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Marches
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Marches

Mark or march (or various plural forms of these words) are derived from the Germanic word marko ("boundary") and refer to an area along a border, e.g. the borderland between England and Scotland; it seems that during Carolingian rule, the word spread throughout Europe.

Table of contents
">1 Catalonia and the "Spanish Marches"
2 Denmark
3 England
4 France
5 Germany
6 Italy
7 Titles

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Catalonia and the "Spanish Marches"

Beyond the province of Septimania, after some early setbacks, Charlemagne's son Louis took Barcelona from the Moorish emir in 801. thus he established a foothold in the borderland between the Franks and the Moors. The Carolingian "Spanish Marches" (Marca Hispanica) became a buffer zone ruled by the Count of Barcelona, with its own outlying small separate territories, each ruled by a lesser miles with armed retainers, who theoretically owed allegiance through the Count to the Emperor, or with less fealty to his Carolingian and Ottonian successors. Each was the catlá ("castellan" or lord of the castle) in an area largely defined by a day's ride, the region dotted with strongholds becoming known by them, like Castile at a later date, as "Catalunya."

In the early 9th century, Charlemagne issued his new kind of land grant the aprisio, which redisposed land belonging to the Imperial fisc in deserted areas, and included special rights and immunities that resulted in a range of independence of action. Historians interpret the aprisio both as the basis of feudalism and in economic and military terms as a mechanism to entice settlers to a depopulated border region. Such self-sufficient landholders would aid the counts in providing armed men in defense of the Frankish frontier. Aprisio grants (the first ones were in Septimania) emanated directly from the Carolingian king, and they reinforced central loyalties, to counterbalance the local power exercised by powerful marcher counts.

But communications were arduous, and the power center was far away. Primitive feudal entities developed, self-sufficient and agrarian, each ruled by a small hereditary military elite. The sequence in Catalonia exhibits a pattern that emerges similarly in marches everywhere. The Count is appointed by the king (from 802), the appointment settles on the heirs of a strong count (Sunifred) and the appointment becomes a formality, until the position is declared hereditary (897) and then the County declares itself independent (by Borrell II in 985). At each stage the de facto situation preceeds the de jure assertion, which merely regularizes an existing fact of life. This is feudalism in the larger landscape.

Certain of the Counts aspired to the characteristically Frankish (Germanic) title "Margrave of the Spanish March, a "margrave" being a graf ("count") of the march.

The early History of Andorra provides a fairly typical career of another such buffer state, the only modern survivor in the Pyrenees of the Spanish Marches. There the

Denmark

England

The name of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the midlands of England was Mercia. The name "Mercia" comes from the Old English for "boundary folk", and the traditional interpretation was that the kingdom originated along the frontier between the Welsh and the Anglo-Saxon invaders, although P. Hunter Blair has argued an alternative interpretation that they emerged along the frontier between the kingdom of Northumbria and the inhabitants of the Trent river valley.

Later border areas between England and Wales, and between England and Scotland, were denominated marcher.

The Earl of March is a feudal title variously held by the powerful border families of Mortimer in the west (in the Peerage of England) and Dunbar in the northern marches (in the Peerage of Scotland).

France

The district called La Marche, sometimes the Marche Limousine was originally a small border district partly of Limousin and partly of Poitou.

Its area was increased during the 13th century and remained the same until the French Revolution. La Marche was bounded on the north by Berry, on the east by Bourbonnais and Auvergne; on the south by Limousin itself and on the west by Poitou. It embraced the greater part of the modern département of Creuse, a considerable part of Haute-Vienne, and a fragment of Indre. Its area was about 1900 sq. m.; its capital was Charroux and later Guret, and among its other principal towns were Dorat, Bellac and Confolens.

Marche first appeared as a separate fief about the middle of the 10th century when William III, duke of Aquitaine, gave it to one of his vassals named Boso, who took the title of count. In the 12th century it passed to the counts of Limousin, until the death of the childless Count Hugh in 1303, when it was seized by Philip IV of France. In 1316 it was made a duchy for the Prince, afterwards Charles IV and a few years later (1327) it passed into the hands of the family of Bourbon. The family of Armagnac held it from 1435 to 1477, when it reverted to the Bourbons, and in 1527 it was seized by Francis I and became part of the domains of the French crown. It was divided into Haute Marche and Basse Marche, the estates of the former being in existence until the 17th century. From 1470 until the Revolution the province was under the jurisdiction of the parlement of Paris.

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

Several communes of France are named similarly:

Germany

The Germannic tribes that Romans called Marcomanni, who battled the Romans in the 1st and 2nd centuries were simply the "men of the borderlands."

Marches were territorial organisations created in the Middle Ages by the Holy Roman Empire. In modern German, "Mark" denotes a piece of land that historically was a borderland, viz

Italy

From the Carolingian period onwards the name Marca begins to appear in Italy, first the Marca Fermana for the mountainous part of Picenum, the Marca Camerinese for the district farther north, including a part of Umbria, and the Marca Anconitana for the former Pentapolis (Ancona). In 1080 the Marca Anconitana was given in investiture to Robert Guiscard by pope Gregory VII, to whom the countess Matilda ceded the Marches of Camerino and of Fermo. In 1105 the Emperor Henry IV invested Werner with the whole territory of the three marches, under the name of the March of Ancona. It was afterwards once more recovered by the Church and governed by papal legates as part of the Papal States. The Marche became part of the kingdom of Italy in 1860.

Titles