The lover of Queen Isabella, he basically co-ruled with her after their successful war against her husband, Edward II.1
Mortimers had been lords of Wigmore since Domesday Book and Roger could claim descent from both the Welsh princes and William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke. His marriage brought him Ludlow (plus lands in Ireland), making him an even more potent Marcher lord. He was an outstanding soldier for Edward II in a number of campaigns.288
Like other Marcher lords, he rose against the Despensers and was defeated. Initially sentenced to life imprisonment, he escaped and fled to France after Edward decided to execute him. There he joined Hainult and Queen Isabella, becoming her lover as well as her military leader. He arranged the execution of the Despensers. He was likely responsible for the death of Edward II and applied brute force in general to get what he wanted.
His fall was fast and hard; Edward III ignored his mother’s pleas for clemency and had Mortimer executed in 1330. Mortimer became the scapegoat for all that had gone wrong in the realm.
Mortimer was proud and arrogant; contemporaries complained of the expense of his exotic clothes and found him as insufferable as the Despensers. But his son married into the royal family and his immense wealth stood his descendants in good stead.288
Initially called Isabella the Fair (meaning she was not only fair-haired and beautiful but also unscathed by smallpox), then “The Liberator,” she was later termed the “She-Wolf of France.”
Early in her reign she acted as mediator between Edward and slighted barons. She also went with Edward in his campaigns against the Scots. But Edward was homosexual and Isabella took it hard, calling herself “the most wretched wife in the world.” She eventually took a lover, and began to ally herself with her brother, the King of France, who was supporting rebellious English barons.
Edward allowed Isabella to go to France, ostensibly to mediate between the King of France and Edward. Once there, she called for their son Edward, then 15, to come to France and take possession of English territories. But once there, she refused to return herself or the young Edward until the King of England ended his relationship with the Despenser family. Edward equivocated and brought up Isabella’s affair with Roger Mortimer; in the end, Isabella gathered 3000 troops and landed on the English coast in 1326.
Nobles flocked to her cause (Edward was a weak king and many resented the Despensers), Edward fled westward, and was eventually taken captive. The Despensers were beheaded, then Edward deposed and his son Edward III enthroned. The deposed king was moved from castle to castle before being murdered in a particularly gruesome way, probably at Isabella’s order. While her son was technically king, it was Isabella who was truly in charge, and she plunged in with wild abandon, raiding the treasury, appointing docile ministers, and deposing her husband as legallly as possible. She circumvented the Regency Council with the support of her son.
The tide of public opinion turned and Edward III ended up hanging Roger Mortimer and imprisoning Isabella for 31 years in a castle in Norfolk. It is said that she went mad from grief after Mortimer’s execution, though house arrest for 30 years would certainly be enough to drive someone of Isabella’s passions insane on its own.
After her death she was laid to rest in Grey Friars’ Church, beside the remains of Roger Mortimer. It was through her that Edward III claimed the French throne, and so the Hundred Years War began.205,288