William Marshal

William Marshal (abt. 1146 - 1219)

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Sir William "Earl of Pembroke" Marshal
Born about in Marlborough Castle, Wiltshire, Englandmap [uncertain]
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in London, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Caversham Manor, his estate in Henley, Oxfordshire on the Thames River near Reading, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 19 May 2010
This page has been accessed 29,474 times.
Illustrious Men
William Marshal was one of 16 Illustrious Men, counselors to King John, who were listed in the preamble to Magna Carta.
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William Marshal was a member of aristocracy in the British Isles.


The titles of Sir William Marshal, Knight, as per Douglas Richardson on Royal Ancestry, (2013, Vol. IV p.40):

  • Hereditary Marshal of England
  • Sheriff of Gloucestershire 1189-94, 1198-1207
  • Sheriff of Sussex 1193-1208
  • Warden of the Forest of Dean and Constable of St. Briavels Castle 1194-1206
  • Constable of Lillebonne 1202
  • Protector and Regent of the Kingdom (for King Henry III) 1216-1219
  • Earl of Pembroke and Striguil in Wales and Lord of Leinster in Ireland, held in right of his wife, from his marriage in Aug 1189 until his death 14 May 1219

William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke was an Anglo-Norman warrior and statesman, called the "greatest knight that ever lived" by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury.

As a young man, William was not heir of his father's lordships and marshalcy, but made his name as a knight fighting in the great tournaments in northern Europe. He first became a squire and then knight in Normandy in the military household of his relative William de Tancarville. He then participated very successfully in tournaments, and skirmishes, but he was eventually let go. The young William was then working under his relative Patrick the Earl of Salisbury when Patrick was murdered by the Lusignans. William made a desperate effort to avenge his uncle but was cornered on foot, wounded and captured.

He thus came to the attention of Queen Eleanor, who bought his freedom and retained him in her own household. Thus, as Crouch (p.38) writes, "at the age of but twenty-one, he entered the golden circle of royalty". He continued to fight in tournaments, achieving professional fame in Prince Henry's household. William Marshal served four kings (or five if we count young Henry who was crowned before he died): Henry II, his sons Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland (the younger brothers of young Henry) and John's son Henry III. As he became older his experience as a magnate became more important than his fighting skills.

William Marshal was King John's counselor and chief negotiator in 1215 at Runnymede, urging the king to approve Magna Carta. After King John's death in 1217, William Marshal became Regent to John's nine year old son, Henry III, retaining the regency until he died in 1219.[1] After the death of John he led the resistance to the supporters of a French takeover of the kingdom. As regent for the child-king Henry the III, Marshal became a man of great power in Europe.

After William's death, his eldest son, also named William, commissioned a biography of his father called the History of William Marshall. This book, written relatively soon after his death, has preserved (and probably enhanced) the legend of William Marshal for posterity. [2][3] While few contemporary records of William Marshal's main years (1176 - 1185) of tourney success remain, [4] there is ample documentation of his impact on the history and politics of England, from his stalwart defense of the realm to his support of the Magna Carta.[4]


Modern French Name: Guillaume le Maréchal
1146: BORN. William was born about 1146. None of his four biographers specify where William Marshal was born. It was during the civil war in England, between Empress Matilda and King Stephen as they vied for the throne.
1167: KNIGHTED. Knighted by his cousin, William, lord of Tancarville and hereditary chamberlain of Normandy.[4]
1170: TUTOR. Appointed tutor in chivalry to Henry the Young King by King Henry II[6]
1183: CRUSADE. In July, after the death and burial of Henry the Young King, the son of King Henry II, William received permission from King Henry II to go on Crusade. William had promised young Henry as he died, to take young Henry's cloak, with its crusader cross, to the Holy Land and fulfill the vow Henry made.[4]
1187: RETURN TO COURT. In August, William Marshal returned from Jerusalem to the court of Henry II.[4]
1189: MARRIAGE. William Marshal married Isabel de Clare, in July or August, in London. Isabel was the granddaughter of the King of Ireland, heiress of her father Richard Strongbow, of Leinster, Striguil, (later known as Chepstow Castle), and lands in Normandy including the castles Orbec and Meullers. Her de Clare inheritance didn't include Pembroke which had been alienated in the time of King Stephen, and not returned to the de Clares by King Henry II. [3] [6]
1190: JUSTICIAR. William Marshall with William Pettet, appointed Lords Justiciar of Ireland [7]
1194: MARSHAL. William inherited the office [8] Marshal of England upon the death of his elder brother John.
1199: EARL. Invested as Earl of Pembroke by King John on 27 May[9]
1216: REGENT. Appointed by the King's Council to serve as Regent to 9 year old King Henry III and Regent of the Kingdom on 11 Nov. [10]
1217: BATTLE. Defeated Louis VIII of France at Second Battle of Lincoln on 20 May. At age 71, Sir William Marshal led and fought at the front of the Battle of Lincolnshire, bringing victory in only 6 hours[3]
1219: KNIGHT TEMPLAR. [11] Fulfilling a vow he made on Crusade 1185-1187, William was invested into the order of the Knights Templar at his deathbed on 13 May, in his home on the Thames River, Caversham Manor.[4]
1219: DIED. William Marshal died 14th of May at Caversham Manor, Caversham. [9]
MAY 1219: BURIED. He was buried in the Round Chapel Of Knight's Temple, London, (built 1185). [9] [12] [13] [14]
Note. Although his effigy can be seen today at the Temple Church in central London, there reportedly is no tomb or body with it.


