The government of Wales underwent more extensive change during the sixteenth century than did that of any other part of the Tudor state. In spite of the turbulent and temporarily successful career of Owain Glyndwr in the early fifteenth century, the political map of Wales in 1485 was very much as it had been in 1300. The present county of Gwynedd and part of Clwyd formed the northern principality, divided into the pseudo-shires of Anglesey, Caernarfon, Merionydd and Flint. About half the present Dyfed formed the southern principality, divided into Cardigan and Carmarthen. The remainder was divided into some two dozen private lordships — the so-called marcher lordships, some of which spilled over into England. The principality had neither commissions of the peace nor parliamentary representation, but was in other respects run on the English model, and its courts used mainly English law. The marcher lordships were autonomous. The king’s writ did not run. Their customary courts were held in the name of the lord, and used a mixture of English and Welsh law, which varied with the location and the nature of the community. In spite of the fact that a large proportion of these lordships had fallen to the Crown by 1485, their lawlessness was notorious.
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