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William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke 
by Catherine Armstrong*

William Marshal

In a room of the Tower of London in August 1189, two people who were about to be married met for the first time. This twist of fate or act of destiny would have a far-reaching effect on English history. 

The young lady was Isabel de Clare, sole heiress of Richard Strongbow de Clare, Earl of Pembroke and Striguil, and Aoife, daughter of Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster. 

Aiofe

The man was William Marshal, the second son of John the Marshal and Sibyl, sister of Patrick, Earl of Salisbury. 

There are no accounts of this first meeting nor of their marriage ceremony, but this was the final step in the making of one of the greatest knights and magnates of medieval English history.

John fitz Gilbert (Marshal's father)

John fitz Gilbert was the father of William Marshal Earl of Pembroke. John was the son of Gilbert, the marshal of the royal household of King Henry I. The office of the marshal was part of the Curia, with a deputy in the Exchequer and one in the King's Bench, as well as one in the Court of the Marshals of the King's household. The office was subordinate to the office of constable of the royal household.. The office was responsible for everything connected to the horses of the royal household, the hawks and the hounds as well.

The Children of William Marshal and Isabel de Clare

William Marshal and Isabel de Clare were married in August 1189. He was about forty-three and she was seventeen years old. They had ten children; five sons and five daughters, and all of the children lived.

The parents of Isabel de Clare (Marshal's wife)

Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke and Lord of Leinster, was the father of Isabel de Clare, wife of William Marshal. Richard was the son of Gilbert fitz Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, and Isabel de Beaumont, sister to Waleran Count of Meulan and Robert Earl of Leicester.

At the age of thirty-eight and still unmarried due to a lack of royal favor, Richard was ready for the arrival and proposal of Dermot MacMurchada Lord of Leinster in 1168/69. 

Dermot offered Strongbow lands in Ireland, his daughter Eve in marriage, and the lordship of Leinster on Dermot's death. Dermot offered Strongbow a gamble, a chance, on winning lands, a royal wife, wealth, and knightly fame.

Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare, Strongbow (Marshal's father-in-law)

Strongbow's father was Gilbert fitz Gilbert de Clare, lord of Orbec and Bienfaite, lord of Striguil (Chepstow), and earl of Pembroke. Gilbert was a younger son of Gilbert fitz Richard de Clare, earl of Tonbridge and Clare and lord of Ceredigion, the Marcher lordship of Cardigan. 

Strongbow's mother was Isabel (Elizabeth) de Beaumont, sister to Robert earl of Leicester and Waleran count of Meulan. Isabel had been the youngest mistress of King Henry I, and their liaison resulted in a natural daughter, Isabel (Elizabeth), born c.1129/30. When Isabel de Beaumont married Gilbert in 1130, she took this daughter with her. Strongbow was born before the end of 1130; thus he was raised with the natural half-sister of the Empress Matilda.

Legend of Tintern Abbey

According to the legend, a group of young men had come to see the Abbey and decided to employ several laborers to dig in the orchard that adjoins the Abbey to see if they could discover some antiquities. They apparently discovered the remains of two human skeletons and decided to celebrate their discovery by having an evening feast held within the ruins of the Abbey (Beattie 108).

A Serendipitous Discovery at Tintern Abbey

For Aoife [princess of Leinster and widow of "Strongbow"] to be buried in Tintern Abbey, she must have died in Wales. Aoife was an Irish princess; "Strongbow," is buried in the Church of the Holy Trinity [Christ Church] in Dublin (Barnard 92; Diceto i 407). Common sense and the customs of the times dictate that only by dying in Wales would Aoife have been buried there. 

The discovery of Aoife MacMurrough’s [MacMurchada] burial place raises more questions than it answers. When did she return to Wales from Ireland? What was she doing in Wales? When did she die? Is this why her daughter Isabel de Clare and Isabel’s two youngest sons are buried at Tintern?

Tournaments and William Marshal 

William Marshal's tournament career reached its apex when he was appointed as head of the mesnie household of the young king Henry. Tournaments of Marshal's time were vastly different from the tournaments held in the late thirteenth century, and the majority of them were held on the continent because Henry II did not allow them to be held in England. The tournaments held on the continent were the training grounds for young men entering into knighthood. These young men could be noble heirs or second or later sons of nobles, barons, and/or magnates. These tournaments were the arenas through which the young males entered into the elite military order of the middle ages.

Catherine Armstrong

Catherine Armstrong has Master's degree in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, Georgia . Her field is medieval English history. Her specific field is William Marshal, his fiefs and "familiares". Her concentration is on the lands and people bound to Marshal by blood and marriage, by feudal tenure, and by "affinity". 

