A Brief History of Bere Regis
The church is a splendid 15th century edifice with an arcade built by the Normans, but it is the ceiling which takes pride of place.
It is crudely carved and gaudily painted.
Twelve remarkable figures look down on the congregation.
The twelve Apostles are garbed in colourful 15th century dress and are unique.
The infamous King John had a palace of sorts here and about the year 1000 AD, Queen Elfrida, never having recovered from her dastardly deed at Corfe Castle, died in a nunnery.
On the credit side Bere Regis was the home of Simon de Montfort father of the English Parliament.
Born in France, and retired to England in 1231, on account of some dispute with Queen Blanche.
Henry III. received him very kindly, bestowed upon him the earldom of Leicester, which had formerly been held by his father, and gave him his sister, Eleanor, the countess dowager of Pembroke, in marriage, Jan. 1238.
In 1248 Henry appointed him seneschal of Gascony; but his vigorous rule made him so many enemies, that in 1252 he was recalled, and a violent altercation took place between him and the king.
A reconciliation was, however, effected, and De Montfort was employed on several occasions, in a diplomatic and military capacity. In June 1258 he appeared at the parliament of Oxford, at the head of the armed barons, and obtained the passing of the ordinances known as the Provisions of Oxford.
De Montfort then became head of a new council of state and virtual sovereign.
The king refusing to abide by the Provisions, a civil war broke out, which ended in the triumph of the barons at the battle of Lewes, in May, 1264.
In January of the following year De Montfort carried out the first of the Provisions by summoning knights of shires and burgesses to the parliament.
He thus became the founder of the English House of Commons.
In the same year a powerful party was raised up against him among the barons, and soon afterwards the battle of Evesham was fought, in which the royal forces were led by Prince Edward, and there, in attempting to rally his troops, by rushing into the midst of the enemy, De Montfort was surrounded and slain, Aug. 4, 1265.
The most famous of Bere Regis's residents however were the Turbervilles, who came to Bere in the reign of Henry VIII and remained for centuries.
Their fame however has more to do with Thomas Hardy than anything the family did.
Hardy chose them as the basis for his D'Urbeville family, and such is the power of his writing that we have almost bocome convinced that Tess, a novelist's fancy, really lived.