Last time, Hidden Oswestry covered the turbulence that Oswestry experienced during the 1200s. The town was a warzone on at least four occasions, with calamity to such an extent that by the end of the century, a wall had to be constructed to improve the town’s defences. However, some good things happened, like the receiving of a second Charter, the granting of rights to hold a fair and the establishment of Oswestry’s first hospital.

The 1300s were more peaceful times for Oswestry. The wars with Wales came to an end and the FitzAlans began expanding their empire, assuming the Earldom of Arundel and absorbing the Lordship into the aforesaid Earldom. This territorial expansion saw the FitzAlans also assume great power at national level.

Unfortunately, although Oswestry spent years in relative peace, the FitzAlans would continue to pitch battle with the English Monarchy. The incumbent Earl, Edmund, was at first a fierce opponent of King Edward II, due to his friendship with Piers Gaveston, a Gascon knight who was exiled from England during the reign of King Edward I. This deep hatred began to harmonise and turn into a friendship in 1313, when the King pardoned the Earl’s debts and, as a “thank you”, the Earl joined forces with the King at the Battle of Bannockburn a year later.

This friendship would ultimately cost the Earl his life. In 1323, the King’s wife, Queen Isabella, plotted with Roger Mortimer, the Earl of March and Lord of Chirk, to overthrow the King and install their son, Edward III, to the throne, but under the “watchful guise” of the Queen. The Earldom would remain largely unaffected for three years when, in 1326, both Mortimer and the Queen set their sights on the Earl. Both the King and the Earl escaped the invading forces, and were able to flee back to Shrewsbury to gather more troops. Unfortunately, the Baron Cherleton of Powys, an old enemy of the Earl’s, discovered he was in the town and immediately informed Mortimer and the Queen of the whereabouts of both the Earl and the King.

Both were arrested and transported to Hereford. The King was imprisoned and the Earl was executed on the 17th of November, 1326. The Earl was beheaded, but it was a botched attempt. The executioner had to hack at the neck at least 22 times before the head was severed from the body. The King would be executed one year later and Mortimer was awarded the Lordship of Oswestry, as well as the Lordships of Denbigh and Clun, thus beginning the somewhat civil relationship between both Oswestry and Chirk.

By February 1330, the only the Earl Mortimer had established a third annual fair to be held on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd days of the month of May. A month later, Earl Henry of Lancaster attempted to overthrow the Earl Mortimer but lost, so in revenge, he “groomed” King Edward III to assert his independence. Just days prior to his 18th birthday, the King turned on both his mother and the Earl Mortimer and had them deposed. The King had the Earl Mortimer sent to the Tower of London, in spite of his mother’s emotional blackmail. Charged with the assumption of Royal power and various other crimes against the state, the Earl Mortimer was hanged on the 29th of November, 1330, at Tyburn. His body was left to hang from the gallows for two days and nights. A month later, King Edward III restored the Lordship and the Earldom to the FitzAlans, this time with Richard FitzAlan at the helm.

The Earldom would continue to be ruled by the FitzAlans until 1397, when Earl Richard’s issue, Richard III, was found guilty of treason and executed, at the orders of King Richard II. The Lordship was once again seized by the Crown and placed into the hands of the Earl of Wiltshire. A year later, the King would grant the Lordship a Royal charter, thus giving the Lordship a position in Parliament.

Next time, Hidden Oswestry looks at Oswestry during the Fifteenth Century.


- ‘Oswestry through the ages’ [Page 8], by John Pryce-Jones (1991); and

- Wikipedia:

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