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This study of one great border family, the Mortimers, endeavors to show the essentially feudal atmosphere existing in England well into the fourteenth century, even while England was developing, pari passu, a more modern political organization. Although this feudal character may be portrayed and exemplified in many ways, the method chosen here is based on the beginning and subsequent fluctuations of the fortunes of one particular family, the Mortimers. Its origins on the continent cannot be easily traced, but it left an indelible impression on English history.

Since the family customarily chose to cast its lot with that of the reigning monarch, its gradual accumulation of holdings serves as a good and practical indication of royal generosity and gratitude. The monarch depended upon the marcher lords to control the borders of the state and, like all medieval sovereigns, permitted them to exercise the prerogative of royal powers on the border. Theirs was the constant responsibility of keeping the Welsh within their own demesne.

The development and retention of power in the instance of individual barons and baronial families were subject to limitation by a primitive type of political and competitive control. When the time came in 1318 to back the king or go their own way, the Mortimers found themselves in a position sufficiently powerful to enable them to make and follow their own decisions; however, their influence was only one of many for all the baronial interests. As long as a “balance of power” exists for all the barons, there was little trouble; but when one became too strong, threatening the positions of the others, his fate was usually decided by the discontented majority, i.e., by the dissatisfied and envious factions. Roger IV of Wigmore, whose sphere of influence as royal advisor was very great, was nevertheless reduced in political stature by a baronial coalition.

In a few instances, the material available on a situation such as Mortimer’s escape from the Tower of London was so repetitious, that I eliminated all but one or two references. In other cases, it was necessary to rely heavily on secondary sources as the primary ones were not available. John E. Morris, The Welsh Wars of Edward I was an invaluable aid in drawing together parts of the paper for which no other cohesive source existed.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Josiah Cox Russell

Second Committee Member

Charles Burnet Judah

Third Committee Member

George Winston Smith



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