Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Simon de Montfort, Albigensians and Red Hair

Last night I came across an account of the death of Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, that stated he had red hair.
It is in Toulouse that the commander Simon de Montfort - known as "The butcher of Occitanie", or "The Crusade Lion" (depending on the side!)- finds his end his skull crushed in 1218 by a catapulted stone thrown by the women of the city (he was recognized by his distinct red hair!!).
De Montfort was one of the leaders of the Albigensian Crusade and was renowned for his cruelty. One report stated that he had the eyes gouged out of the prisoners he'd captured at the sacking of one village and then led them to the next village as a warning to its inhabitants. He left one prisoner with one good eye to lead the mutilated multitude. He was a bad ginger person.

Incidentally, his son was the famed Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester who led the rebellion against Henry III during the Second Barons' War. He is lauded as one of the initiators of English parliamentary democracy as he called parliaments during his de facto rule of England. These parliaments stripped the King of his absolute power and included ordinary townsfolk. Quite a difference between father and son it would seem. However, further down his Wikipedia page it states that he expelled the Jewish community from his lands in 1231 - banishing them "in my time or in the time of any of my heirs to the end of the world". So probably not that nice in person.

I couldn't find any reference to his hair colour, but I guess if his father was a redhead there's a possibility that he may have been as well.

While reading up on this period I came across another red 'un though. Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester was known as the red earl, apparently because of his bright red hair. He was a powerful English noble prominent during the period. Sadly, his Wikipedia entry likewise includes this statement;
In April 1264, Gilbert de Clare led the massacre of the Jews at Canterbury, as Simon de Montfort had done in Leicester.
Not exactly poster boys for red hair. I think I'll have to create a bad boy section on my website to fit these guys in :(

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