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The Children of William Marshal
and Isabel de Clare

Copyright ©1999 by Catherine Armstrong
Photographs (except Kilkenny) copyright ©1994-99 by Jeffrey L. Thomas.

Please note that the extensive bibliography for the essay below is
located on this linked page.

Right: tomb effigy of William Marshal at Temple Church, London

William Marshal and Isabel de Clare were married in August 1189. He was about forty-three and she was seventeen years old. They had ten children; five sons and five daughters, and all of the children lived. The birth dates of these children are not known, but it is known that William and Richard were the first two born. They are both mentioned in a marriage contract dated November 6, 1203, that was a contract to marry William the younger to Baldwin de Bethune’s daughter Alice, and if William should not live to fulfill the contract, then Richard would be married to her. It is known that William the younger was born in Normandy, but this is the only known fact of the birth of any of these children.

Taking into consideration the ages of Marshal and Isabel, the frequency of Marshal being out of England accompanying the king and his army, and the survival of all ten of the children; it is possible to frame the births in terms of roughly sixteen to eighteen month intervals between 1190 and 1207. In 1207 Isabel would have been thirty-five years old and Marshal would have been in his sixties; this would be the possible age limit for both to have children in their time and age. I use this conjectured time frame to give some idea of the ages of the children when they married and when they died.

Since William the younger was the first-born and was born in Normandy, it is possible that he was born during the winter of 1190/91 when his father was serving Richard in Normandy prior to Richard’s leaving on crusade. It is also possible that William and Isabel were in Normandy to take possession of Isabel’s half of the Giffard barony lands in Orbec and Longueville.

During King John’s reign, William was a hostage for his father’s behavior in King John’s court from 1203-1212. William was in Roger fitz Roger’s custody for some of this time, and in John de Erley’s custody some of the time.

William married Alice de Bethune, daughter of his father’s friend and companion, Baldwin de Bethune, in September 1214. The marriage apparently did not last very long for reasons unknown; Alice may have died ante 1215.

In the baronial rebellion of 1215, the younger William was a member of those rebelling, and he was one of the sureties who signed the Magna Carta for the baronial side while his father was a signatory for the royal side. King John, hoping that Marshal could persuade his son to join the royalist side, provided a safe conduct for the young William to meet his father on April 9, 1216, under the protection of Aimery St. Maur, master of the Templars. The meeting did not result in young William changing sides, and he was one of the first barons to do homage to Louis of France when Louis arrived in England in May 1216. The young William was an active supporter of Louis, but when he took Worcester castle in July 1216, his father had apparently reached the limit of his own patience. William senior managed to warn his son to withdraw from Worcester, which he did just before Ranulf earl of Chester retook the castle for the royalist side.


Below: Temple Church, London



Sidney Painter, in his biography of William Marshal, has suggested the probability that Marshal not only tolerated his son’s rebellion, but also may have abetted it as a logical part of his own political strategy. Marshal was known and respected by both King Phillip of France and his son Louis, and Marshal would have been well aware of the possibilities of Louis taking England with the support of the English barons rebelling against King John. In feudal times, a man would protect his lands and his family to the best of his ability, and Marshal could do this without breaking the bonds of his own fealty and homage to King John. William the younger might have taken Worcester for Louis knowing that his father would not tolerate such a seizure.

In the autumn of 1216 the young William abandoned Louis’ cause and withdrew to Wales, not fighting for any side. In October 1216 King John died at Newark, and he was brought to and buried at St Wulstan in Worcester. It was at Gloucester that the young Henry was knighted by Marshal and anointed and crowned King Henry III by Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester. William Marshal senior was elected regent for King Henry III at Winchester by the papal legate Gualo and the leading magnates of England. On November 12, 1216, at a great council in Bristol, Gualo, eleven bishops, Marshal, Ranulf of Chester, William de Ferrers, William of Aumale, and eighteen other leading barons re-issued the Great Charter under the seals of Gualo, as papal legate, and Marshal, as rector Regis et regni Angliae.

In March 1217, William the younger and William I Longespee, natural son of Henry II and earl of Salisbury in right of his wife Ela, granddaughter of Patrick earl of Salisbury, met William Marshal senior of the road from Shoreham-by-Sea. In the next few days a series of letters were issued that gave the two men absolution from excommunication and defined the terms by which they returned to the side of Henry III.

