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Alianore
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PostSubject: Roger's Rapacity   Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:50 pm

I thought it would be interesting to look at what modern historians have said about the regime of Roger Mortimer and Isabella, 1327-30...

Anthony Tuck, Crown and Nobility 1272-1461, p 95:

"In acquisitiveness and greed there was little to choose between the victors and the vanquished in the political struggles of the 1320s...the revolution of 1327 seemed to amount to little more than the replacement of one greedy and unscrupulous faction by another."

Michael Prestwich, The Three Edwards, p. 111:

Henry of Lancaster "found it difficult to maintain his position in face of Mortimer's greedy and unscrupulous ambition."

W. M. Ormrod, The Reign of Edward III, pp. 3-4:

"For a while, popular measures helped to disguise the self-seeking ambitions of Isabella and her paramour...it was soon obvious who were the real benefactors of the coup. The queen and Mortimer helped themselves greedily to the large resources left by Edward II, and made free with the possessions of his followers...By snatching marcher lands from Edward II's supporters and opponents alike, Mortimer consolidated an enormous block of territories on the Welsh borders."

May McKisack, The Fourteenth Century, pp. 96-97:

Edward II's "fall exposed the nation to the rule of the greedy and disreputable couple under whose aegis Edward III succeeded to the throne...Mortimer's policy seems to have been to rule indirectly through the queen, but there was nothing indirect about his acquisitiveness...Mortimer's avarice was as blatant as the Despensers'."

Oxford Dict of Nat Biog, by R. R. Davies:

"From 1326 onwards he [Mortimer] showed himself as self-seeking, acquisitive, and vain to a quite exceptional degree. His extravagant and unrestrained abuse of his position in these years—and the shameless way in which he expropriated his uncle's family—showed that he was, ultimately, a man without political principle or political judgement."

Oxford Dict of Nat Biog, by John Carmi Parsons:

"Isabella's greed and her lover's arrogance had alienated many...Isabella was never able to attract to herself the lasting loyalty of those who had upheld her in 1326, loyalty rightly owed to the son in whom was legitimately vested the royal authority that his mother and Mortimer usurped."

Roy Martin Haines, King Edward II, pp. 217-218:

Mortimer "repeated all the mistakes of the Despensers, adding a few of his own...Whereas under Edward II treasure had been accumulated, under the "reign" of Mortimer and Isabella it had been dissipated with astonishing rapidity. Both "rulers" had been notorious for greed."

Scott L. Waugh, England in the Reign of Edward III, p. 13:

"Mortimer and Isabella proved to be as grasping as the Despensers. They hoarded wealth..."

Michael Hicks, Who's Who in Late Medieval England, pp. 66-67:

"Mortimer took his opportunity to enrich himself and revenge himself on his enemies, showing flagrant disregard for the law...Contemporaries found him as insufferable as the Despensers whom he had destroyed."

Chris Given-Wilson, The English Nobility in the late Middle Ages, p. 33:

"Mortimer proved to be little better than the men he had supplanted. Certainly he did not lack for personal ambition."

Oh dear, some pretty damning indictments on a couple who invaded England supposedly to liberate it from a greedy and tyrannical regime, then behaved in exactly the same ways themselves....

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Wed Jun 25, 2008 8:07 pm

I can't agree more!!! All of my research backs this up too. As far as I'm concerned, what Mortimer and Isabella did was at least as bad as anything Hugh Despenser could have been (reasonably) accused of. But at least Despenser built up the treasury reserves for Edward whilst enriching himself: Isabella and Mortimer practically bankrupted the country with their extravagance!
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jun 26, 2008 12:42 pm

Exactly! According to Natalie Fryde, The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II, they inherited close to £80,000 from Edward II's treasury in November 1326. By 27 March 1327, this had dwindled to a little over £12,000. By July 1328, it had declined to £1355. After Mortimer was arrested in October 1330, a derisory £41 was left. And that's not even including the £20,000 war idemnity from Robert Bruce that they stole, that was intended as compensation for the people of the north of England who had lost their homes and livelihoods in Scottish raids.

