events during the Reign of Henry III

1216 - Henry III is crowned King of England at the age of nine upon the death of his father, John. England is temporarily ruled by two regents - William the Marshal and Hubert de Burgh.

1217 - Battle of Lincoln in May. Battle of Dover in August. The French under Louis, later Louis VIII, are driven out of England. The Treaty of Lambeth establishes peace between France, the English barons and supporters of Henry.

1219 - William the Marshal dies.

1227 - Henry takes full control of the government of England, but retains Hubert de Burgh as his principal adviser.

1232 - Peter des Riveaux is appointed Treasurer of England and Hubert de Burgh is dismissed.

1236 - Henry marries Eleanor of Provence and three of her uncles become ministers in England.

1264 - The Baron's War breaks out and Henry is defeated by de Montfort at the Battle of Lewes.

1265 - De Montfort summons the first English parliament, but is killed at Evesham.

1272 - Henry III dies in the Palace of Westminster.

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