Edward II, he claims, is "no part of our subject" (5). Still, he spends a few chapters narrating his reign - primarily, it seems, to provide contrast with those of his father and his son. For "it has often been observed that between two valiant kings there has most commonly been one less sufficient both in wit and valour" (4). When the recent family history of your (erstwhile/occasional) patron includes events like, oh, said patron's mother overthrowing his father with the help of her lover and setting the patron up as king in his father's place and then being overthrown by the new king who then hangs her lover like a thief, there's some delicate narration to be done, and this is probably going to necessitate finding a few scapegoats to shoulder all their own blame and as much as possible of everyone else's. Edward II is definitely one of Froissart's scapegoats. Positive references back to Edward I ("valiant, prudent, wise and bold" (5)) prove that Our Hero did come of good, strong lineage: his father was just an aberration.
Another scapegoat is Hugh Despenser, who takes the blame for his own deeds, most of Edward II's worst behaviour (as opposed to his simple incompetence), the entirety of the disputes between king and barons, the death of Thomas of Lancaster ("a wise and saintly man" (7)), and, obligingly, the role of Piers Gaveston. Gaveston doesn't appear in Froissart's history at all; instead, we are told that Edward II "truly governed his country with great cruelty and injustice, by the advice of Sir Hugh Despencer, with whom he had been brought up since childhood" (ibid). Now, on the face of it, this could be absolutely correct. He was, in the latter and most notorious part of his reign, strongly influenced by Despenser. And Despenser was one of the ten pueri in custodia hand-picked by Edward I as suitable companions to his growing son in the 1290s. But so was Piers Gaveston (Edward I really knew how to pick them), and it was he to whom the young Edward most adhered, he who was to influence the formation of his personality, political attitudes and developing relationship with his father and barons and his own crown until well after Gaveston was murdered in 1312. Despenser, by contrast, wasn't really in Edward's favour until 1316 at the earliest, and doesn't appear to have substantially affected his decisions before his appointment as chamberlain in 1318. And that's without even considering all the lesser favourites in between and around those times, like Roger d'Amory and Arundel.
But that's complicated, and creates an unnecessary duplication of the main villain of the piece, which, as any film writer will tell you, confuses the audience. There was always a favourite, and he was someone who'd been raised with the king since childhood, and Edward's government was strongly influenced (or just carried out) by him. And Hugh Despenser fits that description, is easiest to villainise (Gaveston gave half the barons insulting nicknames, which is funny), is most memorable and got executed in a horrible way, so he's much the best candidate for the scapegoat hat.
However, there's absolutely no way we can make his hat big enough to take the blame for Isabella invading England, the dubious legality of deposing a king (or forcing him to abdicate, if you prefer). So we need scapegoat #3. The obvious candidate? Roger Mortimer.
Unexpectedly, then, he barely appears at all in the account of the invasion. Edward II takes all the blame for this one. Isabella escapes his tyranny, fleeing to France with her son. She hears the pleas of the oppressed English, wishes to help them, pleads with king of France and count of Hainault for help (on her knees, weeping, because this is proper and appropriate and very touching), Sir John of Hainault swears to her that "you may count on me as your own knight" (12), which is all very admirable, and he helps her enter England. Naturally, the country rises up to meet her and rejects Edward. Mortimer appears once, just after the queen has (independently) decided to answer her people's call:
Then she left her lodging as quickly and quietly as she could, with her son, who was then about fifteen years old, the Earl of Kent, Sir Roger Mortimer and all the other English knights that had come away with her. They passed right through France... (11)So right now, Mortimer's function is to avoid stealing Isabella's glory (er, sorry - piety). We need Isabella to be a hero for now, and we don't need him as a villain yet, not until after Edward II and Despenser are out of the picture and we come to the awkward question of Isabella's tyranny. At that point, he will be necessary not only evilly convince Edward III to kill his uncle Kent and to be the focus of Edward III's coup, but also to retrospectively take the blame for any doubts still lingering about Isabella's actions in and after the invasion.
And then, of course, there's the awkward question of adultery. The woman in question is, remember, Froissart's patron's mother, and possibly the most influential woman in the country's memory. Froissart does his best to side-step it - largely by the simple expedient already mentioned, of leaving Mortimer out of the history altogether. If one were to try to pair Isabella's name with that of any man over the course of the campaign, it would be Sir John of Hainault: but he firmly defined their relationship at the outset as a very proper lady-and-her-champion courtly trope. There is a hint of adultery, or rather of some vague inappropriateness, before Mortimer's name is ever mentioned, when Isabella in France is warned that "in all truth, if she did not behave discreetly, the King her brother would have her sent back to her husband in England, and her son with her" (11). But this is muddied by context: it is preceded by Isabella's distress at hearing of England's unhappiness, and followed by "because it did not please the King of France that she should stay away from her husband" (ibid). So the indiscretion is there, if one knows the story, but it's as far from suggestive as he can manage.