I mean, what the heck did they do with all those vast piles of money??? In modern terms, we're talking about tens or hundreds of millions that found its way into their own coffers. While they gorged themselves with lands and money, Edward III, the king of England, had hardly any. Isabella awarded herself the highest income anyone in England had ever received to that point, 20,000 marks or £13,333, more than 20% higher than her uncle the earl of Lancaster had received from 5 earldoms - and he was as rich as Croesus.

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:48 pm

But poor Isabella needed the money to compensate herself for all those years of marital neglect. (Ducks.)

Seriously, what were they thinking? Did they really think that the nobles--and the maturing Edward III--were going to just sit back and yawn while they bled England dry? It's just mind-boggling to me.
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jun 26, 2008 10:59 pm

There's no doubt Roger and Isa were extremely greedy - and foolish. They totally misread the situation if they thought the nobility etc would tolerate a regime that had the same criticisms as the previous regime.
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Wed Jul 02, 2008 4:17 am

Thanks for such an impressive list, it's an eye opener indeed! Hmmm, one thing though: most (if not all) the above-mentioned authors do assert that terrible story about the king's death. If you do have such faith in everything they wrote, why is it that you don't believe that too?

Once more, Roger could dispose of the money/property as any other ruler of the time. It was a regency after all, and he did not have an official position because he chose not to; even the above-mentioned authors agree. But I don't remember a regency in cheeky lover-boy's time. Well, perhaps the king would have needed one, for behaving so childishly... And at least Roger used part of it to reward his loyal supporters, whilst his own reward for years of service and for standing by the king and Piers was supposed to be death (he's not even the only one so kindly repaid)! And for what? They did not even actually rebel! What were they supposed to do as loyal subjects, stand back and wait to be engulfed? You do that girls, offer everything to the first newcomer, even your home, to do your "giri" (duty) and please your boss and his camarilla. Sure, why is Despenser so much blamed, poor sod, I wonder (he didn't do anything wrong, of course, he was an angel in disguise, lol!)? Umm, isn't it because HIS rapaciousness started the whole subsequent chain of events???

As for Isabelle, other queens did love luxury too. There was recent talk about it, if I remember correctly. But they get away with an indulgent smile... fair enough!!!
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Wed Jul 02, 2008 3:33 pm

elflady wrote:
Thanks for such an impressive list, it's an eye opener indeed! Hmmm, one thing though: most (if not all) the above-mentioned authors do assert that terrible story about the king's death. If you do have such faith in everything they wrote, why is it that you don't believe that too?

Because there's ample evidence to suggest that the terrible story of Edward's death is not true. There is no evidence to suggest that Mortimer and Isabella were not incredibly greedy.

And in fact, few if any of the above historians believe the traditional (red-hot poker) story of Edward's death to be the definitive truth.

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Wed Jul 02, 2008 3:35 pm

elflady wrote:
As for Isabelle, other queens did love luxury too. There was recent talk about it, if I remember correctly. But they get away with an indulgent smile... fair enough!!!

Other queens didn't steal £20,000 from their own subjects.

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Wed Jul 02, 2008 9:30 pm

Ok, let's sit wrong and judge right...

If it was not the red-hot poker story, then it was smothering or even natural death. So much for your evidence!

Stealing? Define the legal terms for stealing at the time. As far as I know, stealing only meant stealing (or any attempt at stealing) from private property back then (and in that domain, we do know who the specialist was). Contradict me with solid evidence (like the text of the law, a copy of the original manuscript, or even a legal precedent, whatever) which states otherwise, not the "newspapers" of the period or various interpretations. I very much doubt that such a law existed. The concept of state property as we know it was added much later. If you want to apply our modern laws, then add the VAT too!!!
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:53 am

elflady wrote:
If it was not the red-hot poker story, then it was smothering or even natural death. So much for your evidence!

