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EARLS OF MARCH

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 686 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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EARLS OF MARCH, title derived from the " marches " or boundaries (1) between England and Wales, and (2) England and Scotland, and held severally by great feudal families possessed of lands in those border districts. The earls of March on the Welsh borders were descended from Roger de Mortemer (so called from his castle of Mortemer in Normandy), who was connected by marriage with the dukes of Normandy. His son Ralph (d. c. 1104) figures in Domesday as the holder of vast estates in Shropshire, Herefordshire and•other parts of England, especially in the west; and his grandson Hugh de Mortimer, founder of the priory of Wigmore in Herefordshire, was one of the most powerful of the barons reduced to submission by Henry II., who compelled him to surrender his castles of Cleobury and Wigmore. The Mortimers, however, continued to exercise almost undisputed sway, as lords of Wigmore, over the western counties and the Welsh marches. I. Welsh Marches.—ROGER DE MORTIMER (C. I286—1330), 8th baron of Wigmore and 1st earl of March, being an infant at the death of his father, Edmund, was placed by Edward I. under the guardianship of Piers Gaveston, and was knighted by Edward in 1306; Mortimer's mother being a relative of Edward's consort, Eleanor of Castile. Through his marriage with Joan de Join- ville, or Genevill, Roger not only acquired increased possessions on the Welsh marches, including the important castle of Ludlow, which became the chief stronghold of the Mortimers, but also extensive estates and influence in Ireland, whither he went in 1308 to enforce his authority. This brought him into conflict with the De Lacys, who turned for support to Edward Bruce, brother of Robert Bruce, king of Scotland. Mortimer was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland by Edward II. in 1316, ' The authorship of this speech has been disputed. and at the head of a large army drove Bruce to Carrickfergus, and the De Lacys into Connaught, wreaking vengeance on their adherents whenever they were to be found. He was then occupied for some years with baronial disputes on the Welsh border until about 1318, when he began to interest himself in the growing opposition to Edward II. and his favourites, the Despensers; and he supported Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, in refusing to obey the king's summons to appear before him in 1321. Forced to surrender to the king at Shrewsbury in January 1322, Mortimer was consigned to the Tower of London, whence he escaped to France in August 1324. In the following year Isabella, wife of Edward II., anxious to escape from her husband, obtained his consent to her going to France to use her influence with her brother, Charles IV., in favour of peace. At the French court the queen found Roger Mortimer; she became his mistress soon afterwards, and at his instigation refused to return to England so long as the Despensers retained power as the king's favourites. The scandal of Isabella's relations with Mortimer compelled them both to withdraw from the French court to Flanders, where they obtained assistance for an invasion of England. Landing in England in September 1326, they were joined by Henry, earl of Lancaster; London rose in support of the queen; and Edward took flight to the west, whither he was pursued by Mortimer and Isabella. After wandering helplessly for some weeks in Wales, the king was taken on the 16th of November, and was compelled to abdicate in favour of his son. But though the latter was crowned as Edward III. in January 1327, the country was ruled by Mortimer and Isabella, who pro-cured the murder of Edward II. in the following September. Rich estates and offices of profit and power were now heaped on Mortimer, and in September 1328 he was created earl of March. Greedy and grasping, he was no more competent than the Despensers to conduct the government of the country. The jealousy and anger of Lancaster having been excited by March's arrogance, Lancaster prevailed upon the young king; Edward III., to throw off the yoke of his mother's paramour. At a parliament held at Nottingham in October 1330 a plot was successfully carried out by which March was arrested in the castle, and, in spite of Isabella's entreaty to her son to " have pity on the gentle Mortimer," was conveyed to the Tower. Accused of assuming royal power and of various other high misdemeanours, he was condemned without trial and hanged at Tyburn on the 29th of November 1330, his vast estates being forfeited to the crown. March's wife, by whom he had four sons and eleven daughters, survived till 1356. The daughters all married into powerful families, chiefly of Marcher houses. His eldest son, Edmund, was father of Roger Mortimer (c. 1328-1360), who was knighted by Edward III. in 1346, and restored to his grandfather's title as 2nd earl of March.
End of Article: EARLS OF MARCH
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