The Marcher Earldoms

What were the Marcher earldoms?
The Marcher earldoms were new earldoms created by William along the border of Wales, to prevent the threat of Welsh attacks that Edward the Confessor had suffered.
Where were the Marcher earldoms?
The Marcher earldoms were created on the Welsh frontier.
  • The earldom of Chester was created next to north Wales.
  • The earldom of Shrewsbury was situated alongside the Welsh midlands.
  • The earldom of Hereford was adjacent to south Wales.
Who were the Marcher earldoms awarded to?
William awarded the Marcher earldoms to some of his closest supporters and advisers.
  • Hugh d'Avranches, whose father had contributed 60 ships to William's fleet, was made Earl of Chester.
  • Roger de Montgomery, who ruled Normandy while William was away, was made Earl of Shrewsbury.
  • William's right-hand man, William FitzOsbern, was made Earl of Hereford.
What was significant about the size of the Marcher earldoms?
The Marcher earldoms were smaller than Anglo-Saxon earldoms, which made them easier to control, but also meant that the Marcher earls were not as powerful and important as the king.
What rights did the Marcher earldoms have?
The Marcher earls could establish Norman churches instead of Anglo-Saxon ones, and create towns (boroughs) and markets. These were powers normally reserved only for the king. They encouraged Normans to move into the areas.
What laws could the Marcher earldoms make?
The sheriffs in the Marcher earldoms were answerable to the earl, rather than directly to the king. This gave the Marcher earls almost complete control over the courts and law and order in their regions.
What taxes did they pay in the Marcher earldoms?
Unlike other English earls, Marcher earls did not have to pay tax to the king on their land. This was a reward for loyalty, but also to encourage development of towns and defences.
What happened with castles in the Marcher earldoms?
Unlike the rest of England, the Marcher earls could build castles wherever they were needed, without asking permission from the king. This meant that they could control the area and attack the Welsh if necessary.
How powerful were the Marcher earldoms?
The Marcher earls controlled the frontier and had the autonomy to deal with trouble quickly and decisively. However, they still owed allegiance to the king, had to provide military service for him, and could not try people for high treason.
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