Mar 25, 2010

HF Bloggers Round Table Event: William Marshal in Ireland



Play this while reading my post, it shall surely get you in the Irish mood!

This post is dedicated to William Marshal, who is the main protagonist in Elizabeth Chadwick's two books:
Read my review of The Greatest Knight
Read my review of The Scarlet Lion
CURSES! Guest post by Elizabeth Chadwick

When I picked up the new US release The Scarlet Lion, by Elizabeth Chadwick, I noticed that on the map at the front of the book Carrickfergus, Ireland was one of the few places that was named on the map. I waited impatiently for its appearance in the actual novel, and it did finally come, albeit briefly. Carrickfergus can be found just a bit northeast of Belfast on the coast of the Irish Sea. Carrickfergus, Antrim County is where I found myself completely and utterly stuck while doing my genealogy research for my mother's family. So it holds a bit of mystique, and a faint calling of my name.. as I could not get past one Thomas Lee, and his son Gershom Lee, born around 1699 in Carrickfergus, Ireland and who died between 1750 - 1754 in Piscataway, Middlesex, N.J. He married Mary Drake between 1731 - 1732 in Piscataway, N.J., and she was the daughter of Andrew Drake and Hannah Randolph. The line has many descendants and some somewhat popular names and interesting stories. It is also a quagmire of cousins marrying cousins. Gershom and Mary are my 8th great-grandparents but the water got murky back there in Ireland to find who both of his parents were, and Gershom was a popular name. And so was Lee. As an American, my roots have been traced back to Ireland, Scotland and England and that's just my mom's side. My family tree branches out into many wonderful areas after that within America but today I mention it as my nemesis, as my Irish luck stopped in Carrickfergus with Gershom, but I was happy to see Carrickfergus mentioned in Elizabeth Chadwick's The Scarlet Lion as a true blast from my past.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/swampy_bogtrotter/ Carrickfergus
Hundreds of years before my 8th great-grandpa Gershom Lee was found in Ireland, the Normans had settled there and took over by building strong castles from which they could defend themselves in. By the year 1250, three quarters of Ireland was owned by the Normans after the Norman invasion and only some of the western lands were owned by the Irish, such as Clare and western Galway. Carrickfergus Castle was a Norman Castle built in 1177 and has a small history as it relates to King John's rule as it changes hands. Hugh De Lacy overtook the castle in 1204 from John De Courcy who was ruling as a petty king. In The Scarlet Lion, Chadwick depicts a siege being set up by William Marshal against De Lacy in July 1210. William is portrayed as being hesitant to inflict full force damage on the castle, and I had that same feeling as I was reading along. William pushed for a compromise between De Lacy and King John, but King John was eager to plunder and destroy. As King John called for surrender, there was no response. Suddenly a group of Irish warriors pounded into their camp, and told them of how the inhabitants of the castle had slipped away, and they were about to lay waste to a castle for no reason, as De Lacy and De Braose had left three days before with all the spoils of the castle. What I enjoyed most about this little adventure was Chadwick's sentence "Whatever happened now, it wouldn't happen in Ireland on his doorstep and while his consience wasn't entirely clear, he could at least hold his head above the mire."

Earlier, William Marshal had married Isabel de Clare in 1189, who was the heiress to her father's lands in Ireland. Her parents were Aoife MacMurrough of Leinster and Richard de Clare ('Strongbow', a norman invader) and the marriage of Aoife and Strongbow are depicted in this painting, as two sides united:
Daniel Maclise's The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife
As we read Chadwick's William Marshal series, we are made thoroughly aware of the importance of the heritage of Isabel De Clare. Isabelle's father, Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare became Lord of Leinster in 1171, and in 1172 he built a wooden fortress at the present site of Kilkenny. The building of Norman fortresses, castles and towns began there. Strongbow never knew his son-in-law William Marshal because Strongbow had died of a leg infection in 1176. One will never know if Strongbow would have approved of the new Lord of Leinster. Wikipedia states that a life sized statue of Aoife is at Carrickfergus Castle, with a plaque describing her as "thinking of home." I searched online for an image of this but could not find anything relating to it so I wonder if that fact is true.

Kilkenny, Ireland is one of the frequent settings in the novel as Isabelle spent much of her time here while her husband was named Lord of Leinster in 1192 and focused on rebuilding the fortress and the city, and creating its charter of rights. William took homage from the Irish lords at this time and unrest began in his wife's lands as some resisted this Englishman who was off in England most of the time. Isabelle was depicted as a major figure in the novel The Scarlet Lion as she attempted to ease the baron's minds with the fact that it was she who was the true Irish heiress and the barons should appease her wishes and therefore her English husband's wishes at the same time.

From 1207 to 1212 William was out of royal favor of King John so William left court and sailed to Ireland to try to secure his wife's Irish inheritance, the county of Leinster. It is within this period that William focused on war against his Irish vassals who were led by Meilyr fitz Henry, King John's appointed justiciar in Ireland, as he refused to recognize William's lordship. In 1208 William's relations with John had not gotten any better when William helped William de Braose, who was not only William's friend but also his overlord for some land in England. King John demanded hostages, including his sons, squire and best friend John of Early.

After William died in 1219, his eldest son William succeeded to his father’s lands and offices along with his mother’s vast holdings in 1220 on her death. History later shows the De Lacy name again as he fights against the younger William Marshal in Ireland in 1224. The great Marshal barony lasted only a single generation, as a bishop's curse on William Marshal seems to have come true.

Please see the previous post, as Elizabeth Chadwick wrote a guest post specifically for the Round Table readers as she elaborates on the curse!

The Carrickfergus Song Lyrics:
I wished I was in Carrickfergus
Only for nights in Ballygrand
I would swim over the deepest ocean
The deepest ocean to be by your side.
But the sea is wide and I cant swim over
And neither have I the wings to fly.
If I could find me a handy boatman
To ferry me over to my love and die.
My childhood days bring back sad reflections
Of happy time spend so long ago.
My boyhood friends and my own relations.
Have all passed on like the melting snow.
I'll spend my days in endless roving
Soft is the grass and my bed is free.
Oh to be home now in Carrickfergus
On the long road down to the salty sea.
And in Kilkenny it is reported
On marble stone as black as ink
With gold and silver I did support her
But I'll sing no more now till I get a drink.
For I'm drunk today and I'm rarely sober
A handsome rover from town to town.
Oh but I am sick now and my days are numbered
so come on ye young men and lay me down.

Happily found during my search for William Marshal online travels, a historical romance series by Mary Pershall from the 80's. I ordered the first three. Perhaps Sourcebooks might want to take a look at these as potential reissues (when Chadwick has had her full of the Marshals, of course!):

A Shield of Roses is about about Sir Richard fitzGilbert de Clare and Lady Eve (Aoife) MacMurrough, the parents of Isabel de Clare, set in Ireland.
Dawn of the White Rose is about Isabel de Clare and William Marshal
A Triumph of Roses Beautiful Eleanor Plantagenet becomes a pawn in the intrigues of the medieval English court when she becomes the bride of the powerful William Fitzwilliam Marshal, Earl of Pembroke (a fictional son)
Roses of Glory A twist of fate sweeps beautiful Roanna Royston into the court of King Henry III, where, while learning the ways of a lady, she encounters Giles Fitzwilliam, a proud knight serving his king. Giles is a fictional son of William the younger.

Here's an interesting slideshow on the inside of Carrickfergus Castle:

Yes, it looks like there is a statue of a fellow on the privy towards the end there...

Don't forget to visit the main site for the Calendar of Events and giveaways for the Round Table tour of Elizabeth Chadwick's new release, The Scarlet Lion.
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