First part; second part. In the last post, I looked at what chroniclers said about Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer's relationship, and also what lots of them didn't say about it. Evidence that their association was flagrant and scandalous, as so often claimed by later writers, is decidedly lacking, and if the two were lovers, it seems vastly more likely that they were very discreet.
Also on the subject of what people didn't say about their relationship, if Isabella and Roger's adultery was so notorious and blatant while they were in France in 1325/26 and it was widely known that they were involved sexually and romantically by Christmas 1325, as is often stated, it's hard to understand why Isabella's cousin Philip VI never used her adulterous affair as a weapon against her son Edward III. After all, Philip was there while Isabella was at her brother Charles IV's court supposedly flaunting her affair with Roger Mortimer in front of everyone, and Edward III claimed Philip's throne in 1337. The French cooked up some pretty desperate propaganda to discredit Edward III, most notably a claim that he'd raped the countess of Salisbury.  Wouldn't his mother's adultery have been a really obvious weapon to use? Wouldn't Philip have tried to embarrass Edward with his mother's scandalous behaviour, and furthermore, suggested that Edward might not be Edward II's son and therefore not even the rightful king of England, never mind king of France? But Philip VI never said a word about Isabella's alleged adultery.
Isabella's uncle Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, led a brief and unsuccessful revolt in late 1328 and early 1329, and cited his points of dissatisfaction with the governance of Isabella and Roger Mortimer during Edward III's minority. Henry's complaints appear in the Plea and Memoranda Rolls of London, and he said a great deal about the bad advice to which the underage Edward III was being subjected, his (Henry's) quarrel with Roger Mortimer, the question of Philippa of Hainault's dower and much else, but not a word about Isabella's reliance on Roger or about their private relationship.  No-one ever claimed that Edward III was not Edward II's son until the late twentieth century, and it seems odd, if Isabella was known to have committed adultery, that rumours didn't spread in their own lifetimes. After all, if Isabella was known to have had sexual relations with Roger Mortimer in and after 1325/26, some people might have thought that she slept with him, or with another man, a few years earlier as well. Even the contemporary chroniclers who said they'd heard rumours of Isabella and Roger's 'liaison' never cast the slightest doubt on Edward III's paternity, which perhaps leads one to wonder if they truly believed the rumours. Another question that occurs to me: would Isabella have had as much support from the English bishops in and after 1326 as she did if she'd been parading her adulterous affair with Roger? It's all very well saying they knew about the affair but just ignored it, but would they really have done that? Would chronicler Jean le Bel have said that Roger Mortimer "more than anyone was suspected of being the father" of Isabella's alleged unborn child in 1330 if their sexual relationship was known to everyone? If their affair was so notorious, who else was going to be the father? I don't really think that "Oh, but people didn't dare to talk about the queen's adultery and therefore they kept silent" as an explanation of chroniclers' reticence on the subject is much of an argument. We could argue till the cows come home what chroniclers and others might have said about anything, but the evidence we have is the evidence we have.
I think a lot of people nowadays assume that Edward II and Isabella of France's relationship was nothing but tragically awful and disastrous from start to finish, which is wildly inaccurate anyway. Then they assume that Isabella and Roger's relationship must necessarily have been the exact opposite of that, and write Isabella as though she's a fictional character escaping an unsatisfactory marriage into a wonderfully fulfilling affair. It's become an extremely popular interpretation, but that doesn't make it true. Isabella, Roger and Edward were real people, not fictional characters, and certainly not archetypes marked 'Abusive Gay Husband', 'Adoring Straight Lover' and 'Sad Lonely Heroine In Need Of A Real Man's Love'. Their lives were their own and were messy and complicated, not the plot of a romance novel where Edward makes Isabella endlessly unhappy until Roger emerges stage left to show her what true love and sexual satisfaction are.
The complex politics of the 1320s, the aftershocks of the Contrariant rebellion, Edward II's incompetence, his complicity in Hugh Despenser the Younger's tyranny and extortion, all the rest of it, are reduced to a fairy-tale about a neglected woman and her adoring lover. Roger here also appears not as a person in his own right, but simply as The Hetero Lover, the anti-Edward II who is claimed to have been "everything that Edward II was not" and who later becomes the unscrupulous villain who makes Isabella do bad things and thus becomes The Scapegoat. Where is Isabella's agency? Where is the powerful, awesome politician who brings down a king? Nowhere; Isabella is treated as little more than the simpering heroine of a 1950s Mills and Boon romance who "succumbs to the strong and lusty adventurer" and "surrenders herself to the embraces" of her strong, manly, virile lover. This panting Victorian nonsense was published in the twenty-first century. Give me strength.
To claim that Edward II of all people, the man who was called "one of the strongest men in his realm" by chroniclers, was not strong makes clear that this narrative has little to do with reality. And now could anyone 700 years later possibly know whether Roger Mortimer was "unequivocally heterosexual" or not? There are people I know really well and talk to a lot, and I wouldn't have the faintest clue if they're "unequivocally heterosexual" or not.
1) Antonia Gransden, 'The Alleged Rape by Edward III of the Countess of Salisbury', English Historical Review, 87 (1972), pp. 341, 344.
2) Calendar of Select Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, ed. A.H. Thomas, vol. 1, pp. 77-83.
3) Seymour Phillips, Edward II, p. 490.
4) The National Archives SC 1/37/45 is Isabella's letter; SC 1/37/4 is Eleanor's.