Marshall FitzGilbert, William 1

Birth Name Marshall FitzGilbert, William
Nick Name The Protector
Gender male
Age at Death 73 years, 4 months, 13 days


William Marshal is the name of two important men in English history. They were father and son. The better known William (the father-- 1146 to 1219) was the 4th Earl of Pembroke and "greatest knight that ever lived" (Stephen Langton). Before him, the hereditary title of "Marshal" designated a sort of head of household security for the king of England; by the time he died, when people in Europe (not just Britain) said, "the Marshal," they meant William.

When William was about six years old, his father John Marshal had switched sides so often between King Stephen and Empress Maud that John had to give William to Stephen as a hostage for John's keeping his word that he would surrender Newbury Castle, which Maud had told John to hold for her. John broke his word, and when Stephen ordered John to surrender immediately or watch as he hanged William in front of the castle, John replied that he could always make another son, and a better one, too. Stephen could not bring himself to hang William, of course, or his story would end here.

As a younger son of a baron without much to leave him, William learned to make his own way: He was knighted in 1167 and was making a good living out of winning tournaments (which at that time were bloody, hand-to-hand combat, not the jousting contests that would come later); he fought in 500 such bouts in his life and never lost once. In 1170 he was appointed captain of the guard for Henry the Young King and stood by the young king during the Revolt of 1173-1174; he continued to serve the king of England for forty-nine years: through the rest of Henry II's reign, all of Richard I's, all of John's, and three years into that of Henry III. William once came face to face with Richard in battle and could have killed him but killed Richard's horse instead, to make that point clear. William it was whom Henry trusted to guard Queen Eleanor when he would let her out of prison to make some public appearance. William it was whom King John trusted on his deathbed to make sure John's nine-year-old son Henry would get the throne. It was William on June 15 1215 at Runnymede who dealt with the barons who made King John agree to the Magna Carta, and it was William who dealt with the kings of France (Louis VII and Philip Augustus). When they would not take the English king's word, they would take William's.

On November 11 1216, upon the death of King John, William Marshal was named by the king's council (the chief barons who had remained loyal to King John in the First Barons' War) to serve as both regent of the 9 year old King Henry III, and regent of the kingdom. William's first action after being named as regent was to reissue the Magna Carta, in which he is a signatory as one of the witnessing barons.

For his service to them, the Plantagenets gave him as his bride (in August 1189, when he was 43 and she 17) the second-richest heiress in England, Isabel de Clare, who had inherited large estates in England, Wales, and Ireland. She brought with her the title of Earl of Pembroke. They had five sons and five daughters, and every one of them survived into adulthood. Their eldest son William would marry (in April 1224) Eleanor, the nine-year-old sister of Henry III (and daughter of King John).

William Marshal's health failed him in February 1219. In March 1219 he realized that he was dying, so he summoned his eldest son, also William, and his household knights, then he left the Tower of London for his estate at Caversham in Oxfordshire, near Reading, where he called a meeting of the barons, Henry III, the papal legate, the royal justiciar (Hugh de Burgh), and Peter des Roches (Bishop of Winchester and the young King's guardian). William rejected the Bishop's claim to the regency and entrusted the regency to the care of the papal legate; he apparently did not trust the Bishop or any of the other magnates that he had gathered to this meeting. He wanted to be buried as a Knight Templar, so he was invested into that order before he died on May 14 1219 at Caversham, and was buried in the Temple Church in London, where his effigy may still be seen.

Children of William Marshal & Isabel de Clare:
William fitzWilliam Marshal (~1190 - April 6 1231), 5th Earl of Pembroke, married (1) Alice de Betun, daughter of Earl of Albemarle; (2) April 23 1224 Eleanor Plantagenet, daughter of King John of England
Richard Marshal (>1190 - April 16 1234), 6th Earl of Pembroke, married Gervase le Dinant
Maud (or Matilda) Marshal (1192 - March 27 1248), married (1) Hugh Bigod, 3rd Earl of Norfolk; (2) (<October 13 1225) William de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey; (3) Walter de Dunstanville
Gilbert Marshal (d. June 27 1241), 7th Earl of Pembroke, married (1) Margaret of Scotland, daughter of King William I of Scotland; (2) Maud de Lanvaley
Walter Marshal (>1198 - November 1245), 8th Earl of Pembroke, married Margaret de Quincy
Anselm Marshal (d. December 22 1245), 9th Earl of Pembroke, married Maud de Bohun, daughter of Earl of Hereford
Isabella Marshal (October 9 1200 - January 17 1240), married (1) (October 9 1217) Gilbert de Clare, 5th Earl of Hertford & 1st Earl of Gloucester; (2) Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall & King of the Romans
Sibyl (or Sybilla) Marshal, married William de Ferrers, 5th Earl of Derby
Eva Marshal, married William de Braose of Brecknock, Lord of Abergavenny
Joan (or Joanna) Marshal, married Warin de Montchensy, Lord of Swanscombe

The end of the Marshal family
During the civil wars in Ireland, William, Sr., had taken two manors that the Bishop of Ferns claimed but could not get back. Some years after William's death, that bishop is said to have laid a curse on the family that William's sons would have no children, and the great Marshal estates would be scattered. Each of William's sons did become earl of Pembroke and marshal of England, and each died without issue. William's vast holdings were then divided among the husbands of his five daughters. The title of "Marshal" went to the husband of the oldest daughter, Hugh Bigod, 3rd Earl of Norfolk, and later passed to the Mowbray dukes of Norfolk and then to the Howard dukes of Norfolk, becoming "Earl Marshal" along the way. The title of "Earl of Pembroke" passed to the husband of Joan Marshal's daughter, Joan de Munchensy, the first of the de Valence line of earls of Pembroke.

Four generations of the Marshal family, from Isabel de Clare's parents through William fitzWilliam's fictitious bastard son, are the subjects of a series of four historical romances by Mary Pershall. Dawn of the White Rose ( 1985) is the one about William Marshal and Isabel de Clare.

Gillingham, John, War and Chivalry in the History of William the Marshall, Thirteenth Century England, 2 (1988) (PDF file)




1. Abbrev: GEDCOM File : mwballard.ged
Title: Mark Willis Ballard, GEDCOM File : mwballard.ged
6928 N. Lakewood Avenue


Event Date Place Description Sources
Birth 1146 Pembroke, Wales, England   1
Event Note

B: Abt. 1146

Death 1219-05-14 Caversham Manor, Berkshire, England   2

Age: 73y


Relation to main person Name Birth date Death date Relation within this family (if not by birth)
Father Fitzgilbert, John11051164
Mother D'Everaux, Sibyl11271165-06-03
    Brother     le Marshal, John 1144
         Marshall FitzGilbert, William 1146 1219-05-14
    Brother     Mareschal, Anselm 1154
    Sister     FitzGilbert, Margaret 1160 1242


Family of Marshall FitzGilbert, William and De Clare, Isobel Fitzrichard

Married Wife De Clare, Isobel Fitzrichard ( * 1168 + 1220 )
Event Date Place Description Sources
Marriage 1189-08-00 London, Middlesex, England    
Name Birth Date Death Date
Marshall, Richard1189
Marshall, Gilbert1189
Marshall, Walter1189
Marshall, Maud Matilda11921248-03-27
Marshall, Isobel1200-10-091240-01-17
Marshall, Joan12021234
Marshall, Eva12061246
Marshall, William1207
Marshal, Sibyl12091245-04-27