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Roger Mortimer was what the kids these days like to refer to as a cad, scoundrel, or even rotten murderous villain. At least partly responsible for what came to be known as the War of the Roses, Mortimer tried his hand at everything from treason to homewrecking, with rumors of regicide tossed in as well. He escaped from prison, raised an army, controlled a king, seduced a queen, and dangled from the gallows. But he did it with style, and really, isn’t that what counts?

Born in 1287, Roger Mortimer was a veteran of the Scottish Wars, and the first Earl of March. In 1321 Mortimer made his first attempt at rebellion, gathering a number of barons in an attempt to displace his rivals, the Despencers from their position of influence with King Edward II. He was defeated, and promptly tossed in the Tower of London

In 1324, Mortimer escaped and fled to France followed soon after by his lover, Queen Isabella. I’d like to dwell on this point for a moment. Not only did he manage to escape from one of the most famous prisons in history, he managed to persuade the Queen of England to betray her husband (admittedly, Edward II was by all accounts a bit of a tool), and join him in exile in a foreign country. The best (and worst) was yet to come for Roger, though.

While in France, Mortimer raised himself a small army, consisting mainly of British exiles and mercenaries. In 1326, two years after he left, Mortimer returned to England. He and Isabella found allies at home, both in Henry, Earl of Lancaster, and the people of London who rose in support of their queen. Edward II and the Despencers fled London for Wales, hoping to raise an army of loyalists in what was traditionally Despencer land. They did not make it in time, and were soundly defeated by Mortimer and Isabella. Edward II was taken prisoner, and Despencer and his heir were executed.

In 1327, Parliament met, and forced the king to abdicate in favor of his son, Edward III. Edward II didn’t survive the year, and was murdered in Berkeley Castle that September. Mortimer and Isabella ruled England through their influence on the young king, and made a number of enemies in the process. These enemies included Lancaster, their former ally. Lancaster encouraged Edward III to assert his independence, and in 1330, when Edward was 18, he overthrew Mortimer, and had him hanged for treason.

The Mortimer line survived Roger’s ambitions, as in an impressive display of mercy, Edward III restored the family lands to Roger’s grandson of the same name, also naming him Earl of the March, and a Knight of the Order of The Garter.

further info: Mortimer is also the basis for the character of Jaime Lannister in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, a fantasy epic loosely based on the War of The Roses.

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