Similarly, the only hint we have before the denouement of any relationship between Isabella and Mortimer is painted primarily as mutual interest and influence, and it comes on the very verge of their catastrophe, when Froissart is piling up the tension against them:
The young King of England was ruled for a long time by the advice of his mother and of Edmund Earl of Kent and Sir Roger Mortimer, as you have heard. At length jealousy arose between these two lords, to the extent that Sir Roger Mortimer, with the connivance of the Queen Mother, advised the King that the Earl of Kent was going to poison him... (51)Leaving aside what Froissart may or may not have known about the actual accusations against Kent, this neatly places the Blame of Evilness on Mortimer, while allowing Isabella's "connivance" to the extent that it shows a powerful bloc working against young Edward taking on the full robe of government, elevating Edward III while demeaning his mother as little as possible. Where there is glory to be seen in the actions of Isabella's party, she is allowed to take full responsibility, adorned in the robes of chivalry's belle dame; where something unsightly peeks through, she is, naturally, a woman, and is absolved from true responsibility by the weakness of her sex.
But then, of course, came the part that Froissart couldn't ignore: that little detail where Isabella was suspected of being pregnant with Mortimer's child, and Mortimer's downfall. What he can do, of course, is a) assert that it was all rumour and he can't speak to its truth, and b) shift the focus away by using that as a prologue to AND THEN EDWARD REALISED MORTIMER WAS EVIL AND SMOTE HIM MIGHTILY. And to accentuate this MIGHTY SMOTIFYING, how was Mortimer killed? Not merely hanged as Murimuth and pretty much every contemporary source would have it, oh no:
[The barons and nobles] replied that Mortimer should suffer the same fate as Sir Hugh Despenser, and this sentence was carried out without delay or mercy. Mortimer was dragged through the streets of London on a hurdle, and then tied to a ladder in an open square. His private parts were cut off and thrown onto a fire, as were his hearts and entrails, since he was guilty of treason in thought and deed. His body was then quartered and sent to the four largest cities in England, the head remaining in London. Such was the fate of Sir Roger Mortimer; may God forgive him his sins. (52)And so all the evil people were punished evilly for their evil, and the rest of them lived happily ever after.
Now, I don't suggest that every instance in which Froissart varies from what we (more or less) know to have happened is a deliberate and conscious attempt on his part to wrest history into a more fitting course. I haven't yet managed to track down a copy of Jean le Bel's chronicles, which I understand Froissart was to a large extent following (alright, copying) for the earlier books. So for some of the "Froissart"s above one perhaps ought to read "Jean le Bel" - and for some, one must surely read "rumour, folklore, that old bloke in the pub and Everyone Knows".
I skimmed through a high-school or undergrad level book yesterday on the events of the English Civil Wars (it had diagrams!). One phrase caught my eye - it said something about "to understand this period, one must..." Well, why must I? Why can't I just take the facts and - well, turn them around my way and make my own understanding of them?
To understand, one must make history into a story in one's mind. Froissart, and the people around him, had certain tropes and shapes into which the facts and events and clouds of history had to fit to become a good, coherent story. It can't be a story until it has meaning - and sometimes it needs to take a few hammer-blows first.
 All quotes are from the edition of the chronicles trans. and ed. John Jolliffe (New York: Modern Library, 1968). Eventually I will get around to reading them in French.
 Adam Murimuth doesn't find it necessary to refer to him before his first exile in 1320.
 In itself another example of simplifying events by placing blame and telescoping the sequence. Isabella went to France on Edward's instructions to negotiate terms with the king, her brother, who eventually agreed to receiving homage (for the French lands held by the English crown) not from Edward II but from his son the prince. Edward II was reluctant to send his heir over into the custody of his wife and her family, but eventually consented, sending a large loyal retinue with him. Isabella managed to manoeuvre people and events such that the retinue was sent home, and she was left holding the baby, as it were.
 Though if he had heard that the charge was actually about trying to help his brother (former Edward II, officially dead) escape from the place where he had been firmly assured by many notable and trustworthy people that he was, in fact, still being held prisoner, and should probably still be king... well, that was probably a good version of the story to leave out, because there's a whole mess of nasty legitimacy business there that I can't imagine Edward III would have wanted him to drag out. Come to that, I translated Kent's answer to the charges the other day: maybe I should post that.