Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March: Wikis


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Roger de Mortimer, 1st Earl of March (25 April 1287 – 29 November 1330), an English nobleman, was for three years de facto ruler of England, after leading a successful rebellion against Edward II. He was himself overthrown by Edward's son, Edward III. Mortimer was also the lover of Edward II's wife, Isabella of France, who assisted him in the deposition of her husband.


Early life and family history

Mortimer, grandson of Roger Mortimer, 1st Baron Mortimer, was born at Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire, England, the firstborn of Edmund Mortimer, 2nd Baron Mortimer and his wife, Margaret de Fiennes. Edmund Mortimer had been a second son, intended for minor orders and a clerical career, but on the sudden death of his elder brother Ralph, 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 in 1282.

Like many noble children of his time, Roger was betrothed young, to Joan de Geneville, the daughter of a neighbouring lord. They were married in 1301, and immediately began a family. Through his marriage with Joan de Geneville, Roger not only acquired increased possessions in the Welsh Marches, including the important Ludlow Castle, which became the chief stronghold of the Mortimers, but also extensive estates and influence in Ireland. However, Joan de Geneville was not an "heiress" at marriage. Her grandfather, Geoffrey de Geneville, at the age of eighty in 1308, conveyed most, but not all, of his Irish lordships to Roger Mortimer, and then retired, notably alive: he finally died in 1314. During his lifetime Geoffrey also conveyed much of the remainder of his legacy, such as Kenlys, to his younger son (the older son Piers having died in 1292), Simon de Geneville, who had meanwhile become Baron of Culmullin through marriage to Joanna FitzLeon. Roger Mortimer therefore succeeded to the lordship of Trim, County Meath (which later reverted to the Crown). He did not succeed however to the Lordship of Fingal.[1]

Roger Mortimer's childhood came to an abrupt end when Lord Wigmore was mortally wounded in a skirmish near Builth in July 1304. Since Roger was underage at the death of his father, he was placed by King Edward I under the guardianship of Piers Gaveston. However, in 1306 though still under age, he was knighted by Edward, granted livery of his full inheritance.[2] His adult life began in earnest.

Military adventures in Ireland and 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 king’s 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 by drugging the constable, escaped to France, pursued by warrants for his capture dead or alive, in August 1323.[3] 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, who became her lover soon afterwards. At his instigation, she refused to return to England so long as the Despensers retained power as the king’s favourites.

Invasion of England and defeat of Edward II

The scandal of Isabella’s 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, Earl of Lancaster; 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 25 January 1327, the country was ruled by Mortimer and Isabella, who were widely believed to have arranged the murder of Edward II in the following September at Berkeley Castle. Modern scholarship has cast doubt on this however, with some historians claiming the ex-king was not buried in 1327 but secretly maintained alive on Mortimer's orders until his fall from grace in 1330.[4]

Powers won and lost

Rich estates and offices of profit and power were now heaped on Mortimer. He was made constable of Wallingford Castle, and in September 1328 he was created Earl of March. However, although in military terms he was far more competent than the Despensers, his ambition was troubling to all. His own son, Geoffrey, mocked him as "the king of folly." During his short time as ruler of England he took over the lordships of Denbigh, Oswestry, and Clun (all of which previously belonged to the Earl of Arundel). He was also granted the marcher lordship over Montgomery by the Queen.

The "Tyburn Tree"

The jealousy and anger of many nobles was aroused by Mortimer's use of power; Henry, Earl of Lancaster, one of the principals behind Edward II's deposition, tried to overthrow Mortimer, but the action was ineffective as the young king passively stood by. Then, in March of 1330, Mortimer ordered the execution of Edmund, Earl of Kent, the half-brother of Edward II. After this execution Henry Lancaster prevailed upon the young king, Edward III, to assert his independence. In October 1330, a Parliament was called in Nottingham, just days before Edward's eighteenth birthday, and Mortimer and Isabella were seized by Edward and his companions from inside Nottingham Castle. In spite of Isabella’s entreaty to her son, "Fair son, have pity on the gentle Mortimer," Mortimer was conveyed to the Tower.

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

In 2002, the actor John Challis, the current owner of the remaining buildings of Wigmore Abbey, invited the BBC program "House Detectives at Large" to investigate his property. During the investigation, a document was discovered in which Mortimer's widow Joan petitioned Edward III for the return of her husband's body so she could bury it at Wigmore Abbey. Mortimer's lover, Isabella, had buried his body at Greyfriars, Coventry following his hanging. Edward III replied, "Let his body rest in peace."


Children of Roger and Joan

The marriages of Mortimer's children cemented Mortimer strengths in the West.


  1. ^ Fingal descended firstly to Simon de Geneville (whose son Laurence predeceased him), and thence through his heiress daughter Elizabeth to her husband William de Loundres, and next through their heiress daughter, also Elizabeth, to Sir Christopher Preston, and finally to the Viscounts Gormanston.
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ E.L.G. Stones, "The Date of Roger Mortimer's Escape from the Tower of London" The English Historical Review 66 No. 258 (January 1951:97-98) corrected the traditional date of 1324 offered in one uncorroborated source.
  4. ^ See English Historical Review, vol CXX, no. 489. A simplified redaction of the scholarly argument underpinning this is available here
  5. ^ Charles Hopkinson and Martin Speight, The Mortimers: Lords of the March (Logaston Press 2002), pp. 84-5.


  • The Greatest Traitor: the Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, Ruler of England 1327-1330, by Ian Mortimer, 2003.
  • Ian Mortimer, 'The Death of Edward II in Berkeley Castle', English Historical Review, cxx, 489 (2005), 1175-1214.
  • R. R. Davies, ‘Mortimer, Roger (V), first earl of March (1287–1330)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [1], accessed 19 Dec 2009.
  • Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700 By Frederick Lewis Weis; Lines: 10-31, 29-32, 29-33, 39-31, 47B-33, 71-33, 71A-32, 120-33, 176B-32, 263-31
  • Calendar of the Gormanston Register (ed. Mills/McEnery), Dublin, 1916.
  • Preston Genealogy, by Sir Thomas Wentworth, May 1636 (MS 10,208, National Library, Dublin)

External links

Peerage of England
New creation Earl of March
1328 – 1330
Title next held by
Roger Mortimer
Preceded by
Edmund Mortimer
Baron Mortimer
1304 – 1330


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