William Marshal

William Marshal

By Elizabeth Chadwick

Published Online

Introduction: You can’t write novels about the Middle Ages without coming across references to the Marshal family. I read a comment saying that the family burst like magnificent fireworks over the skies of 12th and early 13th century England and were as swiftly gone. It’s a very apt description.

The most famous scion of the family is the great William Marshal and his story reads like the script of an epic movie.

William Marshal was born circa 1146, the fourth son of the royal Marshal, John FitzGilbert. John held lands in the Kennet Valley in Wiltshire and it is likely that William was born at one of John’s holdings in the region. Perhaps at his manor of Hamstead Marshall, or Tidworth, or at one of the castles he held – Marlborough or Ludgershall. His father’s first marriage to a local heiress called Aline Pipard had been annulled, although William had two half brothers born of this first marriage – Gilbert and Walter. John’s second match to Sybilla, sister of Earl Patrick of Salisbury was by way of sealing a peace treaty between the men. The marriage took place around 1144. Sybilla and John’s first child was a son, named for his father. Then came William in either ’46 or ’47. There were two daughters, Sybilla and Marguerite, and William was to have two younger brothers – Ancel and Henry.

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