|Earldom of Chester|
Principality of Wales
|Creation date||1067 (first creation)|
1071 (second creation)
1254 (third creation)
1264 (fourth creation)
1301 (fifth creation)
1312 (sixth creation)
see Prince of Wales for further creations, up to
1958 (current creation)
|Monarch||William the Conqueror (first creation)|
William the Conqueror (second creation)
Henry III (third creation)
Henry III (fourth creation)
Edward I (fifth creation)
Edward II (sixth creation)
Elizabeth II (current, twenty-ninth, creation)
|Peerage||Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|First holder||Gerbod the Fleming, 1st Earl of Chester|
|Present holder||The Prince Charles|
|Extinction date||1070 (first creation)|
1237 (second creation)
1272 (third creation)
1265 (fourth creation)
1307 (fifth creation)
1327 (sixth creation)
|Former seat(s)||Chester Castle|
|Motto||Ich dien (I serve)|
The Earldom of Chester (Welsh: Iarllaeth 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.
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. Such was their power that Magna Carta set down by King John did not apply to Cheshire and the sixth earl was compelled to issue his own version.
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. 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", 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) ). 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 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:
Total income was £418 1 2 3/4 from Cheshire and £181 6 0 from Flintshire.
(dates above are approximate)
(There is no evidence that Alphonso, elder son of Edward I, was created earl of Chester, although he was styled as such)
Thereafter, the Earldom of Chester was created in conjunction with the Principality of Wales. See Prince of Wales for further Earls of Chester.