Was Roger Mortimer “anti-royal”….?

Was Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, an “anti-royalist”? Surely being anti-Edward II and his favourites wasn’t the same thing as being anti-royalist in general?

“….There she [Queen Isabella] openly took a lover, the English baron and anti-royalist Roger Mortimer (1287-1330 CE)….”

The above extract is from this site and gave me pause for thought. What, exactly, were Mortimer’s motives? Self-aggrandisement? The good of the realm? Jealousy that he wasn’t the foremost magnate in Edward II’s realm? Love for Queen Isabella? Or all of these?

One thing’s certain in my mind, he was not anti-royal. And with Edward III already fifteen, being Lord Protector was a limited prospect that would surely not be enough for a man like Roger. So what did he want ultimately, in his heart of hearts? To “ignore” Edward II’s offspring—well, sadly, accidents do happen, right?—and become king to Isabella’s queen? Or was he simply noble in his love for Isabella, and want to see her treated as she should have been all along?

Let’s be honest, we don’t even really know if they were lovers. Yes, they were close, but just how close isn’t clear. No cameras then to catch them in flagrante delicto. Just as we don’t really know if Edward II’s relationships with his favourites were physical. Yes, he treated Isabella badly, flaunting these men, starting at their wedding, but was he sexually unfaithful with them? Question marks, question marks.

Whatever Roger’s real ambition, it didn’t go well in the end! That is a known fact.

Mortimer being dragged to execution

4 comments

  1. Hi I am going to try to answer your questions as best as I can. Elsewhere I have been asking the question what was Roger’s endgame – I don’t think he had one to be honest and I agree with academics who tell me he very likely didn’t know himself what the endgame was , he and Isabella were making it up as they went along.

    You ask what were his motives “what, exactly, were Mortimer’s motives? Self-aggrandisement? The good of the realm? Jealousy that he wasn’t the foremost magnate in Edward II’s realm? Love for Queen Isabella? Or all of these?” All of these probably except is my answer. I think he may have had some resentment that he was reduced to a pauper during his years of exile in France and that his family suffered terribly on his account. So I think his first priorities were to overthrow the Despensers, regain lost land that the Crown had taken from him and his wife and use his position to grant them and himself lands and even give his sons roles in the Government. He was jealous of the Despensers more than likely which was perfectly understandable but I don’t sense any such feelings towards Lancaster , Kent or Norfolk on his part – for the simple reason a man like Roger was very much needed – as an Administrator and soldier he was vastly superior in skill to everyone else. So I think he was in demand from the start with his experience as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and under any circumstances would have been able to work his way up no problem.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I will now address your second question:
    “Being Lord Protector was a limited prospect that would surely not be enough for a man like Roger. So what did he want ultimately, in his heart of hearts? To “ignore” Edward II’s offspring—well, sadly, accidents do happen, right?—and become king to Isabella’s queen? Or was he simply noble in his love for Isabella, and want to see her treated as she should have been all along?”

    No being Lord Protector probably wasnt enough for an ambitious man like Roger. Yet he did recall his position as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland when asked.
    BUT having said that, I think if he really wanted to get rid of Edward 111 and this has been suggested in many places, he would have done it long before. It simply doesn’t make sense to let Edward 111 marry and have a son. Also he would have lost Isabella as she would hardly have approved. Besides even if he did this, there were a lot more in the queue waiting, John of Eltham, his sisters, Norfolk, Kent and Lancaster . Queen Philippa would also demand a say as regent. It also has been suggested that Roger wanted to wipe out the royal uncles in case they started an alternative regency but the fact remains that Lancaster was already out of the picture. He was going blind and was subjugated in 1329.. In any case , he could not really have worked with Kent who was one of the judges who executed his brother. Kent was also a fairweather character who changed allegiances often so its doubtful that he could have worked with Norfolk. Under Edward 11, Norfolk was regarded as incompetent.
    Mortimer didn’t need to get rid of any of them , they put themselves out of the picture. Killing Edward 111 even in 1326 would have lost him support .

    And I very much doubt if he wrote a letter to lure Kent into a conspiracy or even showed it to the court. Why? Because it was in Mortimer’s interests to act as if the King was dead . He didn’t want rebellions and the above actions on his part would have resulted in awkward questions regarding his own authority and Edward 111’s legitimacy and he would have been sent to the gallows earlier. So I am sure Roger would have loved to have been a king, but I think he knew it was unrealistic, his own claim was very distant as he was a second cousin to Edward 11, so I couldn’t see the barons accepting him as King.

    What Roger was probably hoping for was a similar situation to Hubert De Burgh a century earlier- after the Henry 111’s Minority ended, Hubert De Burgh was invited to stay on and was made Justiciar for life. Unfortunately as we all know he wasn’t kept on.
    I also believe there was an illegitimate child and Roger may have hoped to involve a son in Government or that it could be an heir /spare if Edward’s child didn’t survive. It would have been 3rd in line for France but again I don’t think he was going to go as far as to knock out people.

