Council of Wales and the Marches

The Court of the Council in the Dominion and Principality of Wales, and the Marches of the same, commonly called the Council of Wales and the Marches (Welsh: Cyngor Cymru a'r Gororau) or the Council of the Marches, was a regional administrative body based in Ludlow Castle within the Kingdom of England between the 15th and 17th centuries, similar to the Council of the North. Its area of responsibility varied but generally covered all of modern Wales and the Welsh Marches of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Cheshire and Gloucestershire.[1] The City of Bristol was exempted in 1562, and Cheshire in 1569.[2][3]

Ludlow Castle, the centre of the council


15th centuryEdit

The Council was initially responsible for governing the lands held under the Principality of Wales, the lands directly administered by the English Crown following the Edwardian conquest of Wales in the 13th century.[4] In 1457, King Henry VI created for his son, Prince Edward, a Council to rule Wales and the Marches, Cheshire, and Cornwall.[5]

It was re-established by Edward IV of England as a body to counsel and act on behalf of his son, the infant Edward, Prince of Wales. King Edward had recently been restored to the monarchy during the Wars of the Roses, and he and his allies controlled most of the marcher lordships within and adjoining Wales. He established his son at Ludlow Castle, and appointed his allies from the Woodville and Stanley families as leading figures in the Council.[6]

16th centuryEdit

The Council continued after the death of Edward IV and the disappearance of his son. Under Henry VII, the Council was responsible for acting on behalf of his sons as successive Princes of Wales, first Arthur and then Henry.

The second Laws in Wales Act of 1542 gave the Council statutory recognition; it had previously been based solely upon the king's prerogative. The full Council was composed of the Lord President and his deputy, with twenty members nominated by the king; these included members of the royal household, some of the bishops of Wales, and the justices of the Court of Great Sessions. It continued to sit at Ludlow, and had responsibilities for the whole of Wales together with the Welsh Marches. These were initially deemed to comprise Cheshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire; the City of Bristol was exempted in 1562, and Cheshire in 1569.[2] Worcestershire unsuccessfully attempted to free itself in 1576, and the Council's authority over the English counties was relaxed in 1606 but restored by royal decree in 1609.[6]

The legislation which gave statutory recognition to the Council did not specify its role, but declared that the President and Council should have power to hear and determine "such Causes and Matters as be or heretofore hath been accustomed and used". However, its functions were interpreted widely. It was to hear all suits, civil and criminal, which were brought by individuals too poor to sue at common law; it was to try all cases of murder, felony, piracy, wrecking, and such crimes as were likely to disturb the peace; it was to investigate charges of misgovernment by officials and the false verdicts of juries; it was to enforce the laws against livery and maintenance, to punish rumour mongers and adulterers, and to deal with disputes concerning enclosures, villein service, and manorial questions; it heard appeals from the common law courts; and it was responsible for administering the legislation dealing with religion.[2] A leading figure was Sir Henry Sidney, President of the Council from 1560 to 1586. According to historian John Davies, at its peak under Sidney and for a period thereafter the Council "represented a remarkable experiment in regional government. It administered the law cheaply and rapidly; it dealt with up to twenty cases a day and George Owen stated that the 'oppressed poor' flocked to it."[6]

17th centuryEdit

The Council was abolished on 25 July 1689, following the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which overthrew James II and established William III (William of Orange) and Mary II as joint monarchs. According to Davies, "when the Council at Ludlow was abolished... there was very little protest in Wales. Instead, the Welsh gentry embraced London".[6]

Presidents of the CouncilEdit

The following served as Presidents of the Council:[7]

Vice-Presidents of the CouncilEdit

The following served as Vice-Presidents of the Council:[7]

In addition, from 1542 the Justice of Chester (from 1578 the Chief Justice of Chester) often acted as a de facto Vice-President of the Council, without formally holding the title.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ J. A. Ransome, This Realm of England
  2. ^ a b c Welsh Joint Education Committee: The Council of Wales and the Marches
  3. ^ Marriott, Sir John Arthur Ransome (17 June 1938). This Realm of England; Monarchy, Aristocracy, Democracy. Books for Libraries Press. ISBN 9780836956115. Archived from the original on 15 May 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2016 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ William Searle Holdsworth, A History of English Law, Little, Brown, and Company, 1912, p. 502
  5. ^ Griffiths, Ralph (1972). "Wales and the Marches in the Fifteenth Century". In Chrimes, Stanley; Ross, Charles; Griffiths, Ralph (eds.). Fifteenth Century England, 1399–1509: Studies in Politics and Society. Bristol: Sutton Publishing. pp. 145–72.
  6. ^ a b c d John Davies, A History of Wales, Penguin, 1993, ISBN 0-14-028475-3
  7. ^ a b Listed to 1603 in Williams 1958, p. xiv.
  8. ^ Williams 1958, p. xiv.