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coat-of-arms, was in the Prince's Chapel at Ludlow, where he is described as “Lorde Presydent of Prynce Arthur's Counsell in the Pryncipalytye of Wales and Marches of the same."1 He was succeeded by Geoffrey Blyth, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, as Lord President of the Council in Wales, and followed by John Vesie, Bishop of Exeter, who was sent to be Lord President of the Marches of Wales, and followed by Bishop Rowland Lee as "Lord President of the Council in the twenty-sixth year of Henry VIII, and continued till the thirty-fourth year of the King's reign, and materially assisted him in finally annexing the Principality to the Crown of England.
In the reign of Henry IV, several very severely repressive laws were enacted against the Welsh, occasioned by the rebellion of (wen Glendower and the favourable reception of King Richard II in Wales, on his last return from Ireland. These were continued by Henry V,4 and confirmed and strengthened by Henry VI. Henry VII endeavoured to free the Welsh people from this oppression, and attempted by degrees to bring the Lords Marchers under the jurisdiction of the Crown. To this end he obtained possession of several of these lordships, and especially by the attainder of Sir William Stanley, the extensive lordships of Bromfield and Yale and Chirkland, in North Wales, passed into his hands.
This paved the way to the union of Wales with England.
By an Act of Parliament passed in the twenty-seventh year
of the reign of King Henry VIII, the powers of the Lords Marchers were considerably restricted. It enacted that, from July the 6th, 1536, no person should pardon or remit treasons, murders, manslaughters, or any felonies or their accessaries in any part of England, Wales, or the Marches of the same. That all justices should be made by the King's Letters Patent and none else, and that all writs, indictments, and other process should be in the
1 Dineley's MS. of Duke of Beaufort's Progress, pp. 175 and 421. 2 Lansdowne MS., 255. 3 See 2 Henry IV, c. 12; 4 Henry IV. 4 1 Henry V, c. 6; 2 Henry V, c. 5.
King's name. But the Welsh people, still feeling under many restraints, petitioned the King further to extend his goodness to them, and craved to be received and adopted into the same laws and privileges which the King's other subjects enjoyed. This petition is set out verbatim in Lord Herbert of Cherbury's Life and Reign of Henry VIII. It is too long for insertion here, but as some of the reasons urged for union are curious and interesting, a short summary of these may be given. They urge :
“ Their defence of their liberties against the Romans, Saxons, aud Danes for so many hundred years, and lastly against the Normans so long as they pretended no title but the sword. That their best histories affirm the Christian religion to have been possessed only by them for many years; that the Saxons (being heathen) either attempted or possessed this country ; that as the kings of this realm, weary of their attempts in person against us, did formerly give, not only our country to those who could conquer it, but permitted them jura regalia, within their several precincts; so that it was impossible to come to an agreement; while so many that undertook this work, usurped martial and absolute power and jurisdiction in all they acquired, without establishing any equal justice. And that all offenders for the rest, flying from one Lordship Marcher to another, did both avoid the punishment of the law, and easily commit those robberies, which have formerly tainted the honour of our parts. So that until the rigorous laws, not only of the several conquerors of England, but the attenipters on our parts were brought to an equal moderation., no union, how much so ever affected by us, could ensue.” “Neither is there anything that comforts us more, than that all those controversies about succession (which so long wasted this land) are determined in your highness's person; in whom we acknowledge both houses to be happily united. To your highness therefore we offer all obedience, desiring only that we may be defended against the insulting of our malignant censurers ; for we are not the offspring of the Runaway Britons (as they term us); but natives of a Country which, besides defending itself, received all those who came to us for succours. Give us then (Sir) permission to say, that they wrony us much who pretend our country was not inhabited before then, or that it failed in a due piety, when it was so hospital (sic) to all that fled thither for refuge : which also will be more credible when it shall be remembered, that even our highest mountains furnish good beef and mutton, not only to all the inhabitants, but supply England in great quantity. We humbly beseech your highness therefore, that this note may be taken from
As for our language, though it seems harsh, it is that yet which was spoken antiently, not only in this island, but in France : some dialects whereof therefore remain still among the Bas Breton's there, and here in Cornwall. Neither will any man doubt it when he shall find those words of the Ancient Gaulish language repeated by the Latin authors, to signifie the same thing amongst us at this day: nor shall it be a disparagement (we hope that it is spoken so much in the throat, since the Florentine and Spaniard affect this kind of pronunciation, as believing words that sound so deep, proceed from the heart.”
The King's response to this appeal was the statutes passed in the 27th year of his reign (c. 26), and the 34th and 35th years, c. 26. By these statutes and the return of the Commission appointed by the first-mention statute, Wales was incorporated with the realm of England, and parts of the Lordship Marches, including those which were in the hands of the King, were converted into the counties of Monmouth (which was made an English county), Brecknock, Radnor, Montgomery and Denbigh, and the rest were united to the then existing shires in Wales, and the English counties of Salop, Gloucester, and Hereford.
The Court of the President and Council of Wales was placed upon a statutory footing by the statute of 34 and 35 Hen. VIII, which enacted that there should be and remain
“a President and Council in the dominion and Principality of Wales and the Marches of the same with all officers, clerks, and incidents as theretofore used and accustomed.
" Which President and Council shall have power to hear and determine in their wisdoms and discretions such causes and matters as be or hereafter shall be assigned to them by the King's majesty, as heretofore hath been accustomed and used.
“ That there shall be holden and kept Sessions twice in every year in every of the said Shires, which shall be called the King's Great Sessions in Wales.
“Every of the said justices shall bold all manner of pleas of the Crown at and in the said Sessions in as large and ample manner as the King's Chief Justice of England and other of the justices of the King's Bench there may do within the realm of England, and
1 These statutes are more fully referred to in the Brit. Arch. Soc. Journal, vol. xxxiv, p. 436 (" Ancient Laws of Wales").
also to hold pleas of assizes and all other pleas and actions real personal and mixt, as the King's Chief Justice and other justices of the Common Place in England may do in the realm of England.”
Provision is made for justices of the peace in the shires, not to exceed eight in any of the shires, over and above the President, Council
, and justices aforesaid. The Lords Marchers being shorn of their jura regalia by the Act passed in the early part of the 27th year of Henry VIII's reign, were reduced very much to the position of lords of manors at the present day, though they still remained the King's tenants in capite with all the incidents of that feudal tenure, and the lay Lords Marchers retained half of all forfeitures of recognisances of the peace or appearances by their tenants, which privilege was extended to bishops and ecclesiastical Lords Marchers by Stat. 1 and 2, Phil. and Mary, c. 15.
The institution of Courts of Great Sessions and the appointment of justices of the peace greatly relieved the duties of the Council as regarded the transaction of civil and criminal business; but the Court of the Council sitting at Ludlow continued to exercise a concurrent jurisdiction with the Courts of Great Sessions, regulated by the ordinances which each Lord President received as instructions from his Sovereign.
Little is known of the proceedings of the Council under Bishop Lee's successors, until Sir Henry Sydney was appointed Lord President by Queen Elizabeth in 1559. He held the office for twenty-seven years. By his prudent administration, he succeeded in bringing Wales and the Marches into a state of tranquility and order. 1
The instructions which Queen Elizabeth gave to Sir Henry Sydney in 1574, defined with some precision the future duties of the Council. They were to hear and determine all manner of complaints and petitions within the Duchy of Lancaster, the counties of Gloucester, Worcester, Hereford, Salop and Monmouth, and within
1 Dineley's preface to the “Duke of Beaufort's Progress," taken chiefly from the History of Ludlow, by Thos. Wright, F.S.A., and Clive's Ludlow and Marches.
all cities, towns, and liberties in its Commission and large administrative jurisdiction.
Sir Henry Sydney died on May 5th, 1586, and was succeeded in the Presidency by Henry, Earl of Pembroke, who held the office until his death in January 1601.
It was only in the natural order of things that, as time ran on, the Courts of Grand Sessions and the Court of the President and Council having concurrent jurisdiction in all causes civil and criminal, the Court of Grand Sessions absorbed the greater part of the more important judicial business, and the Court of the President and Council became more administrative than judicial, the latter jurisdiction being confined to matters and disputes of small value.
In the instructions given to the Earl of Pembroke, considerable changes were made in the members of the Council, on the ground that there was a great lack of men of estimation, wisdom, and credit to be of the Council, partly by death of divers, and lack of men of good choice. His instructions contained directions for the remedy of abuses which had arisen, particularly from members of the Council “ being but of mean estate," attending more “ for their friend's causes than the administration of justice, and with a view to obtain unnecessary allowances for their journeys and attendance at the Court longer than the causes required.”
Among the MSS. of Lord Bagot, reported on by the Hist. MS. Commission, there is an extract from one of Richard Broughton, dated May 27th, 1594, illustrative of the then state of the Council. It says :
"Myself and Mr. Atkins, Justices of Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire, are appointed to be of the Council of Wales. Upon my Lord of Pembroke's remembrance for the greater credit of the Justices of Wales, they shall all wear scarlet gowns, and none of them to make deputies, as heretofore they did very meanly. Every one of the Council there is ordinarily Justice of the Peace over all the Marches of the Shires and Wales."
In the reigns of James I and Charles I, the Court was gradually losing its usefulness and importance. The
1 Dineley's Preface.
2 Rep. 4, Appendix, p. 336.