Review – William Marshal and Ireland

3 mins read
Edited by John Bradley, Cóilín Ó Drisceoil and Michael Potterton
Four Courts, £45.00
ISBN 978-1846822186
Review Stephen Harrison

This collection of ten essays is the product of a conference held to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the foundation charter of Kilkenny, Ireland. However, only two papers focus on the city and its monuments – the remainder take an interdisciplinary approach to the Irish career of its founder, William Marshal. Some English and French observers may be surprised that Marshal had an Irish career. His time in the Lordship is frequently described as one of ‘exile’ – a term used in the title of Crouch’s excellent contextualisation of his five-year residency between 1207 and 1212.

Most of the other papers focus on his activity in Ireland, and the crucial role he played in managing the consolidation and expansion of the Lordship of Leinster, which he acquired following his marriage in 1189. Empey uses the sparse documentary evidence to argue that Marshal followed a definite strategy in Ireland, while Colfer’s paper focuses on the development of Wexford in particular. Ó Drisceoil provides an extensive interdisciplinary study of a single town in Wexford – New Ross – a Marshal foundation that was to become one of the most important settlements in medieval Ireland. Bradley and Murtagh take an even more focused approach, exploring Marshal’s 1207 charter to Kilkenny, while Clyne draws on extensive experience in her study of the Augustinian priory of Kells, founded by an important member of Marshal’s household. Kenny, on the other hand, examines the career of Marshal’s wife, Isabel, heiress of Leinster. Of the remaining papers, Murtagh provides an interesting study of the great tower at Pembroke, questioning the scale and extent of its influence on Irish castle architecture, while Tietzsch-Tyler provides two architectural studies, which follow the development of Kilkenny Castle and Kells into the later middle ages.

Almost everyone engaged with this period will find something of interest here, and the book forms a fitting tribute to two of the contributors, the late John Bradley and Billy Colfer, and the conference organiser, Emma Devine. Their loss is keenly felt by all those studying medieval Ireland.

This review appeared in CA 333.

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