What best explains the problems Henry III faced in England after 1258?

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What best explains the problems Henry III faced in England after 1258?

On 30 April 1258 King Henry III was forced to agree a programme of reform, induced by a group of Barons following a period of tension between factions, financial and judicial grievances that had arisen during the last 24 years of his personal rule. After 1258, Henry faced problems of reform, mainly through the Petitions of Barons and Provisions of Oxford which forced Henry to accept a new form of government, and a period of rebellion where Simon de Montfort gathered adherents against him. So what best explains the problems Henry faced after 1258? In many ways, developments and changes in local government were a prominent explanation for his problems, particularly for higher officials who didn’t like the changes Henry brought. However, other factors such as his overseas policies in Poitou and Gascony, the failure of the Sicilian scheme, and his abuse of finance leading to a financial ‘crisis’ were other contributory factors to his problems after 1258. In my opinion, the power of foreigners such as the Lusignans best explains his problems, as they exerted greater influence over both Henry and Edward compared with the Barons, which led them to challenge his power, and were seen to have monopolised the royal patronage Henry generously gave.

Developments in local government were certainly an important factor for Henry’s problems after 1258, as many resented these developments, particularly the gentry. Their rise in power and influence in the twelfth and early thirteenth century led them to resent the changes that Henry had brought about during his personal rule which threatened their influence in the localities. They resented the appointment of foreigners and men from outside the county as sheriffs who ‘abused their special privileges and enjoyed unfair economic advantages over their English-born neighbours and co-workers’ through the increments they collected, which I agree with as at this point Henry was forced to pursue money-raising schemes other than tax through parliament so he could fund future campaigns, placing increasingly onerous burdens on his sheriffs to do this. Counties were required to pay more money to the exchequer and therefore Sheriffs had to adopt harsher methods, often using bribery and extortion. Examples of this were shown with increments placed on shire farms, with the weight of his rule falling on these lesser subjects, the increased demand for money meant that traditional ways and customs of raising funds in the counties were challenged. In order to achieve this, men from outside the county were brought in as they were more willing to exact the large amount of money, not having local loyalties. . Changes in the localities hit even more with the exploitation of the justice system to raise money for the King, which resulted in increased financial pressures. The system became increasingly corrupt as Henry and started to abuse it, selling hundreds of franchises in the 1240s with certain magnates escaping justice easily while lesser ranked people in society such as merchants, county knights and lesser clergy were excluded from the court and were not treated fairly as Henry only needed to keep the magnates on his side. Royal favouritism, combined with heavy-handed sheriffs charged with satisfying the king’s demands for cash, meant justice was ‘shut out’. It was the coming together of the gentry’s grievances with localities and magnate concerns which were expressed in parliament in April 1258, which led to more problems for Henry after 1258.

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However, Henry’s changes in sheriffs and localities were mainly caused by his financial situation, with many criticising Henry’s level of spending. He loved opulence, shown by his building project at Westminster Abbey for Edward the Confessor, and bought ‘exquisite fabrics and cloths of gold..rings, brooches, cups and belts’, easily illustrating his love to share and display his wealth, but shows he spent money on furthering his pride, not the country’s efforts. King Henry did raise 2 gold treasures, showing he ‘was not incapable of making adroit financial decisions’, as said by Wilde, but I would disagree with this to a ...

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