William Marshal

When Sir William Marshal died on 14 May 1219, he was the most powerful man in England. As earl of Pembroke, he ruled vast estates stretching across England, Wales and Ireland (including Cartmel, where he founded the Priory in around 1189). He also governed the kingdom as regent on behalf of the eleven-year-old King Henry III (1216-1272).

In the year 1215, Marshal, acted as the King John’s chief negotiator with the baronial rebels and the writing of Magna Carta. Magna Carta, or the Great Charter, was a written record of a grant of rights issued by King John of England at Runnymede on 15 June 1215. Negotiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular king and a group of discontented barons, it promised the protection of Church rights, safeguarded all free people from illegal imprisonment, offered access to swift justice, and placed limitations on feudal payments to the Crown. This Charter became the basis for Western democracy.

Having been born the younger son of a minor Anglo-Norman knight with no inheritance, he passed on to his own heir, William the Younger, the largest inheritance in the kingdom. William owed his ascent to military and political skill, and his chivalric reputation was celebrated. William Marshal’s life was a romantic epic, as society prized strength, prowess, generosity, and above all else, loyalty. The Marshal and his comrades embodied these values, standing tall amongst kings, rivals, and invaders as the epitome of medieval chivalric values. Marshal had a remarkable career and is one of the most celebrated figures of the medieval world.

All who are associated with Cartmel Priory are extremely proud of their founder, the Greatest Knight.