Why is William Marshal listed as 5th Earl of Pembroke (rather than 1st Earl)?

+7 votes
This morning I decided to look at the profile of my ancestor William Marshal and was surprised to see him listed as the 5th Earl of Pembroke.  I thought that he was created the 1st Earl of Pembroke and saw that the biography does say so.  

All I can figure is that a mistake was made during a merge.  Or am I missing something?
WikiTree profile: William Marshal
in Genealogy Help by Kenneth Kinman G2G6 Mach 5 (60.0k points)
retagged by Kenneth Kinman
Converted to answer for complete discussion.

6 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer

Actually, Jeannie and Kenneth, it is not always so simple or consistent, and  often the numbering does not start over.

It is my preference to not start over as it more clearly identifies who we are talking about (which is the only real reason to number them at all).  I often defer to Complete Peerage for consistency, which in this case is actually very confusing.  He married Isabel, 4th Countess of Pembroke.  So, when king John at his coronation  presented him with the sword of the Earldom of Pembroke was this really a new creation?  was it a title which he already held and was acknowledged on account of his marriage? was it a title he really held in the right of his wife? In fact, Complete Peerage does not given him a separate number at all and presents both Isabel and William together as the 4th holder of the title. William's son William is then William Marshall, 5th Earl of Pembroke.  Richardson states he held the title in the right of his wife, so maybe he shouldn't be given a number at all.

Wikipedia calls this a new creation, but I do not understand why.  The previous title never fell into abeyance and was passed by hereditary right from parent to child. I personally do not think of this as a new creation. In which case the numbering system in wikipedia and wikitree is entirely wrong.


Complete Peerage  

by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (207k points)
edited by Joe Cochoit
Great explanation Joe, Thanks!
+5 votes
The title Earl of Pembroke was first created by King Stephen in 1100. Gilbert de Clare was the 1st Earl of Pembroke. He was followed by three other men and a woman, Isabel de Clare who was Countess of Pembroke in her own right. This was the first creation.

When Isabel married William Marshal, the Earldom was recreated and he became Earl of Pembroke in his own right. He was the first Earl of the second creation. He was the fifth male to hold the title. But because the first one in the second creation, he should be the 1st Earl of Pembroke.
by Jeanie Roberts G2G6 Pilot (126k points)

I can't find where there was a second creation for William. The profile's timeline shows:

27 May 1219: 1st Earl of Pembroke by King John. [16]

but the page linked in the citation (Cawley) shows that he died 14 May 1219 & that he was "invested as Earl of Pembroke 27 May 1199 by King John." (I posted more as a comment on his profile)

Wouldn't it say "created" if it was a new creation? (and it wouldn't be after he died, would it?)

+2 votes
Thanks Jeanie,

      Okay, now I understand where "5th Earl of Pembroke" came from.  Since he would have been called "1st Earl of Pembroke" in his lifetime, I assume the nickname in his profile should be changed from 5th to 1st Earl.
by Kenneth Kinman G2G6 Mach 5 (60.0k points)
I do not think so.

I don't understand where 5th comes from. Richardson calls him 4th & counting the Earls of Pembroke described by Cawley, he's also 4th . . . following is a comment I posted to his profile:

also, reading Cawley's entry on Richard Fitz Gilbert (father of two legitimate children, Gilbert & Isabel), I see

  • Richard's father Gilbert was "created Earl of Pembroke in 1138 by King Stephen"
  • Richard "succeeded his father in 1148 or 1149 as Earl of Pembroke"
  • Richard's son Gilbert "succeeded his father in 1176 as Earl of Pembroke, but was never invested with the earldom."
  • William Marshal, husband of Richard's daughter Isabel, "was invested as Earl of Pembroke 27 May 1199 by King John."

This makes Richard's father Gilbert the 1st Earl of Pembroke, Richard the 2nd, Gilbert the 3rd & Isabel's husband William Marshal the 4th. So I'm not sure where 5th comes from for this profile.

See also the Complete Peerage link in my post Liz, page 358.

So, the question is do you count his wife who actually inherited the earldom from her brother as number 4.  By modern doctrine (as Complete Peerage likes to say), she is Isabel, 4th Countess of Pembroke (suo jure- in her own right).  If you count her husband as the next earl, he would then have to be the 5th.  But, this is not the way Complete Peerage counts them.

Apparently, at his coronation King John presented the sword of the Earl of Pembroke and"invested" the earldom on him.  CP does not count this a new creation, but rather a confirmation of his rights, powers and privileges which he already had in the right of his wife, Isabel.  This was very early medieval age, when hereditary rights were not so set in stone.  I am sure that when Isabel inherited the earldom,  It was really William who had all the wealth and power.

Since Complete Peerage does not recognize a new creation, I think it is proper to say (by moderine doctrine) she was Isabel, 4th Countess of Pembroke suo jure, and he was William, Earl of Pembroke jure uxoris (e.g. in right of his wife,so unnumbered!).

Thanks Joe. I'll leave it to those who understand peerage issues better than I do (which would be just about everyone :D).

Cheers, Liz
+4 votes
If there is a lot of disagreement on this point, perhaps it would be preferable to omit the number and list his nickname as just "Earl of Pembroke" ??
by Kenneth Kinman G2G6 Mach 5 (60.0k points)

I would call him Earl Marshall, and dodge the issue entirely.

+5 votes
Strict application of "modern doctrines" would have knock-on effects.

You'd have to say that Saher de Quincy-226 was succeeded as Earl of Winchester by his granddaughter Margaret, her father Robert having died vp, and then the title passed to her descendants the Lacys, who would be earls of Winchester as well as Lincoln, without ever knowing it.

Meanwhile Roger, usually called the 2nd earl, would have to be the 1st earl of a 2nd parallel creation.

Then you've got Isabel de Warenne, "4th Countess of Surrey".  Her 2 husbands are normally called the 4th and 5th earls, and the next one the 6th (though not on Wikipedia).

If the 1st husband had left a son, complications would have set in, and even more so if he'd left a daughter.

Trouble is, nowadays, a peer's wife is a peeress, but the husband of a suo jure peeress gets nothing - it's totally sexist.  And the law has never been changed, from which it is now forced to infer that there was never any such thing as a title in right of a wife, in the face of all the evidence that there was.
by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (563k points)
+3 votes
Since William was not the 5th Earl of Pembroke, I suppose one could argue to list him as the 4th Earl.  But instead, I have removed the "5th" from his nickname, leaving it as just "Earl of Pembroke".
by Kenneth Kinman G2G6 Mach 5 (60.0k points)

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