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The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330

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4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  555 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
A vivid and dramatic popular history of this feudal lord, rebel leader and dictator of England.
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published March 10th 2003 by Jonathan Cape (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,116)
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happy
Jan 12, 2015 happy rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-english
In this book, Professor Mortimer has done his usual excellent job of telling a medieval tale. In looking at the life of Roger Mortimer, the author tells us how Edward II turned probably his ablest military commander into his greatest enemy who ultimately became Edward’s wife's, Isabella, lover and consort.

Roger is one of the fascinating characters that inhabit medieval history. Born in the Welch Marches, he rose to be Edward’s Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and most successful commander. Unfortunate
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Pete daPixie
Apr 23, 2009 Pete daPixie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Another 5 star biography from Ian Mortimer. I read 'The Perfect King', published in 2004, recently, and have now devoured 'The Greatest Traitor', published in 2003. So I've gone against the chronology of history and the authors work.
I can't recommend Ian Mortimer's two books highly enough. The picture that has come down the centuries of Roger Mortimer as the power hungry traitor is shown here to be a very shallow understanding of the man.
The Mortimer was a feudal lord simply caught up in the rui
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Molly Pace
Jun 13, 2012 Molly Pace rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
August first, 1323. Tonight is the feast of St Peter ad Vincula, or Saint Peter in Chains, the patron saint of the Tower of London. There’s quite a party going on in the hall of the royal palace; the lieutenant in charge of the castle has passed out already—in fact, quite a few of the attendees are more drunk than their usual, as if they all suddenly forgot how to hold their wine. All except for the sub-lieutenant, young Gerard d’Alspaye who, strangely enough, has not had a drink. But then, he k ...more
Lene
Mar 31, 2016 Lene rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This book gives a pretty good impression of 14th century aristocratic England by following the life story of one extraordinary man. The author uses the book as a vehicle for sometimes very daring theses. The central thesis, that Roger Mortimer did not kill king Edward II as had been historical consensus for centuries, is introduced somewhat offhandedly and only substantiated in the last chapter. This makes seem much of the last third of the book seem pretty far out on a limb, but good evidence f ...more
Autumn
Sep 18, 2014 Autumn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sonya Porter
If you are into detailed accounts of medieval history, this is excellent! The author has done so much research and found new evidence that changes the story we know of Edward II. The author's style is easy and entertaining. This book makes you think of Mortimer and Isabella in a more well-rounded way without excusing their behaviors and actions.
Nola Redd
Having finished Alison Weir's biography of Isabella, I immediately turned to that of her love Roger Mortimer. It was interesting to read the two back to back and hear the perspectives as each author defended their favorite.

It cannot be denied that my reading of Weir's book influenced my impression of Mortimer's. The Greatest Traitor was much better written in terms of clarity and pacing, often reading like a novel with cliffhanger chapter endings. However, such elements are far more annoying in
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Lindz
Mortimer was always going to have go that 'extra mile' of horribleness for me to hate this book. Maybe if he had written in a James Patterson flatness mixed with a Stephanie Meyer style that had Queen Isabella sitting across from Roger Mortimer sulking about who loved who the most, I may have thrown this book at a wall. But lets be honest writing that badly about this kind of story would have taken too much effort.

