OK onward; remember that HII has popped his clogs, shuffled on this mortal coil, gone to meet his maker and ceased to be. Marshal has gone to meet the new boss at the funeral at Fontevraud, slightly nervous because he killed Richard’s horse underneath him while defending Henry.
So…Marshal watched Richard enter the Abbey and look down at his father’s body thoughtfully for a while. Eventually Richard left, and as he passed Marshal, asked him to come with him. Maybe like one of those business dramas where the boss raps out ‘Walk with me! Does that actually happen? Never happened to me in 30 years, so maybe it’s just a luvvie’s view of the world of business? Answers on a postcard… However it happened in Fontevraud in 1189, for Marshal, the moment of truth had arrived. It didn’t start well. as Richard said
Marshal, my good sir, the other day you tried to kill me, and would have done so for sure if I hadn’t turned your lance away with my arm
Well the lying toe rag. Turn away with his arm indeed, he did no such thing! What line would Marshal take? Apologetic? Grovelling? Mildly regretful?
Sir, replied Marshal ‘I’d no intention of killing you and didn’t try…I don’t think I was wrong to kill your mount and I’m not sorry that I did
Ok, so, none of the above then. Awkward pause. Tumbleweed. Sharp intakes of breath from all around. Too honest Marshall, surely
You’re forgiven, Marshal; I shan’t hold it against you
Marshal had chosen wisely. There was always a factor in his favour; the lord that was loyal to one king was likely to be loyal to the next. And that was worth much. Possibly more importantly, Richard’s mind was already elsewhere on a higher purpose. Two years ago, the Crusader army had been slaughtered at Hattin in the Holy Land and, and Jerusalem had fallen. Richard, Philip and many more had taken the cross. Richard yea or nay was a name that stuck to Richard and there was truth in it – once he had decided something, it would be done. So Richard needed dependable men like Marshal to hold his lands while he left.
Ok having pushed it, it’s important not to push it too hard and go too far, as I am sure you all know, and you never count your winnings when you are sitting at the table, so, Marshal resolved to make sure the dealing’s was done. Sadly, no one had told Geoffrey Plantagenet, Henry IIs illegitimate son, of this universal verité. Because now he waded in, leant forward and carelessly lit the blue touch paper
I wish to remind you that the king gave the Marshal the damsel of Striguil
God’s legs, no he didn’t! He merely promised to!
Wah wah oops.
I do give her to him absolutely – the young lady and her estate
Richard was just messin’ with the Marshal – and wanted to make sure he knew from whose hand the largesse had come. The language of giving the damsel of Strigueil is a little brutal, but such are the times. But, before we move on, let us talk of what we can about the damsel that would change William’s life, The Damsel of Striguil, Isabel of Clare.
Isabel, described by the histoire as the ‘good, fair, sagacious, courtly damsel’, was the daughter of Richard de Clare and Aífe (Eva). Richard de Clare, by an accident of miscommunication ended up with the coolest of cognomens, namely Strongbow, by which, despite its modern association with a sweet mass produced cider I would also like to be known. So, if you would like to address me as David Strongbow Crowther, you just go right ahead. Aife meanwhile was the daughter of Diarmait Mac Murchada (Dermot Mac Murrough), one time king of Leinster in Ireland. And in the words of Spandau Ballet, to cut a long story short, Diarmit invited Richard to come and help him in a local political disagreement, and this meant that Isabel was heir to a fair proportion of the South East of Ireland. Isabel might have been 17 in 1189; she might have been even younger but lets say 17, and she was held in the wardship of Ranulf de Glanville, the Justiciar of England. The news will have reached her I assume that she was to be married to some old bloke called William Marshal – by old I mean 43 ish, so over double her age which I think qualifies as getting on a bit. I cannot imagine how she felt. But there is a vague possibility she was content, and content that she’d be out from under the restrictions of wardship, as well as being horrified at marrying a quadragenarian, but this is no more than speculation. Against all the odds, this will be a marriage that appears to work; there will be 10 children for the couple and in Ireland in particular we see Isabel exercising lordship and working together with her husband, so we have to hope that the histoire speaks true, and that this was the happy strong relationship it appears to be. If Isabel was pleased though, you can be sure that Ranulf de Glanville was not. The wardship of Isabel was a nice little earner and make no mistake.
Now as it happens, as William galloped away excitedly from Fontevraud, he rode first to Longueville in Normandy. I am imagining you looking up, quizzically. Why Longuevill you wonder? Surely Longueville was part of the Giffard inheritance, not de Clare? Surely, this must be another Crowther blooper?
Well au contraire, mes braves, au contraire. The thing is that the Clare inheritance wasn’t yet quite the bonanza it would come to be; there were plenty of claims on it. One of those was Aife as it happens, living in mildly grumpy retirement on some of her estates in Essex, though she would be buried in Monmouthshire. Aife was nobody’s pushover, Red Aife as she was known in Ireland and she is reputed to have led troops in battle in prosecuting her family’s claims. Under Irish Brehon law she retained a life interest in her estates. And unfortunately there was a further complication; John, the king’s brother, had been made Lord of Ireland by Henry II, and so he claimed, and had been operating these estates. In short, it would take a while and much litigation and bargaining for Marshal to gain full control of the complete honour of Clare. By Honour, as you may remember, we mean all those collections of lands that went together to make up a barony, and those lands were all over the place – not just Ireland, and indeed centred on the mighty castle of Chepstow in south Wales, with lands also in Essex, Caversham and Hertfordshire. So, Richard gave William half of the honour of Giffard in England and Normandy to boot to make sure that, you know, he could pay the groceries. And because he was making plans for William. Thus William rode first to the closest of his lands, Longueville. You might note, by the way, that William was not yet Earl of Pembroke.
