William Marshal speaking to his retainers in Ireland about his wife Isabel de Clare who he is leaving nominally in charge of his lands in Ireland, which he holds though marriage to her, while he goes back to serve King John.
“My Lords, here you see the countess whom I have brought into your presence. She is your lady by birth, the daughter of the earl who graciously, in his generosity, enfieffed you all, once he had conquered the land. She stays behind here with you as a pregnant woman. Until such time as God brings me back here, I ask you all to give her unreservedly the protection she deserves by birthright, for she is your lady, as we all know; I have no claim to anything save through her”.
History of William Marshal Volume II. pgs 177-179. ISBN: 0905474457
“She was married under a favourable star, that worthy, beautiful lady of good breeding, that courtly lady of high birth. Who bore children whose fortunes were so promoted by the Lord our God in his providence, as we see now and have seen in the past.”
History of William Marshal Volume II. pg 485. ISBN: 0905474457
A short one today, but with a fascinating back story.
It is a rare surviving example of a king demanding knight service from one of his retainers. In this case Henry II asking William Marshal to bring forces. He requested that Marshal come “to [him] fully equipped as soon as may be, with as many knights as [Marshal] can get, to support [Henry II] in [his] war.” It went on to add, “You have ever so often moaned to me that I have bestowed on you a small fee. Know that if you serve me faithfully I will give you in addition Châteauroux with all its lordship and whatever belongs to it.”
David Crouch, The English Aristocracy 1072-1272, A Social Transformation, Yale: Yale University Press, 2011, p. 29.
Châteauroux was a pivotal fortress in the disputed region of Berry, south-east of Tours in France, and was in the hands of the French at the time so Henry II was offering Marshal a castle he would have had to fight to take possession of. In normal circumstances Henry could not have offered it at all, however its lady was the underage Denise of Châteauroux who was probably not more than 15 and who was most likely under Henry’s guardianship at the time. This meant that Henry could offer Châteauroux to Marshal by offering marriage to Denise. This marriage never came about because Henry II died in 1189 and in that year Richard I, Henry’s son and heir, gave Marshal the even wealthier heiress Isabel de Clare.
The document dates to 1188 and it’s remarkable survival is discussed in the excellent article below.
A letter from Henry III to the people of Ireland regarding the institution of the Magna Carta. It was unlikely to have been written by him, as it was still during William Marshal’s regency.
“The King to all archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, knights, free tenants and all our faithful subjects settled throughout Ireland, greetings.
With out hearty commendation of your fidelity in the Lord, which you have ever exhibited to our lord father and to us in these our days are to exhibit our pleasure is, that in token of this your famous and notable fidelity, the liberties granted by our father and by us, of our grace and gift to the realm of England shall in our kingdom of Ireland be enjoyed by you and your heirs forever.
Which liberties distinctly reduced to writing by the general council of all our liege subjects we transmit to you sealed with the seals of our Lord Gualon, legate of the apostolical see and our trusty earl William Marshal, our governor and governor of our kingdom because as yet we have no seal. And the same shall in the proceeds of time and on fuller council receive the signature of our seal.
Given in Gloucester on the 6th day of February.”
Dr Thomas Leland, History of Ireland from the Invasion of Henry II, London, 1773, p. 203.
Death of the outlaw Eustache the Monk at the Battle of Sandwich in 1217. A battle in which the “enemy” for Eustache was the English forces who were fighting to the rid the country of the forces of Prince Louis of France. It’s much more complicated than that, but that is an outline. The English forces were led by William Marshal
“The enemy set out in small boats and attacked the ships [of Eustache’s fleet] with longbows and crossbows. The Monk’s men guarded themselves against everything thrown at them in the chase by firing missiles and shooting arrows. They killed many Englishmen and defended themselves nobly. Eustache himself toppled many of them with the oar he wielded, breaking arms and smashing heads with every swing. This one he killed, another one he threw overboard. This one he knocked down, another one he trampled underfoot, and a third one had his windpipe crushed. But Eustache was assailed from all directions with no let up. Battle axes struck his ship on all sides. On the first wave the defenders were able to ward off the attack, preventing the enemy from coming on board. Then the English started hurling pots of finely ground lime, smashing them to pieces on the ship railings, with the result that great clouds of dust covered the decks. That was what caused the most damage, against which Eustache’s men could not defend themselves. To their misfortune the wind was against them, causing even further torment, for their eyes became filled with ash. In the confusion the English leaped in to Eustache’s ship and mistreated his men badly, taking all the nobles prisoner. As for Eustache the Monk, he was slain, his head cut off. With that the battle was over.
