The story of our family...for my sons



Friday, December 2, 2011

Knight Job



William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1146 – 14 May 1219), also called William the Marshal (Guillaume le Maréchal), was an Anglo Norman soldier and statesman. He has been described as the "greatest knight that ever lived" (Stephen Langton). He served five kings — Henry the Young King, Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, John and Henry III — and rose from obscurity to become a regent of England and one of the most powerful men in Europe. Before him, the hereditary title of "Lord Marshal" designated a sort of head of household security for the king of England; by the time he died, people throughout Europe (not just England) referred to him simply as "the Marshal".

In 1152, when William was probably about six years old, his father John Marshal switched sides in the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. According to one chronicler, when King Stephen besieged Newbury Castle, Stephen used the young William as a hostage to ensure that John kept a promise to surrender the castle. 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 go ahead, for "I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge still more and better sons!" Fortunately for the child, Stephen could not bring himself to hang young William.

As a younger son of a minor nobleman, William had no lands or fortune to inherit, and had to make his own way in life. As a youth he was sent to Normandy to serve in the household of William de Tancarville, where he began his training to become a knight. Through William de Tancarville, he then served in the household of his mother's brother, Patrick, Earl of Salisbury. In 1168 William's uncle was killed in an ambush by Guy of Lusignan. William was injured and captured in the same battle, but was ransomed by Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was apparently impressed by tales of his bravery. He had been knighted in 1167 and soon found he could make a good living out of winning tournaments. At that time tournaments were dangerous, often deadly, staged battles, not the jousting contests that would come later, and money and valuable prizes could be won by capturing and ransoming opponents. His record is legendary: he supposedly fought in 500 such bouts in his life and never lost once.

By 1170 his stature had risen so far that he was appointed tutor in chivalry for Henry the Young King, son of Henry II of England. The Young King's relations with his father were always fractious, and William stood by Henry during the Revolt of 1173–1174, during which he knighted the Young King. However, in 1182 William Marshal was accused of undue familiarity with Marguerite of France, the Young King's wife, and was exiled from court. He went to the court of Henry II that Christmas to ask for trial by combat to prove his innocence, but was refused. A few months later the Young King died, and on his deathbed he asked William to fulfil his vow of going on a Crusade. William did so, crusading in the Holy Land from 1183 to 1186; while there he vowed to be buried as a Knight Templar.

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