Earl of Chester

Arms of the Earl of Chester: Azure, three garbs (sheafs of wheat) or

The Earldom of Chester (Welsh: Iarll Caer) was one of the most powerful earldoms in medieval England, extending principally over the counties of Cheshire and Flintshire. Since 1301 the title has generally been granted to heirs-apparent to the English throne, and from the late 14th century it has been given only in conjunction with that of Prince of Wales.

Honour of Chester and County Palatinate

The County of Cheshire was held by the powerful Earls (or "Counts" from the Norman-French) of Chester from the late eleventh century, and they held land all over England, comprising 'the honour of Chester'. By the late twelfth century (if not earlier) the earls had established a position of power as quasi-princely rulers of Cheshire that led to the later establishment of the County Palatine of Chester and Flint.

County Palatine

The strategic location of the Earldom of Chester; the only county palatine on the Welsh Marches.[1]

  Pura Wallia (independent Wales)
  Lands gained by Llywelyn the Great in 1234
  Marchia Wallie (lands controlled by Norman Marcher barons)

The earldom passed to the Crown by escheat in 1237 on the death of John the Scot, Earl of Huntingdon, seventh and last of the Earls. William III de Forz, 4th Earl of Albemarle, claimed the earldom as husband of Christina, the senior co-heir, but the king persuaded them to quitclaim their rights in 1241 in exchange for modest lands elsewhere. The other co-heiresses did likewise.[2] It was annexed to the Crown in 1246. King Henry III then passed the Lordship of Chester, but not the title of Earl, to his son, the Lord Edward, in 1254; as King Edward I, this son in turn conferred the title and lands of the Earldom on his son, Edward, the first English Prince of Wales. By that time, the Earldom of Chester consisted of two counties: Cheshire and Flintshire.

The establishment of royal control of the Earldom of Chester made possible King Edward I's conquest of north Wales, and Chester played a vital part as a supply base during the Welsh Wars (1275–84), so the separate organisation of a county palatine was preserved. This continued until the time of King Henry VIII. Since 1301, the Earldom of Chester has always been conferred on the Princes of Wales.

Briefly promoted to a principality in 1398 by King Richard II, who titled himself "Prince of Chester",[3] it was reduced to an earldom again in 1399 by King Henry IV. Whereas the Sovereign's eldest son is born Duke of Cornwall, he must be made or created Earl of Chester (and Prince of Wales; see the Prince Henry's Charter Case (1611) [4]). Prince Charles was created Earl of Chester on 26 July 1958, when he was also made Prince of Wales.

The independent palatinate jurisdiction of Chester survived until the time of King Henry VIII (1536), when the earldom was brought more directly under the control of the Crown. The palatinate courts of Great Sessions and Exchequer survived until the reforms of 1830.

The importance of the County Palatinate of Chester is shown by the survival of Chester Herald in the College of Arms for some six hundred years. The office, currently held by Timothy Hugh Stewart Duke, has anciently been nominally under the jurisdiction of Norroy King of Arms.


In the year 1377, the revenues of the Earldom were recorded as follows:[5]

County of Chester

Fee-Farm of city of Chester - £22 2 4 1/2,
Escheated lands of said city - £0 7 0,
Rents of the Manor of Dracklow and Rudeheath - £26 2 6,
Farm of Medywick - £21 6 0,
Profits of Mara and Modren - £34 0 9,
Profits of Shotwick Manor and Park - £23 19 0,
Mills upon River Dee - £11 0 0,,
Annual profits of Fordham Manor - £48 0 0,
Profits of Macklefield Hundred - £6 1 8,
Farm of Macklefield Borough - £16 1 3,
Profits of the forest of Macklefield £85 12 11 3/4,
Profits of escheater of Chester - £24 19 0,
Profits of the sheriff of said county - £43 12 3,
Profits of the Chamberlain of county - £55 14 0.

County of Flint

Yearly value of Ellow - £20 8 0,
Farm of the town of Flint - £33 19 4,
Farm of Cayrouse - £7 2 4,
Castle of Ruthlam - £5 12 10,
Rents and profits of Mosten - £7 0 0,
Rents and profits of Colshil - £54 16 0,
Rents of Ruthlam town - £44 17 6,
Lands of Englefield (yearly) - £23 10 0,
Profits of Vayvol - £5 9 0,
Profits of the office of escheator - £6 11 9,
Mines of Cole and Wood within Manor of Mosten - £0 10 0,
Office of the sheriff in rents and casualities - £120 0 0,
Mines and profits of the Fairs of Northope - £3 9 2,
Casualties was lastly - £-37 0 8.

Total income was £418 1 2 3/4 from Cheshire and £181 6 0 from Flintshire.

List of the Earls of Chester

First Creation (1067–1070)

Second Creation (1071)

(dates above are approximate)

Third Creation (1254)

Fourth Creation (1264)

(There is no evidence that Alphonso, elder son of Edward I, was created earl of Chester, although he was styled as such)

Fifth Creation (1301)

Sixth Creation (1312)

Thereafter, the Earldom of Chester was created in conjunction with the Principality of Wales. See Prince of Wales for further Earls of Chester.

Other associations

See also


  1. Wrexham County Borough Council: The Princes and the Marcher Lords
  2. "Forz , William de, count of Aumale (b. before 1216, d. 1260)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29480. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. William Camden, CheshireBritannia : "Richard himself was styled Princeps Cestriæ, Prince of Chester. But this title was but of small duration: no longer, than till Henry the fourth repeal’d the Laws of the said Parliament; for then it became a County Palatine again, and retains that Prerogative to this day...".
  4. Law Reports: 1 Bulst 133; 80 ER 827
  5. Doddridge, John (1714). An historical account of the ancient and modern state of the principality of Wales, dutchy of Cornwall, and earldom of Chester. London, Printed for J. Roberts. pp. 132–136.
  6. Cunliffe, Barry W. (2001). The Penguin atlas of British & Irish history. Penguin. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-14-100915-5. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  7. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Micropaedia. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1995. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-85229-605-9. Retrieved 30 December 2010.

Further reading

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