Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Simon de Montfort and the Fight for Parliament, 1263 to 1265

by Katherine Ashe


It was a document known as The Provisions of Oxford, not the Magna Carta, that brought modern elective government into existence. It was the Provisions that created Parliament, and gave Parliament power over the Crown.

The Provisions were composed by the barons and clergymen of England, meeting in committees at Oxford in 1258. Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, was a leading member of the committees. But as soon as this work of proposed monumental reform was completed in draft, the lords abandoned their weeks of effort and rode off into the night. Led by the instigator of the Oxford meeting, the Earl of Gloucester Richard de Clare, they went in pursuit of King Henry III’s dangerous half-brothers of Lusignan, fearing the brothers would flee abroad and raise an army against them.

Of all the lords, it was only Montfort who remained behind. As England’s chief military strategist he probably understood that whether the Lusignan escaped or not, invasion from abroad was likely. The principals expressed in the Provisions were an offense to every king’s free exercise of power, and challenged the Pope who had a claim on England’s Crown as security for a debt King Henry owed the Vatican, but which the lords refused to pay.

At Oxford, Montfort and the clergymen saw to it that the Provisions were properly copied from erasable wax tablets and published to the new sheriffs who helpfully had been appointed by the King from the Oxford meeting’s lists.

The pursuing lords camped in the yard of Winchester Castle, holding the Lusignan brothers besieged during the time this essential work was being carried out at Oxford. Then suddenly the besiegers succumbed to poison. Virtually every major lord of England fell desperately ill and many died. Those who survived required years to recover. It was left to Simon de Montfort and the clerics at Oxford to actually put the Provisions into effect, creating the first Parliament.

Over his own seal, and with the assumed authority of the new Council called for by the Provisions (which did not yet actually exist), Montfort single-handedly called for the election of four knights from each shire to represent the people of England. It was he who summoned the first Parliament to convene, who replaced the royal bailiffs and castellans and set England on a footing to repel the expected invasion from abroad.


The first Parliament commenced on October 18th, 1258 in Westminster Hall. King Henry and his heir Prince Edward were virtual prisoners of the government Montfort had brought into being, and they were forced to swear allegiance to the new order. But while Prince Edward for a time entertained an interest in hearing regularly from the people’s elected representatives, Henry would use covert means to undermine and suppress this abominable expression of democracy.

With the new institution of Parliament an achieved success, the next issue on the Crown’s agenda was the completion of a treaty with France. As ambassador to France for King Henry, the Earl Montfort had negotiated the treaty and he attended the royal party to Paris.

Henry now claimed his goal in life was to lead a crusade to Palestine – a project he knew was close to King Louis’ heart. This is the king we know as Saint Louis. As an article of the treaty, Louis was granting Henry funds for an army for his crusade.
Simon learned the army being raised was not to embark for the East, but for England. As Henry lingered in France, Parliament was due to reconvene. The army would give Henry the means to squash it. As the King’s foremost general, Simon was well known in the office of the Duke of Brabant where mercenary armies were hired and assembled. It was no difficulty for him to order the soldiers so far assembled to meet him – and to lead them himself to England for Parliament’s defense. This was, beyond any doubt, a clear act of treason against his king.

Yet was it? Henry had sworn loyalty to his subjects’ new government. Simon saw his move as forcing the King to stand by his oath. But when, many weeks later, King Henry finally arrived in England protesting innocence and love of the Parliament, Simon was arrested and taken to the Tower of London, charged with high treason. From there his friend King Louis, knowing Henry had intended to misuse the army granted for crusade, rescued Simon and had the trial transferred to Paris.


It was 1263 before the trial came to a close. King Henry withdrew his charges, realizing that Louis was fully aware of his treachery and breach of the treaty. Henry was forced to let Montfort go, rather than make his treaty null and void.

During his stay in Paris pending trial, Simon was frequently approached by clerics and the young English lords whose fathers had succumbed to the Lusignan’s poison at Winchester. Between 1259 and 1263 King Henry undermined and finally succeeded in suppressing the Parliament. And he returned to his abusive former ways. Englishmen of every rank prayed for Montfort to come and lead them to restore the government of the Provisions.

