When you speak of great knights, many names jump to mind: maybe El Cid the master of battle? Maybe Jacques De Molay the last grand templar? Or Richard The Lionheart? Yet when you look at all the traits that make a great knight: courage, justice, mercy, generosity, faith, nobility and hope. Well, only one knight embodies them all and that is Sir William Marshall. Not much was expected of William he was the fourth son of a nobleman, so everything was stacked against him.
William Marshal was without a doubt one of the most famous and known knights of his time, and one of the only knights that even after his death was most respected. A biography was even commissioned immediately in his honor soon after his death. Like most knights trying to win fame he entered the world with his immense skill of arms, winning tournaments left and right. But Sir Marshal would not enter tournaments to win a little trophy or a little title, these tournaments were vastly different than what is portrayed in modern films. These were battlegrounds, little arenas, the way that young men of the time entered the military order. There were no rules and anything could happen.
And if you defeated a knight? Well then you could capture him and his family would have to pay a ransom for his return to the tournament. This way William was able to gain money to buy more arms and more land, thus gaining his prestige from winning tournaments.
He was not just a tournament knight though, he served as Richard the Lionheart’s marshall and even regent when he left England for the crusades. He even found time to fight in the crusades himself, a crusade in his own honor paid for by the king! Not much is known of his time in the holy land, only that he met up with the Knights Templar and achieved in 2 years what most knights took 7 years to do. However more was to come and it was under King John that he rose to the most fame.
King John was jealous of his barons and treated them harshly, due to this William moved to his family in Ireland and created a very economically successful area in Leinster. And during the barons rebellions against King John, he stayed loyal and mostly neutral. This meant that when King John died he was seen as the best candidate to be regent until John’s nine-year-old son was older!
He was now the ruler of all of England and in a pinnacle moment of his awesome life at the age of 70 led the charge against the rebels at the Battle of Lincoln in 1217. Which he won of course… and restored peace.