Anthony Tuck, Crown and Nobility, p. 93:

"It remains a mystery as to whether the body which lies in the splendid tomb there [Gloucester] is his [Edward's] or not."

Natalie Fryde, Tyranny and Fall, pp. 201-206, discusses the Fieschi letter, Berkeley's comments to parliament, and the possibility that Ed survived.

Michael Prestwich, The Three Edwards, p. 99:

"Even if Edward did not die at Berkeley, he played no further role in the history of the country he had misgoverned."

Etc, etc, etc. If you're going to dismiss 'my evidence', at least read the books.

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:57 am

elflady wrote:
It was a regency after all, and he did not have an official position because he chose not to; even the above-mentioned authors agree.

As you obviously haven't read the above-mentioned authors, how do you know that they agree? Can you give me the page refs, as I've done when citing them?

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jul 03, 2008 6:23 am

Contemporaries certainly regarded Roger as rapacious. Accusations of financial misdoings formed a big part of Henry of Lancaster's accusations against Roger (see p. 212 of The Greatest Traitor), and "using his royal power to enrich himself . . . from the royal treasury" and appropriating the 20,000 marks paid by the Scots were among the charges brought against Roger at his trial (see p. 240 of The Greatest Traitor).

He was also accused of ignoring the royal council of regency, of which he was not a member. And then there's the shabby way in which Queen Philippa, whose family did so much to fund the invasion of 1326, was treated for so much of Isabella and Mortimer's rule . . .
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:21 am

Alianore:

"The 14th Century", May McKisack, ch. III - "Reaction and Revolution".

Re death
"Early in September 1327 Mortimer learned from one of his agents that this new plot was hatching and that there was serious danger... the weight of the evidence seems to place it beyond doubt that he was murdered."

Re regency
"Mortimer did not claim a place on the council, being content to see his interests represented etc."

Can't give you page numbers, since I only have a handwritten copy of it (there were few copiers when I found it), but I'm sure you can find the refs.

Re Despenser, same book, same chapter:
"...he did not scruple to increase it (his wealth) by exploiting his position at court and by methods even more dubious."

The meaning is clear enough, don't you think?

I'm sure you've read far more books than I could possibly find, but let's talk evidence, not interpretations. Explain to me, please, what the law specifically said about stealing.


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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:33 am

boswellbaxter wrote:
Contemporaries certainly regarded Roger as rapacious. Accusations of financial misdoings formed a big part of Henry of Lancaster's accusations against Roger (see p. 212 of The Greatest Traitor), and "using his royal power to enrich himself . . . from the royal treasury" and appropriating the 20,000 marks paid by the Scots were among the charges brought against Roger at his trial (see p. 240 of The Greatest Traitor).

He was also accused of ignoring the royal council of regency, of which he was not a member. And then there's the shabby way in which Queen Philippa, whose family did so much to fund the invasion of 1326, was treated for so much of Isabella and Mortimer's rule . . .

Henry of Lancaster? Pages 111-112 also show much about his ways. Do you honestly think that a man with such a behaviour made accussations just for being a patriot???

Roger's trial, oh yes! If one, maybe two of the main charges against him were lies and the one about "forcing the king to march against the Earl of Lancaster" almost a joke (see page 112 for the king's own reaction at the time), what reliability do the charges really have? The man simply had to die, period, and truth has little to do with it.

Philippa's dowry... what about Isabelle's dowry?
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:42 am

elflady wrote:
If you want to apply our modern laws, then add the VAT too!!!

Ohhhh, the sarcasm! It burnssss ussss!!

Do you really think that, when someone hands over £20,000 (30,000 marks) to be given as compensation to people who lost their homes and livelihoods in raids, and a greedy, rapacious couple keep it all for themselves, athough they have more money than Croesus, that's not stealing?

Why do you keep referring to Despenser as an angel who could do no wrong? No-one's ever said, not here, not on my blog, that he wasn't incredibly rapacious and took over lands illegally. The point is, Mortimer was just as bad - as both his contemporaries and numerous modern historians have pointed out. If you think that's not true, then point us towards primary sources that disprove it.

