I. Simon De

Simon De, a French soldier, born about the middle of the 12th century, slain before Toulouse, June 25, 1218. He engaged in the fourth crusade, but when he saw the enterprise diverted from its legitimate object he declined to follow its chiefs to Constantinople, and to fulfil his vows went by himself to Palestine. On his return he took up arms again at the summons of Pope Innocent III., and in 1208 was elected leader of the crusade waged against the Albigenses of southern France, whom he mercilessly pursued and slaughtered. On the taking of Beziers (1209) more than 20,000 of its inhabitants were put to death by his permission, if not by his orders. Carcassonne was scarcely better treated; the viscount of Beziers, who commanded there, was made prisoner in an interview for negotiation; the town was forced to surrender, and many of its citizens were sentenced to death as heretics. At Lavaur, Aimery of Montreal was hanged, 80 knights were put to the sword, hundreds of poor people burned at the stake, and the lady of the castle, Aimery's sister, was thrown alive down a well, and stones were heaped over her.

Montfort ruled despotically over the territories which he had wrested from Count Raymond of Toulouse in this war; and when Pedro II., king of Aragon, came to protect the latter, as his lord paramount, the crusader met him, Sept, 12, 1213, and defeated and killed him under the walls of Muret. Montfort was then proclaimed count of Toulouse. Raymond's son finally managed to reenter Toulouse, where he had many adherents. Montfort besieged that city for eight months, and when attempting to storm it was killed by a stone thrown from the wall. His elder son, Amaury, succeeded him as count of Toulouse, afterward became grand constable of France, and died in 1241 on his return from Palestine.

II. Simon De

Simon De, earl of Leicester, younger son of the preceding, the leader of the English barons in the reign of Henry III., born about 1200, killed Aug. 4, 1265. He went to England in 1231 to escape the enmity of Blanche of Castile, queen regent of France, and gained the favor of the king, who bestowed upon him the earldom of Leicester, the governorship of Gascony, and the hand of his own sister Eleanor, countess dowager of Pembroke. He governed Gascony with an iron hand, and made his power particularly felt by the native lords, but was popular with the English. In England he became the head of the barons who conspired to curtail the king's prerogative. Henry III. having convoked a parliament in 1258, Montfort appeared in arms with his confederates, and constrained the king to sign the provisions of Oxford, by which the whole legislative and executive power was thrown into the hands of 24 barons, who were controlled by Montfort. An agreement was proposed between the nobles and the king through the arbitration of Louis IX. of France; but his award not being acceptable to the former, both parties took arms. In May, 1264, Montfort defeated the royal army at Lewes in Sussex, and captured the king.

In January, 1265, he summoned a parliament, in which, for the first time on record, representatives of boroughs were admitted. His power was now at its height, but his overbearing conduct excited discontent even among the adherents of the national cause; and the king's son, Prince Edward, who was kept as a hostage, having made his escape, many of his former opponents joined his standard. Montfort was hemmed in at Evesham by superior numbers, and was slain with one of his sons and many barons, while his army was completely routed. The family of Montfort was expelled from England.