No man who spends his days doing evil can live a long life.
From Thomas E. Kelly editor and translator Eustache the Monk. In A Book of Medieval outlaws edited by Thomas H. Ohlgren. ISBN9780750924931
The basic premise of this particular project is a medieval quote a day for the 24 days leading up to christmas. A medieval quote advent calendar. I’m not going to be providing background to the quotes. These will just be snippets of medieval works. Hope you enjoy
I am a day late on this post so two quotes will go up today.
“St David’s is in a remote corner of the country, looking out towards the Irish Sea. The soil is rocky and barren. It has no woods, no rivers and no pasture lands. It is exposed to winds and extremely inclement weather. It lies between two hostile peoples who are constantly fighting over it, the Flemmings and the Welsh. However, these saintly men deliberately chose to establish the arch-bishopric there, for they wanted to live as far removed as possible from worldly upsets, preferring an eremitical existence to a pastoral one, so that they might enjoy a spiritual life which no one could take away from the.”
The Journey Through Wales and The Description of Wales. pg 161. ISBN: 9780140443394
“His body was so well fashioned that, even if he had been created by the sculptor’s chisel, his limbs would not have been so handsome. I can tell you this because I saw them and remember them well. At the same time his had fine hands and feet, but all this was as nothing compared to his overall appearance. Anyone who looked upon it would have found it so upright, so well formed, that if his judgement were sound, he would have concluded that nowhere in the whole world was there to be found such a perfect body. His hair was brown, his face swarthy, but his features were so much like those of a true noble that he could have been an Emperor of Rome. Also, he had wide hips and was so handsomely formed as any noble could be; it was a master sculptor who fashioned him.”
History of William Marshal Volume I. pg 39. ISBN: 0905474422
Pembroke Castle in South West Wales is one of the most impressive castles on Welsh soil. I hesitate to say Welsh castle, because it wasn’t built by the Welsh. The building of Pembroke Castle was begun by Arnulph de Montgomery in c. 1093 as a key part of the Norman subjugation of this portion of Wales.
This first castle was nothing like the imposing fortress we see today jutting out into the Cleddau Estuary.
Gerald of Wales, albeit writing in the late 1100s, described Pembroke as originally being “a slender fortress of stakes and turf.” But it was in an immensely strategic position and as such soon became an important fortress.
Pembroke was besieged by the Welsh is 1094 and in 1096, but both times it was held by the Normans led by Gerald de Windsor who was the custodian of the castle for Arnulph de Montgomery. However by 1102 Arnulph had been implicated in a revolt against Henry I and was forced to flee and Pembroke castle and the lands around it were escheated to the crown. By 1105 Gerald de Windsor was custodian again, this time in the name of the crown, and he married the Welsh princess Nest. Nest is one of the most fascinating women of the period and much has been written about her. But in brief she was the daughter of the Welsh Prince Rhys ap Tewdwr, thus an important marriage prize as Rhys’ former kingdom made up much of what was now the lands of Pembroke. Nest was most likely the mistress of Henry I before she married Gerald and probably bore him illegitimate offspring. She was said to have been a great beauty and would have been very young, in her teens, when she was the king’s mistress. She was then married off to Gerald at least partly to lend credence to Gerald’s position as a royal officer and person in charge of Pembroke. She was then abducted, there is debate over whether it was willing or not, from either Cilgerran Castle or Carew Castle both of which Gerald had begun to build
She was abducted by Owen son of Cadwgan, another Welsh Prince. Owen came into Nest and Gerald’s chamber and Gerald hid or escaped, depending on which version you read, down the privy shoot and Owen abducted Nest, two of Nest’s children and possibly some castle treasure. After much unrest Nest was eventually returned to Gerald and Owen ultimately died in rebellion against Gerald. Nest married again after Gerald died in the 1120s and had children from that marriage as well. Nest ended up with some important descendants including Gerald of Wales, who was descended from her and Gerald de Windsor. Gerald of Wales is one of the more prolific writers of the late 1100s and is responsible for works on both the people of Ireland and the people of Wales. He was born at the nearby Manorbier Castle.
