Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March

From Academic Kids

Roger Mortimer (25 April, 128729 November, 1330), grandson of the 1st Baron Wigmore, was the best-known of his name. As a result of his adulterous relationship with Isabella of France, queen of King Edward II of England, he was responsible for deposing (and probably for murdering) King Edward, and himself became effective ruler of England.

Contents

Early life, family history

Roger was the eldest son and first child born to Edmund Mortimer, 2nd Baron Wigmore, by his wife, Margaret de Fiennes. His father had been a second son, intended for clerical work, but on the sudden death of his elder brother, Edmund was recalled from Oxford University and installed as heir. As a boy, Roger was probably sent to be fostered in the household of his formidable uncle, Roger Mortimer of Chirk. It was this uncle who had carried the head of Llywelyn the Last to King Edward I of England in 1282.

Like many noble children of his time, Roger was married young, to Jeanne de Geneville, the heiress of a neighboring lordship. They were married in 1301, and immediately began a family. Through his marriage with Jeanne de Geneville, Roger not only acquired increased possessions on the Welsh marches, including the important Ludlow Castle, which became the chief stronghold of the Mortimers, but also extensive estates and influence in Ireland.

Then, suddenly, childhood came to a crashing halt when Edmund Mortimer was mortally wounded in a skirmish near Builth in July 1304. Since Roger was underage at the death of his father, Edmund Mortimer, he was placed by Edward I under the guardianship of Piers Gaveston, and was knighted by Edward in 1306. In that year also Roger was endowed as Baron Wigmore, and came into his full inheritance. His adult life began in earnest.

Military adventures in Ireland, Wales

In 1308 he went to Ireland in person, to enforce his authority. This brought him into conflict with the De Lacys, who turned for support to Edward Bruce, brother of Robert Bruce, king of Scotland. Mortimer was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland by Edward II. In 1316, at the head of a large army, he drove Bruce to Carrickfergus and the De Lacys into Connaught, wreaking vengeance on their adherents whenever they were to be found.

He was then occupied for some years with baronial disputes on the Welsh border until about 1318.

Opposition to Edward II

In 1318, Mortimer joined the growing opposition to Edward II and the Despensers, and he supported Humphrey de Bohun, 4th earl of Hereford, in refusing to obey the kingís summons to appear before him in 1321.

Forced to surrender to the king at Shrewsbury in January 1322, Mortimer was consigned to the Tower of London, but escaped to France in August 1324. In the following year Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II, anxious to escape from her husband, obtained his consent to her going to France to use her influence with her brother, King Charles IV, in favour of peace. At the French court the queen found Roger Mortimer; she became his mistress soon afterwards, and at his instigation refused to return to England so long as the Despensers retained power as the kingís favourites.

Invasion of England and defeat of Edward II

The scandal of Isabellaís relations with Mortimer compelled them both to withdraw from the French court to Flanders, where they obtained assistance for an invasion of England. Landing in England in September 1326, they were joined by Henry Plantagenet, 3rd Earl of Leicester; London rose in support of the queen, and Edward took flight to the west, pursued by Mortimer and Isabella.

After wandering helplessly for some weeks in Wales, the king was taken prisoner on 16 November, and was compelled to abdicate in favour of his son. Though the latter was crowned as Edward III on January 25, 1327, the country was ruled by Mortimer and Isabella, who are believed to have arranged the murder of Edward II in the following September at Berkeley Castle.

Powers won and lost

Rich estates and offices of profit and power were now heaped on Mortimer, and in September 1328 he was created Earl of March. However, he was no more competent than the Despensers to conduct the government of the country. His own son, Geoffrey, mocked him as "the king of folly". The jealousy and anger of Lancaster had been aroused by Mortimer's rise, and Lancaster prevailed upon the young king, Edward III, to assert his independence. At a parliament held at Nottingham in October 1330 a plot was successfully carried out by which Mortimer was arrested in the castle. In spite of Isabellaís entreaty to her son to "Fair son, have pity on the gentle Mortimer," was conveyed to the Tower.

Accused of assuming royal power and of various other high misdemeanours, he was condemned without trial and hanged at Tyburn on 29 November, 1330, his vast estates being forfeited to the crown. Mortimer's widow, Jeanne, received a pardon in 1336 and survived till 1356. She was buried beside Mortimer at Wigmore, but the site was later destroyed. They had 12 children together:

  1. Edmund Mortimer (1302-1331)
  2. Margaret Mortimer (1304-1337), married Thomas de Berkeley, 3rd Lord Berkeley
  3. Roger Mortimer (1305-1338)
  4. Maud Mortimer (1307-aft.1345), married John de Charlton, Lord of Powys
  5. Geoffrey Mortimer (1309-1372/1376)
  6. John Mortimer (1310-1328)
  7. Joan Mortimer (1311/1313-1337/1351), married James Audley, 2nd Baron Audley
  8. Isabella Mortimer (1311/1313-aft.1327)
  9. Catherine Mortimer (1311/1313-1369), married Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick
  10. Agnes Mortimer (1315/1321-1368), married Lawrence Hastings, 1st Earl of Pembroke
  11. Beatrice Mortimer (1315/1321-1383), married (1) Edward, 2nd Earl of Norfolk; (2) Thomas de Braose, 1st Baron Brewes
  12. Blanche Mortimer (1314/1322-1347), married Piers de Grandison, 2nd Lord Grandison

His eldest son, Edmund, was father of another Roger Mortimer, who was restored to his grandfatherís title.

Sources

Mortimer, Ian. The Greatest Traitor, 2003.


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