Should William Marshal (son of William) be listed as 2nd or 5th Earl of Pembroke (or no number at all)?

+4 votes
The profile of William Marshal (Marshal-43), heir to his father William (Marshal-4) currently lists his nickname as 2nd Earl of Pembroke, but as 5th Earl of Pembroke in the Disambigation and Biography sections.  It would seem best to use one of the numbers throughout the profile or to use no number at all (just "Earl of Pembroke").  I am presently leaning toward the latter solution to the problem, but welcome discussion on this matter.
WikiTree profile: William II Marshal
in Genealogy Help by Kenneth Kinman G2G6 Mach 7 (73.9k points)
5th seems unavoidable.

2nd/5th is arguable, but unnecessary, and looks like pedantic insistence on a presumed legal principle that hasn't actually been established.

1 Answer

+2 votes


When Gilbert died in 1185, his sister Isabel de Clare became Countess of Pembroke in her own right (suo jure) until her death in 1220. In this way, she could be said to be the first successor to the earldom of Pembroke since her grandfather Gilbert, the first earl. By this reckoning, Isabel ought to be called the second countess, not the fourth countess of Pembroke.

In any event, the title Earl was re-created for her husband as her consort, the famous Sir William Marshal, son of John the Marshal, by Sibylle, the sister of Patrick, Earl of Salisbury.

The second creation: Marshal (1189)[edit]

Herbert Railton's illustration of the Earl of Pembroke's tomb

by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (706k points)
The bit about 2nd Countess is just somebody going off on his own track.  Doesn't belong in an encyclopedia.

The concept of hereditary peerage was mostly developed in the late 14th century, when Parliament was able to take advantage of the minority and weakness of Richard II.

They were able to establish that titles were in fact hereditary by right, and their descent was a matter of common law.

The trouble with common law is that you can't change it.  So when they do change it, they have to say that the new version is merely a more correct understanding of what the law has always been.

This means that new precedents have retrospective effect, and many people are legally deemed to have held peerages that were never recognized or claimed at the time.
The other problem with common law is that there's no categorical statement.  It's like science - you have to discover the law by inference from observations, and sometimes thought-experiments.

The simple theoretical model is that a peerage dignity is an entity that is created and descends through heirs and becomes extinct.  But it's a flawed model - it doesn't totally reflect reality.

The reality is that you can't always tell when a new title is being created.  And the reason you can't tell is that it makes no difference.

In jure uxoris cases, there are some tests they can apply.

1 - if the title passed to a child of the marriage, on whose death did it descend?

2 - who else could inherit?  Could the husband's title have passed to a child of a different marriage?

3 - what was the precedence?  New titles normally go to the back of the pecking order.

But none of these tests is absolute.  A new title was sometimes given the precedence of an old one.  Sometimes by mistake, but the law has always been very reluctant to recognize mistakes.

Sometimes a son took over from his living mother.  And sometimes a father clung on to what should have been his son's.

Sometimes a new title came with a special limitation.  But then again, if you limit the husband's title to heirs of the marriage, you could as easily say it was for life only.
Hi Horace,  There was a larger write up than what I posted and it said that the peerage for Pembroke had restarted 10 times and then proceeded to enumerate them.  The article also alluded to the idea that not everything was as a result of a birth right or bestowal by the King or Queen but some had been more or less bought.  I just copied out the section specific to the question.  But that is why I gave the link for the longer write up.  

The concept of nobility is something that has changed a lot throughout history and is different in different countries  That is why so many titles were more or less bought by those with money marrying for convenience with a blooded noble.  Even those bloodlines are often in question with the advent of DNA....  Yet the fascination continues...

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