THE MAKING OFTHE MIDDLE MARCH OFWALES, 1066-12501 IN 1250, an incident occurred which summed up the fully developed nature of the liberties of the March of Wales. Walter HI de Clifford, lord of Clifford and Cantref Selyf in the Middle March, was met by a royal messenger bearing a writ from the king. Clifford made the hapless messenger swallow the writ, seal and all, and return to Westminster whence he came.2 This was a defiant assertion of the legal maxim that 'the king's writ does not run in the March of Wales'. This jurisdictional immunity had become one of the outstanding, defining characteristics of the March. But there was more to the March of Wales than its extra- legal character. It was a militarized border zone, a frontier with shifting, amorphous boundaries. It was also a mind-set, both the product and hallmark of a society very different from the rest of England. How did this come about? This article confines its remarks to the Middle March, but what goes for it is generally applicable to the northern and southern March as well. The Middle March may be considered to run from southern Shropshire to the area around Monmouth bordering on Gloucester- shire on the western side of the Severn. Because of its geography, this stretch of the March was particularly vulnerable to Welsh raids; a long section of Offa's Dyke runs along the hill country of the Shropshire- Herefordshire border with Wales. To the east of this line lay the fertile, if still heavily wooded, plains of Herefordshire and southern Shropshire. 1 This article was first read as a paper at the Thirteenth Century Workshop held at King's College, London, on 13 May 1999. I should like to thank all those who commented on the paper, especially Professor Peter Coss and Dr David Carpenter. I should also like to thank Professor R. R. Davies for his assistance in the writing of this article. 2 Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. H.R. Luard (Rolls Series, 1872-83), V,