23 February, 2014

Sigh. Roger Mortimer was **NOT** the father of Edward III! Please, people!

Recently I came across a blog post which names me and refers to my post demonstrating that it is as sure as sure can be that Edward II was the father of Isabella of France's children.

To quote from the blog post (which I'm not linking to): "It is possible that Edward III was in fact the son of Roger Mortimer, not Edward II.  In even saying this I am in direct conflict with Kathryn Warner who carries out a non stop campaign to defend Edward II’s reputation. Simplistic histories have Mortimer in Ireland from 1308 until 1318. However it is recorded elsewhere that Mortimer travelled continuously alternating between his estates in Ireland, his estates in the Welsh marches and attendances at court."

Ian Mortimer's The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327 to 1330 (Pimlico, 2003) gives Roger's itinerary as fully as it can be determined, and frankly I'll take Ian Mortimer and his research any day over a stranger on the internet who wants to think that Roger could possibly have fathered Edward III and Isabella's other children.  Edward III, born on 13 November 1312, must have been conceived around late February 1312.  Queen Isabella had joined her husband Edward II in York on about 20/21 February, and the king and queen remained in the city together until early April.  There is no doubt whatsoever that the royal couple were together for a few weeks at the time when Edward III must have been conceived, and as I've pointed out before, Edward and Isabella conceived their son during Lent, when intercourse was forbidden.  (Tsk!)  As for Roger Mortimer, we know that he was in Dublin 270 miles from York in April and May 1312 (Greatest Traitor, pp. 49-50, 305).  No, we can't conclusively 100% prove that he wasn't in or near York in late February that year having sex with Isabella.  But why on earth would he have been?  How could he possibly have slept with the sixteen-year-old queen while she was with her husband without either Edward or Isabella's household of 180 people noticing?  The queen had less privacy than anyone else in the country, yet we're supposed to imagine that she could have had sex with one of her husband's leading barons without anyone noticing?  Let me reiterate here the absolutely key point that no-one at all until the 1980s ever suggested that anyone but Edward II was the father of Edward III and Isabella's other children.  So why are people making up these weird fantasies?

The blog post again: "Kathryn is not simplistic she has the records which place Isabelle and Edward together in York from the 22nd February 1312 exactly full term before Edward III’s birth on 13 November."  Wow, thanks!

"These dates apparently make it impossible for Mortimer to be the father of Edward III. However the relationship between Roger and Isabelle was known in France at the time of the Tour Nestlé affair in 1313."

Firstly, it's the Tour de Nesle, not 'Nestlé', which is the name of a modern multinational food and drink company.  Secondly, the Tour de Nesle affair was the revelation in 1314 (not 1313) that two of Isabella's sisters-in-law, Marguerite and Blanche of Burgundy, were committing adultery with the d'Aulnay brothers in Paris, for which the men were executed and the women imprisoned.  Although it may have been Isabella who discovered these adulterous relationships (though this is not certain), the whole business has nothing whatsoever to do with Isabella's much later relationship with Roger Mortimer, which began in late 1325 or early 1326.  The blog writer here appears to be confusing and conflating three different things: 1) the long visit of Edward II and Isabella to France in 1313 (and see also here); 2) the revelation of the Tour de Nesle affair in 1314, while Isabella was again visiting Paris, without her husband this time; and 3) the relationship of Isabella and Roger Mortimer which began in Paris in late 1325/early 1326.

"There is also the question of what was happening in the period leading up to the 22nd of february. Isabella took the whole of this month to travel north from london and then the last four days to travel the last four days from Doncaster to York, a distance of less than thirty miles. She could have conceived on any of these days. The person who gave her safe conduct in Tynemouth was Thomas of Lancaster. His major stronghold was Pontefract Castle near Wakefield. The deviation from doncaster would have taken an extra eighteen miles. Just suppose that Isabelle made the deviation to negotiate her own safety. Just suppose that Mortimer already unhappy with aspects of Edward II’s rule attended the meeting seeking her support against Gavescon [sic]."

Just suppose that we focus on things that we actually know, rather than piling fantasy on fantasy and speculation on speculation.  We have no evidence that Roger Mortimer was in England in February 1312.  We have no evidence that he was already unhappy with Edward II's rule, or acting against the king and Piers Gaveston, and in fact his biographer Ian Mortimer makes it quite clear that Roger supported Edward and Piers, whom he knew well (his wardship had been granted to Piers by Edward I in 1304).  We have no evidence that Roger had any kind of relationship with Isabella, beyond the usual courtly one between the queen and a magnate, before the mid-1320s.  We have no evidence that Isabella met or went anywhere near her uncle Thomas of Lancaster at this time.  We have no evidence that Isabella 'deviated' anywhere on her journey north in February 1312.  Yes, it was a very slow journey.  Travel in the thirteenth/fourteenth centuries often was, especially in winter.  In August 1289, at the height of summer, it took Edward I's children, including the five-year-old Edward of Caernarfon, two weeks to travel the 100 miles from Langley to Dover to greet the king and queen on their return to England.  Travelling could be painfully slow.  Perhaps Isabella was ill and couldn't travel far each day, or a lot of her household were ill, or perhaps there was really bad weather and they were unable to go very far each day in the driving rain or howling snowstorm, or the roads were horribly muddy or icy and nearly impassable.  There are lots of possible reasons for the slowness; we don't have to invent stories about the queen secretly meeting and having sex with Roger Mortimer.

