Roger de Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore
Cymaron, Maelienydd, Wales
Died: October 26, 1282
Kingsland, Herefordshire, England (Age c. 61)
Mortimer in History
The Mortimer family had long been established as wardens of the Welsh marches by the time of Roger Mortimer's birth. Roger Mortimer began accumulating his wealth upon the death of his father Ralph in 1246. He received a majority of his lands the following year, despite still being underage, and further increased his fortune by marrying Maud de Briouze, a granddaughter and co-heiress of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, a powerful man who had served as regent in the early minority reign of King Henry III. It is no surprise that Mortimer's first services to the crown were as a Welsh marcher, aiding the king (while also serving his own interests and lands) against powerful Welshmen such as Llywelyn ab Iorworth and, most significantly, by 1255, his grandson, Llywelyn ap Gruffedd. Throughout the 1250s, Mortimer came to be more and more disillusioned with the king, whom he felt was not looking out for his interests in Wales and seemingly taking the side of Llywelyn on many occasions. Therefore, Mortimer joined forces with Simon de Montfort and a number of others magnates to press the Oxford provisions on Henry III in 1258, documents that helped limit his power and put more control in the hands of the nobility (who were dissatisfied with the king's allowance of too many foreigners at his court). By 1261, however, Mortimer found himself to be more supported by the king than by Montfort and the lords and decided to switch back his allegiance to the royal party for good.
The following years saw Mortimer remain active in the Welsh marches as Llywelyn continued to dominate the area, conquering large portions of the country and forcing the local lords to pay homage to him. During this period, the Welsh quest for freedom became intertwined with the Second Baron's War, led by Simon de Montfort. Being that nearly all of Mortimer's interests were located in the Welsh marches, he naturally sided with the royal party against Montfort, who was now a severe threat to him. When open warfare broke out in 1264, Mortimer played a large part in the successful royal siege of Northampton, gathering a large number of rebel hostages. However, the royal army was defeated by Montfort at Lewes, and both Henry III and his eldest son, Prince Edward, were taken prisoner. Mortimer was able to escape but refused to acknowledge Montfort as any sort of leader and declined to release any of his rebel prisoners, prompting Montfort to send an army to the marcher's lands to retrieve them himself. It was agreed that Mortimer should leave for Ireland for a year, but this never happened, and soon after, Mortimer was able to help Prince Edward escape Montfort's custody. The two men then assembled their armies, along with several others, to do battle with Montfort one last time. Montfort's forces were defeated (the earl himself being killed in battle) at Evesham in August 1265. Henry III was restored to his throne, with Prince Edward becoming the de facto ruler of England.
By this point, Mortimer was one of the leading men in England's government. Unfortunately, while Mortimer worked in London, his Welsh interests slowly deteriorated as Llywelyn continued to conquer more territory. The Treaty of Montgomery (1267) gave Llywelyn the official title of Prince of Wales and severely diminished Mortimer's power base. Despite his Welsh woes, Mortimer was not able to make progress in regaining any of his influence because of the death of Henry III in November 1272. Prince Edward, now King Edward I, had been off on crusade since 1270 and would not return to England until 1274. With the king's absence, the country was ruled by a group of regents of which Mortimer was one. After the king's return, Mortimer spent the rest of his life doing what he did best: defending the country against the Welsh. With the king's help, Mortimer was able to regain much of his lost territory in the Welsh marches, and by 1279, Llywelyn's power had been greatly reduced. Mortimer attempted to quietly retire by this point (he was nearly sixty) but was forced to continue the fight against Llywelyn, who, by 1282, was once again threatening. However, Mortimer would suddenly become sick and die in October of that year, just two months before the defeat and death of his long-time enemy Llywelyn. Roger Mortimer helped cement his family's reputation as wardens of the Welsh marches and extended their power to the king's court, giving them nationwide influence. At this point, the Mortimer family's star was on the rise.
Mortimer in Peele
Appears in: Edward I
Within Edward I, Roger Mortimer appears as a loyal servant to the king and willingly serves him in the wars against Llywelyn and the Welsh. He falls in love with Llywelyn's wife Eleanor and makes it his mission to win her, disguising himself as a potter and falsely allying himself with the Welsh. In the end, Mortimer is able to take possession of Lady Eleanor, after Llywelyn has been killed in battle. Historically, both Mortimer and Eleanor predeceased Llywelyn, dying months earlier than the Welshman in 1282. Also, within the play Mortimer is referred to as the Earl of March. Although the Mortimer family had long been wardens of the Welsh marches, they did not achieve the title of Earl of March until 1328 when Mortimer's grandson, another Roger, awarded himself the title during his three year term as de facto co-regent during Edward III's minority. It is unclear why Peele decided to intertwine the two men, especially considering the younger Roger was not even born until 1287, but it can be assumed that, since the future Earl of March was the better known of the two, Peele gave his grandfather his title to show the family connection.