Henry III., son of John, king of England, and of Isabella of Angouleme, born Oct. 1, 1207, died at Westminster, Nov. 10, 1272. He became king Oct. 17, 1216, being then but nine years old. The desperate state to which England had been reduced by the misgovernment of John makes the period of the accession of Henry III. the darkest in English history; but, owing to the talents and wisdom of the earl of Pembroke, who was protector, the state of the country was rapidly improved, He confirmed Magna Charta, conciliated the discontented barons, defeated the French both by sea and land, and restored peace. Pembroke soon dying, power passed to the hands of the bishop of Winchester and Hubert de Burgh, the latter being justiciary and having most weight in the government. They had not the influence of Pembroke, and could not control the barons. War was made with France, but it was found impossible to recover the French provinces lost by John. In 1231 the jus-ticiary, who had received large gifts and been made earl of Kent, was overthrown, and Winchester, an able but unprincipled man, monopolized power. He was a Poitevin, and many of his countrymen going over to England, they were intrusted with office, to the discontent of the English of all ranks, whom they oppressed and plundered.
This evil was aggravated by the marriage of the king in 1236 with , Eleanor of Provence, many of whose country-men came to England, and shared in the king's bounty. An expedition into France in 1242 terminated disastrously. The pope offered Henry the crown of Sicily for his son Edmund, and the king was involved in debt by his endeavors to support the claim. The chief interest of his reign belongs to the disputes between the king and the barons. These came to a head in 1258, when Simon de Montfort, carl of Leicester, was chief of the baronial party and held possession of the king's person. The "provisions of Oxford," enacted by the parliament which met there in that year, provided for the election of knights of the shire, four from each, for three sessions of parliament in each year, and for the annual election of sheriffs. Measures hostile to foreigners were also adopted. Government was now in the hands of the barons, who lost the popularity they had once enjoyed. Louis IX. of France made a treaty with Henry in 1259, on terms favorable to the latter. Circumstances enabling the king to renew the contest with the barons, war ensued, and the royalists were defeated at Lewes, May 13, 1204, Henry being taken prisoner.
Prince Edward was compelled to make the treaty of Lewes with Montfort, and himself to become a hostage. In January, 1265, a new parliament assembled in London, called by Montfort, to which were summoned two knights from each county, and two deputies from each of certain cities and boroughs, such deputies never having previously been summoned; and the writs were addressed, not to the sheriffs, but to the boroughs. This was the commencement of the house of commons. Prince Edward having escaped from Leicester, the royal party renewed the war, and Leicester was defeated and slain at Evesham, Aug. 4,1265. The king's authority was reestablished, and tranquillity restored. Henry's reign lasted 56 years, the longest in English history except that of George III.