Ms Armstrong's essays form a complementary 4-part series focusing on the life and times of William Marshal and his father-in-law Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare two of the most powerful and influential men of their time. Each essay is accompanied by an extensive and valuable bibliography.

She can be reached via e-mail at: seneschal@gbronline.com

Welsh Castles

"In a country with relatively few great churches and abbeys, and even fewer unfortified manor houses, the Castles of Wales form the most imposing group of monuments left from the Middle Ages. In terms of grandeur they are second only to the dramatic landscape." Adrian Pettifer ~ Welsh Castles

Castles Location Map
Wales (Traditional Counties) - This map is clickable.

Pembrokeshire Castle, South-West Wales

Early Medieval Wales
Castles of Wales
Early Medieval Wales
Abbeys & Religious Sites
Historical Essays 
The Castles of Wales in Art
Essay about the Buck brothers castle drawings of the Castles of Wales
Internet Medieval Sourcebook
Medieval and Renaissance Queens, Rulers, Empresses
Knighthood and Orders of Chivalry
The Black Death
Old English Pages
Internet Women's History Sourcebook

Caldicot Castle, Monmouthshire, South Wales

Carew Castle  

Built in the 13th century by Sir Nicholas de Carew, whose family had made money in their forays into Ireland. He probably built Carew's three towers, the chapel and the massive west front.

  Britannia.com 

  • Boudicca's Rebellion, 61 AD
    A contemporary account by the Roman historian, Tacitus, about the nearly-successful British uprising led by Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni.
  • The Confession of St. Patrick
    A statement of faith in his own words (believed to be authentic) of the famous British missionary to Ireland.
  • De Excidio Britanniae, c.540
    Sixth century diatribe written by the monk, Gildas, giving some insight into darkage Britain and the situation that gave rise to the legend of Arthur.
  • Riothamus to the Rescue, 467 AD
    Excerpt from Jordanes' sixth century "Gothic History" telling of a vain attempt on the part of the King of the Britons and 12,000 men to help the Roman Emperor, Anthemius
  • The Battle of Llongborth, c.480
    An English translation of a sixth century Welsh poem, called "Elegy for Geraint," which mentions Arthur.
  • The Coming of St. Augustine
    Account of the coming of Roman Christianity to the island of Britain in 597, by the 8th century historian, the Venerable Bede.
  • Pope Gregory's Letter to Bishop Mellitus
    A letter of instructions to Bishop Mellitus, who was joining Augustine's mission in England, on how to handle the jold religious customs of the newly converted pagans.
  • The Synod of Whitby
    Bede's account of the council in 664, at which the Roman church established its primacy over the Celtic church. At issue was the method by which Easter should be dated.
  • Historia Brittonum
    Nennius' ninth century entertaining, but questionable, collection of the facts, myths and fables covering the early history of Britain. Special emphasis on Arthur.
  • Peace of Wedmore
    Ninth century agreement between the English and Danes, establishing the Danelaw.
  • Asser's Life of King Alfred
    The earliest known biography of Alfred the Great, written by a Welshman from St. David's, who served the king as Bishop of Sherbourne.
  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
    Fascinating (and massive) 52-part account of history covering the years 1 through 1154 AD from the point of view of the Anglo-Saxons. This is the COMPLETE TEXT.
  • Annales Cambriae, c. 970
    The tenth century Annals of Wales containing two interesting references to King Arthur, which have been taken by some to be proof of his historicity.
  • The Battle of Hastings, 1066
    William of Malmesbury's description of William of Normandy's conquest of England
  • Laws of William the Conqueror
    The civil laws instituted by the new King William I and his barons for control of their new land.
  • William II, Rufus
    Peter of Blois' description of the Conqueror's son, from a twelfth century chronicle.
  • Henry I
    Excerpt from a contemporary chronicle illuminating one of the great medieval kings.
  • The Charter of Henry I
    The document on which Magna Carta was based.
  • King Stephen
    Henry of Huntingdon documents the unfortunate reign of Stephen, the worst king England ever had.
  • Constitutions of Clarendon, 1164
    Henry II's attempt to reestablish royal prerogatives after the disastrous reign of Stephen.
  • Assize of Clarendon, 1166
    Concerns the establishment of judicial procedure in order to check the power of the baronage, in the reign on Henry II.
 

  Britannia.com 

Medieval Resources Directory

Biographies

Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence
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St. Margaret, Queen of Scots
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Geoffrey of Monmouth
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Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March
Margery Poynings
Miles, 1st Lord Stapleton
Sir Miles Stapleton
Sir William Trussell Senior
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Sir Thomas Wale
Gerald of Wales
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England - A narrative history by Peter Williams, Ph.D.
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Geoffrey Ashe - An exclusive interview
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