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‘A Vineyard Without a Wall’: The Savoyards, John de Warenne and the Failure of Henry III’s Kingship

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 December 2020

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Summary

The Benedictine priory of St Martin at Dover was a convenient resting place for those just arrived in England. On 6 March 1263 the priory's chronicler noted the arrival from France of three young men of the highest pedigree: John, Earl Warenne, Henry of Almain, son of Richard of Cornwall, and Henry de Montfort. This trio of young nobles heralded the return, seven weeks later, of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, which, in turn, precipitated a protracted but violent descent into civil war the following year. What is really surprising about this incident, however, is not that Earl Warenne and Henry of Almain ended up fighting against Henry de Montfort and his father in the civil war of 1264-5 but that they were ever minded to go against the king in the first place. The political grouping which Warenne and Henry of Almain headed, that of the former friends of the king's son, Lord Edward, has long been recognised by historians as one of the powerful factions in English politics during the period of Reform and Rebellion, and their role in precipitating Montfort's return has been likewise acknowledged. Their immediate motive for doing so was the political isolation imposed on them in 1261 by the queen and the Savoyard faction at court which she led, a culmination of a tug of war over the affections of Lord Edward which had been waged since the mid 1250s. This grouping of young English lords around Edward has, in turn, been linked to the factional struggles at Henry III's court between the Savoyard relatives of his queen and his own Lusignan halfbrothers from Poitou.

What will be argued in this article is that for Warenne, the wealthiest and most prominent member of this faction, his antagonism towards the Savoyards stretched back much further, to the early 1240s, and that it was caused by the manner of Henry III's settlement of the Savoyards in England. The crisis which overwhelmed Henry's kingship in 1263 had thus been brewing for over twenty years and was the direct result of his own policies. Linked to this, the article will suggest that Henry's very introduction of the Savoyards to England was profoundly damaging to his kingship in both foreign and domestic policy and was symptomatic of the broader failure of his rule.

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Thirteenth Century England XVII
Proceedings of the Cambridge Conference, 2017
, pp. 41 - 64
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2021

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