© 2023 by Eric Hansen. Proudly created with Wix.com

     T a p e s t r i e s  2          The William Marshal Triptych Design - commissioned by Pamela Earl

    The Battle of Lewes lasted about 8 hours - The tumultuous life of Earl William Marshal (1147-1219) lasted 72 years!

    Thus, my task to design this embroidered triptych was much more complex, the endeavour being to include as many of the key episodes as possible without cluttering the overall layout. The brief, however, was to provide a design in indelible ink that could not be changed (even so one or two minor historical inaccuracies, pointed out by expert medievalists, did have to be put right!). This time, the transfer onto the cloth was achieved by digital printing and the stitching, was done by a comparative handful of wonderfully skillful ladies, each working on small sections that were ultimately sewn back together .

     The  mounted triptych (72 x 240 cms)was unveiled on the 14th of May 2019, the 800th anniversary of The Marshal's death, in the Norman Church of St.Anne's in Lewes, East Sussex, to celebrate this great knight, 1st Earl of Pembroke and ultimately Regent of England. The triptych  now resides permanently in Pembroke Castle, his principal stronghold, and is on public display in its purpose built cabinet which also contains a copy of the design - see below. 


    The Earl William Marshal embroidered triptych with key to all images

                                                                           Panel 1


    1.    Norman Noble John Marshal and Sybil of Salisbury

    2.    Married and lived in a manor near Newbury

    3.    Newbury Castle John held from King Stephen

    Whose siege was successful and thus to get even

    4.    Took John's youngest, William, and threatened to murder

    The boy if John's treachery went any further

    By hanging or drowning or trebuchet throwing

    Although the King's liking for William was growing.

    5.    Said William's vain father: "But I have the hammer 

    And anvil to forge myself more sons and better!"

    Yet the boy's life was saved by Stephen's forebearance

    And William at length was returned to his parents.

    10.   The tales of King Arthur were just then emerging

    And chivalrous dreams in young men's hearts were surging

    9.     To train as a knight then was thought to be quite cool

    To France went young William to Tancarville Knight School.

    6.     Whilst there he was dubbed "Gaste viande" - Greedy guts

    Because he liked sleeping and eating too much

    7.      But as he grew up, he grew stronger and braver

    Though sometimes inclined towards reckless behaviour.

    11.    Neufchatel-en-Bray was his first taste of combat

    He raced too far ahead - reprimanded for that.

    12.    There too died his war-horse, the loss was appalling

    Without it he'd struggle to follow his calling.

    8.      A knight had three horses, a pack-horse, a palfrey,

    And chiefly a war-horse, by far the most costly.

    But Sybil his mother appealed to her brother

    Knight at Queen Eleanor's court and none other

    Earl Patrick of Salisbury took on his nephew

    A giant leap forward afforded to so few.

    13.    He joined the Earl's cavalry guarding their Lady,

    One day as they rode through woods peaceful and shady

    The Lusignans ambushed the company boldly

    The Queen fled to safety, the Earl was speared coldly

    14.    And William was lanced through the thigh from behind

    15.    And lashed to a mule as a hostage, confined.

    16.    Ship symbolising the many voyages WM would make

    between England and France.

    17.    Excalibur - the great sword of chivalry.

    Bottom Border:

    A.      The Temple Church in London where WM is buried.

    B.      The first biography of WM was commissioned by his son, William, in 1226 and written in verse by John the Poet.

    C.      With Wm's and others' guidance, the 9-year-old King Henry III created this charter, a small step towards greater popular freedoms.

    D.      The date of WM's death and of the Battle of Lewes 45 years later at which Henry III was defeated by Simon de Montfort.

    18.    Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine paid his ransom

    She'd rather liked William, young, brave and handsome

    He entered her court famed for music and art

    Where council was sought for affairs of the heart.

    19.    King Henry, her husband, and Queen Eleanor

    Appointed the young Knight as their son's tutor

    And thus Young King Henry and William became

    Great tournament champions of gathering fame

    Young Henry then tried to dethrone his old father

    And William fought with him although it was rather

    A terrible business in which many perished.

    The Young king defeated, forgiven, admonished

    As if it had all been a bit of unpleasantness

    No matter that there were a few thousand peasants less.

    The Young King and William went back to the tournaments

    Decking themselves with more trophies and ornaments.

    20.    But, aged 28, the Young King became sickly

    The fever consumed him and death approached quickly.

    His crusader cloak he bade William take

    To Jerusalem then for his memory's sake

    21.    And William honoured his pledge and did go

    Though what he did there we may never know.

    22.    Upon his return he attended King Henry

    Whom William had fought, but the old King was friendly

    23.    Accepting him now as a knight at his court

    24.    A maze of corruption where favours were bought

    Where William perforce learnt ro scheme to survive

    To wheedle and pander, to duck and to dive.