William the younger was with his father at the battle of Lincoln, May 20, 1217, which effectively signaled the end of Louis’ aspirations in England. From this time on, William served his father faithfully until William senior’s death May 14, 1219, at Caversham. The young William succeeded to his father’s lands and offices peacefully and to his mother’s vast holdings in 1220 on her death.

Right:, Statue of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, Conwy, north Wales

In April 1222 Llwelyn ab Iorweth attacked and took Marshal’s castles of Carmarthen and Abertavy, and Marshal returned from Ireland to take them back. William built a new stone castle at Cilgerran and reestablished his hold on Kidwelly during this time. For the next two years there was intermittent local warfare between Llywelyn, Gruffydd ap Llwelyn, and Marshal until Llywelyn was forced to terms by the king.

On April 23, 1224, William Marshal married the sister of King Henry III, Eleanor. She was only nine at the time of this marriage, and it seems that King Henry III married her to Marshal to keep Marshal from marrying into either a Normandy family and increasing his ties to his brother Richard or into the de Brus family and strengthening his ties to Scotland. One has to wonder what William’s father would have thought of the marriage of his son to a child of King John. William Marshal senior had always been aware of the delicate balance of power between a feudal baron and his king as overlord. It is very probable that William senior would have strongly disapproved of his son marrying into the royal family because it would have severely limited his son’s ability to remain a baronial check against the possibility of royal abuse of law and power.

In spring of 1224 Hugh de Lacy, who had been aiding and abetting Llywelyn in his wars against Marshal, decided to attack Marshal’s and the king’s lands in Ireland. On May 2, 1224, William was appointed justiciar of Ireland and ordered to take into the king’s peace all but de Lacy and the other major rebellious barons. In July 1224, Marshal took William de Lacy’s castle of Trim and the crannog of O’Reilly and sent his cousin William le Gras to take Hugh’s castle of Carrickfergus. Hugh surrendered to the King in October 1224 and was sent to England. Marshal remained justiciar of Ireland until June 22, 1226, when he surrendered his office to the king at Winchester.

Right: tomb effigy of William Marshal, the younger, at Temple Church, London

From 1228 on, William was mostly in England and high in the king’s favor, and in August 1230, he accompanied the king to Brittany. William stayed in Brittany with Ranulf of Chester until February 1231, when he returned to England. In March of that year William arranged the marriage of his sister Isabel, widow of Gilbert de Clare, to Richard earl of Cornwall and brother to King Henry III. A few days after this marriage, William Marshal the younger died on April 6, 1231, at about the age of forty. There are no records of how William died, but Matthew Paris in his chronicles writes that later in King Henry III’s reign Hubert de Burgh, justiciar of England, was accused of poisoning William Marshal. There are no other sources that agree with this, and there are no other records or chronicles that give any additional information regarding William’s death. William was buried near his father in the Temple Church in London on April 15, 1231.

When William died, his brother Richard, who was his heir, was in France. Richard did not arrive in England until the end of July 1231. Roger of Wendover in his history writes that King Henry III tried to deny Richard’s right to seisin of his parents’ and brother’s lands, titles, and offices on the advice of Hubert de Burgh, justiciar. He writes that Richard went immediately to Ireland to raise the military support he needed to take possession of his inheritance by force if necessary, and this action made Henry III grant him seisin. Wendover is the only chronicle that tells this story. Other chronicles state that Richard did homage and was granted investiture of all his lands on August 3, 1231.

Richard had been granted the Giffard lands of Orbec and Longueville in Normandy by the wish of his father and the deed of his brother William in 1220. Richard also held lands in England and had been to England many times though he had spent most of the years between 1220 and 1231 in France caring for the Normandy lands and castles. Prior to 1224 Richard had married Gervase, daughter of Alan de Dinan, and had become in her right lord of Dinan and Viscount of Rohan in Brittany. One chronicle writes that Richard had received the best knightly and chivalric training in France and was the "marshal of the army of the King of France."

After receiving investiture of his lands, Richard spent time in Ireland from November 1231 to June 1232. In the month of June 1232 Richard met King Henry III at Worcester and worked out an arrangement in regard to the dower rights of Henry’s sister Eleanor, widow of William the younger. When Hubert de Burgh was attacked and accused by Peter des Roches and Henry of all manner of evils in October 1232, Richard stood by him and acted as one of the four earls who stood as surety for de Burgh’s actions and accountability.

Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester and a Poitevin, was the bitterest enemy of Richard Marshal and sought to destroy him at all costs. In the winter of 1233, des Roches managed to get Richard’s representative at court, William de Rodune, dismissed and to replace all the English ministers of King Henry III with foreign advisors. In July 1233, des Roches took the lands of Gilbert Basset and Richard Siward, Richard’s strong supporters, and gave them to his own son Peter des Rievaux. In this month des Roches also issued orders that Richard’s messengers returning from France were to be searched when they arrived in Dover.

Below: Usk Castle, south Wales

Richard, with his brother-in-law Richard of Cornwall, was engaged in warfare with Llywelyn in the early months of 1233. The king called for a conference at Westminster in July, but the barons did not come. In August another peace conference was proposed, and Richard was on his way there when his sister Isabel met him at Woodstock and told him to turn back as des Roches had laid a trap for him at this conference. Richard returned to Wales, and when the King called another conference at Gloucester on August 14, Richard did not appear. Henry III declared him a traitor and deprived him of his office as marshal of England. This was too much for Richard, son of William Marshal. The king had declared him a traitor and taken his hereditary office of marshal without notice and without hearing and justice from a jury of his peers. The king had blatantly broken the laws of Magna Carta and abused his own position as king and feudal lord. Richard formed an alliance with Llywelyn, and the king invaded Richard’s lands and tried to take his castle of Usk. A truce was agreed upon, and Richard gave his castle of Usk into the king’s keeping until the conference at Westminster on October 2 decided matters between the marshal and the king. When the conference did not resolve the dispute and the king refused to return Richard’s castle of Usk, Richard and his Welsh allies retook Usk and the castles of Abergavenny, Newport, and Cardiff. In November 1233 the king’s army advanced to Grosmont castle, and Richard’s supporters routed them and took great spoils. Richard himself did not take part in this battle, as he would not attack the person of the king. In January 1234, Richard led the attack against the royal army under John de Monmouth and soundly defeated them, and later attacked Shrewsbury with Llywelyn.

Edmund the Archbishop of Canterbury had seen enough of the self-destruction of England; he went to King Henry III and told him that he must rid himself of his foreign advisors and send them out of England as they were destroying the country and the people. Edmund brought about the dismissal of des Roches and the other Poitevins and a truce by April 9,1234. It was too late to save Richard Marshal.

Peter des Roches, determined to destroy Richard Marshal, had devised a way to accomplish it. He had managed to get Henry’s signature on writs that declared that Richard was a traitor and any one of his barons in Ireland who captured and/or killed him would acquire Marshal’s lands in Ireland. With these writs, des Roches managed to get the de Laceys, Richard de Burgh, Geoffrey de Marisco and others, some of whom were Marshal’s own vassals, to attack Richard’s lands and castles in Ireland. Richard immediately went to Ireland in February 1234 and took Limerick and retook many of his own castles. Since Richard was defeating these men in honorable warfare, the de Lacey’s asked the Templars to set up a truce between all sides. A conference was set for April 1, 1234 on the Curragh of Kildare. Marisco came with Richard to the conference, acting as a medieval Quisling. Except for fifteen loyal knights of Richard’s own men, the rest of the men with him were traitors. Richard wanted to grant terms, but Marisco advised him to demand his castles and lands back first. When he did this, the de Lacey’s immediately appealed to force which left Richard and his fifteen loyal men facing at least one hundred and forty armed opponents. Richard recognizing the betrayal, refused to retreat saying that, "I am well aware that I am doomed to die this day, but it is better for me to die with honour in the cause of justice than to incur the reproach of my fellow knights for cowardice" (Wendover 588-90). The battle raged and Richard proved the equal of his father in knightly combat. They could not unhorse or defeat him in fair combat, so the traitors first killed his horse by cutting off his legs. Then while Richard was trying to regain his feet from this fall, they stabbed him in the back beneath his armor. Since Richard was not immediately killed, they took him to Kilkenny castle, that they had illegally taken from Richard. On April 16, 1234, when Richard was actually on the way to recovering, they brought in a surgeon who cauterized Richard’s wounds so roughly and deeply that he caused Richard’s death. This man was the Earl of Pembroke and marshal of England and related to the most powerful and important magnates in England and Ireland. Yet these men took Richard’s badly damaged body secretly to the Franciscan abbey at Kilkenny, and there had him buried immediately with none of his family present and none to see to the care of his body. Even by medieval standards and practices, this was unbelievable. When Henry III heard of this murder, he claimed innocence and lack of knowledge of the contents of the writs he had signed. Here is where the historian has to make a judgmental decision. Henry III was twenty-seven years old and had been ruling England in his own right for more than seven years. Under these circumstances there are two choices; either Henry III was mentally incompetent or he was lying. Henry III owed his life, his crown, and his kingdom to William Marshal, and he had contrived and participated in the murder of Marshal’s second born son.

