The family of William Marshal and Isabel de Clare
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  His Parents:   Her Parents:
   John FitzGILBERT   Richard FitzGilbert de CLARE
   Sibyl de SALISBURY   Aoife MacMURROUGH
William MARSHAL Isabel de CLARE
Married 08/1189
Bd ~1146 Bd  ~1174
Bp   Bp  
Dd 14/05/1219 Dd  1220
Bur  Temple Church, London Bur  Tintern Abbey
Occ   Occ   
 Their Children:
1   Maud Bd  
2   William Bd  ~1190
3   Richard Bd  ~1190
4   Gilbert Bd  
5   Walter Bd  ~1198
6   Anselm Bd  
7   Isabel Bd  09/10/1200
8   Sibyl Bd  
9   Eva Bd  
10   Joan Bd  



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.

Upon his return William rejoined the court of King Henry II, and now served the King through the many rebellions of his remaining sons (Richard, Geoffrey, and John). In 1189, while covering the flight of Henry II from Le Mans to Chinon, William unhorsed the undutiful Richard in a skirmish. William could have killed the prince but killed his horse instead, to make that point clear. After Henry's death, he was welcomed at court by his former adversary, now King Richard I, who was not foolish enough to exclude a man whose legend, and power, just kept growing.

In August 1189, when he was 43, King Richard arranged for him to marry the second-richest heiress in England, Isabel de Clare (1172-1220), the 17-year-old daughter of Strongbow. Her father had been Earl of Pembroke, and this title was granted to William by King John on 27th May 1199. He was also given large estates in England, Wales, Normandy and Ireland. The marriage transformed the landless knight from a minor family into one of the richest men in the kingdom, a sign of his power and prestige at court. They had five sons and five daughters, and though every one of them survived into adulthood, their family line went no further (see below). William made numerous improvements to his wife's lands, including extensive additions to Pembroke Castle and Chepstow Castle.

Note that Isabel's brother William founded Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, for the souls of ”bonĉ memoriĉ Walteri filii Ricardi filii Gilberti Strongbowe avi mei (Grandfathers), et Willelmi Marescalli patris mei (Father), et Ysabellĉ matris meĉ (Mother)”, by charter dated 22 Mar 1222. (Walter is possibly an uncle of Isabel and William - a brother of Isabel de Clare). Tintern Abbey was already in existence at this time - the charter probably refers to the rebuilding of the Abbey by William and other members of the family. Tintern was originally founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, on 9th May 1131. This Walter is the son of Richard de Clare (alternatively de Brionne) and Rohese Giffard.

Page updated October 2010