The Mortimer marriage of Elizabeth de Badlesmere

Elizabeth de Badlesmere was born circa 1313, one of the daughters of Baron Bartholomew de Badlesmere and his wife Margaret de Clare [1.]  Aged three or four Elizabeth was married to Edmund Mortimer, the son and heir of Roger Mortimer 3rd Baron Wigmore and his wife Joan de Geneville[2.] at Ernwood, Kinlet in Shropshire.[2.] Born circa 1302/3 Edmund was significantly older than his new wife at fourteen or fifteen years old and as there could be no question of them living together as man and wife, Elizabeth almost certainly remained living with her parents.

It is very likely that Elizabeth was present at Leeds Castle alongside her siblings and Mother during the siege conducted by Edward II between 26th and 31st of October 1321. The siege of Leeds came to pass after Elizabeth’s Mother, showing an utter lack of common sense, refused Queen Isabella entry to the castle thereby insulting her and when the Queen’s men tried to force entry, Baroness de Badlesmere ordered her archers to fire upon them. This was an insult to the Queen who was very popular even if her husband King Edward II was not, nobles who had thus far refused to get involved with the woes between King and contrariants clamoured to defend the honour of their Queen. The Baroness’ foolhardy reaction was very likely the outcome that the King and Queen had hoped for.[3.] Immediately after the surrender of Leeds thirteen men of the garrison were hanged.[4.]  Baroness de Badlesmere and her children imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Elizabeth would never see her Father again. Following the surrender of Leeds, Edward II, buoyed by support from his nobles who’d been outraged at the treatment of Isabella by Baroness de Badlesmere, began plotting his campaign against the contrariantsIn January 1322 Elizabeth’s Father in law Roger Mortimer surrendered to Edward II at Shrewsbury alongside his uncle the elderly (but very capable) Roger Mortimer of Chirk. They were separated and imprisoned within the Tower of London on the 13th of February.  The day following the Mortimer surrender,  January 23rd, the king appointed Alan de Charlton to take the castle of Wigmore – and everything within it- into the possession of the crown.[5.]  At the age of eight, Elizabeth was a prisoner in the Tower of London with her Mother and siblings, her Father had fled north, her Father in law a fellow prisoner within the Tower and her Mother in law was being held in Southampton.[6.] Presumably Elizabeth’s husband Edmund Mortimer and his brothers Roger and John were taken prisoner at this point also. They were to share their imprisonment with the sons of Humphrey de Bohun, the earl of Gloucester, a fellow contrariant.[7.]  Also imprisoned was Elizabeth’s husband Edmund, alongside his younger brother Roger at Windsor Castle alongside the five sons of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford.[8.]

On March 16th 1322 the contrariants met a force loyal to the king under the command of Sir Andrew Harclay at the battle of Boroughbridge; a crushing defeat for the former. Hereford was killed in gruesome fashion,[8.] Lancaster after arranging an overnight truce with Harclay, fled and was later captured and executed at his own castle of Pontefract. Bartholomew de Badlesmere managed to escape but was later captured and suffered the full horrors of a traitors death at Blean a little way from Canterbury. Elizabeth had lost her Father and her husband Edmund must have expected that he would soon lose his as well.For whatever reason, something he must have deeply regretted in the future, Edward II did not put Roger Mortimer to death. He and his uncle Chirk remained in the Tower under a sentence of death.

Margaret de Clare, baroness de Badlesmere, now a widow was released from the Tower on November 3rd 1322.[9.] She entered the convent of the Minorites at Aldgate and the king granted her two shillings per day to maintain herself. It is not known as to where Elizabeth was living after release from the Tower but wherever she was, and as young as she was, she would have noticed her status to be much changed. Roger Mortimer, Chirk, his wife and children all remained incarcerated. On August 1st 1323 Roger Mortimer escaped the Tower of London and via Portchester and the Isle of Wight; he fled to France and liberty.  This did nothing to change the circumstances of his family for the better and actually brought about harsher treatment by the crown.Nothing is known of Roger’s nine year old daughter in law Elizabeth throughout these years. On October 1st  1326 Edmund Mortimer and his brothers were imprisoned in the Tower of London, no doubt for fear that they too would escape and join their Father.

As is well known Roger Mortimer alongside his third son Geoffrey,  Queen Isabella and prince Edward invaded England with a small army in September 1326, landing in Suffolk. Within a few months King Edward was in captivity and the Despensers were dead. On January 25th 1327 prince Edward took the throne as King Edward III after the enforced abdication of his Father who was held prisoner and is thought to have been murdered in September of the same year, although this is by no means certain. For Elizabeth, the return of her Father in law, and the release of her husband, these events wrought great changes on her life.  She was now thirteen years old and had been married to Edmund Mortimer for ten years,  she probably hadn’t seen since 1321, and may not have remembered him very well at all.

