By Frederick Suppe
The Welsh History Review, vol.21:1 (2002)
Introduction: In his play ‘Rosenkranz and Gildenstern are Dead’, Tom Stoppard created a delightfully entertaining work by speculating about the careers of two minor characters who were only footnotes in the context of the actions of the political class in Shakespeare’s tragedy, ‘Hamlet’. The subject of this article, Roger of Powys, plays a similarly limited role in the peculiarly entertaining late thirteenth-century ‘Romance of Fulk Fitz Warin’, which features him and his son ‘Morys’ as antagonists of the eponymous Fulk early in the latter’s career. Although there is considerable documentary proof to demonstrate Roger’s existence, to date he has been largely a denizen of footnotes in books like Paul Barbier’s The Age of Owain Gwynedd, R. W. Eyton’s Antiquities of Shropshire, and Janet Meisel’s Barons of the Welsh Frontier. I alluded to him briefly in my book, Military Institutions on the Welsh Marches, and mentioned him in passing in an article about his great-grandfather, Rhys Sais.
However, Roger is not even mentioned in major survey works like J. E. Lloyd’s A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest and R. R. Davies’s Conquest, Coexistence and Change:Wales 1063–1415, nor in W. L. Warren’s biography of Henry II; nor does his name appear in any of the three principal medieval Welsh chronicles. Consequently, in 1975 the editors of the Anglo-Norman Text Society edition of ‘Fouke le Fitz Waryn’ felt justified in characterizing Roger and his brother Jonas as ‘obscure brothers . . . [who] received castles, supplies and valuable pensions from the Crown’. However, Bullock-Davies was closer to the mark in describing him as a ‘feudal lord and favorite of the king’. Roger merits more systematic attention than he has received hitherto, because his career helps us to understand developments on the central Welsh Marches during the mid-twelfth century, especially Henry II’s frustrated 1165 invasion into Wales from Shropshire, and its aftermath.
See also Military Institutions on the Welsh Marches: Shropshire, A.D. 1066-1300, by Frederick Suppe