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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Man of the People

As the election cycle gets crazier, I’ve been thinking a lot about Simon de Montford.

Simon de Montford memorial at Haymarket
Clock Tower, Leicester
What? Everyone isn't having the same thoughts?

Simon, Earl of Leicester (yes, the English city that recently won the UK Premier League championship), was a charismatic malcontent who almost became king—and who inspired Alain, my romantic hero/spy from Art of Love

Alain precedes Simon by almost a century, but carries many of his ideals. Also a younger son (fourth of four), he is determined to find power and security through service to the king. But being that close to the king changed his thinking, and by the time the story begins, he agitates for change, saying gender and birth order—not God—makes a king, a treasonous and heretical notion in the 12th century. 

The real deal
Born in 1208, Simon was the third of four sons. The medieval world could be as harsh to younger sons as it was to women, and he knew he would have to make his own success.

And he did.

The death of two brothers and an agreement with the third brought him to England on the thin hope he could win back the Leicester lands, which had been given to Ranulf of Chester (a fascinating character in his own right). 

He made friends with the king, always a good move, but was not what anyone would call a suck-up. He married the king’s widowed sister in secret (probably with the king’s grudging permission after he had already seduced her), identified early with reform movements (the Provisions of Oxford) that increased baronial power at the king’s expense, and eventually led an armed rebellion against Henry III.

Although he is called the father of the House of Commons, Simon may or may not have been the populist history proclaimed him. He believed royal power needed to be checked—and sometimes opposed—by the people governed. But that’s not the same as giving political voice to serfs and merchants. He only reached out to them when he failed to win support of the majority of other nobles. In fact, once he seized power, he behaved more like a king than a reformer.

But actions always have consequences, and the most interesting are usually unintended. By seeking support from the lower classes, he gave them an avenue to becoming part of national decisions. 

And what does this have to do with our current crazy election? Well, if I had to pick a theme for this election cycle I'd say it's all about unintended consequences. We serfs and merchants are angry, and nothing has gone the way party leaders thought it would. So just like the events of 751 years ago turned out to be a much bigger deal than anyone expected--I think this election is going to be an unintentional game-changer, too.

Keena Kincaid writes historical romances in which passion, magic and treachery collide to create unforgettable stories. You can find out more about her books at: Leave a comment for a chance to win one of her books.


  1. Keena,

    This quote, attributed to George Santayana, sums up what you're saying: 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' A more recent rendition of this saying is: "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." Either way a person reads these sage words, the current American political climate is certainly going to go down as one of the more memorable in the annals of our country's history, regardless of the outcome in November.

  2. I've seen that quote attributed to everyone from Pliny the Elder to George Carlin, but I agree that it's most appropriate.

  3. Very interesting, Keena! Like you, I think this election is going to have a TON of "unintended consequences" --things no one will have ever imagined. Honestly...I'm afraid.

    1. Cheryl, what I find "interesting" about this election cycle (and I put interesting in quotes because it's interesting from an historical perspective, but I don't think it's a good thing) is how angry everyone is. The vitriol spewed about each and every candidate followed by an equally rabid endorsement isn't going to make compromise or reconciliation possible. The really interesting wrinkle here (again interesting doesn't equal good) is those who ID as independent voters (largely Bernie supports, but also Trump) equal the number of those who ID as either democrat or republican. The general election is going to be crazy.

  4. I do love how, if we take the time, history will show we haven't really changed that much as a people. Life and events seem to cycle around, no matter who is 'leader'.

    I so enjoy reading the research others have found. There are just now enough hours in the day to do it all myself. Thank you for a great post, and best on your writing. Doris/Angela

    1. Doris/Angela, because of the finite nature of a blog, I couldn't go into a lot of detail into Simon's rebellion or the king's strained relationship with his nobles, but the crux of it was money (most political revolutions have been about money or lack thereof) coupled with weak leadership and military setbacks. Everyone likes a winner, but when you stop winning, trouble starts.

  5. I think you're absolutely correct when you say this election may be an unintended game changer. I already see how the whole process of electing a president has come under scrutiny--those back room deals, corporate funders, and super delegates, as well as uncommitted delegates. We all have begun to wonder if our vote really counts. So, regardless of who becomes president, changes have already begun due to our new awareness.
    I have such confusion about royalty, nobles, and commoners. Who does what? Who has real power these days? I have never liked the term "commoners" because it seems like a demeaning term.
    This was such an interesting article, Keena. I guess we'll be seeing those changes in November. I'm an American, and like most Americans, I've lived through some good times and some bad. I know how to be brave. I think there might be a need for that in our future. I'm going to hang on tight and hope for the best.

  6. Glad you found it interesting, Sarah. I think a lot of people are ready to march in the streets over the election. Whatever happens, it'll be a bumpy ride.