• 12 May 2017
  • 12:30 – 2:00 pm
  • Seminar Room, Paul Mellon Centre

The Barons’ War of 1258-1266 began with plans for government reform, parliaments and councils; it ended with pitched battles, divided families and disinherited noblemen living as outlaws in the marshes of the Isle of Ely.

Killed in battle in 1265, the leader of the baronial reform movement, Simon de Montfort, was popularly venerated as a saint. Sustained royal and papal efforts were made to suppress his lucrative cult at the abbey of Evesham. Surviving songs and poems praised him as the martyred hero of an enduring struggle for liberty and justice. Like Thomas Becket before him, the sixth earl of Leicester was cast as a defender of the English people against the forces of royal tyranny.

Yet visual images are as important as written texts for understanding medieval political thought, and go beyond the baronial propaganda surviving in the very public setting of Westminster Abbey. This paper focusses on the visual commemorations and celebrations of the Barons’ War found in the potentially more ‘private’, even intimate context of illustrated devotional manuscripts made for a royal readership. Considering the Trinity and Douce Apocalypses, an illustrated Life of St Edward the Confessor (La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei) and the early fourteenth-century Queen Mary Psalter, I will chart the evolving visual portrayal of Simon de Montfort in royal circles. I will also highlight devotional imagery which debates the problem of royal tyranny as vigorously as treatises such as the Policraticus or the Liber de tyrannis.

About the speaker

  • Head and shoulders portrait of Laura Slater

    Laura Slater completed her AHRC-funded PhD in History of Art at King's College, University of Cambridge. She is currently an ERC-funded Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. In 2015-2016, she held a Postdoctoral Fellowship from The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, to complete her monograph, Art and Political Thought in Medieval England. She has held postdoctoral teaching or research positions at the University of Cambridge, University College London, Trinity College Dublin and the University of York. A volume of essays co-edited with Dr Joanna Bellis, Representing War and Violence 1250-1600, was published in 2016 by Boydell & Brewer.