William Marshal – The man who built Hook Lighthouse

William Marshall is known in Wexford as the man who built, New Ross, Hook Lighthouse and Kilkenny Castle, among others, but elsewhere in the world, he is known as The Greatest Knight that ever lived!

His life story makes the plot lines of Game of Thrones sound bland and boring. His life is full of interesting antidotes and tales of bravery and chivalry, too many to choose from, so I’ll start with the first. His first mention in the history books was when he was a mere 5 year old boy. Stephen and Matilda, grandchildren of William the Conqueror were fighting over the Throne, drawing England and France into a terrible violent war, to be remembered in time as The Anarchy. Williams father John, was marshal to the old Kings horses and at first had supported the young King Stephen, before switching his allegiance to Empress Matilda. 

John was of little importance except for his castle, strategically placed, if it was taken it would aid in the war massively. So Steven and his men arrived one cold morning and set siege to the castle taking the 5 year old William as hostage until his father returned. When John Marshal did return however, he seemed to have little interest in retrieving the boy. Instead he focused his attention on defending the castle and taking out as many of Stevens soldiers as possible. Steven ordered that the young William be placed in a catapult and aimed at the castle walls in order to show John that they had no problem killing this small child. John, instead of reacting with horror, climbed up onto the battlements and shouted down that he had “hammer and Anvils fine enough to build a better son” Poor William was even hoisted up on the gallows but still his father didn’t seem to care. Eventually Steven gave up; William himself claimed later in life that Steven let him go because of Williams charming personality!

Whatever the case, William certainly seemed to have learnt something because he went on to act as a protector to 5 Kings and a Queen, he made the medieval equivalent of millions of euros fighting in the Tournaments of France, he also fought in the Crusades on the behalf of a King, before he married Isabel De Claire (the closest thing we had to an Irish Princess) who herself was extremely wealthy, with her they had ten children and still had time to build New Ross, Kilkenny Castle, Ferns Castle, Tintern Abbey and Hook Lighthouse. He was still fighting battles in his 70s, climbing castle walls in full armour before dying of old age surrounded by his loving family, his last act was to join the Knights Templar before taking his final breath! No there is someone who knew how to make their mark on the world!

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