Edmund, alongside his brothers Roger and Geoffrey was knighted at the coronation of Edward III on February 1st 1327, wearing clothes befitting earls, chosen by their Father, to which of course they had no right as the sons of a mere baron. It was probably around this time that Elizabeth and Edmund started to cohabit, probably at Ludlow where the following year on November 11st 1328 their first son was born. He was named Roger after his grandfather who had been created the earl of March less than a fortnight before, and possibly also to honour Edmund’s brother Roger who had died before August of that year. Elizabeth was fourteen, possibly fifteen, still very young, a year younger than Edmund’s Mother had been when she gave birth to him. Another son, John, followed the following year and he was probably named after Edmund’s brother John who was to die that year. It is unknown if this death was prior to the birth or not. This second son died young but we do not know when.

We cannot know whether Elizabeth’s marriage was a happy one or not. She was a Mother twice over by the age of sixteen, she would have lived in some splendour during the three years of Roger Mortimer being the defacto King of England, probably under the watchful eye of her Mother in law Joan de Geneville. We do not know how often  Edmund, who was in his mid twenties by 1328,  and Elizabeth even saw one another. They had no more children after 1328 but of course there may have been unsuccessful pregnancies that we do not know about. It is tempting to speculate that theirs was not a particularly successful match personally as Elizabeth made no mention of Edmund nor their surviving son, much less their grandchildren in her will, omitting her close links with the Mortimer family completely.

In October 1330 Roger Mortimer was captured in a coup at Nottingham Castle, led by Edward III. He was taken to London via Leicester and on November 29th was hanged as a common criminal at Tyburn. This was a disaster for the Mortimer family. For Elizabeth, it had huge ramifications. Edmund had also been arrested at Nottingham and alongside Geoffrey was imprisoned within the Tower, bricked up in their cell, the Mortimer family utterly ruined. Elizabeth was left alone with a small son, possibly two, for her Mother in law the redoubtable Joan was arrested at Ludlow and held captive once again; a return to the nightmarish days of the first half of the 1320’s. As it is entirely possible that Elizabeth lived in the household of Joan, she may well have been present to witness her arrest and no doubt would have been alarmed for her own safety.

Although Joan was soon freed, everything she owned was forfeited by the charge of treason on Roger Mortimer. This would have been the same for Elizabeth although on a much smaller scale but the days of uncertainty for such a young woman with a small child to support could not have been easy.  Elizabeth must have been incredibly relieved when Edmund was released early the following year probably before March when his brother Geoffrey is recorded as gaining a safe conduct from the King to travel overseas. Thus Edmund, aged around twenty nine was the sole remaining adult Mortimer left in England. He doesn’t appear to have been cut from the safe cloth as his Father and was certainly no warrior but the Wigmore Chronicle tells us that he was bright and intelligent.

It was clear that Edward III, whilst having no intention of restoring the full extent of the Mortimer inheritance in the near future, did not see Edmund or his young son as a threat which must have alleviated any concerns that Elizabeth had. As the first anniversary of Roger Mortimer’s downfall and execution approached; Edward restored Wigmore to Edmund and Elizabeth with other lands being granted back to them also. Joan de Geneville also received back her dower lands (although she did not receive a full pardon for some years). Edmund had been named as the heir of his grandmother, Margaret de Fiennes lands and properties who was approaching seventy years old. In the fullness of time they could  expect to inherit from her. It can be imagined that Elizabeth and her husband planned to live quietly and weather the storm of Roger Mortimer’s downfall.

Such is the poetry of fate; this was not to be. Edmund Mortimer died at his manor of Stanton Lacy in Shropshire at the age of twenty eight or twenty nine after a fever a shade over a year since his Fathers death. Elizabeth was left as a widow with a young son at the age of eighteen. She had been married for fifteen years but probably only a wife for around four  of those years which were some of the most eventful in English history. Edmund likely spent a lot of time with his Father and little time with Elizabeth until the last few months of his life. As aforementioned, she did not remember him in her will or even mention that she had been married to him at all.

