An Irresistible Subject.

Johane de Geneville was an heiress, inheriting extensive lands in Ireland, in France, as well as in the Welsh Marches, including  the magnificent fortress of Ludlow Castle.  Without doubt Johane was a valuable bride for any family with foresight and ambition.  The perfect wife for young Roger Mortimer, son and heir of the Mortimer marcher lords.


Their marriage would appear to offer much satisfaction and even happiness.  Johane travelled extensively with her husband, to Wales, to Ireland, and within the Welsh Marches, while Roger escaped death in skirmish and battle.  They had twelve children who all grew to healthy adulthood, while Roger rebuilt Wigmore Castle as a major fortress.


What could go wrong?


Threats against the lands of the marcher lords by the royal favourite Hugh Despenser drove the area into insurrection.  Raising the Mortimer banners against him was interpreted as treason by King Edward II.  As a result, Roger was dispatched to the Tower of London with execution hanging over his head, while Johane was ultimately sent to confinement in Skipton Castle.  Their young Mortimers were shut away in Windsor Castle or in convents, the younger girls sharing Johane’s imprisonment.


All was not lost.  Roger escaped from the Tower of London, Johane and the children were released, and Roger returning from exile with an invading force.  A matter of rejoicing.


Except that Roger returned to England with Queen Isabella as his mistress.


How humiliating for the Mortimer wife, when she must welcome the Queen as her guest in Ludlow Castle.


For appearance sake, Roger and Johane had to work in tandem for the prestigious marriages of their daughters but I doubt that Johane enjoyed the experience, sharing her castles and her authority with the Queen at her husband’s side.  With the accession of a youthful Edward III there seemed no suggestion of change in this situation.  The reins of power were held by Roger and Isabelle, Roger using it  to his own advantage.


But as King Edward grew into maturity, his first priority was to to take back his power.  And he was fired with revenge.


What a denouement for this tale of treason.  What would be the result for Mortimer and for Johane?  Would she be called on to pay the penalty of her husband becoming an over-mighty magnate?  Would she be answerable for the treason?


History hides Johane under the usual medieval shadow of anonymity for women, but there is enough evidence to suggest that she was far more than simply an obedient wife and rejected lover.  What a woman of courage she must have been, of determination.  A woman intent on keeping her family safe, with the restoration of Mortimer land and power for the future Mortimer descendents.  As for Roger, in spite of everything, perhaps she felt that she had a debt to pay to him.