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Thread: Simon de Montfort

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    Simon de Montfort

    Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester

    Simon de Montfort (c. 1175 – 25 June 1218), also known as Simon de Montfort the Elder, was a French nobleman and soldier who took part in the Fourth Crusade (1202–1204) and was a prominent leader of the Albigensian Crusade. He died at the Siege of Toulouse in 1218. He was lord of Montfort-l'Amaury in France and the 5th Earl of Leicester in England.

    Simon is described as a man of unflinching religious orthodoxy, deeply committed to the Dominican order and the suppression of heresy. He participated in the initial campaign of the Albigensian Crusade in 1209, and after the fall of Carcassonne, was elected leader of the crusade and viscount of the confiscated territories of the Raymond-Roger Trencavel family

    He became feared for his ruthlessness. In 1210 he burned 140 Cathars in the village of Minerve who refused to recant – though he spared those who did. In another widely reported incident, prior to the sack of the village of Lastours, he brought prisoners from the nearby village of Bram and had their eyes gouged out and their ears, noses and lips cut off. One prisoner, left with a single good eye, led them into the village as a warning.

    Simon's part in the crusade had the full backing of his feudal superior, the King of France, Philip Augustus. But historian Alistaire Horne, in his book Seven Ages of Paris, states that Philip "turned a blind eye to Simon de Montfort's crusade... of which he disapproved, but readily accepted the spoils to his exchequer". Following the latter's success in winning Normandy from John Lackland of England, he was approached by Innocent III to lead the crusade but turned this down. He was heavily committed to defend his gains against John and against the emerging alliance among England, the Empire and Flanders.

    Simon left three sons: his French estates passed to his eldest son, Amaury VI de Montfort, while his younger son, Simon, eventually gained possession of the earldom of Leicester and played a major role in the reign of Henry III of England. He led the barons' rebellion against Henry during the Second Barons' War, and subsequently became de facto ruler of England. During his rule, de Montfort called the first directly elected parliament in medieval Europe. For this reason, de Montfort is regarded today as one of the progenitors of modern parliamentary democracy.

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    As some will know, I come from Leicester where Simon de Montfort enjoys a revered status. He is one of the 4 figures which feature on the Clock Tower in the town centre and there's a large venue (for sports & concerts) called DeMontfort Hall, as well as a DeMontfort University (..plus numerous other tributes to his memory).

    He was a fascinating character for sure but I don't particularly like him myself. I'm sure the city could have made a better choice of hero, and especially in these 'multicultural' times where 'religious tolerance' is supposedly so important.


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