What is it about the members of the Mortimer family, powerful and ambitious lords of the March, that attracts people to the Mortimer History Society (MHS)? Partly it is the story of the Mortimers themselves – surely ripe for a TV dramatisation – who clawed their way to wealth and pre-eminence in the years following the Norman Conquest from their castle in Wigmore, Herefordshire. Eventually they dominated the politics of England, Wales, and Ireland, married into the English royal family, and won the throne in 1461, in the person of Edward IV, after a series of hard-fought battles.
Partly, too, the Mortimers and all the Marcher Lordships stand for their time. The society encourages the study of the broad sweep of medieval political, social, economic, and religious history, as well as encouraging young scholars to undertake research on the Mortimers and/or the Marcher Lordships through an annual essay competition with the not-inconsiderable prize money of £1,250. The winning and commended essays are published in the Society’s annual Journal, along with other articles and reviews.
More established academics and rising new ones are invited to give papers at a session sponsored by the MHS at the annual Leeds International Medieval Congress. Twelve scholars have been commissioned to contribute chapters on Mortimer-related topics for a new book to be published at the Tower of London on 1 August 2023 to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the escape of Roger Mortimer (d. 1330) from the Tower, where he had been imprisoned for leading the Marcher Lords in a revolt against King Edward II. (That story has been dramatised already in the form of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II, published in 1593.)
The society’s other main activities are disseminating scholarly research and stimulating wider public interest in the Marcher Lordships and the Mortimers through lectures, study trips, two half-day conferences a year, and a two-day conference. Some members are developing skills in palaeography, and others in heraldry. The constantly developing website of the MHS is rich in fascinating content, including the free-to-download Mortimer Matters newsletter. If you find yourself gripped, there is a series of MHS-sponsored publications to enjoy, written by MHS Secretary Philip Hume, including a trail guide taking you to 17 Marcher castles, 15 churches, an abbey, a priory, and three battle sites that have changed the course of national history.
IMAGES: The Mortimer History Society.
Further information: https://mortimerhistorysociety.org.uk/
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Text: C Catling.