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The Great Escape

This week’s tale takes us to a time of turmoil, civil unrest, power struggles and treachery. Where promises and trust were broken in an instant and quick thinking kept your head on your shoulders just a little bit longer.

As you may or not be aware back in the 13th century there was a lot going on. King Henry III and the English parliament were at odds with each other which ultimately led to the Second Barons’ War. King Henry’s son Prince Edward found himself in the unfortunate spot of being captured and taken into custody by the triumphant Earl Simon de Montford, who was in fact his sister’s husband. The Earl had already incarcerated King Henry and wanted Prince Edward as his hostage too.

Prince Edward was only 19 at the time, he was cocky, confident and condescending and nicknamed ‘Longshanks’ due to his wonderful physique and stature. He was not at all happy with his predicament but didn’t dare challenge it as he knew his father the King would pay a heavy price.

During the unrest the city of Hereford was captured and the Earl imprisoned King Henry in Hereford Castle. Before long Prince Edward was brought there too and was placed in the custody of Earl Simon’s eldest son Hal, Prince Edwards’s cousin. To say it was an awkward situation would be an understatement, the young men knew each other well, had grown up together and were of similar age.

During his time in captivity Prince Edward looked for many ways to escape and hatched the perfect plan to do just that by exploiting his cousin’s trusting nature. A year had gone by since his capture and Prince Edward requested that Hal allow him the opportunity to go riding in some open fields. After much consideration Hal agreed, he trusted his cousin and had ensured that they would be accompanied by some loyal Lords who would keep an eye on Edward should he attempt to escape. What could possibly go wrong?

Prince Edward was thrilled to hear that Hal would be taking him to Tillington Common to ride his horse and enjoy a modicum of freedom for an hour or so. For Edward had already hatched a plan to escape north and head to Wigmore Castle, the home of the Mortimer family who were also loyal to his father King Henry. In preparation a trusted aide had already let the Mortimer family know of his plan and they were ready to assist.

So as Prince Edward cantered around Tillington Common his mind was on overdrive, the wheels of his escape were set in motion. His cunning plan was to tire the horses of his cousin Hal and the Lords that had accompanied them on their outing. So in turn he requested to ride their horses, complimenting them on their choice of wonderful steeds. No-one was suspicious of his behaviour, rather they were thrilled with his enthusiasm so they relaxed and dropped their guard. But as Hal summoned the party to return to Hereford, Prince Edward saw his opportunity to escape and made a dash to the northern part of the common on his own horse who he had cunningly rested. Hal and the Lords gave pursuit but were shocked to find that their horses were slow and tired and could not keep pace with Prince Edward’s horse. As he made his way north Prince Edward was greeted by the Mortimer standard and their men who then escorted him back to safety at Wigmore Castle.

It turned out that this twist of fate and great loss was to have consequences for Hal and his father the Earl. For the Marcher Barons formed an alliance and gathered their forces in support of Prince Edward and restored power back to King Henry. The Earl died a traitor’s death on the battlefield with his adversary Roger Mortimer sending Lady Eleanor de Montford the hand of her husband as proof of his death. It would appear that King Henry had not been impressed by his imprisonment in Hereford and in retaliation went on to charge the citizens of Hereford an annual sum of recompense for the next 14 years.

Things could have turned out so differently if it had not been for the cunning, cocky ‘Edward Longshanks’ and the trusting nature of his naive cousin Hal.

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