The Mortimer Affair – Joan de Joinville’s Story
Alice Mitchell

Joan de Joinville is favoured by fortune when she inherits her grandfather’s lands instead of being sent to a nunnery. But then her marriage is arranged to Roger Mortimer, the young son of a powerful Marcher family. Her marriage turns into a love match nevertheless and she will bear him twelve children.
Roger becomes experienced in warfare and is valuable to the young King Edward II and his notorious favourite Piers Gaveston. But when Piers is unexpectedly murdered, the King adopts a new favourite - Hugh Despenser the Younger - and he is Roger’s sworn enemy. Roger leads an unsuccessful rebellion against the King and is imprisoned in the Tower. This means Joan is also imprisoned and suffers great hardships. So begins her journal.
When she learns of Roger’s escape from the Tower, and his subsequent return to England at the head of a conquering Army, she believes her troubles will be over. Yet they are only just beginning as she watches her husband’s descent into avarice and cruelty.
Published: Aug 2020
Extent: 364 pages
Paperback: £12.99
ISBN: 9-781913-425241

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He belongs to Queen Isabella now and rules for her, through her underage son. Joan must find the strength to endure dreadful humiliation for the sake of her family. Finally, history will condemn her husband for regicide - Only Joan knows the truth.

Alice Mitchell won a Betty Trask award in 1985 with her first novel, Instead of Eden, which was published by WH Allen in 1986.
For most of her working life, she has been a medical practitioner but is now retired and has returned to writing. After many years living in Merseyside and North Wales, she has moved back to Keighley in West Yorkshire where she was born.
Reader Reviews...

Norma Benathan, Secretary of the Yorkshire Branch of the Richard III Society
Fed up with Covid 19 and lockdown? Well, I’ve got a cure - read The Mortimer Affair – Joan de Joinville’s Story!
Joan was the wife of that Roger Mortimer, lover of Queen Isabella, the wife of Edward II.
There are two helpful family trees – that of the Mortimers and of the English Royal Family of the time plus a list of Barons and Earls. This is especially useful to any reader unfamiliar with the 13th and 14th centuries as there are a few Edwards, Edmunds and Rogers! The book is incidentally and rather touchingly dedicated to the author’s late husband: - “her own Roger”.

The story is written in three parts.

Part 1 –The Wheel Turns – is mainly about the youth of the couple, Roger and Joan’s marriage being a business arrangement between the two families - as was common amongst the upper classes. From the age of 6 until 9, Alice has imagined Joan living with her grandfather at his castle of Trim in Ireland. Her family also owned Ludlow, so she was a good marriage prospect, being her grandfather’s sole heiress, her two sisters having been dedicated to the church. Joan and Roger were married in 1301 at the ages of 15 and 14. The story is written as a journal by Joan herself with her also recounting what she was told by Roger and others at the events where she was absent, and this works well. The marriage seems to have become a love match – they had 12 children and she often accompanied Roger on his various journeys. This reminded me of the marriage of Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville. Part 1 also covers part of the reign of Edward I.
Part 2 – The new King – brings in the reign of Edward II and his favourite, Piers Gaveston. Alice writes sympathetically about Piers and I can see why. Sadly, after his death along come the Despensers. Hugh Despenser the Younger is a sworn enemy of Roger’s because the Mortimer grandfather had killed the Despenser grandfather.
Part 3 – The Gathering of the Kites – covers the years 1325 until Joan’s death in 1356. As we know, the Despensers ruled the country with Edward II totally in their thrall and these were not good years for the Mortimers. Joan was imprisoned when Roger and several other Earls and Lords rebelled against the Despensers rather than Edward himself. She is treated very badly to begin with but later moves to Skipton Castle before her release some years later. Roger had given himself up and was lodged in the Tower but escaped to France. Here he met up with the Queen and subsequently returned at her side to rule the country until the teenage Edward III decided he had had enough, and we all know what happened then. For hundreds of years, historians have told us of the gruesome death of Edward II. However, others dispute this story. To discover the version Alice Mitchell uses, you must read the book. She admits to some poetic licence at the very end but is careful to tell us what is fact and what is fiction in her Historical Notes.

I have already read Alice’s book twice with equal pleasure and will be reading it again before the end of the year. If you want a good historical novel, do get The Mortimer Affair. I do not think you will be disappointed. I much preferred it to Philippa Gregory’s : The Kingmaker’s Daughter which is also “written” by the woman concerned.

Giles Mercer, reader
I greatly enjoyed it, a remarkably good historical novel. I admired many things about it, such as the ease with which you kept the pace moving along well and kept a large cast of characters and wide range of places within a clear framework; not easy. It was an inspired idea to look at events and relationships through the eyes of Joan de Joinville. Thank you for all that, and for re-igniting my interest in that period.

Joan Bartholomew. Retired English Lecturer , University of Chester.
I have read the book. I am amazed at how the author managed to keep such a large number of characters in mind. I particularly enjoyed the marriage and fading away of the relationship. It was totally believable. Forensic detail. What a woman, and such cruel treatment. It was a marvellous book.