William Marshal married Isabel de Clare, 4th Countess of Pembroke, in July or August of 1189, in London where she lived in the Tower (for her protection against abduction and a forced marriage).


William and Isabel had ten children - five sons and five daughters - who lived to adulthood, but none of his sons had any legitimate heirs, and all modern descendants are via the daughters. The division of his estate between the heirs was a matter of national controversy in the time of Simon de Montfort.

  1. William Marshal, 2nd/5th Earl of Pembroke;
  2. Maud Marshal, Countess of Norfolk & Surrey;
  3. Richard Marshal, 3rd/6th Earl of Pembroke;
  4. Gilbert, Lord Marshall (Knight Templar), 4th/7th Earl of Pembroke;
  5. Isabel, Countess of Cornwall;
  6. Earl Anselm Marshall;
  7. Eva, Baroness Abergavenny;
  8. Sibyl, Countess of Derby;
  9. Sir Walter Marshall of Pembroke;
  10. Joan;
  11. Margaret

Research Notes

Earl of Pembroke

In William's lifetime, no one actually called him 'the 4th Earl of Pembroke' nor did they call him 'the 1st Earl of Pembroke' - "re-created" or otherwise. He was simply the Earl of Pembroke. Whether The Marshal was the 4th or the 1st of Pembroke is a distinction which scholars of modern time debate. Isabel de Clare's father, Gilbert de Clare (Strongbow) was Earl of Pembroke. After her brother died, Isabel became Countess of Pembroke.

Pembroke Castle

The Castle at Pembroke was built in 1093, a timber palisade with earthen ramparts. The Marshal built in stone after his 1189 marriage to the heiress of Pembroke, Isabel. He began by constructing the magnificent round keep with its domed roof.[15]

William's Birth Date or Location is Unknown

It is doubtful that William was born at Pembroke, which he obtained through his wife's inheritance later in his life, not from Williams father. It is doubtful he was born in France, while his father was fighting Earl Patrick and King Stephen for his castles in England. It is likely he was born in England, but it is not stated in a known record.

What was a 'Marshal'?

"Marshal" originally referred to a function of "horse servant", which is what the word meant in the old language of the Franks. By William's lifetime, the work of the king's Marshal had grown far away from its original tasks. There were thus many marshals, but William's family held the highest marshalcy in the royal household.

"Marshal" was apparently becoming a family name in William's family already when he was young, but it was still an hereditary title which came to William after the death of his elder brother, who inherited it from their father,[16] Duties of the Master Marshall "involved the keeping of certain royal records" and the management of "four other lesser marshals, both clerks and knights, assistants called sergeants, the knight ushers and common ushers of the royal hall, the usher of the king's chamber, the watchmen of court, the tent-keeper and the keeper of the king's hearth".[3][17]

Even before he inherited the office William was apparently referred to as "the Marshal" (li Mareschal in the French of the time). By the time William died, all of Europe referred to him this way, and he had given the position a new status, leading in later generations to the peerage title of "Earl Marshall", something William had sometimes been called (comes mareschallus in Latin).[9][18][3]


Footnotes and citations
  1. Christopher Brookes. England 871-1272, (pp 207, 215, 218, 220, 224, 243). "The Knight in History" (Frances Gies, Harper Row) Ch. V. (pp. 81-105).
  2. Duby, 1985
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Crouch, David, William Marshal: Knighthood, War and Chivalry, 1147 - 1219, (2002), p. 69-71, 129-133, Appendix 2
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Painter, Sydney, "William Marshal Knight-Errant, Baron and Regent of England," (pages 20, 37 - 61, 231-234, 284)
  5. Eng. A.K. Vol. 3, p. 2-7; B8G4, p. 162; Ireland 6, p. 47; Wales A. 3 Series, vol. 6, p. 189; William Marshall was a Baron named in the Magna Charta; Ancestral File Number: 91SD-P4; Knights Templar Seal - William Marshall (1146 - 1219); Buck, (n.d.); Duby, 1985; Painter, 1982; Crouch, 2002; Armstrong, 2006; Wikipedia: William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke
  6. 6.0 6.1 Armstrong, 2006, p.90, 100, 135 - 141
  7. The Present State of Great-Britain and Ireland: In Three Parts ... by Guy Miege pub: 1718
  8. inherited the office
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Cawley, C. (2006). "William Marshal son of John FitzGilbert." Medieval Lands v.3
  10. Painter, 1982, p. 192-200
  11. William Marshal Knight-Errant, Baron and Regent of England, page 56, 284
  12. Buried in Knights Templar Church, London, where there is an effigy of him
  13. Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, vol IV, page 41
  14. Wikipedia: List of Knights Templar, (England: Others)
  15. William built his castle at Pembroke in stone
  16. hereditary title of Marshal
  17. From a treatise of 1136 made for King Stephen, describing the duties of the Marshal.
  18. Round, J. H. (1911), The King's Serjeants & Officers of State with their Coronation Services. https://archive.org/stream/kingsserjeantsof00rounuoft#page/88/mode/2up
Source list