Next stop though was not to see his new bride, but to see his old patron – he took a message from dutiful son Richard to his old patron, Eleanor of Aquitaine in Winchester castle, to make sure she was sprung from her 15 year old imprisonment. From there Eleanor would start a new lease of life, and you can hear more about that in an excellent podcast I’m told is available especially for members. But then it was indeed to London, and after a bit of argy bargy with Ranulph who gave up his gravy train reluctantly, Isabel and William were married, and lived for a while in Stoke. Not the potteries I am sorry to say, but a place in Surrey and waited for the arrival of Richard, and for a royal coronation. And they started on the onerous task of making babies, the first of whom, William Junior, would appear, um, well, 9 months later. In April 1190.
The Coronation meanwhile interrupted the baby making process in August 1189, and at said coronation the star of the Marshal family burned ever more brightly. Because there were two Marshals involved in leading roles at the Coronation; William’s brother John, head of the family and carrying the title of Marshal, carried the king’s spurs at said coronation. John appears to have been ambitious but mildly incompetent; and it is ironic, if that is the right word, that it should be the younger brother who had propelled the Marshal family back into the national limelight.
William was now a magnate, even if not yet quite of the top rank. He and Isabel therefore set about gathering to them other trappings of the magnate. One of those trappings was the power to control your country, or locality, as far as possible; and Marshal therefore bought the shrievalty of Gloucester, with its castle at Gloucester, and jurisdiction over the Forest of Dean, all close to his holdings at Chepstow. The other was to found a monastery.
Endowing Your own monastery was the bling of the middle ages essentially. Actually I am sure that’s a dreadful analogy, apologies, obviously it was a deeply pious and religious act. But also it was bling in the sense that you could hardly be accounted a great lord unless you had done so, it was part of the required social standing. The priory in question was Cartmel Priory in the Lake District, and at the dissolution it was claimed as the locals’ parish church and thus the priory church survived, and you can see it still, and very lovely it is to boot.
Ok, so Richard’s mind as I am sure you all know, was set on higher things; his ambition was to pick up the sword for Christendom and return to the Holy Land to regain Jerusalem from the hands of the Saracen. That meant he needed to set things up for an extended absence, and he faced a problem or two. Here are the problems which Richard faced, and they are traditional problems.
Firstly, he had a brother, which is of course normally an excellent thing, but in some circumstances can be two edged. And this was such a time. It’s not that John was all bad, even though he had become something of a pantomime villain. He was notably open handed and generous, he had an eye for a gag, if mainly for the more wicked kind of gag, and he was attractively loyal to his friends especially of his youth. But he was ambitious. And worst of all for a person in a position of huge power, he was volatile and unpredictable. It is reasonably clear that Richard was well aware that John was an issue, and he had a strategy, a strategy that in the finest tradition of stools and hats had 3 legs.
Leg number 1 was an irascible chap called William Longchamps. He was a new man was Longschamps. This doesn’t mean that he was good at changing nappies and being agreeably woke– it means that he came from a minor family, but had made himself fame and fortune through the church and Angevin administration. Richard knew his quality, his efficiency, energy and brio, because Longchamps had been his Chancellor as Count of Poitou. Longchamps had all the bureaucrat’s contempt for the aristocratic courtier – a man ahead of his time really, and so the evidence is that he was not backwards in coming forward with his views and he and Marshal didn’t really see eye to eye. However he had his drawbacks; as a relatively lowborn sort of chap, and with the diplomatic characteristics of grade 40 grit sandpaper he needed watching.
And so leg 2 was to be a group of people to do just that. There was Eleanor of course., now coming into her own as the grande dame of Angevin politics, with gravitas and experience. Then there was a council of 4 blokes. Hugh Bardolf was a Lincolnshire knight and an experienced justice. Geoffrey FitzPeter held the lands of the Earldom of Essex and was a talented administrator, and William Brewer, from a family of Royal Forresters, also fit the mould of the Angevin administrator rather than magnate of the realm. And the fourth? The fourth was our hero, William Marshal, Magnate and dude, William gasteviande made good.
The 3rd leg was made of Angevin wood, John, son of Henry, brother of Richard. Now people have said, why leave tricky John at home, John who was obviously going to cause trouble. Silly Richard. Well, Richard let me tell you had a brain the size of a large orbital satellite and was no fool, and realised that taking both Angevin heirs to a dangerous place like Palestine was not wise. So he did this; he fed John lots of goodies, in the hope that he would be so stuffed he’d be too full to eat anything else, and made him Count of Mortain. He made him promise to be good and stay in France for 3 years – by which time surely Richard would be back. And he relied on the other 2 legs to keep him honest.
Cool. Well satisfied, in July 1190 off to the holy land, along with his good pal Philip, Richard’s ship was cheered, the harbour cleared and merrily did he drop, below the kirk, below the hill, below the lighthouse top. And the 3 legged stool almost immediately began to wobble.