I genuinely don't understand why people do this, why they insult Edward II and Isabella by painting them as a cuckold and an adulteress willing to foist a non-royal child onto the English throne.  Do they think it's romantic and sweet?  I suppose if you really wanted to, you could construct similar elaborate and implausible fantasies about the paternity of any other king.  Edward II himself was conceived in Wales in July or August 1283, and if you tried hard enough you could probably come up with some scenario that has Eleanor of Castile travelling somewhere and secretly sleeping with, I dunno, Othon de Grandisson, who is then really the father of her youngest child.  But why would you?  It's daft.  So is this silly scenario about Isabella and Roger Mortimer.  Yes, she did have a relationship with him, many years later, long after all her children were born.  This does not in any way prove that she was already sleeping with him, or willing to do so, as early as 1312.  By late 1325, Edward II and Isabella's relationship had broken down and Isabella needed an ally to act with her against the Despensers and restore herself to her rightful position and her lands.  This cannot in any way be taken to mean that in 1312, she would have been willing to sleep with Roger Mortimer or anyone else.

"This is all supposition and then again there is the fact that in the period leading up to 1322 she had not one but four children. Could Mortimer have fathered all four children?"

No.  He couldn't.  Edward II and Isabella of France's younger three children were conceived in or around late November 1315, September 1317 and October 1320.  Roger was then in Kells (6 December 1315), Drogheda and Dublin (September 1317) and Dublin/on his way to court back in England in October 1320 (Greatest Traitor, pp. 69-70, 87, 100-01, 305-09).  I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Roger Mortimer, but I'm pretty sure that even he wasn't capable of impregnating a woman who was in another country at the time, 'unequivocally heterosexual' though he may well have been.  And again, we have the fact that Isabella was with her husband when all her children were conceived.

"after edwardii’s death isabelle plans to marry mortimer and to have a legitimate child whho could well force through a claim to the french throne and thereby limiting edward III’s own prospects"

I'd love to know how Isabella could have planned to marry a man who was already married.  Good one.

"if edward III is the son of mortimer then he is noble but undeniably illegitimate and therefore entitled to nothing"

Edward III was the son of Edward II.  I'm as certain of this as I am of anything.  If there'd been even the slightest iota of doubt in anyone's mind, why would they have been willing to make him king in 1327?  Why did the French never accuse him of illegitimacy?  It would have been an obvious thing to do, to damage his reputation and harm his chances of claiming the French throne, if he didn't even have a right to the English one.  I am so bored with people claiming that English kings were not really the sons of their fathers and only they, centuries later, have been clever enough to discover The Real Truth!!!  Bollocks.  Edward I was the son of Henry III, Edward III was the son of Edward II.  Stop fantasising and stop insulting their memory.

27 comments:

Jayne Smith said...

Great blog as usual Kathryn. It is about time this rumour was put to bed and this post should surely help do that.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Jayne! I'm going to keep battling against this rubbish, as long as it takes!

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Kathryn, I'm with you! Above all meticulous research and facts. FACTS. This is what really matters! I, for instance, would never dare to speculate what kind of hubby Henry the Young King was. Recently a friend of mine has asked me why, in one of my latest post dealing with Henry's character, I haven't mentioned how good husband he really was. The answer is simple: for there is no evidence that he was a good husband and I one can only speculate. SPECULATE. This is what the author has been doing, or am I wrong? What's the point of wrting similar texts. Enlighten me please, for I really do not know!!!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Kasia! I'm actually getting pretty angry with these people who spit on the memory of Isabella, Edward II and Edward III by inventing such nonsense about them.

Sarah said...

*Applauds Kathryn*

Well said. Honestly, this desire to make every English king a bastard baffles me. Why? It's stupid and so easily disproved. I do wish people would just enjoy history for what it is and stop trying to turn it into some silly soap opera.

And breathe.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Sarah! Soap opera is exactly right!

Susan HIgginbotham said...

Great post. I have to admit that the Tower of Nestle sounds delicious, though. Did they have sex, then eat chocolate?

Kathryn Warner said...

Hehe, sounds like it :-)

Paula Lofting-Wilcox said...

