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William I King of England granted extensive estates to Norman barons as a reward for their part in the conquest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom.The complexity of this task implies the rapid implementation of a sophisticated bureaucracy.The grants to the same individual frequently included property in many different parts of the country.There were exceptional cases: for example, most of the grants to Bishop Odo were in Kent.Few earldoms were created during the post-conquest period.

By the 1140s there are signs that titles were becoming more closely linked to the counties.Secondly, it provided opportunity for advancement to many other families besides those of the principle earls.Even if they never made the transition to earldom, many such families enjoyed great influence, as shown by frequent marriages with the first-tier nobility.The inevitable conclusion is that the territorial epithet was not considered exclusive at the time.Reference to these early earls as "Earl in [county]" rather than "Earl of [county]" may therefore more accurately reflect contemporary reality.

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