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Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, also Simon IV de Montfort(1160 - June 25, 1218) was a French nobleman who took part in theFourth Crusade (1202 - 1204) and was a prominent leader of theAlbigensian Crusade. He died at the siege of Toulouse in 1218.
He was the son of Simon III de Montfort, descended from the lords ofMontfort l'Amaury in France near Paris, and Amicia de Beaumont. Hesucceeded his father as Baron de Montfort in 1181; in 1190 he marriedAlix de Montmorency, the daughter of Bouchard III de Montmorency. In1191 his brother, Guy, left on the Third Crusade in the retinue ofKing Philip II of France.
In 1199, while taking part in a tournament at Ecry-sur-Aisne, he heardFulk of Neuilly preaching the crusade, and in the company of CountThibaud de Champagne, he took the cross. The crusade soon fell underVenetian control, and was diverted to Zara on the Adriatic Sea. PopeInnocent III had specifically warned the Crusaders not to attackfellow Christians; Simon tried to reassure the citizens of Zara thatthere would be no attack, but nevertheless, the city was sacked in1202. Simon did not participate in this action, and soon he left theCrusade altogether. Afterwards, under Venetian guidance the Crusaderssacked the city of Constantinople-the main trading rival to Venice.
His mother was the eldest daughter of Robert de Beaumont, 3rd Earl ofLeicester. After the death of her brother Robert de Beaumont, 4th Earlof Leicester without children in 1204, she inherited half of hisestates, and a claim to the Earldom of Leicester. The division of theestates was effected early in 1207, by which the rights to the earldomwere assigned to Amicia and Simon. However, King John of England tookpossession of the lands himself in February 1207, and confiscated itsrevenues. Later, in 1215, the lands were passed into the hands ofSimon's nephew, Ranulph de Meschines, 4th Earl of Chester.
Simon remained on his estates in France, where in 1209 he was madecaptain-general of the French forces in the Albigensian Crusade. Simonwas rewarded with the territory conquered from Raymond VI of Toulouse.He became notorious and feared for his extreme cruelty, massacringwhole towns, and for his "treachery, harshness, and bad faith." In1210 he burned 140 Cathars in the village of Minerve who refused togive up their faith. He was a man of extreme religious orthodoxy,deeply committed to the Dominican order and the suppression of heresy.In 1213 he defeated Peter of Aragon at the Battle of Muret. TheAlbigensians were now crushed, but Simon carried on the campaign as awar of conquest, being appointed lord over all the newly-acquiredterritory as Count of Toulouse and Duke of Narbonne (1215). He spenttwo years in warfare in many parts of Raymond's former territories; hebesieged Beaucaire, which had been taken by Raymond VII of Toulouse,from 6 June 1216 to 24 August 1216.
Raymond spent most of this period in Aragon, but corresponded withsympathisers in Toulouse. There were rumours that he was on his way toToulouse in September 1216. Abandoning the siege of Beaucaire, Simonresponded with a partial sacking of Toulouse, perhaps intended aspunishment of the citizens. Raymond actually returned to takepossession of Toulouse in October 1217. Simon hastened to besiege thecity, meanwhile sending his wife, Alix de Montmorency, with bishopFoulques of Toulouse and others, to the French court to plead forsupport. After maintaining the siege for nine months Simon was killedon 25 June 1218 while combating a sally by the besieged. His head wassmashed by a stone from a mangonel, operated, according to the mostdetailed source, by donas e tozas e mulhers ("ladies, girls andwomen") of Toulouse. He was buried in the Cathedral ofSaint-Nazaire at Carcassonne.
Simon left three sons: his French estates passed to his eldest son,Amaury de Montfort, while his younger son, Simon, eventually gainedpossession of the earldom of Leicester and played a major role in thereign of Henry III of England. Another son, Guy, was married toPetronille, Countess of Bigorre, on 6 November 1216, but died at thesiege of Castelnaudary on 20 July 1220. His daughter, Petronilla,became an abbess at the Cistercian nunnery of St. Antoine's. Anotherdaughter, Amicia, founded the nunnery at Montargis and died there in1252.
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