Of all of Marshal’s sons, Richard was the closest to equaling his father in honour, knightly skills, and nobility of character. Richard had not attacked the king; he had tried every means at his disposal to make the king see and do what was right according to English law, custom, and the clauses set down in the Magna Carta. Only when Richard was personally attacked, did he try to defend himself and the justice and laws of England. There have been some recent works defending des Roches and Henry III and their actions, but nothing can refute the truths of the contemporary chroniclers.

According to contemporary chronicles, "Richard was a man endowed with all honorable qualities, distinguished for his noble birth, well-endowed in liberal arts, most vigorous in the exercise of arms, and one who kept God before his eyes in all his works" (Ann Mon ii 313). The ghosts of Richard’s parents must have wept and raged at the betrayal of their son by men who owed almost everything they possessed to the power, honour, and fealty of Richard “Strongbow” de Clare and William Marshal earl of Pembroke.

On Richard’s death, his brother Gilbert was his heir and successor. Gilbert had been intended for an ecclesiastical career. He had taken minor orders and received the livings of Orford in Suffolk on May 30, 1225, and of Wigham in Kent on September 19, 1228. He was in Ireland when Richard was killed, and he returned to Wales. On Gilbert’s return to England, he was granted a pardon by King Henry III for taking part in Richard’s rebellion. His brothers Walter and Anselm were also pardoned. On June 11, 1235, Gilbert was knighted and invested with all his brother’s lands and offices by King Henry at Worcester.

November 12, 1239, Gilbert took the cross with his brother-in-law Richard of Cornwall at Northampton. Gilbert took the cross with the understanding that Richard would use his influence to return Gilbert to the king’s favor. Gilbert had lost favor when he took Richard of Cornwall’s side in the rising of 1238 against the king’s foreign favorites. In July 1240, Gilbert was on the point of leaving England to go on crusade when the king recalled him and took him back into favor.

Right: tomb effigy of Gilbert Marshal at Temple Church, London

On June 27, 1241, Gilbert was taking part in an unauthorized tournament at Ware when he was thrown from his horse and drug across the field. He died from his injuries that very day and was buried in the Temple Church in London near his father and his brother William.

In September 1230, Gilbert had married Margaret de Lanvallei; she died or was divorced because in August of 1235 Gilbert married Margaret, sister to Alexander II of Scotland. Gilbert had no children by either marriage.

Walter succeeded his brother Gilbert as his heir, but he was not invested with his lands, title, and offices until October 1241. Walter was married January 2, 1242 to Margaret (d1266), widow of John de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, and the daughter of Hawise, sister of Ranulf of Chester, and Robert de Quenci. Walter accompanied the king into Gascony at the end of 1242. Walter died November 24, 1245 at Goodrich castle. There are no records of what and how he died, and he left no children.

Anselm was his brother’s heir, but he apparently died before he was ever invested with the lands, titles and offices of his brother Walter. He married Maud, daughter of Humphrey de Bohun, second earl of Hereford, but they had no children. Anselm died December 23, 1245 at Striguil, but there are no records of how he died. Anselm and his brother Walter were buried near their mother, Isabel, at Tintern in Monmouthshire.

Thus all five of William and Isabel Marshal’s sons died without any children, and the division of all the lands these two individuals inherited, acquired, and held would eventually be split among the children of their five daughters. There is no direct male lineal descent from William Marshal’s line. Of his five sons, three died in unexplained and/or undiscovered manner, Richard was murdered, and Gilbert died in a tournament. There are many unanswered questions about William Marshal’s sons.

The five daughters of Marshal were all married, some more than once, and all had children. The daughters will be presented in regard to whom they married and the names of the children they had by each marriage.

Maud/Matilda married Hugh Bigod, earl of Norfolk, in 1206. Maud would have had to been born by 1193 in order to be at least thirteen when she married Bigod. By Hugh, Maud had three sons: Roger (dsp1270) who married Isabel sister of Alexander of Scotland; Hugh (d1266) who married Joane, daughter of Robert Burnet; and Ralph who married Berta, daughter of the baron of Furnival. Hugh Bigod died in 1225, and Maud married William of Warenne, earl of Surrey and son of Hamelin Plantagenet, bastard of Geoffrey of Anjou. By William, Maud had two children: John de Warenne (d1304) who married Alice of Lusignan, and Isabella who married Hugh de Albini, earl of Sussex. William de Warenne died in 1240 and Maud died in 1245. Maud’s son Roger, by Hugh Bigod, became Earl Marshal in right of his mother.