Elizabeth would remarry to William de Bohun, son of the earl of Hereford, King Edward III’s first cousin and a former co-prisoner of Edmund, four years later. It must have been odd for both of them to begin with as William knew her first husband better than she did and certainly had spent more time with him than Elizabeth ever had. The match may have smoothed over some lingering ill feeling between the Mortimer and de Bohun families as William’s twin brother Edward and possibly William himself had been part of the group who’d seized Roger Mortimer at Nottingham Castle in 1330. Elizabeth  never became the countess of March but Elizabeth  was styled the countess of Northampton when William was created  earl in 1337. They went onto have two children, both named in Elizabeth’s will.  Through her second marriage Elizabeth was the great grandmother of King Henry V whose Mother Mary de Bohun was her granddaughter. We do not know of Elizabeth’s personal tastes but as indicated by her will, she seems to have had a good relationship with her brother in law Humphrey de Bohun, 6th earl of Hereford and kept in touch with her surviving two sisters whom she left various items in her will.

As noted above;  Elizabeth’s first marriage is not mentioned in her will and her eldest son is also strangely absent, not being left anything by his Mother unlike his two younger half siblings.[10.] Elizabeth’s son Roger appears to have had a good relationship with his stepfather the earl of Northampton who persuaded Edward III to grant Wigmore back to Roger, even doing homage on his behalf and they would fight together at the battle of Crecy in 1346. It may be that Elizabeth and her eldest son were just not close, or did not get on or given Elizabeth’s traumatic life as Lady Mortimer she may have distanced herself from the Mortimer family completely after her remarriage; her son included. It must also be noted that Elizabeth, bar mentioning that her husband had given her permission to write her will, did not mention him at all either. There were no little keepsakes that she wanted him to have unlike those bequeathed to her brother in law, children and sisters and she chose not to be buried at the de Bohun family mausoleum at Walden Abbey. It might just be that Elizabeth’s second marriage was as unsatisfactory to her as her first. William was away a lot of the time, fighting in Scotland, Brittany and then France, one of Edwards most reliable war captains. He died in 1360.

Elizabeth must have known that she was seriously ill with little chance of recovery on May 31st 1356 because eight days later she died. As per her wishes was buried at Blackfriars in London [12.], choosing not to be buried with any of her family. Dead at forty one, Elizabeth is the ancestress of every King and Queen of England since 1413 except Henry VII. The last note to make on Elizabeth de Badlesmere is the often over looked fact that through her first marriage she was the ancestress of the house of York, and through her second; that of Lancaster. Henry VI was Elizabeth’s great, great grandson by the son of her second marriage, Richard duke of York was her great, great, great grandson by the son of her first marriage.


