Read The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March Online

Authors: Ian Mortimer

Tags: #Biography, #England, #Historical

The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March



About the Author

Also by Ian Mortimer

List of Illustrations



Title Page

Author’s Note


1. Inheritance

2. Youth

3. The King’s Friend

4. Bannockburn and Kells

5. The King’s Lieutenant

6. The King’s Kinsman

7. Rebel

8. The King’s Prisoner

9. The King’s Enemy

10. Invader

11. Revolutionary

12. The King’s Murderer?

13. King in All but Name

14. King of Folly


Chapter 12 Revisited


Picture Section


Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Genealogical Tables



Select Bibliography


About the Author

Ian Mortimer has BA and PhD degrees in history from Exeter University and an MA in archive studies from University College London. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1998, and was awarded the Alexander Prize (2004) by the Royal Historical Society for his work on the social history of medicine. He is the author of four medieval biographies,
The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer
The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III
The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King
(2007) and
1415: Henry V’s Year of Glory
(2009) as well as the bestselling
The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
(2008). He lives with his wife and three children on the edge of Dartmoor.


The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III

The Fears of Henry IV: The Life England’s Self-Made King

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England

1415: Henry V’s Year of Glory

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England


Wigmore Castle: engraving from 1731
author’s collection

Reconstruction of Wigmore Castle, drawing by Brian Byron
courtesy of Brian Byron

Trim Castle
courtesy of Dúchas, The Heritage Service, Dublin

Ludlow Castle
author’s photograph

Edward II: face from the effigy on his tomb in Gloucester Cathedral
courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

Edward II: face from the tomb of a member of the Alard family in Winchelsea Church
photograph by David Mortimer

Isabella: face from the tomb of a member of the Alard family in Winchelsea Church
photograph by David Mortimer

Queen’s head in Beverly Minster, thought to represent Isabella
The Conway Library, Courtauld Institute of Art; photograph by F.H. Crossley

Isabella and Roger Mortimer at the execution of Hugh Despenser: illumination from a copy of Froissart’s chronicle
by permission of the British Library

Catherine de Beauchamp
The Conway Library, Courtauld Institute of Art; photograph by F.H. Crossley

Seals of Roger Mortimer and his son Edmund
Public Record Office, Image Library, DL27/93

Reconstruction of Nottingham Castle in the sixteenth century
reproduced from George Clark
, Medieval Military Architecture in England,
vol. 2, 1882

The Fieschi letter
AD Hérault, G 1123, courtesy of Archives départementales Hérault, Photographic Services

This book is gratefully dedicated to the memory of my father
who took me to Wigmore Castle as a child,
told me not to climb on the walls (but let me do so anyway),
and always encouraged me to explore my fascination with the past.


The Greatest

The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of
March, Ruler of England, 1327 – 1330


century is a particularly difficult period for the systematic application of naming styles. Many of the individuals in this book were noblemen and knights whose hereditary surnames were originally derived from a placename, and thus included the prefix ‘de’ as a part of the name itself. For example: Roger appears in contemporary documents as Roger de Mortemer (French) or Rogerus de Mortuo Mari (Latin), although his family had their castle at Mortemer (in Normandy) confiscated before 1066. Many of the lower classes, on the other hand, had not adopted hereditary surnames by 1300, and so documents which prefix their second names with ‘de’ are in fact recording the places where they lived or were born. Historians have usually treated the former separately to the latter, maintaining the French ‘de’ only for hereditary surnames and using ‘of’ for geographical epithets: for example, Adam ‘of Orleton’ is often described thus by historians because he was (rightly or wrongly) believed to have come from Orleton in Herefordshire. A similar surname/epithet problem attends names incorporating the element ‘fitz’ (son of ). The Earls of Arundel continued to use the name FitzAlan throughout the period without changing it, while the Earls of Kildare continued to use ‘fitz’ as meaning ‘son of’; hence Thomas FitzJohn was the son of John FitzThomas, Earl of Kildare, who was the son of Thomas FitzMaurice. A third complication arises in the fact that some characters have become better known by their surnames than their titles, e.g. Simon de Montfort (rather than the Earl of Leicester), while other names are better known in a French or hybrid form, for example Piers Gaveston (not Peter de Gaveston or Gabaston). A last complication is that most standard reference works drop the prefix ‘de’ (but not ‘fitz’) when listing titles.

As a result of all this complexity, inconsistency and confusion I have chosen to adopt the following naming system. Firstly, I have normally used the best-known version of the name of a well-known historical personality. Thus I refer to Roger as ‘Roger Mortimer’ not ‘Roger de Mortemer’, ‘Isabella’ not ‘Isabelle’, etc. Secondly, as ‘de’-prefixed surnames in this book are normally hereditary, I have tended to retain ‘de’ (rather than ‘of’), only making exceptions for those individuals for whom ‘de’ would be inappropriate, such as earls and counts (e.g. Thomas of Lancaster, Donald of Mar, William of Hainault), members of the royal family (e.g.
Edmund of Woodstock), and those who appear under their first name in the old
(e.g. Adam of Orleton). In a few cases, such as Hugh Audley, the inconsistently applied prefix has been dropped from the surname. Thirdly, all ‘Fitz’ names have been written as one word, whether hereditary or not. Fourthly, where baronial titles based on surnames have been used – for example, Lord Badlesmere – the ‘de’ prefix has been dropped, following the practice of the
Complete Peerage
. Where a nobleman is referred to by a single name, it is normally his unprefixed title which is intended (e.g. ‘Gloucester’ for Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, or ‘Badlesmere’ for Sir Bartholomew de Badlesmere, Lord Badlesmere). Where a nobleman’s family is mentioned, however, the full prefixed surname is used.

Storys to rede ar delitabill,
Suppos that they be nocht bot fabill;
Than suld storys that suthfast wer,
And thai war said on gud maner,
hawe doubill plesance in heryng.
The fyrst plesance is the carpyng,

Other books

Las aventuras de Pinocho by Carlo Collodi
All Hallow's Eve by Sotis, Wendi
The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt
Hexes and Hemlines by Juliet Blackwell
Area 51 by Robert Doherty
Heart of Light by Sarah A. Hoyt
Trouble In Spades by Heather Webber Copyright 2016 - 2022