The story of Roger Mortimer, Queen Isabella and poor Edward II is pure exquisite
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Lauren Albert
I thought that Mortimer did a very good job on showing both Mortimer's rise and his eventual fall. What I didn't get was his claim that Edward II was not murdered as is ordinarily believed. He's a reputable historian as far as I know, and not a kook, but I just don't see why Mortimer would have kept him alive. Ian Mortimer (to distinguish him) gives reasons but they don't make sense to me.
Jessica O'Toole
Oct 20, 2015 Jessica O'Toole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favourite history books – and books in general – of all time (which is why this review is so long), The Greatest Traitor turned Roger Mortimer from a surly footnote into a fully realised part of English history. It charts the incredible rise of a once respectable and loyal Marcher heir into the usurper of the English crown – king in all but name - and hands us a remarkable de-clutter of a bloodthirsty and turbulent time as it fills in the blanks of the where and how this man became so ...more
Rodger
Jul 23, 2013 Rodger rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-reads, history
The Greatest Traitor by Ian Mortimer has been on my bookshelf for nearly nine years. It has taken me until this year to finally read it. It wasn’t for lack of interest of the subject of Sir Roger Mortimer, but more to do with procrastination. Now that I have read the book I wish I would have not procrastinated so long. Not only did Ian Mortimer do his research on the subject, through his words he brings to life Sir Roger Mortimer. This helped keep me glued to the pages. Not only did Sir Roger es ...more
RJay
Jan 19, 2013 RJay rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Wannabe Hollywood screenwriters and fellow British history buffs and especially Tudor fans!
Since beginning my journey into Plantagenet history, I have been continually amazed by the magnitude of the individuals, their passions, their follies, and ultimately their undoings. When I first read about Edward II, his "favorites" and his downfall, I couldn't understand why Hollywood hasn't made a major movie about his life & times. The REAL story has more intrigue than most fictions. Ian Mortimer, who claims no relation to Roger Mortimer, brings great research and perspective to the play ...more
erock
Jun 23, 2012 erock rated it it was amazing


Well, first, I'm a sucker for Ian Mortimer's books. I mean it. The dude can write. History typically makes me want to claw my flesh off as what I was forced to read (or skim as the case met be) throughout my "academic" career was dry and thoroughly mind numbingly dull. His books bring these characters into a realm where one can find them engaging and downright lively. Roger Mortimer, the Greatest Traitor himself, is a compelling character. Although my knowledge of the period is limited this boo
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Caroline
Sep 23, 2013 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Roger Mortimer has always been one of the more shadowy figures of medieval history, obscured by centuries of historical assumption and oversight and by his own determination to remain the power behind the throne, the figure in the shadows pulling the strings. And that's a shame, because in this excellent biography from Ian Mortimer, he comes across as a truly fascinating figure and quite a sympathetic one too - ironic for a man who quite probably earns the title of 'greatest traitor', who depose ...more
Wendy
Aug 17, 2013 Wendy rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
This is really two books in one. The first (and largest) part of this book is a well-researched and engagingly written biography of Roger Mortimer, the man who (with the assistance of Queen Isabella) deposed Edward II of England and ruled for 3 years, until he was in turn overthrown, tried, and executed by Edward III. 14th century English politics can be quite messy and confusing, with lots of personal rivalries, shifting alliances, and constantly changing positions and titles, and Ian Mortimer ...more
Elizabeth
Feb 02, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Readable, interesting, detailed and though-provoking. There was a lot of information that was new to me here, and Mortimer backs up his ideas with original sources and (obviously) a lot of good, solid historical work. Best of all, it's well-written, entertaining as a reality show/soap opera, never pedantic, and yet not given to unsupported fantasies. The historical figures are distinct, well-portrayed, and fascinating.
Gina Basham
Sep 11, 2015 Gina Basham rated it it was amazing
I love to read books by Ian Mortimer so I was biased going into this. He did not disappoint. Fascinating subject matter well written and researched. He portrayed Mortimer as a human being, flaws and all, yet neither a hero or villain. A thorough history well worth reading. I highly recommend. gbash
Deb
Jun 05, 2014 Deb rated it liked it
I was quite disappointed in this book as I know Ian Mortimer is a bona fide historian. Although he had obviously done a lot of research and gave some interesting insights into Mortimer's life and times, he spends far too much time on the theory that Edward II was not murdered in 1327 but was actually kept a prisoner by Mortimer until the latter died - after that he is somewhat vague on what happened to the former king. Every event that suggests Edward died is dismissed or glossed over, whilst ci ...more
Tina
Dec 20, 2015 Tina rated it really liked it
Very interesting and informative; I have a very different view of Mortimer, but my distaste for Edward II remains unchanged. Lots of interesting details, very few boring ones. If you chop off someone's head, don't forget to send it home to your wife!
Booklovers Melbourne
Wow! What a fascinating book this is. Ian Mortimer is an outstanding historical writer, his style is exciting, yet incredibly accurate in its detail. With the mastery of a great detective he sets about uncovering information and organising it into a clear and concise set of conclusions that left me astounded by the results. Many fans of English history will 'know' the story of Edward The Second's 'uncomfortable' demise, few will know the convincing alternative argument offered herein.
As for Rog
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Steve Williams
Jul 03, 2013 Steve Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! What a fascinating book this is. Ian Mortimer is an outstanding historical writer, his style is exciting, yet incredibly accurate in its detail. With the mastery of a great detective he sets about uncovering information and organising it into a clear and concise set of conclusions that left me astounded by the results. Many fans of English history will 'know' the story of Edward The Second's 'uncomfortable' demise, few will know the convincing alternative argument offered herein.
As for Rog
...more
Keith Evans
Sep 18, 2015 Keith Evans rated it really liked it
Fine and lucid account of a major historical figure. Not sure I entirely buy the hypothesis that Edward I I was not murdered though.
Heather Teysko
Sep 17, 2014 Heather Teysko rated it it was amazing
Ahhh, the mystery of Edward II's fate remains...
Jeweleye
Sep 14, 2011 Jeweleye rated it it was ok
I might have gotten more out of The Greatest Traitor if I hadn't just finished Queen Isabella by Alison Weir. TGT, not surprisingly, repeated a lot of the same historical period, that is, Isabella's marriage to Edward II, Isabella and Roger Mortimer's invasion of England and deposition of Edward II, and Isabella and Roger's abuse of power that led to his downfall and her relegation to the role of dowager queen. Just as Weir's book covered the life of Isabella, so Mortimer's book provided details ...more
Ted Haussman
Mar 26, 2013 Ted Haussman rated it it was amazing

