William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, and the Commissioning of the History of William Marshal
By Chloe Faith Marie Massarello
Master’s Thesis, Portland State University, 2012
Abstract: In the mid-1220s, William Marshal, second earl of Pembroke, commissioned the History of William Marshal, a verse history which recounts the life of his father, the first earl of Pembroke. The History has been utilized as a source of information about its titular subject by modern historians, but none have examined the causes behind its commissioning and the significance of the document within the context of the second earl’s political career in depth. This thesis seeks to increase understanding of the History by placing it within this context and examining the second earl’s influence on its contents.
Primary sources, including contemporary letters and court records contained within the Curia Regis Rolls, help reconstruct the political career of the second earl and reveal the reasons why he may have found it expedient to commission the History. An analysis of the History itself indicates that the document reflects the second earl’s concerns.
The introduction and first chapter of this thesis provide historiographical background for the History, both within its contemporary setting and as a type of work analyzed by modern historians. They indicate the importance of understanding the political and social function of the History and argue that the modern label of biography should not be applied to it. In the second chapter, primary sources and detailed studies of the minority and reign of Henry III are utilized to illustrate the second earl’s political career and his conflicts with fellow barons and the crown over property and his unconventional marriage into the royal family. The third chapter offers an interpretation of the History with reference to the earl’s career. This thesis concludes that the second earl commissioned the History in response to the objections raised to his marriage.