Neither Mortimer nor Isabella had the slightest vestige of a right to be ruling England from 1327 to 1330 (and no, Hugh Despenser had no right to rule England from 1322 to 1326, either - no-one here or anywhere else has ever said otherwise). Their rule was totally illegitimate. Henry of Lancaster was the legal guardian of Edward III (not Isabella) and the head of the regency council. The fact that the period from Jan 1327 to Oct 1330 saw no fewer than 4 rebellions against Mortimer and Isabella's regime - 3 of them led by their close relatives and former allies - does tend to suggest that they were, perhaps, a tad unpopular.

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:27 am

elflady wrote:
Philippa's dowry... what about Isabelle's dowry?

You mean the 20,000 marks annually she awarded herself - by far the highest income anyone in England had ever received?

And you'd think The Saintly Isabella, having suffered so terribly for so long (the worst suffering anyone could possibly imagine!), would have been unwilling to inflict poverty and humiliation on her own daughter-in-law.

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:37 pm

About time I jumped back in here!

Elflady - As Alianore has said, no-one has said that Despenser was an angel - not even me. The point we are making is that Mortimer was as bad as Hugh, and also, to a point, Lancaster when he was close to the King. It was what was done in that time. Land was power and security and ruthlessness was part of that. I study Hugh's story closely, as you must know, but I would never, ever try and excuse his 'dubious' actions if they are proved to have happened (and for this I use primary sources, not secondary books - what do you use?).

This sort of historical study is all about detective work (and that means trawling through extant records - even having to translate some of them) so that you can confirm what has been written (or not yet written) in secondary sources (yes, shock, horror, even some of the published historians sometimes get some details wrong in their books!). It is also about standing back and being objective about your subject. If you are emotionally attached, as you seem to be to Mortimer, then sometimes you only see what you want to see.

As for references, I would be far more impressed if you could back up your 'impassioned' statements with something other than a few sentences without proper references (and having only hand-written copies are, I'm afraid, no excuse within academic arguments).

Alianore and Susan have both backed up their arguments properly and their logic can be clearly followed. Yours cannot. You give the impression of being unable to take an objective view of SEVERAL examples of written works (not just the ones that appeal to you).

Elflady, unsupported sweeping statements and sarcasm are really not the way to go and, to be honest, make you look a tad silly. If you can come back and prove me wrong by properly supporting your assertions with varied and properly referenced sources, presenting valid arguments against Alianore and Susan's statements (again, backing them up), and maybe even providing some primary material, I will unconditionally apologise and, I'm sure, you will impress us all.
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Fri Jul 04, 2008 11:51 am

elflady wrote:
Hmmm, one thing though: most (if not all) the above-mentioned authors do assert that terrible story about the king's death. If you do have such faith in everything they wrote, why is it that you don't believe that too?

Elflady, you told me once that you don't believe Isabella told her father about the adultery of her sisters-in-law in 1314, or that she had anything to do with 'betraying' their secret. But you quote Ian Mortimer's biography of Roger Mortimer here fairly often, and on page 140, he states that Isabella did inform her father about the scandal. If you do have such faith in everything Dr Mortimer writes, why is it that don't you believe that too?

And here are two quotes from Greatest Traitor, pages 233 and 234:

"Roger was now acting without any limit on his power, and without any regard to the destruction he was causing."

"No one was safe from Roger's rapacity, not even his relations." Dr Mortimer goes on to point out that Mortimer imprisoned his cousin the countess of Kent when she was almost nine months pregnant, disinherited his cousin, Mortimer of Chirk's heir, and disinherited his cousin Thomas Wake.

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:28 pm

And what did Philippe of France do with all the money he obtained from taxes, the Jews, the clergy etc? So far, I haven't heard it said it was outright stealing. Roger WAS the ruler of the country between 1327-1330, whether anybody likes it or not and as such, he could dispose of the resources. Just show me any other ruler not only of the 14th century, but during the Middle Ages in general who did not and I'm going to believe you. Just one!


