Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

An Earl of Leicester, date of birth unknown, died at Toulouse, 25 June, 1218. Simon (IV) de Montfort was descended from the lords of Montfort l'Amaury in Normandy, being the second son of Simon (III), and Amicia, daughter of Robert de Beaumont, third Earl of Leicester. Having succeeded his father as Baron de Montfort in 1181, in 1190 he married Alice de Montmorency, the daughter of Bouchard (III) de Montmorency. In 1199 while taking part in a tournament at Ecry-sur-Aisne in the province of Champagne he heard Fulk de Neuilly preaching the crusade, and in company with Count Thibaud de Champagne and many other nobles and knights he took the cross. Unfortunately, the crusade got out of control, and the French knights, instead of co-operating with the pope, decided on a campaign in Egypt, and on their arrival at Venice entered on a contract for transport across the Mediterranean. Being unable to fulfil the terms of the contract, they compounded by assisting the Venetians to capture Zara in Dalmatia. In vain the pope urged them to set out for the Holy Land. They preferred to march on Constantinople, though Simon de Montfort offered energetic opposition to this proposal. Notwithstanding his efforts, the expedition was undertaken and the pope's plans were defeated.

In 1204 or 1205 Simon succeeded to the Earldom of Leicester and large estates in England, for on the death of the fourth Earl of Leicester in that year, his honour of Leicester devolved on his sister Alicia, Simon's mother; and as her husband, Simon (III), and her eldest son were already dead, the earldom devolved on Simon himself. But though he was recognized by King John as Earl of Leicester, he was never formally invested with the earldom, and in February, 1207, the king seized all his English estates on pretext of a debt due from him. Shortly afterwards they were restored, only to be confiscated again before the end of the year. Simon, content with the Norman estates he had inherited from the de Montforts and the de Beaumonts, remained in France, where in 1208 he was made captain-general of the French forces in the Crusade against the Albigenses. At first he declined this honour, but the pope's legate, Arnold, Abbot of Cîteaux, ordered him in the pope's name to accept it, and he obeyed.

Simon thus received control over the territory conquered from Raymond (VI) of Toulouse and by his military skill, fierce courage, and ruthlessness he swept the country. His success won for him the admiration of the English barons, and in 1210 King John received information that they were plotting to elect Simon King of England in his stead. Simon, however, concentrated his fierce energies on his task in Toulouse, and in 1213 he defeated Peter of Aragon at the battle of Muret. The Albigenses were now crushed, but Simon carried on the campaign as a war of conquest, being appointed by the Council of Montpellier lord over all the newly-acquired territory, as Count of Toulouse and Duke of Narbonne (1215). The pope confirmed this appointment, understanding that it would effectually complete the suppression of the heresy. It is ever to be deplored that Simon stained his many great qualities by treachery, harshness, and bad faith. His severity became cruelty, and he delivered over many towns to fire and pillage, thus involving many innocent people in the common ruin. This is the more to be regretted, as his intrepid zeal for the Catholic faith, the severe virtue of his private life, and his courage and skill in warfare marked him out as a great man.

Meanwhile the pope had been making efforts to secure for him the restitution of his English estates. The surrender of his lands by John was one of the conditions for reconciliation laid down by the pope in 1213; but it was not till July, 1215, that John reluctantly yielded the honour of Leicester into the hands of Simon's nephew, Ralph, Earl of Chester, "for the benefit of the said Simon". Simon's interest in England was shown by his efforts to dissuade Louis of France from invading England in July, 1216, in which matter he was seconded, though fruitlessly, by the legate Gualo. Having at this time raised more troops in Paris, Simon returned to the south of France, where he occupied himself in waging war at Nîmes, until in 1217 a rebellion broke out in Provence, where Count Raymond's son re-entered Toulouse. Simon hastened to besiege the city, but was hampered by lack of troops. On 25 June, 1218, while he was at Mass he learned that the besieged had made a sortie. Refusing to leave the church before Mass was over, he arrived late at the scene of action only to be wounded mortally. He expired, commending his soul to God, and was buried in the Monastery of Haute-Bruyère. He left three sons, of whom Almeric the eldest ultimately inherited his French estates; the youngest was Simon de Montfort, who succeeded him as Earl of Leicester, and who was to play so great a part in English history.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31
12 For as with the human body which is a unity ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:1-2, 3, 4, 5
1 [Psalm For thanksgiving] Acclaim Yahweh, all the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 7:11-17
11 It happened that soon afterwards he went to a town ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 16th, 2014 Image

St. Cornelius
September 16: Cornelius whose feast day is September 16th. A Roman priest, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter