Ian Mortimer does a grand job in shining a light on a dark corner of English history. I first came across the notorious Roger Mortimer years ago as a kid when my father took me on a guided trip to 'Mortimer's Hole', Roger's hiding place at Nottingham Castle. There wasn't much said about Roger, just that he murdered King Edward II and ruled the realm before being undone in 1330 by the young Edward III. Ian Mortimer puts flesh on his bones here, with a meticulously researched account of his life with some compelling detail [such as Roger's grandfather keeping Simon de Montfort's head as a souvenir]and well drawn portraits of Roger and his supporting cast - Aymer de Valence, for example, emerges as a fascinating character.
Ian Mortimer convincingly puts Roger's alleged villainy into context and makes us sympathise with him and the actions he took against an incompetent and inadequate ruler. The self-interested and sort-sighted acts of Edward II and the other members of the ruling order remind us that a corrupt political elite is far from a recent phenomenon.
The book is excellent throughout, but perhaps Ian Mortimer overeggs the pudding with his insistent support for the conspiracy theory that Edward II survived his stint in Berkley Castle and lived on for years in exile in Italy. I suppose this does help to put a new angle on the story and there just may be something in it, but I don't think the evidence as displayed here is really convincing. Similar stories have been circulated about a number of historical figures [Richard II during his usurper Henry IV's reign and Richard Duke of York during Henry VII's time], but all make more sense as opportunist political plots. Edward II's alleged survival doesn't seem to me any more likely. But whether you buy the revisionism or not, this a well-written and fascinating book.