Sophie Ambler (King’s College London)
Institute of Historical Research, Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.(2011)
In 1266, five English bishops were suspended from office for supporting Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, in rebellion against King Henry III. The action in which the bishops had conspired was highly controversial: the violent imposition of a conciliar government that ruled in the king’s name. This article examines the justifications for this system of government produced by the Montfortian religious milieu, showing that the bishops’ arguments were not part of a coherent philosophy on royal government but rather ad hoc responses shaped by the context of their production in the midst of dramatic political change.
In 1266, five English bishops – a third of the episcopate – were suspended from office for supporting Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, in rebellion against King Henry III. All five had joined the rebellion before Montfort’s victory at the battle of Lewes in May 1264 and had persevered in their support in defiance of papal mandates that had annulled the Provisions of Oxford and had ordered them to assist in returning the king to power. Although these facts have long been recognized, the activities and motivations of these bishops have largely remained peripheral to discussions of baronial action. Given the rarity, in terms of both nature and scale, of ecclesiastical rebellion in England and continental Europe during the middle ages this is, perhaps, surprising.This article will focus on a key aspect of the role of these ecclesiastics in the Montfortian movement, namely the attempt to justify the Montfortian system of conciliar government in 1264.