There was more to these prayers than the hope of resuscitating Parliament. The theologian Joachim de Flor, in the late 12th century, posited three Ages of Man: the Era of the Father, in which tribal society prevailed; the Era of the Son which saw the rise of kingship, nations and the Church; and the Era of the Holy Ghost in which nations, kingship and the Church would dissolve into a single World Order, governed by the vote of the common man inspired to wisdom by the Holy Spirit. Joachim specified the year 1260 as the commencement of this New Age.

The creation of Parliament was seen as the first act of this new era. And Simon de Montfort was its champion. He was hailed in England as the Angel of the Apocalypse, or perhaps even the Risen Christ.

All this Simon most probably considered heretical. He certainly was not flattered by it. His intention, once free of the trial, was to return to Palestine and assist in its Christian kingdom’s revival after the invasions by the Khoresines and the political disorders that followed the Khoresines’ withdrawal.

But almost immediately after King Henry vacated his charges, a group of young English lords pled with Simon on behalf of his cousin Peter de Montfort, who was leading a force against King Henry’s royalists in England’s western shires. A much larger force was massing at Oxford, the lordlings said. Simon agreed to go to observe what was happening. At the meeting he was so moved by the numbers of determined young warrior lords that he agreed to be their leader.

In a few months, in the spring and summer of 1263, Simon conquered England, held the King, the Queen and Prince Edward his prisoners and reinstated Parliament.

Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, was a brilliant general and a man who genuinely thought a means was necessary to control kings who were incompetent. He did not believe in replacing legitimate kings, but in harnessing them to serve the will of the people. So he did not kill King Henry and accept the Crown of England for himself, not even when it was twice offered to him by his Parliaments. He was not really an advocate of democracy, but saw himself as a royalist protecting the royal line from its own self-inflicted disasters.

Nor was he a politician deft at manipulating the lesser powers that surrounded him. Jealousies arose, and complaints when he used the abundant funds of royal rents to fortify the castle that had been his home but which he had returned to the Crown at Oxford in 1258. It was to be a stronghold, should one be needed against a royalist resurgence. Surrounding walls and towers were built after the manner of crusader castles in Palestine: castles that could be held by just a few defenders indefinitely against siege. Kenilworth would withstand attack for eighteen months in 1265-66, surrendering only when its defenders were tricked into a false amnesty.


Simon rightly understood the risks inherent in England’s new form of government. It was an offense to every untrammeled Crown in Europe, and to the papal advocacy of Thomas Aquinas’s theology. Joachim’s books describing a coming democratic age had been burned and his teachings banned by a series of Popes. The theology of Aquinas was now embraced -- and that described the Lord’s Creation as an immutable hierarchy: the Pope, then kings held precedence – with complete freedom of action – over all the rest of Creation.

Montfort used the funds that flowed into his government for England’s sustained military alert, instead of giving the customary monetary gifts to his followers. Soon dissatisfaction gathered into conspiracy.

With aid from among Montfort’s own staff, King Henry and Prince Edward escaped and formed a royalist army to reconquer England. The Queen, who had been sent for her own safety to France, raised a force abroad: 20,000 mercenaries and a fleet to transport them across the Channel from Flanders. Simon summoned the people of England to defend their coasts, and the royalist fleet turned back, unable to land. King Henry marched on London, Simon’s headquarters. But the Londoners brought Simon’s army within their walls and defied their King.

King Louis had offered to arbitrate a peace; now Henry and Montfort accepted his offer. But on the way to the arbitration, in January of 1264, Simon’s horse fell in a frozen creek. Simon’s hip and leg were crushed and he could not attend the meeting. Without him, Cardinal Guy Folques, King Louis’ confessor and an ardent advocate of Aquinas’s hierarchies, dominated the meeting. The Provisions and its Parliament were declared heretical. The most Louis could achieve for his friend was amnesty. But the Marchers lords, on the borders of Wales and always Montfort’s enemies, observed no amnesty. They attacked and seized Montfort holdings. The Earl sent his sons Henry and Guy to counter them. War had resumed.

The Earl’s son Simon, following the King’s army’s movements, was defeated at Northampton and taken prisoner. The Earl, traveling in a specially constructed armored vehicle since his leg was not yet healed, went to London to see what forces could be raised there to defend the Parliament. The Londoners proved to be violent against civilians but highly unreliable as an army. When Simon left for Northampton to rescue his son, they sacked and burnt the Jewry to the ground.