Isabel married Gilbert de Clare, seventh earl of Clare and fifth earl of Hertford, on October 9, 1217. This was soon after her father had captured Gilbert at the battle of Lincoln in May 1217. Gilbert was thirty-seven years old, but Isabel’s age in not known. Between 1217 and 1230, when Gilbert died, they had six children. These children were: Richard (d1262) who married Margaret, daughter of Hubert de Burgh, and secondly Maud, daughter of John de Lacy; William (dsp 1258); Gilbert (dsp?); Amicia (d1283) who married Baldwin de Redvers; Agnes (dsp 1226); and Isabel (d?) who married Robert de Brus. In April 1231, William the younger married his sister Isabel, widow of Gilbert de Clare, to Richard earl of Cornwall and brother to King Henry III. Isabel died in October 1239, and her grandson Gilbert "The Red" inherited her lands as well as the de Clare lands on the death of his father, Richard, in 1262.

Sibilla (d ante 1238) married, before 1219, William de Ferrers, earl of Derby, and they had seven daughters. These daughters were: Agnes (d1290) who married William de Vesci of Alnwick; Isabel (d1260) who married Gilbert Basset of Wycombe; Maud (d 1299) who married Simon de Kyme of Sotby; Sybil (d 1173/4) who married Franco de Bohun of Midhurst; Joan (d1268) who married John de Mohun of Dunster; Agatha (d1306) who married Hugh de Mortimer of Chelmarsh; and Eleanor (d1274) who married William de Vaux. Sibilla died after 1238 and William de Ferrers died in 1254.

Eve/Eva (d1246) married William de Braose (Briouze), son of Reginald de Braose, before 1219. They had four daughters, and William de Braose was hanged by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth in 1230. The stated reason for the hanging was the accusation that William had dallied with Llywelyn’s wife Joan, bastard of King John. This does not withstand close scrutiny, and William was in all probability hung for the crimes of his grandfather, William de Braose lord of Bramber and Abergavenny, against the Welsh.

Eve’s and de Braose’s daughters were: Maud/Matilda (d1301) who married Roger de Mortimer of Wigmore; Isabel (d?) who married (1229) David (d1246), son of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth; Eve (d1255) who married William de Cantelou; and Eleanor (d c 1250) who married Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford. It is worth noting that Eve’s daughter, Isabel, was married to the son of the man who had hung her father. Her fate is not known except for the fact that she and David had no children. There are records of letters between Isabel’s uncle William, her mother Eve, and Llywelyn about her marriage contract to David after her father’s death. Given the time period and known practices, it must be assumed that Isabel’s uncle, William, decided that the marriage was necessary for the good of the “feudal” family.

The last daughter was Johanna/Joan (d ante 1234) who married Warin de Munchensi of Swanscombe after 1220. They had three children: John (dsp 1247); William (d1287); and Joan (d1307) who married William de Valence (d1296). Warin died in 1255 and the inheritance of Johanna and Warin passed through their daughter Joan to the de Hastings of Abergavenny.

Right: the group of Marshal effigies at Temple Church, London

William Marshal and Isabel de Clare had ten children, and of their five sons none lived past forty years of age and none had children. This is amazing when you consider that their father lived well past the age of seventy, despite his hard and rigorous life as a knight and crusader, and produced ten healthy children after the age of forty. As an historian and researcher, I personally feel that there is a puzzle in these facts that deserves further investigation and research. Except for Richard, who was murdered, and Gilbert, who was killed in a tournament, there are three grown men who suddenly die with no obvious or stated cause. These are facts that simply do not add up and are not logical; they produce questions that beg for answers and solutions, but they may remain a mystery never solved.


This essay is part of a series (listed below) written by Catherine Armstrong focusing on the life and times of William Marshal and his father-in-law Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare.

William Marshal

John fitz Gilbert (Marshal's father)

Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare, Strongbow (Marshal's father-in-law)

The parents of Isabel de Clare (Marshal's wife)

The Children of William Marshal and Isabel de Clare


Catherine Armstrong has Master's degree in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University. Her field is medieval English history. Her specific field is William Marshal, his fiefs and "familiares". Her concentration is on the lands and people bound to Marshal by blood and marriage, by feudal tenure, and by "affinity". She can be reached via e-mail at: seneschal@peoplepc.com.


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