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Sir William Marshal

Sir William Marshal

Birth
Death 14 May 1219 (aged 72–73)
Caversham, Reading Borough, Berkshire, England
Burial London, City of London, Greater London, England
Plot Laid under a military effigy (one of the first of its type) in the nave.
Memorial ID 4437 · View Source
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Earl Marshal. 1st Earl of Pembroke. Born the fourth son of John FitzGilbert, Marshal of King Stephen’s court, and landless knight. When John deserted Stephen for Matilda in her efforts to gain the throne, five year old William was surrendered as hostage. John told Stephen that he did not care for his son’s safety, he could easily make other sons. King Stephen, however, liked the boy and spared him his life. William then entered the household of his cousin, William de Tancarville, Chamberlain of Normandy. He was knighted in 1166 on campaign in Normandy. From about 1167, William made a name for himself in tournament circles, eventually defeating over 500 opponents in single combat. As a hired sword, he and his uncle, Earl of Salisbury, were involved in putting down a rebellion by the de Lusignan family against Eleanor of Aquitaine. The pair were ambushed and his uncle killed, William taken prisoner. Queen Eleanor ransomed him, and eventually returned him to her husband, Henry II. In 1270, Henry II crowned his eldest son as a king in England, known as the Young King. William became head of his household, and taught the young king the ways of knighthood. After a temporary loss of his position, he was recalled to the Young Henry's household following his second rebellion against his father. William was at his side when he died of dysentery in 1183. He then completed the vow that Young Henry had made, and went on crusade. William achieved the pilgrimage in two years, when most knights had taken seven. It was at that time he established a connection with the Knights Templar. On his return, Henry II accepted him into his household, and arranged for a marriage with a wealthy heiress, Isabel de Clare, heiress to a lands in Wales and Ireland. Upon his marriage he would become Earl of Pembroke, one of the richest, most powerful men in Europe. In 1188, Henry II was at odds with Philip II of France. The king's heir, Richard (the Lionheart), allied himself with Philip against his father. In 1189 William caught Richard unprepared, and chose not to kill him when Richard asked him to spare his life. When the King died shortly thereafter, William supervised his funeral and burial, shouldering much of the cost. When Richard I ascended the, he recognized and valued William's loyalty and military accomplishment. William was included in the council of regency which Richard appointed upon his departure for the Third Crusade in 1190. In 1193 William joined the barons loyal to Richard in making war on Prince John who had moved against his brother's interests. William’s elder brother, John’s Seneschal, was killed in the spring of 1194. Richard allowed William to succeed his brother in the hereditary marshalship, making him William, Marshal of England. On Richard's deathbed, the king designated William as custodian of Rouen and of the royal treasury. Upon John's ascending the throne, William became heavily engaged with the defense of Normandy against the French armies between 1200 and 1203. When John abandoned the duchy of Normandy in December 1203, William sailed with him. He remained loyal despite the King’s military incompetence and capriciousness. William was sent with the Earl of Leicester as ambassadors to negotiate a truce with Philip II of France in 1204. Relations between them cooled only in 1207, when John's justiciar in Ireland invaded William’s lands, William’s wife directed the defeat of the invading the army, and William returned to Ireland. In 1212, he was summoned to return to the English court. He was one of the only men called who came to King John’s aid when John's animosities with the barons escalated. William remained loyal throughout the hostilities between John and his barons, which culminated on 15 June 1215 at Runnymede with the sealing the Magna Carta. William, never seemed to have broken his oaths of loyalty, and on his deathbed, John trusted William to make sure his son, Henry, would succeed him. Rebel barons, however, invited Prince Louis of France to take the throne of England, and Louis was crowned in Westminster Abbey. William, meanwhile, had Henry III crowned and reissued the Magna Carta under his own seal. At about age 70, William prosecuted the war against Prince Louis and the rebel barons. At the battle of Lincoln, he charged and fought at the head of his loyalist army, leading them to victory over a larger force. William was preparing to besiege Louis in London when Louis’s fleet was defeated, ending him as a viable threat. William again reissued Magna Carta in 1217, under his own seal. On September 11, 1217, the Marshal negotiated the Treaty of Lambeth which ended the civil war and the French invasion. Marshal's health began to fail in early 1219. He entrusted the regency to the papal legate. Fulfilling the vow he had made while on crusade, he was inducted into the order of the Knights Templar on his deathbed. He died at Caversham, and was buried in the Temple Church in London. At his funeral, the Archbishop of Canterbury described him as the "greatest knight that ever lived." His history was first recorded in L’Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal , ‘The History of William Marshal’, commissioned by his eldest son in 1226. It is believed to be the first medieval biography of a non-royal.

Bio by: Iola


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Feb 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 4437
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Sir William Marshal (1146–14 May 1219), Find A Grave Memorial no. 4437, citing Temple Church, London, City of London, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .