What are the Greatest Achievements of William Marshall?

Generally rated as one of the greatest knights of all time, William Marshall was among the war heroes of medieval Europe. As a knight (a warrior or servant), William Marshall’s service covered the reign of 5 English kings. Here is a historical look at some of the greatest achievements of William Marshall, the fighter and servant whose outstanding knighthood made the erasure of his name an impossibility.

William Marshall

Biography and Greatest Achievements of William Marshall

Short Biography

Marshall was the son of John FitzGilbert (a junior noble). Born somewhere around 1146-1147 in Newbury Castle, the knight’s early childhood passed through turbulent and unpredictable circumstances before he eventually became a great servant. His birth happened in the historical period known as “The Anarchy” – it was a time when two rivals – King Stephen & Empress Matilda – competed fiercely for the throne.

Young Marshall escapes death by the skin of his teeth

Initially, the father of Marshall put his weight behind Stephen’s struggles to claim the throne. But due to a later change of mind, Marshall’s father backed Matilda’s side. When Stephen’s army laid siege to his father’s castle, they took little Marshall and held him, hostage, hoping to force his father to surrender. At that time, Marshall was probably 4-5 years old.

Death nearly visited the young man due to his father’s hard-heartedness. With the boy in their hands, Stephen’s army threatened to kill him. They kept the young Marshall in a torturing device (trebuchet) and vowed to crush him dead.

In the long run, Stephen (probably out of compassion), decided to release the innocent kid back to his father under the Winchester Peace Agreement of 1153.

William Marshall’s Journey to Knighthood

When Marshall reached the age of 13, he was taken to his mother’s cousin – William de Tancarcille – to undergo knighthood training. Tancarcille’s home was the official training ground for knights. The knight school became the proving ground on which William Marshall’s rich story found its setting.

The training taught Marshall the knightly code of conduct – the chivalric codes. There, he learned military skills in horse riding, weaponry, medieval laws, and many other important military tactics.

Having mastered the art of knighthood, William Marshall was officially made a knight in 1166. He kicked off his career by being a tournament knight. This was a breakthrough moment for Marshall; his accomplishments included winning several bouts, capturing enemies, taking ransom, and gaining reputation. After a while, Marshall became the best version of himself, exuding confidence, fearlessness, and dignity.

Greatest Achievements of Sir William Marshall

Sir William Marshall

Greatest Achievements of Sir William Marshall

As a knight, William Marshall strode on to achieve a lot of successes over the course of his long-term career. The following are some of his greatest achievements.

Tournament Champion

In his youthful days, William Marshall started his career on a highly successful note. He was that person you could call a champion. During Marshall’s days as a tournament knight, the energetic man won 500 fighting competitions. He became a feared fighting legend whose presence in bouts fetched him huge prize money at the end of the day. Nothing could have made him feel prouder of himself than walking away with money and fame after defeating contenders.

Served 5 English Kings

William Marshall was the Methuselah of the knighthood – many royal figures hired his services during their reigns. During his time of duty, William Marshall, the great soldier, was a servant of 5 kings of England namely – Henry II, Young King Henry, Richard I, King John, and Henry III.

Henry III was the last ruler to enjoy the fighting spirit of Marshall. He was posted to serve Henry III after King John’s death in 1216. On behalf of Henry III, Marshall fought wars against King Louis VIII of France.

It was a wonderful moment when at an old age of 70 years, Marshall led the Battle of Lincoln in 1217. When the war with France was over, Marshall struck a peace treaty with France which ensured lasting political stability in Henry’s reign. However, Marshall was criticized for negotiating soft terms in the treaty.

First Earl of Pembroke

By accumulating wealth from tournaments, Marshall’s knighthood reputation climbed to new heights. Anything he touched ‘turned into gold’. As Marshall gained wider recognition for rendering loyal services to his lords, he was kindly rewarded on many occasions. When he came under the lordship of King Henry II & Richard the Lionheart, Marshall was greatly rewarded with a new title to his name – he became Earl of Pembroke, in Wales.

As a pat to the fighter’s back, a marriage to Isabel de Clare – one of England’s richest women at that time – was arranged for Marshall. This gave him ownership of large pieces of land in Wales & Ireland. Moving back to England and Normandy, Marshall had big estates spread out around the regions.

Drafted the Magna Carta

Originally written over 800 years ago, the Magna Carta law documents spelled out some rules about good governance. It was written in 1215 during the reign of King John of England who was then fighting some landowners (aka barons). The barons weren’t impressed with the King’s rule, so they fought him.

The Magna Carta brought forth laws that applied to people from all walks of life in England. It stated that no one (not even a king or queen) was beyond trial; everyone was equal before the law. Marshall helped draft the Magna Carta that King John himself signed. Up to this day, the Magna Carta is still revered as an important historical law document.

Saved the House of Plantagenet

Marshall’s extreme loyalty to the royalty made him the savior of the House of Plantagenet (a royal residence that survived 250 years). The Plantagenet’s existence saw England flourish through several transformations.

Embarked on a Crusade

After the death of Henry the Young King, Marshall embarked on a Crusade to the Holy Land, out of respect for the dead royal. He was thought to have made a trip to Jerusalem around 1183. On his return to England in 1185-86, the reigning King (Henry) took him as his adviser.

Sir William Marshall died in 1219; his tomb can be found in Temple Church in London.

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