All things history and genealogy.

All things history and genealogy.

Sir Roger de Mortimer and Queen Isabella of France

Sir Roger de Mortimer and Queen Isabella of France
In geneal­ogy research there comes a point in his­tory where the only sources avail­able are very sub­jec­tive and ques­tion­able at best. We must con­sider how many per­sons the account was retold to before it was finally put to paper. We also must ask about the motives and biases of those recount­ing the story over time, and of the author. Such is the case of the history of Sir Roger de Mortimer and Queen Isabella of France.

Con­sid­er­ing these issues, some­thing close to the truth can be gleaned by com­par­ing the accounts from numer­ous sources and find­ing points of sim­i­lar­ity. All facts cited must be sourced as well as pos­si­ble and where there are ques­tions, they should also be doc­u­mented for fur­ther investigation.

royal crown

I have spent ten years research­ing hun­dreds of branches which include thou­sands of indi­vid­u­als. I con­sulted the best and most respected sources avail­able and think­ing this may be one instance where the old adage “safety in num­bers” may apply, I cited as many good sources as possible.

This post is just one regard­ing our family’s con­nec­tions to noble and royal fig­ures in Euro­pean his­tory. I have cho­sen Queen Isabella (Queen of Eng­land and 25th great grand­mother to my chil­dren) and Sir Roger Mor­timer (third cousin 21 times removed to my chil­dren). I, myself, am but a lowly commoner.

This story intrigues me because it’s a love story that ulti­mately ends in tragedy with the exe­cu­tion of Sir Roger.


Sir Roger de Mor­timer was the son and heir of Sir Edmund de Mor­timer and his wife Mar­garet, daugh­ter of Sir William de Fiennes. Sources dif­fer on the date of his birth, some say­ing he was born April 25 and oth­ers say­ing May 3 of 1287. His main strong­hold dur­ing his life­time was Lud­low Castle.

Ludlow Castle
Ludlow Castle

Sir Edmund hav­ing died in 1304, Piers de Gavas­ton was granted ward­ship of the lands Sir Roger inher­ited and an agree­ment was reached for Sir Roger to pay off the debts of his father at 20 pounds per year. Upon full pay­ment, although still under­age at the time, Sir Roger was given full con­trol of the lands. Soon after, on May 22, 1306, Edward II, the King, knighted him at West­min­ster. Roger per­formed ser­vice for the King in Scot­land, but in Octo­ber his lands were seized for leav­ing ser­vice with­out per­mis­sion. The fol­low­ing Jan­u­ary, he was par­doned and his lands were restored because of the influ­ence of Queen Margaret.

Sir Roger received his family’s lands in Ire­land under order of the Jus­ti­ciar of Ire­land. Decem­ber 24, 1306, Lord Geof­frey de Geneville sur­ren­dered the lands in Ire­land that he held in name of his deceased wife Maud, which were to have descended to Sir Roger and his wife Joan (daugh­ter to Piers and grand­daugh­ter to Geof­frey de Geneville) upon Geoffrey’s death.

As a result of his own inher­i­tance and that by right of his mar­riage to Joan, Sir Roger de Mor­timer became a wealthy man of influ­ence in Ire­land and Wales.

Dur­ing the next years, Sir Roger de Mortimer per­formed ser­vice for the King against the Scots and to raise sol­diers in Wales. In 1315, he aided in sup­press­ing Llewe­lyn Bren’s revolt, ulti­mately secur­ing his sur­ren­der on March 18, 13156. In 1316, Roger was defeated by Edward Bruce in Ire­land and after return­ing to Eng­land, assisted the Earl of Pem­broke to sup­press a revolt in Bristol.

He was appointed the King’s Lieu­tenant in Ire­land and in Feb­ru­ary 1316/​7, he amassed and com­manded an army at Haver­ford­west, cross­ing to Youghal on April 7, 1317. After defeat­ing Wal­ter de Lacy, his broth­ers and his men, Sir Roger returned to England.

At the treaty of Leek on August 9, 1318, Roger was nom­i­nated to the King’s coun­cil and to the com­mis­sion for royal house­hold reform.

He was appointed Jus­ti­ciar of Ire­land March 15, 1318/9 and remained in this capac­ity until Jan­u­ary 1320/1. Soon after, on March 16, 1320/​1, he became keeper of the cas­tles of Roscom­mon, Athlone and Randown.

Dur­ing a war between the Earl of Here­ford and Despenser about Gower, Roger and his uncle Roger Mor­timer of Chirk sided with Here­ford. In the next year, Roger and the Earl of Here­ford were sum­moned to the King, but both refused to attend because Despenser was in the King’s train.

Later in the spring of 1321, the King yielded and ban­ished the Despensers. Sir Roger de Mor­timer received a par­don from the King August 20, 1321 and returned to Wales.

Later, the King’s forces attacked the cas­tle of Leeds in Kent after the Queen had been refused admis­sion. Here­ford and Mor­timer ven­tured as far as Kingston, but took no fur­ther action. The King’s forces took the cas­tle and pur­sued Mor­timer and Here­ford to the west. Mor­timer burned Bridg­north and the King’s army was forced to pro­ceed north to Shrews­bury to cross the Sev­ern river.

Con­sid­er­ing they had received no help from the Earl of Lan­caster, Mortimer’s group sur­ren­dered to the King at Shrews­bury and were dis­patched to and held in the Tower of Lon­don. Upon the defeat of Lan­caster at Bor­ough­bridge on March 22, 1321/​2, power was restored to the Despensers. A trial of the Mor­timers was con­ducted and in July they were sen­tenced to death. How­ever, on July 22, 1322, the sen­tence was com­muted to life imprisonment.

Roger escaped from the Tower of Lon­don August 1, 1324 after drug­ging the guards. He crossed the Thames River, pro­ceeded to a ship wait­ing for him in Dover and sailed on a ship to France. In the spring of 1325, Queen Isabella (sis­ter of Charles IV) sailed to France to try for peace about Gui­enne and suc­ceeded May 31, 1325. On Sep­tem­ber 12, Prince Edward arrived in France and stayed there with his mother, who was closely asso­ci­ated with the exiles by this time.

Isabella and Roger de Mortimer
Isabella and Roger de Mortimer

Although there is doubt about when Roger de Mor­timer and Isabella actu­ally became lovers, there is no doubt that Mor­timer was her lover and adviser while in Paris, France at the end of the year. Amidst the scan­dal of the rela­tion­ship of Roger and Isabella, Prince Edward was engaged to Philippe of Hain­aut, and they raised men and money to attack Eng­land. On Sep­tem­ber 14, 1326 they landed near Ipswich and their num­bers increased with other oppo­nents of the Despensers. They fol­lowed the King, who had fled to the Despensers in Wales and Octo­ber 26, 1326, the older Despenser was cap­tured, and then tried and hanged by Mor­timer, Lan­caster and oth­ers the fol­low­ing day.

Mor­timer cap­tured the King and the younger Despenser on Novem­ber 16 at Llantrisant. Upon Edward II hav­ing been deposed Jan­u­ary 7, 1326/​7, he was forced to abdi­cate in favour of his son, who was crowned Jan­u­ary 25, 1327. Three of Roger’s sons (Edmund, Roger and Geof­frey) were made Knights that day. In fact though, the coun­try was actu­ally ruled by Roger and Isabella.

Later, Novem­ber 24, he, Lan­caster and Kent judged against and hanged the younger Despenser from 50 foot high gallows.

He was made Jus­ti­ciar at Llandaff Feb­ru­ary 20, 1326/​7, Jus­tice of Wales dur­ing plea­sure and then the fol­low­ing year for life. He received a par­don for his escape from the Tower of Lon­don and his other actions. The deci­sion being that he was not fairly tried by his peers, the sen­tenced was reversed and his lands restored.

In Sep­tem­ber of 1328, Roger became Con­sta­ble of Walling­ford Cas­tle and was made Earl of March. While rul­ing Eng­land along­side Isabella, he became Lord of Den­bigh, Oswestry and Clun.

Tyburn Tree Gallows
Tyburn Tree Gallows

Sir Roger de Mortimer’s power and ambi­tion raised the jeal­ousy and ire of those he had once asso­ci­ated with, includ­ing Henry, Earl of Lan­caster. Hav­ing been a co-​onspirator respon­si­ble for Edward II’s depo­si­tion, the Earl of Lan­caster attempted to over­throw Roger. In March, 1330, Edmund, Earl of Kent, half-​brother to Edward II, was exe­cuted upon the order of Roger de Mor­timer. Under some pres­sure from Henry of Lan­caster, Edward III decided to take action and in Octo­ber 1330, he called a Par­lia­ment and had Roger de Mor­timer and Isabella cap­tured at Not­ting­ham Cas­tle and Roger was impris­oned in the Tower of Lon­don yet again.

Wigmore Castle ruins.
Wigmore Castle ruins.

He was con­demned with­out trial for assum­ing power and was hung, drawn and quar­tered upon what was known as the “Tyburn Tree” at Tyburn on Novem­ber 29, 1330 — and his body was left hang­ing in view of the pub­lic for two days. His estates and prop­erty were forteited to the crown and his widow, Joan, received a par­don in 1336, died in 1356, and was buried beside Sir Roger de Mor­timer at Wigmore.


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