    I do also believe his love for Isabella was a major factor and he wanted to see her treated well. Personally I do believe they were lovers. My evidence rests not only on Chroniclers comments but the fact that Isabella made a will twice settling some of her property on Roger , Froissart’s comment that Isabella was pregnant with Roger’s child at the time of arrest, Roger and Isabella playing King Arthur and Queen Guinevere at a tourmemant ( which like the will seems strange if they were just buiness colleagues) and the Society of Caradoc mentioned in Richard Barber’s Crecy that Isabella’s household accounts describes as a game played by the King and his friends to find out which lady has been unfaithful. This could well have reached Mortimer and Isabella and finally the fact that both Isabella and Mortimer spent Christmas together several times. The last one struck me as extremely strange if Mortimer was still a happily married man.
    Personally I do believe he wanted to marry Isabella, reduce the monarchy but eliminate it – to something similar to what we see today- Queen Elizabeth 11 as a figurehead with a prime minister.

    Its very likely that Roger was at least initially hoping to be a prime minister with Edward 111 as a figurehead but the above idea was at least 400 years away at the time.

    In conclusion I think his greatest priority was to be with Isabella for as much as and for as long as possible as I don’t think Edward would have allowed to live openly in sin when he reached his majority and they certainly would never have been allowed marry not by the church or by Edward. If he ran away, he would never have seen her again and they may well have been caught if they tried to flee abroad and I don’t know how they’d have survived.

    Please let me know what you think.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Eimeara. You ask for comments, but as you’ve given me chapter and verse about what Roger may or may not have wanted, there isn’t a lot I can say. I won’t argue with anything because I’m not that much of an expert on him, whereas you are clearly well up on the subject! I agree that he and Isabella were probably lovers, but whether they’d ever really thought about what lay ahead when Edward III reached his majority I really don’t know. They were a ruthless pair.

    One thing is certain, he was an outstanding and charismatic man, but I’m not sure if it was love for Isabella that prompted his actions. Nor can I say that it was her love for him…maybe it was her absolute loathing for her husband, who’d treated her abominably from their wedding day onward. Yes, Roger and Isabella were lovers, brought together by circumstances, but their individual motives are grey areas. I think he probably oozed exciting masculinity, which must have been intoxicating for Isabella after her husband’s clear preference for the company of his own sex. She was, after all, a passionate woman – in every meaning of the word, I think.

    And as with so many tantalising mysteries from the past, they didn’t leave tell-all diaries behind. I think Roger and Isabella will always fascinate, always give rise to theories and, like all controversial people, always drive us to be for or against them, without much wavering in between.

    A little like Richard III, who never fails to beguile us. We’re either for him or against him, and if we’re for him, we’re very vocal about it. His supporters fight the Battle of Bosworth every single day, and believe me, Henry Tudor NEVER wins!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your reply. Yes of course they had individual motives and I think at the start certainly Roger and Isabella were more interested in their own problems and resolving them rather than take on each other’s cause. As you say circumstances brought them together and this made them allies as they understood each other. Certainly as their love grew they were interested in seeing justice done for each other and were angry that the other had suffered because of the Despensers. But I would be wrong to say it was just love .. I think in Isabella’s case it was loathing for her husband as you point out. In Roger’s case it was probably loathing for the Despensers and he had put up with so much from them and was now at breaking point and he wanted justice for his family.
      I do also believe he did wanted the good of the realm.
      And yes he was exciting to Isabella, she probably saw him as a real man and I agree she was passionate.

      Also both wanted their lives back well as best as they could- Isabella didn’t want to go back to Edward. They didn’t want to be in exile forever, but wanted to be in England with their children and live the affluent style they were used to rather then be subject to charity.

      No there were no diaries behind but is that so surprising? I have been reading a book by Ian Mortimer( Medieval Intrigue) who comments that there are no Parliament rolls for 1327- 1330. This is hardly a coincidence. Personally I get the feeling that anything related to Mortimer was destroyed by Edward 111. He hated Mortimer didn’t he?

      As regards Mortimer’s endgame it has been suggested in facebook groups that if the coup had failed at Nottingham he could have looked forward to the next 18 years in power as the Black Prince was in the cradle. This to me is very ambitious even for him when no one can say they wil be in the same job for that long as politics is and was a very dirty game and unpredictable. In fact none of us can be sure we will live for another next year.

      You ask did they ever think about what would happen when Edward would attain majority? We can never know but I think they must have. I am sure Edward asked questions about it a lot. Also I believe that Mortimer stayed with Isabella to the end, even at the point of death as he knew they’d never be able to be together when Edward reached his majority.

      Just my two cents – sorry its so long. Just two questions –
      1 How did Mortimer allow himself to be so easily caught, he must have known there were tunnels near the rooms of Isabella and himself and as a soldier should have assessed the weak points of the castle and blocked them up.

      2. We can never know Isabella’s true relationship with her son after this, I believe she spent Christmas 1330 with him but how could she ever have a good relationship with him? Could you if your own son killed your lover?

      Liked by 1 person

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