Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mortimer, Edmund de (1376-1409?)

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MORTIMER, Sir EDMUND (III) de (1376–1409?), was the youngest child of Edmund de Mortimer (II), third earl of March [q. v.], and his wife Philippa, the daughter of Lionel, duke of Clarence, and heiress of Ulster. He was born at Ludlow on Monday, 9 Nov. 1376. Portents attended his birth. At the very moment he came into the world it was believed that the horses in his father's stables were found standing up to their knees in blood (Monk of Evesham, p. 179 ; Ann. Hen. IV, apud Trokelowe, p. 349). These stories are very generally but erroneously transferred to Owen Glendower [q. v.] His baptism was put off on the expectation of the arrival of John Swaff ham, bishop of Bangor, who had been asked to be his godfather, but took place on 18 Nov., despite the bishop's absence, the Abbots of Evesham and Wigmore and the Lady Audley acting as his sponsors. Next day, however, the bishop arrived and administered to him the rite of confirmation (Monasticon, vi. 354). His father died when he was only five years old, but left him well provided for, bequeathing him land of the yearly value of three hundred marks (NICHOLS, Royal Wills, p. 113). On the death of his eldest brother, Roger Mortimer VI, fourth earl of March [q. v.], on 15 Aug. 1398, Edmund became, by reason of the minority of his nephew, Edmund Mortimer IV [q. v.], the most prominent representative of the family interests in the Welsh marches. When Henry of Lancaster passed through the marches on his way to his final triumph over Richard II, in North Wales, Mortimer at once adhered to his rising fortunes, and on 2 Aug. 1399 went with the Bishop of Hereford to make his submission to Henry at Hereford (Monk of Evesham, p. 153). This may account for his not being involved in the suspicions which Richard II's patronage of the Mortimer claims to the succession might reasonably have excited. He resided on his estates, and when the revolt of Owen Glendower [q. v.] broke out was closely associated with his brother-in-law, Henry Percy [q. v.], the famous Hotspur, in the measures taken for putting down the Welsh rebel. At last, in June 1402, Glendower made a vigorous attack on Melenydd, a Welsh marchland district, including much of the modern Radnorshire, an ancient possession of the house of Mortimer. He took up a position on a hill called Brynglas, between Pilleth and Knighton, not very far from Ludlow ('juxta Pylale' Monk of Evesham, p. 178; 'Knighton' Adam of Usk, p. 75 ; Monasticon, vi. 354). Edmund Mortimer was at the time at 'his own town' of Ludlow, and at once raised the men of Herefordshire and marched against Glendower (Dugdale, Baronage, i. 151, here confuses Edmund with his nephew the Earl of March). His Welsh tenants of Melenydd obeyed his summons and joined his forces. On 22 June Mortimer attacked Glendower on his hill. He gallantly climbed up the mountainside, but his Welsh followers, no doubt from sympathy with Glendower, ran away after a poor show of resistance, while some of the Welsh archers actually turned their weapons against Mortimer and his faithful adherents (Ann. Hen. IV, p. 341). The English fought better, but after losing largely, two hundred men (Monk of Evesham, pp. 178, 1100 ; Ann. Hen. IV, p. 341), the victory declared against them, and Edmund, with many others, fell into the hands of Owen. This disaster was looked upon as fulfilling the grim portent that had attended his birth.

Owen took his captive to the 'mountains and caves of Snowdon,' but he treated him not only kindly but considerately, hoping to get political profit from his prisoner, and professing to regard him as a possible future king of England. But his powerful kinsfolk, foremost among whom were the Percies, busied themselves about procuring his ransom. But sinister rumours were abroad that Mortimer had himself sought the captivity into which he had fallen (Ann. Hen. IV, p. 341), and Henry now forbade 'the Percies to seek for their kinsman's liberation (Cont. Eulog. Hist. iii. 396 ; Hardyng, i pp. 360-1, ed. 1812). On 19 Oct. the king took the decisive step of seizing Mortimer's plate and jewels and taking them to the treasury (Devon, Issues of the Exchequer, p. 295). Mortimer's fidelity, already perhaps wavering, was altogether shaken by the king's : vigorous action. The weariness of captivity, or fear of death, or some more recondite and unknown cause {Ann. Hen. IV. p. 349), now led him to make common cause with his captor. About 30 Nov. (Monk of Evesham, p. 182) he married Glendower's daughter, with great pomp and solemnity (ib. p. 182 ; Ann. Hen. IV, p. 349: ' Nuptias satis humiles et suss generositati impares,' cf. Adam of Usk, p. 75). Early in December Mortimer was back in Melenydd as the ally of Owen, and on 13 Dec. he issued a circular to 'all the gentles and commons of Radnor and Presteign,' in which he declared that he had joined Owen in his efforts either to restore the crown to King Richard, should the king prove to be still alive, or should Richard be dead, to confer the throne on his honoured nephew (the Earl of March), 'who is the right heir to the said Crown' (Ellis, Original Letters, 2nd ser. i. 24-6). Most of the Mortimer lands in Wales, Melenydd, Gwrthrenion, Rhaiadr, Cwmteuddwr, Arwystli, Cyveiliog, and Caereineon were already in his hands.

The revolt of the Percies rapidly followed these transactions, but not even the defeat at Shrewsbury affected the position of Glendower and his English ally. The famous treaty of partition, which was perhaps signed in the house of the Archdeacon of Bangor on 28 Feb. 1405, was the work of Owen and his son-in-law (ib. ii. i. 27-8). In the threefold division of the kingdom which it proposed, Mortimer (his nephew's claims are now put on one side) was to have the whole of the south of England, though an engagement in which he resigned the marchland districts, in which his family was supreme, to Owen clearly bore the marks of coercion. But the whole question of the triple partition is a difficult and doubtful one. It plainly stands in close connection with the attempted abduction of the Earl of March in the same month and Northumberland's second rising (Ramsay, Lancaster and York, i. 86). But the failure of the general English attacks on Henry gradually reduced Glendower's revolt to its original character of a native Welsh rising against the English, and, from this point of view, Mortimer's help was much less necessary to him than from the standpoint of a general Eicardian attack on Henry of Lancaster. Mortimer therefore gradually sank into the background. After 1404 his father-in-law's cause began to lose ground, and Mortimer himself was soon reduced to great distress. He was finally besieged in Harlech Castle by the now victorious English, and perished miserably during the siege (Adam of Usk, p. 75). This was probably in the summer of 1409 (Tyler, Henry V, i. 230). Some of his strange adventures were commemorated in songs (Adam of Usk, p. 75). By Owen's daughter Mortimer had one son, named Lionel, and three daughters. She, with her family, was already in the hands of Henry V in June 1413, perhaps since the capture of Harlech, being kept in custody within the city of London (Devon, Issue Rolls of Exchequer, p. 321; Tyler, Henry V, i. 245). But before the end of the same year Lady Mortimer and her daughters were dead. They were buried at the expense of one pound within the church of St. Swithin's, London (Devon, p. 327).

[Ann. Hen. IV, apud Trokelowe (Rolls Ser.); Chron. Anal. ed. Giles; Monk of Evesham, ed. Hearne; Adam of Usk, ed. Thompson; Dugdale's Monasticon, vi. 355; Ellis's Original Letters, 2nd ser. vol. i.; Rymer's Fœdera; Ramsay's Lancaster and York; Wylie's Henry IV.]

T. F. T.