Rather than remain trapped in London by the necessity of keeping the townsmen from committing further destruction, Montfort took them with him as he marched against the city of Rochester which guarded the road from the southern ports to the capital. King Henry again was intending to bring his troops from abroad.

In a brilliant use of the London boatmen’s knowledge of currents, Montfort launched a flotilla of the Londoners against Rochester’s water gate, on the River Medway. Led by a blazing fire ship that came to lodge firmly in the gate’s flammable timbers, the Londoners quickly took the gate. Slaughtering the gate’s guards who leapt from their flaming tower, they poured into the city, killing, raping, stealing everything including the cathedral’s candlesticks, and making the cathedral’s bell ringer an archery target.

Hours after the Londoners’ landing, when Simon took the landward gates and entered the city, he was appalled by the horrors he found. He commanded his knights to seize anyone caught raping, stealing or killing civilians.

The next day, in the city’s square at the foot of the castle, which still held out for King Henry, he ordered the Londoner prisoners beheaded as, unarmed, he knelt, penitent and well within bowshot of the castle’s roof. The defenders watched with fascination, and they did not draw an arrow at the Earl.

For days Simon remained in his tent outside Rochester. He sent repeated pleas to King Henry begging peace and offering substantial reparations. The very foundation of his belief in his cause seems to have been shattered. What would a government be, led by the vote of such monsters as the London commoners showed themselves? But King Henry, sensing weakness, refused peace and continued his tour of the southern ports, seeking a means of bringing in his army from Flanders.

All recourse gone, with a few young lords, Welsh and woodland archers and the remaining 3,000 Londoners and other common volunteers, Simon followed King Henry’s army. His archers, free roving and not particularly under his command, harassed the royal progress on the roads between each port.

Henry was finding that Montfort’s supporters in the ports had taken all vessels out to sea. He moved on, hoping to find some loyal captain who would carry word to Flanders that would bring his mercenary troops.

The march between Romney and Hove passed inland, particularly exposed to the archers who were picking off the King’s men and plundering his supply wagons. Roger Leybourne suggested that Henry halve the risky journey with a stop at the little castle of Lewes where the monastery at Lewes was large enough to entertain the lords with meals and lodging for the night.

Henry accepted. His knights made camp in front of Saint Pancras monastery, filling the deep and narrow valley. Their horses were stationed ahead for the morning’s departure, thus obstructing any quick movement forward, while the supply wagons were drawn up in a dense camp at the rear as they arrived. King Henry effectively was being trapped by his own massive entourage.

While the King and his friends drank Saint Pancras’s wines and feasted, Simon led his small force to the nearby village of Fletching. He sent the Bishops of London and Worchester to make one last plea with King Henry for peace, but they were refused and mocked.

After knighting twenty of his youthful followers, the Earl had his entire little army confessed and given the Last Rights for, undoubtedly, facing the King’s enormous, highly experienced forces, they all were going to die.

Then, while still in darkness, Simon ranged his young and novice knights on the edge of the high downs where the land sloped steeply down to the valley of Lewes. At dawn, astride an inconspicuous horse – and not in his well-known armored cart – he gave the order to attack. His young knights in three groups rode down upon the sleeping camp, while the Londoners walked towards the castle tower where Prince Edward and a force of mercenaries were lodged.

Edward, seeing the Londoners, whom he hated for their insults to his mother, took off with his men after the commoners. The Londoners fled back up the slope and scattered across the downs. Pursuing them, Edward absented himself from the main battle for the whole day. His Lusignan uncles spent their time on the high downs, attacking the fully enclosed, armored cart which actually held not the Earl, but two of their own spies. Meanwhile, in the valley, Simon’s young and new-made knights and archers destroyed King Henry’s army as they wallowed, entangled in their own tents.

Montfort won a total victory. It was thought a miracle. Saints were seen fighting in support of the youths who vanquished England’s barony.

Simon reinstated the Parliament but held the principal lords, the King and Prince Edward his prisoners. For England’s security he refused to let them be ransomed.

At one meeting of Parliament, then another, the youths who actually had captured the baronial prisoners lodged complaint – the lords’ ransoms were rightfully theirs, earned legitimately in battle. Increasingly, as the government of Parliament appeared to be succeeding, the Earl’s own followers became angry about the withheld funds. The very success of the movement made the argument that the monies were being used for the land’s security seem less and less viable -- especially as a substantial amount of the funds was being used to fortify Simon’s former home, Kenilworth, where his family again was living.

