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First elected Parliament defies King and meets

The kind of man who will fight a battle with a broken leg, and win it, Simon de Montfort makes a daring break with history and with Henry III by summoning the first parliament and inviting the people to attend.

Montfort's move is a political calculation, but it is also a defence of the right to advise the king, to have a voice in the king's expenditure of the people's money, and to have honest sheriffs, which Henry III had promised in the Provisions of Oxford and Westminster. When Henry III breaks his pledge, Montfort responds by confronting him with the people.

In December 1264, Montfort sends messengers to every county and many cities and towns, asking them to send two elected representatives to a parliament. They are happy to do so.

For the first time, men across England vote in parliamentary elections. (In the counties they have to meet a 40-shilling property qualification. In the towns there are different voting requirements.) Representatives of the yeomen of the shires and the people of the big towns join archbishops, bishops, earls and knights on January 20, 1265, in Parliament. Nothing like it has been seen since Rome was a republic fifteen hundred years earlier. They confirm the reforms.

Montfort will have to defend the reforms with his life. (See the 13th Century Liberty Timeline and scroll down.) But his astonishing new creation will be confirmed in 1275 and in the Model Parliament of 1295 by Edward I, his godson, and the man who kills him.

The son of a Frenchman, the grandson of an Englishwoman, Montfort has received some negative reviews, but not from the bachelor knights who fought with him to defend reform. Real reform. His last recorded words, also in the Timeline, still inspire us.

Thanks to Beautiful Britain for the date.

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