Simon de Montfort at home and at war – Odiham Castle.
Presented by Rupert Willoughby
14th February 2023
Odiham Castle is now a sorry looking ruin beside the Basingstoke canal. But Rupert Willoughby brought the castle back to life with his vivid description of its importance to the history of England in the 13th Century.
Odiham Castle, known locally as King John’s Castle, was built more than 800 years ago, it was a fortress in a strategic location between Winchester and Windsor and it is one of only three fortresses built by King John.
King John stayed at Odiham in the days leading up to his forced negotiations with the Barons that resulted in the Magna Carta being signed and sealed in June 1215 at Runnymede.
In 1236 the castle/hunting lodge was gifted by King Henry III to his sister Eleanor of England, two years prior to her marriage to Simon de Montfort, a French nobleman by birth who became one of the most powerful nobleman in England and Earl of Leicester. This union would have made Odiham Castle, one of the most powerful households in the land.
The life and times of the medieval castle were vividly described, from the physical structure - a three story, stone-faced castellated building, protected by two moats and palisades, to the fascinating description of living conditions and everyday life, revealed from the detailed records that were kept by Eleanor.
Odiham Castle and Simon de Montfort were closely associated with the foundation of Britain’s constitutional democracy. For a short time in 1265 Simon do Montfort became de facto ruler of England having defeated Henry III at the Battle of Lewes. Simon de Montfort summoned Barons and Knights to his Parliament and for the first time also included elected representatives from selected Boroughs. Although Simon de Montfort was defeated and killed later that year at the battle of Evesham, the principle of elected representatives was established which later evolved into the House of Commons.
Rupert Willoughby’s fascinating lecture about such a local landmark included slides of some beautiful contemporaneous paintings.
Kate Fulkner and Ann Salzman