‘Oh what a Knight’


William Marshal; not frequently spoke of when discussing medieval history. Most, I would bet, have never heard of him. However, he is regarded by some as the “greatest knight.”

We know of King Edward 1, Richard 1, King John of England, Charlemagne, etc. etc., but not William Marshal. If you are unfamiliar, I implore you to buy a book about him. He is a fascinating medieval character and rose from virtually nothing, to being highly successful and serving five different monarchs in the 12th century.

Marshal was almost discarded by his own father- John Marshal. As the story goes: When William was just a boy of five, his father, John, gave him over to King Stephen during the siege of Newbury Castle in 1152. John was a selfish character – also an interesting story – and when King Stephen sieged the castle, John offered his son over as ransom to temporarily halt King Stephen’s siege of the castle to give John time to plot a defense. It worked in John’s favor, but not so much his son’s.

King Stephen held William hostage for what was probably a year or more. In that time, William was threatened with all kinds of punishments up to and including death. However, he managed to live, and was eventually handed back over to his mother, Sybilla of Salisbury.

When William was 13 years old, he was sent to live with William de Tancarville, a cousin of his mothers. He would be brought up by William de Tancarville, and this is where his knighthood journey would begin.

His career spanned 5 monarchs, and was littered with fame and wealth. A knight who had risen from somewhat humble beginnings – even though his father was a minor noble – to the top of his profession, to be well respected by the whole kingdom, and history.

william marshal effigy2
William Marshal Effigy



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