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9781445645742Darren Baker of the blog and associated newsletter ‘The Provisions‘, has a new book on Simon de Montfort, With All For All, out now* with Amberley Publishing. I posed a few questions to him in the lead up to publication, to probe how his book responds to a range of opinions about this complex character circulating in the academic world:

This is the first biography of the Earl of Leicester since J. R. Maddicott’s Simon de Montfort in 1994. What do you see as the key distinction between your characterisation of Montfort and his? Do you think interpretation has shifted in a particular direction in the last twenty years?

Maddicott gives perhaps the fullest account yet of Montfort’s life and career. He is what you might say is a biographer’s biographer, meaning his work will always be an indispensable resource for people like me. In the end, however, I feel his judgment is too harsh, that he is inclined to see him easily corrupted by his success, to be too much like his father, who incidentally I don’t think was the complete demon he is often portrayed as today. Maddicott is certainly not the first to present such a sombre view, but so thorough is his biography that it has been the prevailing opinion since it came out. I see Montfort as a much more inspiring figure, one who truly did make a lasting contribution, and at first I felt compelled to answer criticisms about him in the body of my book. I then realized that most lay readers probably couldn’t care less for any scholarly tug-of-war, they just want a great story, so I shuffled my opinions to the back of the book. Read the rest of this entry »

Henry III’s devotion to St Edward the Confessor is fairly well known. If you haven’t yet read David Carpenter on the topic, if I simply say “Westminster Abbey”, that might be enough to be going on with.[1] What is rather less well known is Henry’s (albeit passing) attention to St Nicholas. Since the Feast of St Nicholas (6th December – not to be confused with the feast of his translation on 9th May) is so closely associated with Christmas these days, I thought it would make an appropriate point of discussion in Advent. This post is based on yet another one of the things in my *large* ‘to-do’ pile: I plead the last throes of thesis drafting… In the mean while, here is a rather preliminary collation of my musing on the matter which I hope to write up more formally and extensively in the reasonably near future.

St Nicholas and the miracle of the golden cup, Bourges, Cathédrale St Etienne. Photo by Gordon Plumb via Flickr.

St Nicholas and the miracle of the golden cup, Bourges, Cathédrale St Etienne. Photo by Gordon Plumb via Flickr.

The evidence of the Close Rolls suggests his release from captivity following the Battle of Evesham (4 August 1264) may have evoked in Henry a brief period of increased devotion to St Nicholas, patron saint of, among other groups, prisoners and the innocent.[2] On 7 September the king promised to pay 50s. annually for masses to be said by a canon of St Margaret’s-without-Marlborough in the chapel of St Nicholas at Marlborough Castle.[3] Just two days later, an order was issued for the restoration of an altarpiece depicting the saint in that chapel,[4] and more substantial renovations were ordered in October.[5] The order for masses to be said at Marlborough seems to have been executed, since a contrabreve on the Liberate Rolls, c. March 1266, authorised the payment of two 25s. installments to the relevant canon to be made annually at Michaelmas and Easter.[6] Masses were still being heard in the chapel in honour of the saint’s feast in 1270, when 1m. was delivered to the clerks of the king’s gift,[7] although by 1271 the payments for masses had fallen into arrears.[8] Also in 1265, perhaps reflecting the new significance of St Nicholas to the king, an order was sent to the sheriff of Somerset and Dorset to “repair and amend without fail out of the issues of the counties” the chapel of St Nicholas at Dorchester along with the house wherein the king’s pleas were held.[9] Read the rest of this entry »

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I teach and research at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in the School of Philosophical, Historial and International Studies, Monash University (Australia). Views expressed here are my own and not representative of the CMRS, SOPHIS or Monash.

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