  1. Margaret was the granddaughter of Richard de Clare, 6th earl of Gloucester by his younger son Thomas de Clare. Her uncle was the notorious Gilbert de Clare, 6th earl of Hereford and 7th earl of Gloucester ‘the red earl’ who married (as his second wife) Joan of Acre, daughter of King Edward I.
  2. Today Kinlet and Earnwood are one parish but at the time of the Mortimer marriage they were separate. Ernwood (or Earnwood as it is now known) was a hunting lodge that had once belonged to Queen Edith of Wessex before passing to the Mortimer family after the conquest. It later passed to Sir Bryan de Brampton who, alongside the Mortimer family, was one of the major benefactors of Wigmore Abbey. Ernwood passed into the possession of the abbey thereafter but the Mortimers owned a park there as mentioned in Cal.Pat. Rolls, Edward II, p.45. Today there is a surviving Grade II listed manor house which is 17th century or later. It almost certainly stands on the same spot as the medieval building where the wedding took place in 1316.
  3. Bartholomew was at that time with his fellow “Contrariants” leaving Leeds in the control of his wife. The siege of Leeds Castle was in the midst of what is known as the Despenser War of 1321/22 effectively the uprising of predominantly Marcher Lords (the Contrariants) against the Edward II’s favourites Hugh’s Despenser the Elder, earl of Winchester (aft.1322) and his son Hugh Despenser the Younger. They had been exiled in August 1321.  De Badlesmere had been closely associated with Hugh Despenser the Younger until recently when he had changed sides and joined the Contrariants, an act that earned him the enmity of Edward II. The prickly Thomas earl of Lancaster, the kings first cousin, appears to have detested de Badlesmere also. See Vita Edwardi Secundi, Monachi Cuiusdam Malmesberiensis [The Life of Edward the Second by the so-called Monk of Malmesbury].
  4. The names of the executed members of the garrison appear as follows; Commitment during the pleasure of the king’s chaplain, Richard de Potesgrave, of the keeping of all the lands, goods and chattels late of Walter Colpeper, Roger de Coumbe, Richard Prat, Thomas de Chidecroft, Richard de Chidecroft, Robert de Bromere, Roger de Rokayle, Nicholas de Bradefeld, Adam le Wayte, Robert de Cheigny, Richard Brisynge, Simon de Tyerst and William Colyn, which are in the king’s hand as forfeit because the said Walter and the others were hanged for the felony done by them, so that he answer for the issues thereof in the chamber; commitment also to him during pleasure of the keeping of all the lands, goods and chattels late of Thomas Colpeper, which have been taken into the king’s hand because he withdrew cited for certain seditions done by the king, so that he answers for the issues thereof in the chamber. [Added on;] Order to the sheriff of Kent to take the said lands, goods and chattels into the king’s hand, if he has not yet done so, and to deliver the same to the said Richard. November 3rd at Leeds. See Cal. Fine Rolls, p.76
  5.  The like of Alan de Charleton to take into the king’s hand and to keep as above the castle and lordship of Wygemor (Wigmore), and the goods and chattels of the same Roger found therein, and to make indentures thereof between the same Alan and John de Merton, clerk. Order to the tenants to be intendant to him. January 23rd at Shrewsbury. See Cal. Fine Rolls p.93 Roger’s other castles etc. were also being taken into the control of the crown, on the same day; Appointment of Humphrey de Litlebury to take into the king’s hand the town, land and lordship of the land of Radenore (Radnor)* and the goods and chattels of Roger de Mortuo Mari (Mortimer*) of Wygemor (Wigmore) found therein, and to keep the same during pleasure. Edward II had already ordered a general seizure of lands and castles belonging to the Contrariants on December 27th whilst at Cirencester; Roger included.
    *Embarrassingly for Edward, Radnor did not belong to Roger. It was held by his Mother Margaret de Fiennes then aged around sixty who put a spirited protest and had her lands returned.
  6. Joan was found at Wigmore Abbey, presumably with her younger children and was arrested. In March she was sent to Southampton with six men of her household on the orders of the king who granted a licence for them to accompany “Joan, wife of Roger de Mortuo Mari of Wygemor”  See Cal. Patent Rolls, p.77 On April 6th 1324 she was moved to Skipton-in-Craven in Yorkshire. “To the sheriff of Southampton. Order to cause Margaret [sic.Joan. Margaret was her Mother in law Margaret de Fiennes] wife of Roger de Mortuo Mari of Wygemore, who is in his custody, to be conducted to the castle of Skipton-in-Craven, co. York, together with a damsel, an esquire, a laundress, a groom, and a page serving her…” April 6th Westminster. See Cal.Close Rolls, p.87.
  7. Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford was Edward II’s brother in law via marriage to Elizabeth of Rhuddlan, Edward’s older sister who had died in childbirth in May 1316. Given that Herefords five sons were the kings nephews they were very likely held in much comfort and therefore the older Mortimer sons were too. The third son Geoffrey was living with relatives of his Mother in France at the time of his Father’s arrest and the youngest Mortimer son, John was held in Southampton also rather than with his brothers. The oldest three Mortimer daughters after being held in Southampton  were sent to convents in 1324, Margaret was sent to Sholdham Priory (Norfolk), Joan was sent to Sempringham Priory (Lincolnshire) in 1324 (where she may have made the acquaintance of Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn, only child of Llywelyn prince of Wales and Eleanor de Monfort) Isabella was sent to Chicksands Priory (Bedfordshire). See, Cal. Close Rolls, p. 88/89. I have been unable to find out where the younger daughters were held and it may be that because of their young ages they were not incarcerated and perhaps were given to their grandmother Margaret de Fiennes to care for.
  8. With him was Roger Clifford, 2nd baron Clifford who was the grandson of the above mentioned Thomas de Clare [see 1.], his Mother Maude the older sister of Margaret de Clare, baroness de Badlesmere. He was, therefore a first cousin of Elizabeth de Badlesmere. He was hanged at York, a fate shared with about thirty others, notably John Mowbray, 2nd baron Mowbray whose son joined the swollen ranks of prisoners within the Tower of London.
  9. Order to deliver from the Tower, Margaret, late the wife of Bartholomew de Badlesmere, a late rebel.” November 3rd 1322. See Cal. Close Rolls p.604
  10. Elizabeth’s third son but first by William de Bohun was Humphrey who was born on 25th March 1341 and at the death of his Father in 1360 he inherited the earldom of Northampton and a year later when his uncle Humphrey de Bohun died he also inherited the earldom of Hereford as well as that of Essex. He later married Joan Fitzalan daughter of Richard, 10th earl of Arundel. They had two surviving daughters, Eleanor who married Edward III’s youngest son Thomas of Woodstock and Mary who married Edward III’s grandson Henry Bolingbroke. She was the Mother of Henry V. Elizabeth’s daughter and namesake Elizabeth was born around 1350 and so was still very young at the death of her Mother. She later married Richard Fitzalan, 11th earl of Arundel and brother of her sister in law Joan.
  11. See, A survey of London written in in the year 1598 by John Stow, p. 127

 

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