The Wars of the Roses - The Yorkists Claim to the Throne (Click Here)
Outline Genealogy showing the Yorkists Claim to the Throne (Click here)
Edmund Mortimer (1391-1425), 5th Earl of March
Edmund was only six when his father died. By the end of the following year, Henry Bolingbroke had usurped the throne becoming King Henry IV. Edmund and his younger brother became royal wards, being brought up as virtual prisoners, mainly at Windsor.
Henry IV had good reason to feel threatened by the Mortimers. There was a strong body of opinion that they had a better claim to the crown than he did. Edmund’s uncle, another Edmund Mortimer (d1409), had joined forces with the hostile Welsh ruler Owain Glyndwr and married his daughter. Also his aunt, Elizabeth Mortimer, had been married to the rebellious Henry “Hotspur” Percy who had been killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. In 1405 Owain Glyndwr, his son-in-law Edmund Mortimer and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland agreed a ‘tripartite indenture’ to get rid of Henry IV and carve up England and Wales between them.
Constance Plantagenet was the only daughter of Edmund of Langley, the 4th surviving son on Edward III. She had been married to Thomas le Despenser, Earl of Gloucester who was executed for treason in 1400. Antagonistic to Henry IV and believing that the young Earl of March had a strong claim to the throne, she attempted to abduct Edmund and his brother from Windsor in 1405. She appears to have been trying to deliver the young Edmund to Glyndwr and his uncle, but they were recaptured near Cheltenham before reaching Wales.
When Henry V came to the throne in 1413, Edmund was knighted and allowed to inherit his estates. He incurred a massive fine through marrying without the king’s permission but appears otherwise to have been a close and loyal subject. In 1406 Lady Constance’s brother Richard, Duke of Cambridge married Edmund’s sister Anne Mortimer (d1411). Richard was one of the ringleaders of the Southampton Plot of 1415 intended to depose Henry V and replace him with the Mortimer Earl of March. The extent to which Edmund was involved in the plot is unclear, but he chose to tell Henry all about it, leading to Richard’s execution. Edmund supported the king in his Normandy campaign of 1415, but missed Agincourt through illness. He was appointed King’s Lieutenant in Normandy and was with him at the siege of Meaux in 1422 when the king contracted dysentery and died. On Henry’s death he became one of the infant Henry VI’s royal counsellors. He was appointed the King’s Lieutenant in Ireland, but caught the plague there, and died at the Mortimer castle of Trim in 1425 aged only 33.
The Wars of the Roses - The Yorkists Claim to the Throne
It was the misfortune of all the later Mortimer Earls of March to die young. When Edmund, the 5th Earl, died childless the direct male line of Mortimers of Wigmore failed. However this was not to be the end of the significance of the Mortimers. Edmund’s sister Anne (d1411) had married Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Cambridge (d1415) a great grandson of Edward III and when Edmund died it was their son Richard, Duke of York (d1460) who was his heir. Richard of York was to base his claim to the throne of England on direct descent from Edward III through his Mortimer ancestors. Though he died fighting the Lancastrians at the Battle of Wakefield, two of his sons ascended the throne as Edward IV and Richard III. Even after the start of the Tudor dynasty in 1485, following the defeat of Richard III at Bosworth, the Mortimer heritage remained important. The new king Henry VII married Elizabeth of York daughter of Edward IV, and their eldest son Prince Arthur included a Mortimer quartering on his coat of arms.