Leaving Nest aside. After Gerald de Windsor died the castle remained in crown hands until the reign of King Stephen. The Earldom of Pembroke was officially created in 1138 and the de Clare family were the beneficiaries of its creation with Gilbert de Clare appointed as the ruler of the territory. There was also a small town growing up around the castle and we know that it had liberties and freedoms from fairly early on because there is a surviving charter from Henry II which discusses them. It reads, in one translation.
“Henry by the Grace of God, King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and Count of Anjou to the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Earls of Justices, Barons and Sheriffs, and to all his faithful people of all England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Poitou, Gascony, and to all his men, whether dwelling on this side or beyond the seas greetings. Know that I have given and granted, and by this my present Charter, have confirmed in my burgesses of Pembroke all their liberties, immunities and free customs as freely and fully as they had them in the time of King Henry, my grandfather.”
Gilbert de Clare died in 1148 and was succeeded by his son Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow. I’ve written more about Strongbow and especially the role he played in the Norman conquest of Ireland earlier and it can be found here. Strongbow died in 1176 and King Henry II retained all his lands and the wardship of his daughter Isabel de Clare. Isabel became the heir to all of Strongbow’s lands including Pembroke when her brother Gilbert died as a minor in 1185. Isabel married William Marshal at the behest of Richard I in 1189 thus making Marshal one of the most powerful men in the country as Isabel held other lands in England, Ireland and France as well as those in Wales. Marshal wasn’t actually invested with the title of Earl of Pembroke until 1199 when King John came to the throne. Marshal had the iconic Great Keep at Pembroke Castle built.
Great Keep Pembroke Castle
Inside the Great Keep of Pembroke Castle.
The Great Keep was built in c. 1200 in a time when square keeps were much more common. It stands at 75 feet high with walls approximately 20 feet thick at its base. When William Marshal died the castle was inherited by his son William Marshal II. Marshal had five sons each of whom died childless. So when the last Marshal son, Anselm, died in 1145 all of Marshal’s extensive lands were divided up amongst the descendants of his five daughters. Pembroke Castle went to his daughter Joan’s descendants, she was married to Warine de Munchery. It was their son in law William de Valance who retook some of the surrounding lands that had been lost to the Welsh over the years. De Valance died in 1296 and the Earldom of Pembroke and thus the castle entered into a fairly quiet period. Until the death of Earl John Hastings in 1389 when the castle returned to the hands of the King in this case Richard II. Henry IV declared his son John to be Earl of Pembroke in c.1399 and later the castle bounced back and forth between sides in the War of the Roses. Its greatest claim to fame in this period is that Henry Tudor, later Henry VII was born there in 1456.
You can see the tower he was most likely born in on the far right of the photo.
The physical buildings that can now be seen in Pembroke are products of various stages of its history. I’m not going discuss all of them, but I will mention a few.
The oldest part is the Norman Hall which was built probably under the rule of Richard Strongbow c. 1150-1170 when the defences would still have been made of timber.
For me the most fascinating part of Pembroke Castle, apart from the Great Keep, was actually not built by any of the castle’s inhabitants. Wogan’s Cavern beneath the Norman Hall is a naturally occurring cavern. There have been tools dating back to the middle stone age found in it along with Roman coins. This suggests that the Cavern has been used for shelter for thousands of years. When the castle was built the cavern was used for storage and the entrance was protected as part of the defensive plan. It is one of the most surprising things I’ve ever seen in a castle. Largely because of its sheer immensity.
Pembroke Castle is very much a stronghold. It has played a part in most important eras of British History and is in and of itself a dramatic and imposing castle. I went there originally because of its connection to William Marshal. But I went back because it is a spectacular castle, a testament to the strength of its builders. It commands the Cleddau Estuary and you can see why it has been so formidable for so many years.
Pembroke for King and Country: Phil Carradice. ISBN: 09521092
It’s pretty simple. You see the question with a photo underneath and underneath the photo you’ll find the answer. There’s twenty five questions so keep track of how many you get right and how many you get wrong and see how you do at the end. There’s also a poll at the end so you can see how you compare to everyone else if you’re interested.