This was really a great book -- a dramatic telling of how Roger Mortimer rose to power, forced a king to abdicate and made himself a shadow king for 3 years, while the young Edward III grew into his role at king. Mortimer also provides a persuasive argument for the proposition that Edward II was not murdered, as was the historical account of times, but was secretly kept alive (but in hiding) by Roger.

For lovers of history (like me), I would highly recommend this book.
Andrew Embling
Nov 28, 2012 Andrew Embling rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative and easy to read narrative in Mortimer, from his early friendship with Edward II through the 'murder' of the king, Mortimer at the height of his powers to finally falling foul of fortune's wheel with his execution as a villainous traitor. The book uncovers new information about the legend of Edward II's supposed murder and maya foundations for a new line of enquiry into the events of the mid 14th century.
Bernard
May 07, 2016 Bernard rated it it was amazing
fabulous story
Anna
A fantastic book which got better as it went along. Mortimer's challenge to Edward's death is intriguing and convincing. I found his evaluation of Mortimer's character both interesting and refreshing. This is far more than a generic biography, it challenges common views and provides a wonderfully in depth insight into the life of Roger Mortimer with detailed reference to sources.
Derek Davis
Oct 26, 2010 Derek Davis rated it it was amazing
A damned fine study with an interesting and unlikely point of view -- that for a short period, England was ruled not by its king but by a relatively well-meaning usurper who could not hold the power. Nobody comes out of this history looking grand, but Roger Mortimer at least isn't wholly bad. And author Mortimer's take on what really happened to Edward II is intriguing to say the least.
Mischief
Sep 17, 2013 Mischief rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. I didn't know anything about Sir Roger when I started but feel I really have an understanding of the man now. Ian Mortimer has a really easy way of writing historical fact and I found I could immerse myself in the narrative like I do with a good novel.

Ian Mortimer is certainly on my list of 'Must Read' authors and can't wait to read my next one.
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AKA James Forrester.

Dr Ian Mortimer was born in Petts Wood (Kent) in 1967. He won a scholarship to Eastbourne College (Sussex) and later read for degrees in history and archive studies at the universities of Exeter and London (UCL). From 1991 to 2003 he worked for a succession of archive and historical research organisations, including Devon Record Office, the Royal Commission on Historical Manusc
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“As soon as Gaveston and Edward met they became great friends. Gaveston was witty, rude and enormously entertaining, with a Gascon accent and moreover a healthy disregard for all things old-fashioned, English and traditional. He delighted the prince, and more importantly gave him confidence, and in his company the prince grew to discover his own character. Suffice to say that Gaveston was Edward’s best friend, the love of his life, and, in many respects, his hero.” 2 likes
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