Mortimer, Roger de (1374-1398) (DNB00)

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MORTIMER, ROGER (VI) de, fourth Earl of March and Ulster (1374–1398), was the eldest son and second child of Edmund Mortimer II, third earl of March [q. v.], and his wife, Philippa of Clarence. He was born at Usk on 11 April 1374, and baptised on the following Sunday by Roger Cradock, bishop of Llandaff, who, with the abbot of Gloucester and the prioress of Usk, acted as his sponsors (Monasticon, vi. 354). His mother died when he was quite a child, and his father on 27 Dec. 1381, so that he succeeded to title and estates when only seven years old. His hereditary influence and position caused him to be appointed to the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland on 24 Jan. 1382, within a few months of his accession to the earldom. His uncle, Sir Thomas Mortimer, acted as his deputy, and the guardians of his person and estates covenanted that, in return for his receiving the revenues of Ireland and two thousand marks of money, he should be provided with proper counsellors, and that the receipts of his estates, instead of being paid over by the farmers of his lands to the crown, should be appropriated to the government of Ireland. It was also stipulated that on attaining his majority Roger should have liberty to resign his office. But the experiment of an infant viceroy did not answer. When the Irish parliament met in 1382 the viceroy could not attend because of indisposition, and the magnates and commons protested against a parliament being held in his absence. Next year Roger was superseded by Philip de Courtenay (Gilbert, Viceroys of Ireland, pp. 248-51).

Mortimer was brought up as a royal ward, his person being entrusted to the care of Thomas Holland, earl of Kent (1350-1397) [q. v.], the half-brother of Richard II, while his estates were farmed by Richard Fitzalan III, earl of Arundel, and others. Richard II at one time sold to Arundel the right of marrying the young earl, but, as Arundel became more conspicuously opposed to his policy, Richard transferred his right to Lord Abergavenny, and ultimately, at his mother's request, to the Earl of Kent, her son. The result was that Roger was married, not later than the beginning of 1388, to Eleanor Holland, Kent's eldest daughter and the king's niece. Thus March in his early life was connected with both political parties, and one element of his later popularity may be based upon the fact that his complicated connections with both factions prevented him from taking a strong side. But as time went on he fell more decidedly under the influence of the king and courtiers, who showed a tendency to play him off against the house of Lancaster, which he in later times seems somewhat to have resented. He became a very important personage when in the October parliament of 1385 Richard II publicly proclaimed him as the presumptive heir to the throne (Cont. Eulogium Historiarum, iii. 361; cf. Wallon, Richard II, i. 489-90). On 23 April 1390 Richard himself dubbed him a knight.

In 1393 March did homage and received livery of all his lands. His guardians had managed his estates so well that he entered into full enjoyment of his immense resources, having, it was said, a sum of forty thousand marks accumulated in his treasury (Monasticon, vi. 354). Between 16 Feb. and 30 March 1394 he acted as ambassador to treat with the Scots on the borders. But Ireland was still his chief care. His power there had become nearly nominal, and in 1393 the English privy council had granted him a thousand pounds in consideration of the devastation of his Irish estates by the rebel natives. In September 1394 he accompanied Richard II on that king's first expedition to Ireland, being attended by a very numerous following (Annales Ricardi II, apud Trokelowe, p. 172). Among the chieftains who submitted to Richard was the O'Neil. the real ruler of most of March's nominal earldom of Ulster. On 28 April 1395, just before his return to England, Richard appointed March lieutenant of Ulster, Connaught, and Meath, thus adding the weight of the royal commission to the authority which, as lord of these three liberties, March already possessed over those districts. He remained some time in Ireland, waging vigorous war against the native septs, but without any notable results. On 24 April 1397 he was further nominated lieutenant of Ireland.

