William was one of the most influential men throughout the Plantagenet dynasty. He served under four Plantagenet kings and was born in 1146 circa during in the anarchy years of King Stephen’s reign. William was the son of John Marshal who supported King Stephen but later changed sides to back Empress Matilda in her claim for her son Henry as successor to the throne.
William was made guardian of Henry the Young King by Eleanor of Aquitaine after she had watched and been impressed with his skills in jousting. He rebelled with Eleanor and Henry the Young King in 1173 against Henry II.
In 1183 following Henry the Young Kings death William went on crusade and on his return in 1185 he served the court of Henry II and the Plantagenet dynasty loyally for many years. He was at Richard I coronation and got his earldom in 1189 through his marriage to Isabella the 17 year old daughter of Richard de Clare. This was arranged by the old king shortly before he died but confirmed by Richard to retain William’s loyalty.
He helped deny John when he revolted whilst Richard was away on crusade but later backed John’s claim in 1199 to the throne over his cousin Arthur. On John’s death in 1216 William became regent to Henry III who was 9 years old when he became King. William took a lot of important decisions during this time and calmed the baron’s unrest and led the English into battle against the French in Lincoln.
He died in May 1219 and was buried in Temple church, London. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Temple church the other day and William Marshal Effigy as shown below.
Temple church is well worth a visit. And if you enjoy historical fiction I would recommend books by Elizabeth Chadwick, my favourite historical fiction writer. I have added some links below.