The paralell between Roger Mortimer and Hugh Despenser is unfair, this is why I keep referring to him, and if no one cares to see the facts it's OK, I don't mind (I'm supposed to be silly and biased).

Let's see:
- it wasn't Roger who was a threat to his neighbours, thus causing war;
- Roger fought loyally for years, defending the country's borders. What did Despenser do at the time by comparison?
- Roger was one of the very few who held their ground and covered the king's retreat al Bannockburn;
- Roger remained at the side of the king in the matter of Piers Gaveston; so did Despenser's father, but what about him?
- There's always talk about Roger's "revenge". I've said it before and I'm going to say it again: max 8 people dead against how many during the previous regime? You've once said, Alianore, that we need not compare the number of deaths. Why not? It does say a lot, especially for such violent times.
- It wasn't Roger who became a bandit (pardon, Alianore, a pirate) during his exile. We've already talked about it, and your reply was that it was because of the lack of money in Despenser's case. So I'm going to ask you again: lack of money justifies robbing and killing? And we are talking about robbery of the most common kind... We ARE discussing stealing, aren't we???
- Roger did not extort people in the worst possible way. From the book I'm supposed to not have read, same chapter as before: "The bishop-elect of Rochester was not allowed livery of his temporalities until contrary to all justice and the custom of England, he had made the chamberlain a present of L10" etc. This is not only stealing, it's worse, it's petty theft.
And the list could probably continue...

Another thing, Alianore and Lady D: when you make accussations, YOU are the ones supposed to prove them right and not the other way round. So far, you've only made a list with what modern historians say (historians who, sadly, can sometimes be mistaken - thanks Lady D, for admitting it). So how about that text of the law?


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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:48 pm

elflady wrote:
Roger WAS the ruler of the country between 1327-1330, whether anybody likes it or not and as such, he could dispose of the resources.

You could say, with equal validity, that Hugh Despenser was the ruler of the country between 1322 and 1326 whether anybody likes it or not and as such, could dispose of the resources. Mortimer had no more right than Despenser to be ruling the country. It's not a question of 'liking' it or not, it's a question of legitimacy. Neither Despenser nor Mortimer had it. Neither did Queen Isabella.

Saying that the only reason Mortimer didn't have an official position because he chose not to is laughable. Is that how government works? If the British prime minister nowadays allowed his wife to wield enormous political power, and allowed her to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, and then told parliament 'she chooses not to have an official position, but I let her do it anyway', would that be accepted?

And because Isabella had no right to govern England either - she wasn't elected as regent or as a member of the regency council - what you're saying is the same situation as if a close relative of the British prime minister allowed his/her lover to rule the country. That's not how it works, I'm afraid. Not now, not in the 14th century.

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:52 pm

elflady wrote:
- Roger was one of the very few who held their ground and covered the king's retreat al Bannockburn;

So did Hugh Despenser (the son, not the father), for that matter - he was one of the knights who rode with Edward from the battlefield. And it wasn't a 'very few'; there were hundreds of them.

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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:57 pm

elflady wrote:
- Roger did not extort people in the worst possible way. From the book I'm supposed to not have read, same chapter as before: "The bishop-elect of Rochester was not allowed livery of his temporalities until contrary to all justice and the custom of England, he had made the chamberlain a present of L10" etc. This is not only stealing, it's worse, it's petty theft.

Demanding £10 for temporalities is worse than taking £20,000 from people who really needed it? What a very interesting perspective.

Didn't extort people in the worst possible way? I don't know what the 'worst possible way' would be, but declaring your cousin illegitimate to take over your uncle's lands doesn't strike me as a very nice way, either.

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"Sans lui n'estoit rien fait, et par lui estoit tous fait, et le creoit li rois plus que tout le monde." Without him nothing is done and through him everything is done, and the king trusts him more than any other: Hugh Despenser the Younger and Edward II
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Fri Jul 04, 2008 5:14 pm

It's not me, Lady D and Susan 'making accusations'. It's Mortimer's contemporaries, and historians. But if you know better than people who lived in Mortimer's time and suffered under his rule, and professors of medieval history, fair enough. We'll all just have to humbly accept your superior knowledge.

