William Marshall – loyal knight and crusader

WilliamMarshalAlready a week into 2018 – where on earth did 2017 go? But now that we have arrived at Twelfth Night the time has come to refill the History Jar.  Before I meandered into the halls of England I was waxing lyrical about William Marshall.  It turns out that I have even more reason to be interested inhume than I had first thought.  It turns out that my spouse – “He Who Is Occasionally Obeyed- HWIOO” is a direct descendant of the aforementioned.

However, back to the man in question.  Serving Henry II and his sons was not an easy option. By February 1183 Henry II and  Prince Richard found themselves facing a rebellious army headed up by the rest of the royal brood. The Young King soon found himself in an uncomfortable position and sent for William.  Interestingly Henry II gave Marshall leave to rejoin his rebellious son.

History doesn’t say what William thought of the Young King’s looting of the abbey at La Couronne near Limoges but when the Young King succumbed to dysentery it didn’t take folk long to point at his desecration of the abbey rather than poor hygiene as the cause of the problem.

On the 7th June 1183, at Martel Castle, The Young King realised that he was dying. On the 11th of June he made his confession in public.  William Marshall was one of the knights who heard Prince Henry’s sins described and saw him receive the last rites.  One of the last things he did aside from asking to be buried with his ancestors and for mercy for his household was to give William his cloak and ask him to take it to the Holy Land “and with it pay my debts to God.” Chroniclers writing afterwards described Henry as a bit of a wild playboy.  Gerald of Wales described him as ungrateful.

Whatever the truth, bearing mind that no one was too keen on reminding Henry II of any links they might have had with his rebellious offspring, Marshall now stepped away from his role within the royal household and set off on pilgrimage.  It was probably a very sensible thing to do.  By this time he’d been accused of all kinds of naughtiness with the Young King’s wife and had taken part in two rebellions against Henry II as part of the mesnie (household) of the Young King.  What is more interesting is that Henry II promised to keep Marshall’s job open for him and gave him money for the journey.  Henry had, despite everything, loved his son.

We know that Marshall spent two years in the Holy Land but we don’t know what he got up to because although his biography mentions many exploits in passing it doesn’t go into any detail. Certainly Marshall didn’t arrive at an auspicious time.  The forces of Saladin were victorious across the region nor did it probably help that the man who was in part responsible for his uncle Patrick’s murder was in charge militarily -Guy de Lusignan who would eventually marry Sybilla of Jerusalem and inherit a very troubled kingdom after the death of the boy king Baldwin V. Guy would be taken prisoner within two years by Saladin and Jerusalem would fall triggering the Third Crusade.

By the spring of 1186 Marshal was back in England with a length of silk cloth which would one day become his shroud.  The Young King’s cloak was left in Jerusalem – Marshall’s last service to Henry II’s eldest son complete.  Marshall was ready to resume his service to the Crown and as he came to the brink of his fourth decade it was time to take a wife.

Marshall’s life would continue to be intertwined with the lives of Henry II’s sons.  He would serve them with loyalty and also the boy king Henry III but ultimately in 1219 he would lay down his secular burden, retire to his estates in Caversham. His own loyal knight John of Earley – a man who contributed much to Marshall’s biography – would be sent to collect a simple length of white silk which had lain in store throughout Marshall’s rather eventful life. He revealed that he had taken a vow to join the Knights Templar in the 1180s -so perhaps during his time in the Holy Land.  In return for them burying him as one of their own he gave them the manor of Upleadon.  He’d even arranged for the stitching of a robe of the knights’ order.

Marshall was buried in the church of the Knights’ Templar in London on 20 May 1219.  It would appear that Marshall may have spent only two years in the Holy Land but that part of his heart had been there ever since.

His pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the second pilgrimage that he had made.  His first one had been to Cologne when he had been accused in 1182 of indiscretions with the Young King’s wife.  Marshall had demanded trial by combat to prove his innocence and been refused.  He had taken himself off to Cologne to the shrine of the Three Kings.  The relics had been taken from Milan in 1164 but it was only in the 1190s that an impressive golden shrine was constructed – which seems an appropriate way to end a post the day after Epiphany, the day when the three kings or magi were supposed to have arrived in Bethlehem following “yonder star.”


2 thoughts on “William Marshall – loyal knight and crusader

  1. yes good read. The holy land I to have visited twice. I went originally to find Jesus. I now know Paul invented him. Not one ounce of proof exists I know I raked through thousands of documents over a month. The only hold on that city was that crux .In fact criminals throw over city wall on a cross bar used over and over again.A strong rope fitted through iron loops on wooden bar him thus roped around wrists only died as no air in lungs after fight to draw tired body up and breath. Dr Sam Dowsen USA pointed out the rope wear on wall over centuries of cruelty. No cross or Calvery ever existed in Palestine those days. The steps down side of Crusaders church called via Dolerosa date from around 1170.AD. All I looked at that summer was just imagination and symbolic. Then Pliny who missed nothing talks of jesus Barabus being judged by Pilate. Having stood on that same small platform outside Pilates office in wall above Horse gaurds wailing wall to left of it on same wall I can say hard for two men to stand there. Three men impossible. Even if we are taller fatter or better built 3 could not if they all 3 had been starved almost to death. You see only in the New Testament can we find anything set down about Christ. When we consider this written some 60 -70 years later than time it is said to have happened it was not written by any one man who was with Christ. PAUL wanted a church for profit and he got just that. God however I say is real. No proof about him either but I know he made me and that we are all Gods children. Sorry if gone of base a bit here Wills Marchal or now marshall as we say. Holly land brings out time well spent with educated Jews and many USA experts on Roman city side of history. San Hedren and the Egypt made temple of Herod the Great wanted nothing to do with our research but many Jews helped tell of times from ancient books and told that even the arc of covenant is mith as made ever few years as old one rots or crumbles .So all deeds and documents holy sit in new made wooden saddle boxes as from the past. Taken then to see old ones in bad shape in City museum. I went back 12 years since and all had changed in 20 years away. The dug out caves under the great wooden floored church in Bethlehem now with electric lights instead of hand held candles as of my last visit. The cave did not exist before the French Crusaders came said one happy arab .I believe he could well be right. Mitheras was the new one man god born of an egg(we all are if youthink of it) Paul saw it sweeping through Roman soldiers ranks and soon he copied much of that new fangled faith. Alter to Mitheras fighting a bull can be seen on Hadrian Wall in uk dating much to same time Paul lived no doubt. Malta called Paul a total liar as he used mythology and got it wrong. If we could read the replies to his letters to Corinth we could see how much he tried with weak talk to convince them to pay him to help build his church. I liken Paul to Billy Graham but not as good at converting the people. Interesting addition to your story one hopes

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