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Essays

  • Writing Montfort
    I began research on Montfort in 1977. By 1985 I had the first draft completed, at approximately 1,500 pages.  There were a few fairly recent academic biographies on Simon de Montfort; I chose to frame my work as a novelized biography for the greater freedom of informed speculation as to how his life progressed from ...
  • Jews and Montfort
    As an historian who has devoted 35 years to the study of 13th century documents relating to  Simon de Montfort I would like to take part in this debate. Simon de Montfort expelled the Jews of Leicester in 1231. It was in his youth and he was not yet Earl of Leicester. He found himself effectively ...
  • The Animals of Cottage and Castle Pigeons, Doves and Squab
    Pigeons, Doves and Squab: for food, sport, communications, and as icon Pigeons: those annoying fowl who strut about underfoot in most cities, have been living cozily with mankind since at least 3,000 BCE, providing food, sport and communications services for most of that time. First, “pigeon” and “dove” are the same thing, though multiplied into numerous ...
  • Chivalry and Ethics
    Chivalry, Truth and the Middle Ages You out there who are reading, reenacting, going to Renaissance faires, opting out of the 21st century if just for a little while to be in the Middle Ages. What is it we are looking for? Not a time when life was easier. It is as if we have some fundamental ...
  • Dinner As It Might Have Been at Kenilworth 760 Years Ago
    Eleanor, Countess of Leicester, is entertaining Robert Grosseteste, the Bishop of Lincoln and Peter de Montfort, her husband’s cousin from Gloucestershire at her castle of Kenilworth. As is often the case her husband is away from home. Trubody, her major d’omo, presides over the servants and will carve the principal roast meats as the sons ...
  • Life in a Medieval Village
    by Katherine Ashe When Julius Caesar arrived in Albion, what we call Briton, he reported to the Roman Senate that here was a land completely under cultivation. A thousand years later, when William of Normandy conquered England he had to eradicate numerous villages to plant what is still known as the New Forest to create a ...
  • King Lear’s Town
    A Little History of the City of Leicester
    by Katherine Ashe The City of Leicester. In the so called “dark” and “middle’ ages, Leicester was not a happy place. In 1173, by order of King Henry II, the city was besieged, razed and depopulated as punishment for its earl, Robert “White-Hands’” support of Queen Eleanor (of Aquitaine) and her son Richard the Lion Hearted. ...
  • Mysteries, Miracles and Tableaux: Early Theater in England
    by Katherine Ashe Theater, in England as in ancient Greece, originally was an expression of religion. Scholars pin the beginning of English theater at about 960 and identify the Quem Queritis as the first play. An Easter presentation, it’s an enactment of the Three Marys coming to Jesus’ tomb and finding the Angel. A priest, dressed ...
  • An Alchemist, an Earl and the Stupor Mundi: the cannon and gunpowder in 13th century Europe, with a nod to Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
    by Katherine Ashe Roger Bacon is considered to have introduced the formula and use of gunpowder to Europe in an article in his encyclopedic De Secretis Operibus Artis et Naturae. He illustrates a vase-shaped bronze vessel, and offers a practical compounding of what is now called black powder. How did this 13th century Oxford scholar and ...
  • 8th centennial?
    Was Simon de Montfort born in 1209? Most historians lean toward that date. He would have been twenty or twenty-one when he arrived in England: at the point of coming of age if he had been in wardship. I don’t think it was his “coming of age,” but rather his brother Amaury’s disqualification for the ...
  • Valentina Baciu’s Research on “Song on the Death of Simon de Montfort”
    July 10, 2011 By Valentina Baciu In less than one month we will have 746 years of mourning! Simon will live as long as the representative democracy will lead the civilized world! SONG ON THE DEATH OF SIMON DE MONTFORT The poem is written on a fly leaf in a manuscript belonging to Caius College . On a ...