Primary Sources

  • Magna Charta
  • The Magna Carta Project: Witness to numerous charters of King John, and his will approved by the king. [1]

Secondary Sources

  • Cawley, C. (2006). "William Marshal son of John FitzGilbert." Medieval Lands v.3.[[2]
  • Armstrong, C. A. William Marshal Earl of Pembroke. (Kennesaw, GA: Seneschal Press, 2006)
    • Armstrong is an American historian; she includes his years in Ireland and the lives of all the daughters of William Marshal.
  • Buck, J.O. (n.d.). Pedigrees of Some of Emperor Charlemagne's Descendants," Vol. II.
  • Crouch, D. (1990 rp 2002). William Marshal: Knighthood, War and Chivalry, 1147- 1219. GB: Pearson Education Ltd.
    • Crouch is prof of Medieval History at the University of Hull
  • Duby, G. (1985). William Marshal The Flower of Chivalry. Richard Howard, translator. NY: Pantheon Books.
    • Duby is a medieval historian and prof at the College of France.
  • Painter, Sydney, (1933 Johns Hopkins Press) (1982 rp 2001). William Marshal Knight-Errant, Baron and Regent of England. Canada: Medieval Academy of America.
    • Sidney Painter, Ph.D. (Yale) and prof at John Hopkins University.

Edited for Style Standards adopted January 2014. Gedcoms in Changes.

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Images: 11
William Marshal - Effigy
William Marshal - Effigy

William Marshal Unhorses Baldwin Guisnes
William Marshal Unhorses Baldwin Guisnes

Knights Templar Church
Knights Templar Church

William Marshall Image 1
William Marshall Image 1

William Marshal and Magna Carta Surety Barons
William Marshal and Magna Carta Surety Barons

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On 20 Feb 2019 at 21:25 GMT April (Dellinger) Dauenhauer wrote:

Thank you Lisa!

On 20 Feb 2019 at 21:16 GMT Lisa Javorka wrote:

There is a typo in the marriage date in the "Marriage" paragraph: it should be 1189, not 1899.

On 12 Sep 2018 at 05:02 GMT Keith Mann Spencer wrote:

Here is a interesting Story about William Marshal.

If this isn't already in his Sources, it should be.


  • William Marshal, a Knights Tale


On 27 Mar 2017 at 02:02 GMT Liz (Noland) Shifflett wrote:

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.

On 27 Mar 2017 at 01:49 GMT Liz (Noland) Shifflett wrote:

Richardson’s Magna Carta Ancestry (MCA) lists son William as "William Marshal the Younger (later Earl of Pembroke)". . . omitting a number. But this William is shown in MCA as "William Marshal, Knt., 4th Earl of Pembroke (or Striguil), heredity Master Marshal" (from p 413, as father of Sibyl - in the entries for daughters Maud & Isabel, it's spelled "Strigoil" & the additional info of their mother is given: "Isabel, daughter of Richard Fitz Gilbert (nicknamed "Strongbow"), 2nd Earl of Pembroke (or Strigoil).")

Cheers, Liz

On 27 Mar 2017 at 00:30 GMT Kenneth Kinman wrote:

Since there seems to be disagreement whether to list his nickname as the 5th Earl of Pembroke or the 1st Earl of Pembroke (of the new creation), wouldn't it be preferable to just omit the number and list his nickname as just "Earl of Pembroke"

Any objections to making that change?? Douglas Richardson apparently refers to him as Earl of Pembroke without a number.

On 26 Sep 2015 at 13:35 GMT Andrew Lancaster wrote:

Marshal-4 and De Marshall of Pembroke and Striguil-1 appear to represent the same person because: Clearly intended to be the same person, as discussed on G2G. The one with the long name looks like a way of keeping someone's favorite theory going.

On 23 Sep 2015 at 22:10 GMT Andrew Lancaster wrote:

I'd saying using the word despised concerning King John is stronger than a broad look at the sources allows. Crouch points out that his family will not have wanted to emphasize how close they were.

On 23 Sep 2015 at 11:35 GMT Andrew Lancaster wrote:

Perhaps a source worth adding (very useful and practical): http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/families/marshal/williammarshal.shtml From what I have read there are doubts about the grandfather we are giving.

On 25 Aug 2015 at 16:27 GMT Peter Roberts wrote:

I totally agree that the autosomal DNA is being misused and strongly believe that confirmed with DNA (using auDNA for early ancestry) needs to be removed. It could be different if it was Y-DNA or mtDNA.

more comments

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