William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke

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Arms of William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, drawn by Matthew Paris: Party per pale or and vert, a lion rampant gules. These arms were later adopted in 1269 in lieu of his own paternal arms by Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk (1245-1266) on his inheritance of the office of Marshal of England from the Marshal family

William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (French:Guillaume) (1190 – 6 April 1231) was a medieval English nobleman and was one of Magna Carta sureties. He fought during the First Barons' War and was present at the Battle of Lincoln (1217).


William was born in Normandy probably during the spring of 1190, the son of the famous William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1147-1219), Marshal of England. He commissioned a biography of his father to be written, called L'Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal.

Early life

He was taken as hostage by King John after his father in 1205 paid homage to the enemy of England, King Philip II of France, and lived from 1205 to 1212, between the ages of 15 to 22, at the court of King John as a guarantor of his father's loyal behaviour.[1]


Barons' War

During the First Barons' War of 1215, William was on the side of the rebels supporting the claim of King Louis VIII of France while his father was fighting for the right of the English king. When King Louis captured Worcester Castle in 1216, the younger William was helpfully warned by his father to flee from the castle, which he did just before Ranulph de Blondeville, 4th Earl of Chester retook it. In March 1217, he was absolved from excommunication and rejoined the royal cause. At the Battle of Lincoln in 1217 he was fighting with his father.

Earl Marshal

Following his father's death in 1219 he succeeded him as both Earl of Pembroke and as Lord Marshal of England. These two powerful titles, combined with his father's legendary status, could not help but make William one of the most prominent and powerful nobles in England.

Wales & Ireland

In 1223, William crossed over from his Irish lands to campaign against Llywelyn the Great, who had attacked his holding of Pembroke. He was successful, but his actions were seen as too independent by the regents of the young King Henry III. In 1224 Hugh de Lacy began attacking Irish lands held by William together with the royal demesnes in that island. William was appointed as Justiciar of Ireland (1224-1226) and managed to subdue de Lacy. In 1225 he founded the Dominican Priory of the Holy Trinity in Kilkenny and began the construction of Carlow and Ferns castles.

In 1226 he was ordered to surrender to the crown the custody of the royal castles of Cardigan and Carmarthen which he had captured from Llywelyn. In 1226 he was removed from his role as justiciar due to his opposition to the treatment of Aodh O'Connor during a campaign in Connacht.


William accompanied the king to Brittany in 1230, and assumed control of the forces when the king returned to England. In February 1231 William also returned to England, and arranged the marriage of his sister Isabel, widow of Gilbert de Clare, 5th Earl of Hertford, to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother to King Henry III.


William married twice, but produced no surviving male progeny:

  • Firstly in September 1214, aged 24, William married Alice de Bethune (d. pre-1215), daughter of his father's ally Baldwin of Bethune. She was murdered while pregnant with her son. No surviving male progeny resulted, as her son died as she did.[2] There are no existing sources to prove this, they simply state she died nine months after the marriage. Shortly before her death she was involved in a land dispute, leading to theories she was murdered. [3]
  • Secondly in 1224 William married Eleanor of Leicester, youngest daughter of King John by Isabella of Angoulême, thereby strengthening the Marshal family's connection with the Plantagenets. No surviving progeny resulted.

Death & burial

William died on 6 April 1231. Matthew Paris recorded that Hubert de Burgh, Justiciar of England, was later accused of poisoning William, but there are no other sources to support this. He was buried in the Temple Church in London, next to his father, where his effigy may still be seen.


William had no surviving male progeny, thus his titles passed to his younger brother Richard Marshal, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. His lack of progeny was credited to a curse bestowed upon the family by the Bishop of Ferns, Ailbe Ua Maíl Mhuaidh (died 1223). All of William's brothers inherited the title successively, but as Ua Maíl Mhuaidh predicted, none had children and the male line of the family died out on the death of Anselm Marshal in 1245.




  1. Smith, p.367.
  2. "The Twenty-five Barons Appointed to Enforce Magna Carta". Retrieved 23 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Template:Chadwick "The Scarlet Lion"bibliography
Political offices
Preceded by
William Marshal
Lord Marshal
Succeeded by
Richard Marshal
Preceded by
Justiciar of Ireland
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
Preceded by
William Marshal
Earl of Pembroke
Succeeded by
Richard Marshal