Katherine Mortimer, Countess of Warwick

Illustration of tkatherine Mortimer’s tomb in the quire of St Mary’s Church, Warwick

Ann Neville and her sister were descended through their mother from Roger Mortimer 1st Earl of March – the one who rebelled against Edward II, escaped for the Tower, came to an arrangement with Edwad’s wife Isabella of France , deposed the king, became regent and was finally executed for treason – it’s quite a resume when all’s said and done.

Suffice it to say that for a short while he was the most powerful man in England but Katherine’s marriage had taken place before her father became the focus for rebels angry with the king and his favourites. He was very much in the king’s camp on the side of Edward, the king’s cousin and rival Thomas of Lancaster being a rival of the Mortimers in the Marches. It helped that Mortimer had once been the ward of Piers Galveston, the king’s murdered favourite.

Mortimer went to Ireland and following the Scottish victory at Bannockburn in 1314 faced Robert the Bruce’s brother Edward. In December 1315 he lost the Battle of Kells before returning to the marches where he was required to put down a Welsh uprising.

As a consequence Mortimer’s star began to rise at court and he set about consolidating his own inheritance as well as the lands he acquired by his marriage to Joan de Geneville. One such consolidation involved settling a dispute with the Beauchamp family over the lordship of Elfael. The dispute arose when one of Mortimer’s vassals died in 1315. The argument lived on even after the Earl of Warwick who claimed the land for his own died the following year. The matter was concluded with the marriage of his young daughter Katherine to Thomas Beauchamp, who had become the earl of Warwick at the age of two, and who was just three years old at the time the agreement was made. Warwick became Mortimer’s ward so young Katherine did not need to leave her home at Ludlow Castle when she was initially married. A papal dispensation as required as the young couple shared a common ancestor within the prohibited degree. A similarly advantageous marriage was made by Mortimer for another daughter Joan to James Audley, the grandson of another marcher lord. As one of eight daughters and four sons Katherine was part of Mortimer’s plan to secure his role in the marches.

Katherine escaped the wrath of Edward II when her three older sisters Margaret, Joan and Isabella were sent to a nunnery in 1324. Unlike Despenser’s daughters they were not forced to take the veil and they were released when Mortimer assumed power with Isabella in 1327. And already being married to an earl, Katherine was not part of her father’s plans to marry off his children to arrange marriages into the royal family and to other rich and powerful men. Beatrice Mortimer found herself married to Edward I’s grandson.

Katherine, who was just sixteen when her father was executed, had a large family of some fifteen children with her husband. Nor did Edward III hold a grudge against the daughter of his father’s enemy. She rose to become a significant part of the royal household whilst her husband became a military commander of the Hundred Years War as well as being one of the founding members of the Order of the Garter. She died on August 4th 1369 having made her will leaving £20 to the friars of Shrewsbury. Three months later her husband died in Calais from the Black Death. His body was transported home and the earl was buried beside Katherine in St Mary’s Church, Warwick. The church was rebuilt by the earl using loot from his victories in France. It was said that rebuilding began with the payment of a ransom from the Archbishop of Sens. Their tomb shows the couple holding hands.

Ian Mortimer (2004) The Greatest Traitor: the Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330

4 thoughts on “Katherine Mortimer, Countess of Warwick

  1. Must be on my wave length as Mortimer family on my family tree turned up another stone by London agents on the case .Post arrived 8am this very morning. Mother Neville family are from same line too. Rather a situation as bloodlines of the great and powerful in the dark past behind me are closely related in part. Just hope I can get to 120 years old with all this going on inside me

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