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MARCH, EARLS OF

and at the head of a large army drove Bruce to Carrickfergus, and the De Lacys into Connaught, wreaking vengeance on their adherents whenever they were to be found. He was then occupied for some years with baronial disputes on the Welsh border until about 1318, when he began to interest himself in the growing opposition to Edward II. and his favourites, the Despensers; and he supported Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, in refusing to obey the king’s summons to appear before him in 1321. Forced to surrender to the king at Shrewsbury in January 1322, Mortimer was consigned to the Tower of London, whence he escaped to France in August 1324. In the following year Isabella, wife of Edward II., anxious to escape from her husband, obtained his consent to her going to France to use her influence with her brother, Charles IV., in favour of peace. At the French court the queen found Roger Mortimer; she became his mistress soon afterwards, and at his instigation refused to return to England so long as the Despensers retained power as the king’s favourites. The scandal of Isabella’s relations with Mortimer compelled them both to withdraw from the French court to Flanders, where they obtained assistance for an invasion of England. Landing in England in September 1326, they were joined by Henry, earl of Lancaster; London rose in support of the queen; and Edward took flight to the west, whither he was pursued by Mortimer and Isabella. After wandering helplessly for some weeks in Wales, the king was taken on the 16th of November, and was compelled to abdicate in favour of his son. But though the latter was crowned as Edward III. in January 1327, the country was ruled by Mortimer and Isabella, who procured the murder of Edward II. in the following September. Rich estates and offices of profit and power were now heaped on Mortimer, and in September 1328 he was created earl of March. Greedy and grasping, he was no more competent than the Despensers to conduct the government of the country. The jealousy and anger of Lancaster having been excited by March’s arrogance, Lancaster prevailed upon the young king, Edward III., to throw off the yoke of his mother’s paramour. At a parliament held at Nottingham in October 1330 a plot was successfully carried out by which March was arrested in the castle, and, in spite of Isabella’s entreaty to her son to “have pity on the gentle Mortimer,” was conveyed to the Tower. Accused of assuming royal power and of various other high misdemeanours, he was condemned without trial and hanged at Tyburn on the 29th of November 1330, his vast estates being forfeited to the crown. March’s wife, by whom he had four sons and eleven daughters, survived till 1356. The daughters all married into powerful families, chiefly of Marcher houses. His eldest son, Edmund, was father of Roger Mortimer (c. 1328–1360), who was knighted by Edward III. in 1346, and restored to his grandfather’s title as 2nd earl of March.

Edmund de Mortimer (1351–1381), 3rd earl of March, was son of Roger, 2nd earl of March, by his wife Philippa, daughter of William Montacute, 1st earl of Salisbury. Being an infant at the death of his father, Edmund, as a ward of the crown, was placed by Edward III. under the care of William of Wykeham and Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel. The position of the young earl, powerful on account of his possessions and hereditary influence in the Welsh marches, was rendered still more important by his marriage in 1368 to Philippa, only daughter of Lionel, duke of Clarence, third son of Edward III. Lionel’s wife was Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of William de Burgh, 6th Lord of Connaught and 3rd earl of Ulster, and Lionel had himself been created earl of Ulster before his marriage. The earl of March, therefore, not only became the representative of one of the chief Anglo-Norman lordships in Ireland in right of his wife Philippa, but the latter, on the death of her father shortly after her marriage, stood next in succession to the crown after the Black Prince and his sickly son Richard, afterwards king Richard II. This marriage had, therefore, far-reaching consequences in the history of England, giving rise to the claim of the house of York to the crown of England, contested in the War of the Roses; Edward IV. being descended from the third son of Edward III. as great-great-grandson of Philippa, countess of March, and in the male line from Edmund, duke of York, fifth son of Edward III.

Mortimer, now styled earl of March and Ulster, became marshal of England in 1369, and was employed in various diplomatic missions during the next following years. He was a member of the committee appointed by the Peers to confer with the Commons in 1373—the first instance of such a joint conference since the institution of representative parliaments—on the question of granting supplies for John of Gaunt’s war in France; and in the opposition to Edward III. and the court party, which grew in strength towards the end of the reign, March took the popular side, being prominent in the Good Parliament of 1376 among the lords who, encouraged by the Prince of Wales, concerted an attack upon the court party led by John of Gaunt. The Speaker of the Commons in this parliament was March’s steward, Peter de la Mare; he firmly withstood John of Gaunt in stating the grievances of the Commons, in supporting the impeachment of several high court officials, and in procuring the banishment of the king’s mistress, Alice Perrers. March was a member of the administrative council appointed by the same parliament after the death of the Black Prince to attend the king and advise him in all public affairs. On the accession of Richard II., a minor, in 1377, the earl became a member of the standing council of government; though as father of the heir-presumptive to the crown he wisely abstained from claiming any actually administrative office. The most powerful person in the realm was, however, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, whose jealousy of March led to the acceptance by the latter of the lieutenancy of Ireland in 1379. March succeeded in asserting his authority in eastern Ulster, but failed to subdue the O’Neills farther west. Proceeding to Munster to put down the turbulency of the chieftains of the south, March died at Cork on the 27th of December 1381. He was buried in Wigmore Abbey, of which he had been a benefactor, and where his wife Philippa who died about the same time was also interred. The earl had two sons and two daughters, the elder of whom, Elizabeth, married Henry Percy (Hotspur), son of the earl of Northumberland. His eldest son Roger succeeded him as 4th earl of March and Ulster. His second son Edmund (1376–1409) played an important part in conjunction with his brother-in-law Hotspur against Owen Glendower; but afterwards joined the latter, whose daughter he married about 1402.

Roger de Mortimer, 4th earl of March and Ulster (1374–1398), son of the 3rd earl, succeeded to the titles and estates of his family when a child of seven, and a month afterwards he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland, his uncle Sir Thomas Mortimer acting as his deputy. Being a ward of the Crown, his guardian was the earl of Kent, half-brother to Richard II.; and in 1388 he married Kent’s daughter, Eleanor. The importance which he owed to his hereditary influence and possessions, and especially to his descent from Edward III., was immensely increased when Richard II. publicly acknowledged him as heir-presumptive to the crown in 1385. In 1394 he accompanied Richard to Ireland, but notwithstanding a commission from the king as lieutenant of the districts over which he exercised nominal authority by hereditary right, he made little headway against the native Irish chieftains. March enjoyed great popularity in England though he took no active part in opposing the despotic measures of the king; in Ireland he illegally assumed the native Irish costume. In August 1398 he was killed in fight with an Irish clan, and was buried in Wigmore Abbey. March’s daughter Anne married Richard earl of Cambridge, son of Edmund duke of York, fifth son of Edward III.; their son Richard, duke of York, was father of King Edward IV., who thus derived his title to the crown and acquired the estates of the house of Mortimer.

Edmund de Mortimer (1391–1425), 5th earl of March and Ulster, son of the 4th earl, succeeded to his father’s claim to the crown as well as to his title and estates on the death of the latter in Ireland in 1398. In the following year Richard II. was deposed and the crown seized by Henry of Lancaster. The young earl of March and his brother Roger were then kept in custody