The young earl was rapidly winning a great reputation. He was conspicuously rave, brilliant in the tournament, sumptuous in his hospitality, liberal in his gifts, of a ready wit, affable and jocose in conversation. He was of remarkable personal beauty and extremely popular. But his panegyrists admit that his morals were loose, and that he was too negligent of divine things (Monasticon, vi. 354 ; Adam of Usk, p. 19 ; Monk of Evesham, p. 127). He was prudent enough not to connect himself too closely with Richard II's great attempt at despotism in 1397. In the great parliament of 1397 the Earl of Salisbury brought a suit against him on 25 Sept. for the possession of Denbigh (Adam of Usk, pp. 15, 16). His uncle, Sir Thomas Mortimer (his grandfather's illegitimate son), was in fact closely associated with the lords appellant, and on 22 Sept. 1397 was summoned to appear for trial within six months under pain of banishment (ib. pp. 41, 120 ; Monk of Evesham, pp. 139-40 ; Rot. Parl.) Richard's remarks on this occasion suggest that he was already suspicious of the Earl of March (Monk of Evesham, p. 138), whom he accused of remissness in apprehending his uncle. A little later Sir Thomas, who had fled to Scotland, appeared in Ireland under the protection of his nephew the viceroy (Adam of Usk, p. 19), though on 24 Sept. he had been ordered to proclaim throughout Ireland that Thomas must appear within three months to answer the charges against him (Fœdera, viii. 16). As Richard's suspicions grew, March's favour with the populace increased. He was specially summoned, despite his absence beyond sea, to attend the parliament at Shrewsbury (ib. viii. 21). On 28 Jan. 1398 March arrived from Ireland. The people went out to meet him in vast crowds, receiving him with joy and delight, and wearing hoods of his colours, red and white. Such a reception increased Richard's suspicions, but March behaved with great caution or duplicity, and, by professing his approval of those acts which finally gave Richard despotic power, deprived Richard of any opportunity of attacking him (Adam of Usk, pp. 18-19). But secret plots were formed against him, and his reception of his uncle was made an excuse for them. The earl therefore returned to Ireland, and soon became plunged into petty campaigns against the native chieftains. Such desire did he show to identify himself with his Irish subjects that, in gross violation of his grandfather's statute of Kilkenny, he assumed the Irish dress and horse trappings. His brother-in-law, Thomas Holland [q. v.], duke of Surrey, who hated him bitterly, was now ordered to go to Ireland to carry out the designs of the courtiers against him. But there was no need for Surrey's intervention. On 15 Aug. 1398 (20 July, according to Monasticon, vi. 355, and Adam of Usk, p. 19), March was slain at Kells while he was engaged in a rash attack on some of the Leinster clans. In the fight he rushed on the foe far in advance of his followers, and, unrecognised by them in his Irish dress, was immediately slain. His body was torn in pieces (Monk of Evesham, p. 127), but the fragments were ultimately recovered and conveyed to England for burial in the family place of sepulture, Wigmore Abbey. The death of the heir to the throne at the hands of the Irish induced Richard II to undertake his last fatal expedition to Ireland (Annales Ricardi II, p. 229).

His widow Eleanor married, very soon after her husband's death, Edward Charlton, fifth lord Charlton of Powys [q.v.] The sons of Roger and Eleanor were : (1) Edmund (IV) de Mortimer, fifth earl of March [q. v.], who was born on 6 Nov. 1391 ; (2) Roger, born at Netherwood on 23 April 1393, who died young about 1409. Of Roger's two daughters, Anne, the elder, born on 27 Dec. 1388, was wife of Richard, earl of Cambridge [q. v.], mother of Richard, duke of York, and grandmother of Edward IV, to whom, after the death of her two brothers without issue, she transmitted the estates of the Mortimers and the representation of Lionel of Clarence, the eldest surviving son of Edward III. The second daughter, Eleanor, married Edward Courtenay, eleventh earl of Devonshire, and died without issue in 1418.

[Adam of Usk, ed. Thompson; Annales Ricardi II apud Trokelowe (Rolls Ser.); Monk of Evesham, ed. Hearne; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 150-1; Dugdale's Monasticon, vi. 354-5; Rymer's Fœdera, vol. viii. (original edition); Doyle's Official Baronage, ii. 469; Gilbert's Viceroys of Ireland, pp. 248-51, 273-8; Wallon's Richard II; Sandford's Genealogical History of the Kings of England, pp. 224-6.]

T. F. T.