Lords of the Central Marches

English Aristocracy and Frontier Society, 1087-1265
Holden, Brock
Date published: 
July 2008

In the Middle Ages, the March between England and Wales was a contested, militarised frontier zone, a "land of war." With English kings distracted by affairs in France, English frontier lords were left on their own to organize and run lordships in the manner that was best suited to this often violent borderland. The centrepiece of the frontier society that developed was the feudal honor and its court, and in the March it survived as a functioning entity much longer than in England. However, in the twelfth century, as the growing power of the English crown threatened Marcher honors, their lords asserted their independence from the king's courts, and the March became a land where "the king's writ did not run." At the same time, the increased military capability of their Welsh adversaries put the Marcher lordships under enormous military and financial strain. Brock Holden describes how this unusual frontier society developed in reaction to both the challenge of the native Welsh and the power of the English kings. Through a multi-faceted examination-political, economic, social, legal, and military-of the lordships of the Central March of Wales, it examines how the 'feudal matrix' of Marcher power developed over the course of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries.