The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330
by Ian Mortimer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is really two books in one. The first (and largest) part of this book is a well-researched and engagingly written biography of Roger Mortimer, the man who (with the assistance of Queen Isabella) deposed Edward II of England and ruled for 3 years, until he was in turn overthrown, tried, and executed by Edward III. 14th century English politics can be quite messy and confusing, with lots of personal rivalries, shifting alliances, and constantly changing positions and titles, and Ian Mortimer (no relation to Roger) does a good job of making it all make sense.
The second part of the book is an epilogue in which Ian Mortimer lays out the evidence for his theory that Edward II wasn't actually murdered at Berkeley Castle in 1327. In Ian Mortimer's version of events, Roger Mortimer faked Edward's death to stave off political intrigues designed to return the deposed king to power. It's a tale of conspiracy at least as thrilling as those woven by all those folks who want to convince you that Richard III didn't kill the princes in the tower, but it has the advantage over those that I think I might actually be convinced. At any rate, I'm convinced that a fair number of people who had reason to be in the know believed that Edward II was alive after 1327. I'd want to do a little independent fact-checking before rendering a definitive opinion on Edward II's fate.
This book also really made me want to find a good biography of Queen Isabella. Because you really have to admire a woman, who, having been abandoned by Edward II and his favorite in the path of the advancing Scottish army, arranged her own passage back to England in a harrowing journey in which two of her ladies-in-waiting died, and then went straight to the Tower of London and struck up a secret correspondence with her husband's worst enemy, Roger Mortimer. Because she had clearly decided to be Done With Edward II's Bullshit. Forget all these kings and lords - I want to read a book about her. View all my reviews