For the first Parliament of the year 1265, not only four knights elected by the common men of each shire, but also representatives of the cities, towns and merchant guilds were summoned to attend. The Ordinances, a program that would extend to the common man the rights won by the Provisions for the lords, was to be presented. Radical in the extreme, the Ordinances were at the very core of Parliament’s democratic movement.

But the lords thoroughly objected to extending rights to commoners. Only five, including Montfort and Richard de Clare’s heir Gilbert, attended the Parliament. The meeting, heavily weighted with representatives of the commonality, was expected to make the principal of equal rights for commoners the law of the land.

It is a tragedy in history that this Parliament miscarried badly. Gilbert de Clare had taken major lords his prisoners at Lewes. He not only demanded that the lords’ ransoms and collected rents be paid to him, but he accused Simon and his sons of appropriating the money for themselves. Henry de Montfort, Simon’s eldest son, and usually a pacifist, launched himself at Gilbert, beating him to the floor. The Parliament broke into mayhem and had to be adjourned.

Gilbert, staggering away, challenged the Montfort brothers to a tourney a outrance at the upcoming fair at Dunstable. A tourney a outrance was armed combat to the death with no limit as to time or location – it was no sport, but cross-country battle.
At Dunstable Gilbert gathered a substantial army of royalists, including England’s foremost barons and their knights. The Montfort brothers brought their own army of defenders of the family name. The Earl, leading the force of mercenaries that had been King Henry’s and now was his, disbursed the two armies, but Gilbert retreated to his home shires with an intact and numerous force.

Disorder in the shires, the revolt of the common people against the royalists’ abuses, had continued for three years. Parliament, under Montfort’s leadership, had instituted the Guardians of the Peace, a force able to impose martial law all across the shires. By 1265 the Guardians had achieved much of their purpose. Disputes that had been solved out-of-hand by murder and mayhem were being referred to the courts.

But the courts were overloaded to the point of crippling. The King’s Council, chosen by the Parliament, decided that the cure was for King Henry himself to go on a tour of the country, complete with Court, legal staff, Chancery, Treasury, Royal Household and all the clerks, courtiers and servants that implied, to restore the proper functioning of justice in each shire.
Simon opposed the plan. With Clare in possession of an army in the west, and armed forces abroad still ready to invade whenever possible, this tour was dangerous in the extreme. The bishops on the Council thought otherwise. In their view, nothing would prove the rightness of the Parliament than demonstrating that it was a viable form of government, able to bring peace and good order to the land. God had provided the victory at Lewes, God would defend the Parliament and the royal tour from mishap.

Reason would have it that at this point Simon de Montfort should have left England to its own unfounded optimism and gone to Palestine. But he was under excommunication by the Pope (none other than Louis’ old confessor Guy Folques who had opposed the arbitration of 1264.) His safety, his life and the future of his sons depended upon the success of Parliament.

He was allowed by the Council only a small force of fewer than two-hundred of his friends and Leicester knights for the King’s immediate security. Knowing the army Clare was massing, and seeing this appalling situation, the Welsh Prince Llewellyn leant him a hundred archers.

But now the Lusignan brothers were bringing in the mercenary army from abroad to join Gilbert de Clare. Clare lured the royal entourage to Hereford for talks of reconciliation. Hereford was in the west, across the Severn River, far from the principal shires of England and the concentration of Montfort’s supporters. Then Clare broke off talks and held Hereford at siege. And Prince Edward escaped to lead Clare’s combined forces.

The Earl wrote to his son Simon to raise an army of the Provisions’ partisans and come to Hereford at once to lift the siege. But young Simon failed to perceive the emergency. He dawdled at Winchester, holding court instead of marching to Bristol as his father ordered, and commandeering the merchant fleet there to cross the flooded Severn River. Clare had destroyed all the Severn boats, bridges and fording places, obstructing Montfort’s ready access to his supporters.

Waiting in vain for his son to arrive with relieving forces, eventually Simon managed to escape from Hereford with a much reduced assembly: the King, his Treasury, the few knights and the hundred archers. Along obscure mountain paths used only by shepherds, Simon led his little royal march to Bristol, where he himself had arranged for the fleet to cross and meet him. But from the heights overlooking the Severn he saw his ships met by Gilbert’s vessels, burnt and sunk. He retreated quickly to Hereford again.

