Mortimer’s hole of doom

June 28, 2014

This is Mortimer’s Hole. How it got this name is a great story. (We heard it twice on our outing Saturday.) Facts may be iffy. And if you’re easily grossed out, I’d just nod at the pretty pictures and stop reading.

But actually. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ok, so. A long, long time ago there was a king, Edward II. When the time came, Edward II did his duty and found a beautiful bride, Isabella of France, and had several children including a son and heir, Edward III. But Edward II really preferred men. And no one was very surprised when he went off with one shortly after he had performed all these official duties. Isabella likewise found her own lover, Roger Mortimer. Mortimer was not some random dude, but a very powerful political figure who eventually wanted to seize power. So one night he did. Mortimer and his men killed Edward II in a way that was considered ‘forensically undetectable’ at the time. A hollow cattle horn, known for its propensity to retain heat, was forced up ‘where the sun don’t shine’ with a heated iron rod following it to literally burn you from the inside. When everything was removed, the wound was essentially cauterized on the way out and no one would be able to see any scars or bruises on the body. The perfect 14th century crime, often referred to as ‘horning the fox.’

Several years later when the heir to the throne, Edward III, turned 18 he needed to come up with a way to overthrow Mortimer and regain political control. Isabella and Roger Mortimer were well aware that lots and lots of people wanted to depose them and were very careful to have meetings and lodging at only the most secure locations. So naturally they eventually visited Nottingham castle. It would certainly be impossible to storm the castle without a large military that could easily be seen coming from miles away. Yet somehow, the existence of the intricate network of tunnels below the castle was kept from Isabella and Mortimer and told to Edward III. With just a few men clandestinely ferried through the tunnels, Edward III surprised everyone with his raid and handily captured Mortimer, dragging him back down through the tunnel now known as Mortimer’s hole. Roger Mortimer was later hung, drawn, and quartered. I had heard of this sentence before but hadn’t fully grasped the entire meaning. Hung is straightforward enough: the criminal is hung until he passes out; drawn entails the ripping out of one’s organs and entrails which is usually what causes your very slow and painful death; and quartering, the final step, involves literally cutting the body into four pieces. Depending on the level of your popularity and crime, each section may go on tour to different parts of the country.

And thus Edward III became king, he kept his mom around, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Yay, history

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