Henry III (1207-1272)

This is a rowel spur. Originally spurs had a single spike; the rowel, with six or seven, was more efficient and made cavalry charges such as those at the Battle of Lewes much easier. Henry III, who fought in the battle, is pictured wearing a rowel spur on his Great Seal.

Henry was only nine when he was crowned king. He saw himself as God’s representative and resented interference from his barons. He was a pious man but also impetuous and easily influenced by his favourites, including the family of his “foreign” wife Eleanor of Provence. A poor general, he lost control of most of his lands in France. However, he did ensure the legal system was administered fairly.

 Henry was no military leader. At Lewes, his army was soon in retreat. Despite this, it is said he fought bravely, although he was nearly sixty. He had two horses killed under him and only just escaped death. He finally retreated to the Priory and was surrounded. The next day, he set his seal to Simon de Montfort’s demands, a document known as the Mise of Lewes.

 Factfile

  • Henry had a drooping eyelid.
  • He loved receiving presents and insisted on very expensive ones for his son’s christening. One baron said: “God gave us this child but the lord king is selling it”.
  • Probably senile in old age, his council only allowed Henry 6/8d (33p) a day as pocket money.
  •  Chroniclers of the time called him “simple”.

Armour in the 13th century

Audio: Henry III Fine Rolls