Young Simon was sent urgent messages, ordering him to build boats to bring his army across the river. Simon Fils gradually moved to Kenilworth to have the master builder there build boats and transports.

July past at Hereford but Simon received no word from his son. On August 2nd, with food scarce, he managed to break out again from Hereford by night with only his friends, his Leicester knights, his Welsh archers and the King. He would travel at quickest speed to reach the safety of Kenilworth. Flooding on the Severn had receded and he was able to ford the river at Kempsey, near Worcester. At Kempsey his company spent the daylight hours of August 3rd in hiding. Worcester was Edward’s headquarters.

On August 2nd, young Simon, at Kenilworth, at last had completed outfitting his army, including boats, and transports for the boats that he did not know were unneeded. To celebrate his achievement, he gave a party for all his young captains. He held the celebration in the bathing house in Kenilworth’s village; such bathing houses often doubled as brothels. The party was drunken and quite naked when Prince Edward arrived with his soldiers. The Prince was very fond of his Montfort cousins. He did not put them to the sword but laughingly stole their clothes, their armaments, their flags, their horses and all their wagons of supply.

While young Simon spent August 3rd attempting to re-equip his army, that night his father began the last part of his journey to safety at Kenilworth. Marching at speed, the distance should have been achieved before dawn. But, lost and wandering on shepherd paths in the darkness, it was full morning when Simon and his following reached Evesham, still twenty miles from Kenilworth. Twenty very exposed miles, with Edward’s army somewhere nearby.

King Henry, decrepit for his years, complained incessantly. He shouted that this traveling was killing him. He had to rest. With deep misgivings, Simon relented. There was a monastery in Evesham and the monks he knew were strong supporters of his cause. He agreed to pause for breakfast at Evesham Abbey.

The decision was, perhaps, no more fatal than if he had proceeded. Edward led a true army, many times the size of the small guard Simon commanded. But Evesham, held in a deep bend of the River Avon, was a perilous place to pause.

The lookout on the abbey’s tower hurried to the dining hall to report advancing forces bearing young Simon’s flags. Celebration rang out in the hall. The relief forces were come at last.

Simon went to the tower’s roof. He was nearsighted but his squire Peter reported to him all that could be seen. The advancing army split in three, one moving towards the bridge to the south, over which the Earl had just come. One moving into place to the east of the village, and one moving northward towards Green Hill, bordering Evesham to the north. Before the northward moving troops were lost from sight behind the hill, the flags of young Simon’s army were lowered and Edward’s raised in their place.
A scout the Earl had sent out rode in with confirmation. It was indeed Edward’s, Gilbert’s and the Lusignan brothers’ armies that was surrounding Evesham. It appeared that young Simon’s army had been met and vanquished.

Simon commanded his followers to leave him and save themselves: to escape by the bridge before Clare’s forces succeeded in closing it off. Although they knew they were facing almost certain death, no one left. Bending to their loyalty, Simon had the Last Rights given to them all. King Henry was outfitted from helm to foot in borrowed armor and Simon led his followers up Green Hill to meet Edward.

At the ridge of the hill, with the Lusignan brothers and Marcher lords beside him, Edward had his troops form an unbroken line. The Prince called for Simon to surrender. Simon continued moving forward. The Marcher lords, led by Roger Mortimer, broke ranks, galloping down upon the little force opposing them with the King in their midst. King Henry was injured in the thigh but rescued from the battlefield. The Welsh archers released flights of arrows, then fled towards the river, where they were slaughtered. Fragments of their bones were turned up in the fields for centuries.

The Earl Simon de Montfort, his sons Henry and Guy and their few knights fought for three hours. Henry’s horse was killed. Edward, his friend since childhood, tried to send him another, but failed. Repeatedly the Prince cried out, calling halt to the slaughter. Ignored, he left the battlefield.

With his son Henry killed at his back, Simon fought alone, surrounded until, exhausted, he received deadly thrusts. Mortimer ordered the body stripped and had his henchman Maltraverse cut the limbs, head and genitals from Simon. And Mortimer sent Simon’s head to Maude, his bloody-minded wife.