As the title suggests, it starts off easy and gets much more complicated. There are five sections: Easy, Medium, Hard, Difficult and Evil.
Hook Lighthouse on the Hook Head Peninsula is one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. It stands as a testament to the both the danger of the seas around the Hook Head Peninsula and the importance of the travel route that passes its tip.
Hook Head Peninsula is at the tip of South East Ireland and is possibly the origin of the saying ‘by hook or by crook’. Tradition has it that when Cromwell was invading Ireland he said he’d take it by hook or by crook, meaning by Hook Head Peninsula or Crooke in County Waterford. Whether this is true or not is very much debatable, but it is a nice story regardless.
The lighthouse itself was probably originally begun in the early 1200s on the orders of William Marshal. Marshal came to visit the lands in Ireland that came to him by right of his wife Isabel de Clare in 1200-1201. They were caught in a terrible storm crossing the Irish Sea and Marshal vowed to God that if they survived he would found an abbey. The ship didn’t sink and Marshal kept his word. As thanks to God for their survival he founded Tintern Abbey, which also stands on Hook Head Peninsula. It’s known as Tintern of the Vow as well as Tintern Parva, meaning small in Latin. It can be seen below.
It is a daughter house of Tintern Abbey in wales, which also stood on Marshal land. It can be seen below.
Hook Head Lighthouse was possibly begun around c. 1210 as a landmark and to guide ships up to Marshal’s newly built port at New Ross. The River Barrow in New Ross can be seen below.
The light would have been coal fired and quite simple. You can see what it looks like now in the photos below, as well as the view from around the lighthouse. The particular black and white striping is unique to the Hook lighthouse so it can be clearly identified by ships.
The walls of the lighthouse are between 2-4 m thick and there are currently three main rooms.
The coal storage room from when the light was a fire
The secondary lighthouse keepers room and the chief light house keeper’s room. When the lighthouse was originally built it was run by monks and this room would probably have been used as a prayer space.
Above the fireplaces in the chief lighthouse keeper’s room you can see some brown coloured stains. These are the ox blood that was used in the plaster. The heat of fires has brought it to the surface. It is possible that some of the plaster was original. It was made with straw and horsehair and ox blood to tie it together.
Tradition has it that there was some form of light on this position before Marshal had his constructed. In c. 500-1000 CE St Dubhan founded a monastery in roughly this position and the monks used to light a beacon fire to warn ships.
The first historical record of the light is in the 1240s when the monks from Churchtown were installed as lighthouse keepers. It can be presumed that they continued as such until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. By the 17th century the light was untended, but numerous shipwrecks and complaints led to its restoration in the 1670s with the first glass lens to protect the coal fire.
In the late 1600s the lighthouse came into the possession of the Loftus family and they leased it to the authorities in 1706.
Following repeated complaints the coal fired light was replaced by an oil burning lamp in 1791.
In the 1860s the lighthouse keepers moved out of the tower and into separate dwellings
In 1871 new gas lights were installed, powered by gas which was manufactured in the gas yard. Paraffin oil subsequently became the source of power.
In 1911 a clockwork mechanism was installed so the light became a flashing one rather than a fixed beam. It had to be wound every 25 minutes.
The light became electric in 1972
In 1996 the lighthouse was automated ending 800 years of lighthouse keepers.
The current light is not open to the public, but a slightly earlier version can be seen in the coal store. It is made by Aga.
Hook lighthouse has a fascinating history and the building itself is truly beautiful. What you can’t quite see in the photos is how tactile the walls of the lighthouse are. It curves in a way the photos just don’t translate.
I’ve been to Hook Head twice.
Once in horrible weather.
And once in lovely weather
But whatever the weather it is a spectacular building, a spectacular setting and as one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world a real historical treasure. Not to mention it was probably begun by William Marshal, one of my favourite historical people. If you ever get the chance it is an amazing place to visit.
I ran a poll a couple of weeks ago on favourite castles. Thanks to everyone who voted and thanks to all who put in ‘other’ options. I now have more castles to go and visit. I figure you’ve all had enough time to vote now so here are the results.
I have to say I am quite pleased with this result as Chepstow is one of William Marshal’s castles. Thanks again to everyone who voted and please feel free to let me know if you think there are others that should be on the list. I might do an open poll in a couple of months.