It totally baffles me also why people attempt to promote lies about Prince Edward's parentage, perhaps they want to write a novel like others have done, with a plot that tells of secret impossible illicit liaisons between lovers of royal and noble stock to sensationalise and draw publicity to their upcoming book. Or perhaps they just want to be bloody minded. Ha loved your 'bollockx' comment!

Your research is meticulous as everyone knows and if I was to believe anyone else it was because they had produced the DNA test.

Thank you for an interesting and enlightening post as always

Paula

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Paula.

Anerje said...

I find it extraordinary that someone who has read your blog and therefore your research, should reference you and then come up with the usual rubbish. There is no actual evidence that Isabella and Mortimer were ever lovers, though it could have been possible AFTER she refused to return to England in the 1320s. By trying to link Isabella to Mortimer every time she conceived a child - are we seriously to believe that either Edward II didn't know how babies were conceived (even though he had a bastard son Adam), and that he was extremely naïve about Mortimer. Because that is what this blog seems to be saying! So absurd!

Brian Stevenson said...

I wonder who the 'simplistic historians' to whom the author of this blog post refers, if Kathryn is not included in that category. Could it be bloggers who are so discourteous to their readers that they don't even bother to consistently capitalize names and proper nouns? Never mind, if I need to find this post again (unlikely), I'll just Google 'edwardii', remembering not to leave a space between the name and the Roman numerals.

Brian Stevenson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Stevenson said...

"if edward III is the son of mortimer then he is noble but undeniably illegitimate and therefore entitled to nothing"

Interesting, that this authority on 14th century English kings talks about a man who died in 1377 using the present tense. Need I say more?

Anonymous said...

You are, as ever, punctilious in dealing with a piece of piffle.
Since Gaviscon (rather than Gavescon) is an indigestion remedy and nestle makes all sorts of edibles, I shall forever think of this particular ridiculous idea as the Shopping List theory!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, everyone! :-)

Sami Parkkonen said...

What? Rog the Rod... Oh no! :-DD

Do people still believe that poop? Obviously. I can't decide is that tragic or extremely hilarious.

Sami Parkkonen said...

I would very much like to see these people tell Edward III that by the way, you are a bastard, dear chap!

Kathryn Warner said...

Ohhh yes, me too! I'd love to see them tell Isabella to her face that in 1312 she was an adulteress and betrayer of her and her husband's royal blood by putting a non-royal child on the throne as well.

Jerry Bennett said...

Look on the bright side Kathryn. It makes a change from someone claiming it was William Wallace who fathered Edward III.

What was the weather like in those four days in February, when Isabella travelled from Doncaster to York? I believe the road ran through Selby, which was badly flooded a few years ago. After this winter it's easy to imagine something similar. The flood planes of the Don and the Yorkshire Ouse wold have been pretty near impassable in heavy rain.

A few years ago a farmer friend of mine showed me a book with details of the weather in different years going all the way back to Roman times, based on historical records. It may not have 1312 in there, although it did mention the floods of 1315/16. I'll see if I can find the title and pass it on.

In the meantime, keep up the good work.

Sami Parkkonen said...

In medieval times road from Doncaster to Pontefract went trough Barnsdale to Wentbridge, either along the old roman road or other tracks via Hampole priory, Shout Elmsall,North Emsall etc. Yhis according some maps I have seen.

From Wentbridge one road went towards Ferrybridge in north eastern direction but few miles up that you could turn left and come straight at Pontefract. One road went towards Wakefield in north west from that point, but few miles up that road and you could turn right and come straight at Pontefract after few more miles. The Old roman road passed very close Pontefract.

GeorgeD said...

Just found the blog in question, and am flabbergasted. Richard II, the *son* of Edward III?

"1n 1399 (...) again the reigning king, Edward III’s son Richard II, was murdered."

Dear Kathryn, you do understand a lot more about genealogy than I -- may I therefore ask whether you can detect any meaning in the next quote? For this has me really scratching my head bloody:

"if Edward III is son of Edward II then richard ii has the hereditary right to be king of england. he is however not as noble as henry iv and in particular not as noble as henry v."

Huh??

And may I just add that the blog author in question seems never to consider that other wives of noble descent and lineage might as well get children out of adultery? We do know nothing about it, but if speculation is to be limitless, we can imagine everything that pleases us best. What Isabella could do, everyone else might have done as well...

Anonymous said...

What is the old song, "when will they ever learn?"

Esther

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi, GeorgeD and Esther! (GeorgeD, so great to see you again!). There's also all the weirdness about Isabella's ovulation patterns on that blog, and Roger Mortimer being the descendant of the Holy Grail, or some such nonsense. Absolutely, if you start silly speculations like this, where do they end? And no, I really don't understand the quote, and haha at Richard II being Edward III's son :-)

Kathryn Warner said...

PS As of this afternoon, I won't be online for a few days, so won't be able to approve any comments till I get back. :-)

Carol Rondou said...

You rock!

Kathryn Warner said...

Awww, thank you, Carol! ;-)