20 January 1265: England’s first parliament is held at Westminster

On this day in 1265, rebel baron Simon de Montfort held a parliament in Westminster, which for the first time in England, included representatives of the citizenry.

Mediterranean islands don't come cheap – that's as true today as it was in the 13th century. And King Henry III wasn't after just any island for his younger son, Edmund. He wanted the biggest of them all: Sicily. Sicily was ruled by the son of the late Holy Roman Emperor, who had fallen out with the Pope. If Henry would lend a hand in turfing out the troublesome Germans, said the Pope, the island was his. Just so long as Henry didn't mind covering the Papal expenses incurred in the quarrel.

Henry summoned his barons, and told them to come up with the £90,000 to buy Sicily. It was a colossal sum, and the barons baulked. They were getting a little fed up with the king and his expensive projects.So, in 1258, they got Henry to agree to a council of 15 barons who would appoint the king's ministers an agreement known as the Provisions of Oxford. Appealing to the Pope in 1261 and Louis IX of France in 1263, Henry had the agreement annulled. But one of the barons refused to let matters lie. His name was Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester.

Years of brutal civil war ensued. Then, at the Battle of Lewes in 1264, Henry was bested. He could keep his crown. But from now on, it was de Montfort who called the shots. But de Montfort lacked legitimacy. So, on20 January 1265, he held a parliament in Westminster to drum up some popular support. The usual suspects were invited: the barons and the bishops. A handful of knights and lay magnates were in attendance, as were representatives from the Cinque Ports, which supplied the realm with the semblance of a navy.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

De Montfort's master stroke was to also send invitations to the "citizens of York, Lincoln and other boroughs of England that they should send two of their most prudent, law-worthy and honest fellow citizens or burgesses". For the first time, de Montfort could at least claim that his government drew support from a cross section of England. It wasn't enough. The fighting continued, and in August, de Montfort was hacked to bits at the Battle of Evesham. Yet, when Edward I came to the thrown in 1272, he decided to invite back the burgesses to his parliaments. The seed of what would one day grow into the House of Commons had survived after all.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.