Contemporary chroniclers referred to this battle as ‘a murder’ because the future Edward the First set aside the rules of chivalry and ordered that knights and lords who opposed him were to be slaughtered. No quarter was allowed.
The Battle of Evesham was part of that period of instability and civil conflict which characterised the years 1258-1267, and which later became known as the Barons’ Wars. Simon de Montfort’s victory over Henry III and his son Prince Edward at Lewes in May 1264 did not bring lasting peace. Simon’s government was threatened by rebellion on the Welsh marches, by the defection of his own followers, and by the escape from captivity of Prince Edward. (You can read about Edward’s escape in my book).
After his escape from Hereford on 28 May 1265, Edward lost no time in coming to a military arrangement with Gilbert de Clare (Gilbert is the ‘baddie’ in The King’s Jew – a duplicitous scheming self-serving arrogant man!) de Montfort’s erstwhile ally, and with William de Valence and John de Warenne. Assembling a considerable army, Edward and Clare moved against de Montfort at Hereford, seeking to block his passage eastwards across the River Severn. Edward first took Worcester and then advanced on Gloucester, capturing the town, but not at first the castle, in the second week of June. Thus denied his preferred route across the Severn, Simon struck south to Monmouth with the eventual hope of crossing the river at Bristol. Frustrated by the destruction of much of the shipping required for his army to cross the Severn, de Montfort returned to Hereford. There the strategic situation began to swing in his favour for his son, Simon, was advancing west from London with an army which threatened Edward and Clare’s freedom of movement on the east bank of the Severn.
Although young Simon’s progress was hesitant as he moved first to Winchester, then to Oxford and Northampton, he had reached Kenilworth by the end of July. His manoeuvres had succeeded in relieving the pressure on his father for Edward had been forced to look to the defence of Worcester. Edward was also now the potential victim of a pincer movement as young Simon advanced on Worcester from Kenilworth, and de Montfort advanced from Hereford. To forestall this possibility Edward feinted towards Shrewsbury with a mounted force, and then fell upon young Simon’s army in its tents at Kenilworth at dawn on 2 August.
Edward’s victory was short and sharp and for the moment the ability of Simon’s army to participate in the campaign was disrupted. Simon had part of his army safely within the castle and these troops survived the attack of Edward’s lightly equipped force with little difficulty. We do not know, however, how large was Simon’s remaining force. Returning in triumph to Worcester, Edward prepared to deal with de Montfort who was now once more on the east bank of the Severn and who, by the morning of 4 August, had reached Evesham.
If you want to read more of the actual battle of Evesham it is covered in Chapters Fifty-nine to sixty-four in Book One of “The King’s Jew”