When the battle was ended, the monks of Evesham came to the field with their carts for the wounded and dead. They found Simon’s truncated torso. As they lifted up the gory remains, from underneath there flowed a new spring. A spring with magical powers to heal the sick and blind.


Pilgrims soon came in great numbers to the miraculous healing spring. Simon de Montfort was recognized by the common man as a saint, if not an angel or the Twice Sacrificed Savior.

King Henry panicked rightly. He proclaimed it a treasonous crime to speak of Simon de Montfort in any but disparaging terms, or to take water from his spring.

This year the wrongs done Simon’s memory are being righted. All England is celebrating the 750th Anniversary of Simon de Montfort and his Parliament. At Evesham, among multiple celebrations, the battle is being recreated on August 8 and 9. I’ll be the speaker at the dinner on August 10.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Katherine Ashe is the author of the Montfort four volume novelized biography:
Amazon
Evesham Events calendar

Bibliography

Primary sources:
Montfort Archive, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. There is preserved, in this boxed archive of original documents, the trial notes and a brief autobiography by Simon written in 1260 in preparation for his trial before King Louis for treason against King Henry. (In the event, the trial was actually heard by Queen Margaret of France.)

Annales Monastici, ed. Luard, H.R., 1864-69:
Vol. I, Annals of Burton
Vol. II, Annals of Winchester and Waverly
Vol. III, Annals of Dunstable
Vol. IV, Annals of Osney; Chronicle of Thomas Wykes; Annals of Worcester

Calendar of Charter Rolls, Vol. I, 1226-1307, Public Record Office. Kraus Reprint, Neldeln/Liechtenstein, 1972. (Note: Kraus reprints are not complete.)

Calendar of the Liberate Rolls, Volumes I and II, Public Record Office, 1916.

Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1232-1272, Henry III. Public Record Office. Kraus Reprint, Nendeln/Liechtenstein, 1971. (Note: Kraus reprints are not complete.)

Chronica Johannis Oxenedes, John of Oxford, ed. H. Ellis, Rolls Series, 1859.

Documents of the Baronial Movement of reform and Rebellion, 1258 – 1267, ed. R. F. Treharne and I. J. Sanders, Oxford, 1973.

Excerpta e Rotulis Finium in Turri Londdinensi Asservatis Henry III, 1216-72, ed. by C. Roberts, Public Record Office. 1835-36.

Exchequer: The History and Antiquities of the Exchequer, Madox, Greenwood, 1769-1969, Volumes I and II.

Gervais of Canterbury, Historical Works of Gervais of Canterbury, ed. W. Stubbs, Vols. I and II, Rolls Series, 1880.

Guisborough, The Chronicle of Walter of Guisborough, ed. H. Rothwell, Camden Society, third series, LXXXIX, 1957.

John of Oxford: Chronica Johannis de Oxenedes, ed., H. Ellis, Rolls Series, 1859.

Laffan, R.G.D. Select Documents of European History, 800-1492, Volume I, Henry Holt and Company, New York.

Matthew Paris’s English History, from the year 1235 to 1273, volumes I to V, translated by the Rev. J. A. Giles, Henry Bohn, London, 1852. Note: Kessinger Publishing’s Rare Reprints are incomplete. www.kessinger.net.

Matthaei Paris, Monachi Albanensis, Historia Major, Juxta Exemplar Londinense 1640, verbatim recusa, ed. Willielmo Wats, STD. Imprensis A. Mearne, T. Dring, B. Tooke, T. Sawbridge & G. Wells, MDCLXXXIV (1684)

Rishanger, William, The Chronicle of William de Rishanger, of the Barons’ War: The Miracles of Simon de Montfort. ed. J.O. Halliwell, Camden Society, 1840. Also known as the Chronicon de Bellis

Royal Letters, Henry III, ed. W.W. Shirley, Rolls Series, 1862.

2 comments:

  1. When I list the credits of my wonderful friend Katherine Ashe and speak of Simon de Montfort and draw a response of 'Who's he?', now I can refer them to this magnificent and comprehensive post rather than struggling through as explanation nothing like Katherine's.

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    1. Having read your "Simon" books, I am now a fan of this remarkable man. I enjoyed them again on a re-read! Thanks for all your work in writing them and bringing this charismatic man to life!

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