I could sit here and type out quotes from contemporary sources that prove Isabella and Mortimer's greed and tyranny, but what's the point? You'll only find some way of dismissing them, so it's a waste of effort. Much like the way you dismissed what Susan wrote about Henry of Lancaster and his points against Mortimer.

"So far, you've only made a list with what modern historians say (historians who, sadly, can sometimes be mistaken - thanks Lady D, for admitting it). "

And what exactly was it that you were doing, by quoting historians above? It's OK for you to cite historians who you think prove your argument, but not OK for us to do it when said historians write things you don't like? And OK for you to pick and choose what you want to believe in history books, but not for anyone else? You keep talking about contemporary texts, but you haven't quoted a single one so far to back up your 'argument'.

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"Sans lui n'estoit rien fait, et par lui estoit tous fait, et le creoit li rois plus que tout le monde." Without him nothing is done and through him everything is done, and the king trusts him more than any other: Hugh Despenser the Younger and Edward II
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Fri Jul 04, 2008 8:10 pm

No, it's not the same thing. There was NO regency in Despenser's time. The fact that Roger could but would not accept an official position still remains. If Henry of Lancaster was head of the council, it it because Roger wanted/accepted him... Not even you can, in good faith and still pretending to be impartial, deny it.

Making fun of wives and lovers governing is childish. Well yes, governing works this way sometimes, you should know better, lol! Your prime minister's wife probably had no chance of doing it, let alone refuse it. Maybe it is you who should read more... More to the point about regencies, first example coming to my mind: Mazarin and Anna of Austria?


Wow, of all the points on my list, is this all you can come up with? All you can contest? That Despenser did fight at Bannockburn? So what? Did he distinguish himself? What is it you said... that he rode away with the king? Valiantly indeeed! But did he return as the count of Pembroke did? Was he among the ones to fight to the very end?

Yes, I did quote May McKisack for the L10 bribe, but I quoted her for a fact, not for her interpretation of the whole situation!
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PostSubject: Re: Roger's Rapacity   Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:47 pm

This is starting to feel like flogging a dead horse!

No-one here would deny that in his early days Roger was a good soldier and loyal to Edward - that is not in doubt. But. After 1326 his behaviour did change. Of all the sources that Alianore has quoted, Dr Mortimer is one of the best (much of his info comes from primary records and contemporary accounts) - and he is of the same opinion - Mortimer did become greedy and tyrannical. Are you going to suggest that he does some more reading too?

I for one know that Alianore has studied this subject for a long time and has certainly done her research and read her books (including the relevant rolls entries). To suggest that she needs to read more is, to be honest, laughable, especially as you still have not come up with references to back your own claims.

I appreciate your passion for the subject, I really do, but people might listen to you much more if you could back up what you are saying instead of throwing mis-aimed remarks. You say that making fun of wives and lovers governing is foolish and yet it was you who first made a similar comment about Hugh ('cheeky lover boy') as I recall.

Yes, some historians do get some things wrong - that is why both Alianore and I are careful about which secondary sources we quote (we cross-check them first with others) and we are also careful to point out any deviations from what we have discovered (in which case we would always be able to justify it by proper, referenced academic arguments if so requested, as we have requested of you). It is all about serious, dedicated research. I appreciate that in Romania you may not have access to all the resources we do, but you should at least give us credit for having done the reading!

Many of the historians Alianore quoted have also done their reading and research. OK, they may have got some things wrong in their books (in our considered opinion), but the there is nothing to suggest any ambiguities or controversies about the sections of text Alianore put up. They are all based on searchable, primary evidence.

I may be wrong, and if so then I apologise, but you seem to be one of those people who will swear that black is white no matter how many pieces of evidence are put before you. Still, if it makes you happy...
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