Wednesday, 18 February 2009

A note about Sir John Mortimer

Who was Sir John Mortimer?

Frankly, I have no idea! I've seen a family tree (In Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk, of all places) that made him the legitimate brother of Roger, 4th Earl of March and Sir Edmund Mortimer. However, I can find no other trace of him as such. He does not figure in the index of Wylie's History of England Under Henry IV, and if you're anyone at all in Henry's reign (and often if you're no one) you show up there.

Could he possibly have been an illegitimate son of the 3rd or 4th earl? Yes. Could he possibly have been a son of Sir Edmund Mortimer? Maybe, but almost certainly not by Catrin ferch Owain. Might he have been a collateral kinsman - for example a son of that Sir Thomas Mortimer who is a known illegitimate uncle of the 4th earl? Could be...

All we can say for certain is that the bloke was accused of treason in 1421 and executed (on the basis of an Act of Attainder - no trial) in 1424. And he was a 'kinsman' of the Earl of March.

If anyone knows more, please tell me.


Tony said...


Just following threads on John Cade and wondering if this could be his father.

There seem to be many co-incidences that have lead me here and might explain how John Cade had such a large following and the support of the Duke of York.

It may also explain why there was such little information about him and his 'father' as History tends to wipe out unpopuar characters.

Talking of unpopular characters John Cade (Mortimer) had married a Lady of good position and led a rebellion that defeated the Kings Army which isn't bad for someone described as a murderer and Irishman. Probably two extreame insults for the times.

Just think it may be a useful link.
Duke of Clarence?

Regards Tony

Brian said...

It's certainly a possibility, Tony.

I would be a lot happier if I could figure out who exactly Sir John Mortimer himself was, and why he was such a threat. The Mortimers did have various illegitimate lines (qv Thomas Mortimer in the reign of Richard II) and it may be that Cade came from one.

Cade may well have received tacit support from York or his circle. One of the features of York's career was that various associated people (William Oldhall for one) 'put themselves forward'. It's hard to discern whether they were always acting with York's express approval, and this fog may well have been deliberate. Alternatively they may have been working independently of 'the boss' and playing the part of the tail that wags the dog.

fabius said...


Do you know of the following reference to Sir John Mortimer in "A complete collection of state trials and proceedings for high ..., Volume 1 edited by Thomas Bayly Howell" -- its a googlebook.

The content seems to suggest that Sir John thought himself the next heir to the crown after the Earl of March (from this, implicitly his brother?).

The relevant text is at the tinyurl:

Cheers, Dave Drabold

fabius said...

A nice scholarly article on John, though still unclear on identity:

The interesting feature is the guys claim to be next in line after Edmund. On what basis -- craziness or blood!?

-- Dave

Brian said...

Interesting stuff gentlemen
If one of you has leisure it might be worth a check of the patent/close/fine rolls for Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V to see if he is mentioned anywhere.

I can say he's not mentioned in Wylie's book on H4 which surprises me if he was a legitimate son of Edmund Earl of March, but these things happen.

fabius said...

Hi Guys,

I managed to get a discussion going about this on the medieval genealogy discussion group. Part of the question discussed there is the identity of Sir John with additional links, and then a secondary quest to connect Sir John with a contemporary John Mortimer Esq. whose identity is of interest to his descendants. Anyway, maybe some leads, including some explicit references to him as a legitimate Mortimer Marcher (Marcher Mortimer?!). Cheers, Dave