    25.    But Henry knew well this new knight was a master

    And sent him to France to wreak death and disaster.

    26.    Then Richard, the next son in line to the throne

    Attempted to take his dad's crown for his own,

    At Le Mans and by chance Richard encountered William

    Who unhorsed the Lionheart but would not kill him.

    "The Devil can kill you!" cried William with force

    And instead drove his lance into Richard's war-horse.

    27.    King Henry's last illness consumed him with pain

    And to Richard indeed passed the Angevin reign.

    The old monarch's end was a terrible death

    Just two servants present to hear his last breath

    They grasped all of value soon as he was dead

    And on the floor naked they left him and fled.

    29.    43-year-old William's own prospects grew fair

    He married the youthful Isabel de Clare

    Arranged by King Richard whose knight he became

    30.    And Lord of Striguil which was Chepstow's old name.

    28.    Since becoming a knight at the court of King Henry

    Fighting with and against King, friend and enemy

    Bearing the Marshal lion upon his shield

    In sieges and combats, on each battle field

    Through conflicting loyalties, dangers and doubt

    Yet always surviving to live his life out.


    31.    The Tower of London as it was in the 12th Century.

    32.    Tintern Parva - The Abbey of the Vow, County Wexford,

    Ireland, founded by WM and Isabel in thanks to God for surviving a particularly perilous crossing from Wales.

    Bottom Border:

    E,F,G,H and I - signifying steps towards greater popular

    freedoms, justice, wise rule and American Independence.

    42.    King Richard, great warrior of the crusades

    Determined to break mighty Saladin's blades

    Would not stay in England unless he was bound

    And left for the Holy Land once he was crowned

    Appointing justiciars to guard the realm

    With William among them, Eleanor at the helm.

    After 2 years of battles and bloody mayhem

    The Lionheart failed to win Jerusalem.

    The long voyage homeward did not go as planned

    The ship was near wrecked, he continued on land,

    Was captured by Austria's King Leopold

    Imprisoned and ransomed for mountains of gold.

    44.    In England meanwhile, Prince John, Richard's brother

    The wickedest son to be born of their mother

    43.    In league with King Philip Augustus of France

    Tried every device and pursued every chance

    To take Richard's throne, saying that he was dead

    But was curbed by the Queen and justiciars instead.

    And Eleanor raised Richard's ransom at last

    The whole kingdom paid it the sum was so vast,

    But John had bought Philip's support with much land

    And Richard returned to an empire less grand.

    45.     The treacherous John was forgiven but forced

    To help Richard win back the lands he had lost

    Though multitudes died to achieve this reward

    The lands were recaptured, the empire restored.

    46.     But though Richard and William, great warrior knights

    Had been brothers in arms in the midst of the fights

    They weren't side-by-side when a bolt from a crossbow

    Struck Richard the mighty a terrible blow.

    Six days later he died naming John the new ruler

    And the line of descent became darker and crueler.

    48.    The grief-stricken William was forced to decide

    To serve bad king John or find somewhere to hide.

    In choosing the former he had to do both

    For the murderous John rarely honoured an oath.

    The lands lost and won were now lost once for all

    The Angevin Empire declined to its fall

    And when John took William's two eldest sons hostage

    For daring to flout him, it seemed that the lost age

    Of  William's own childhood had come back to haunt him

    The sins of his own father rising to taunt him.

    Yet at other times John gave William great favours

    Lands in Ireland and Wales as rewards for his labours.

    Yet astute William Marshal, First Earl of Pembroke

    Was loyal to his king ere the bond between them broke.

    49.    When in 1216 as our history teaches

    John died of a surfeit of much more than peaches

    His child son, Prince Henry, then 9, bore the crown

    Protected and counselled by men of renown

    And Earl William Marshal now Regent of England

    At that time of upheaval and strife in the kingdom.

    50.    The First Barons' War and the French at the gate,

    Usurped by a French king could be Henry's fate.

    The two armies fought and great carnage was seen

    At the Battle of Lincoln in 1217

    52.    With William at seventy leading his forces

    Without his helmet, his squire ran and brought it.

    The enemy routed and beaten and broken

    And many the praises of William were spoken.

    New hopes were born and a darker time ended

    Magna Carta, detested by John, was amended

    To which William Marshal's own seal was appended

    51.    And these words inscribed where the great charter ended:

    "Earl William Marshal - Guardian of us and of our Realm"

    Earl William Marshal's remarkable life

    Was spent now and then with his loyal young wife.

    Five kings he survived through intrigues and slaughters

    38.    While Isabel bore him five sons and five daughters.

    They founded two abbeys: in Cumbria, Cartmel,

    33.    Tintern Parva in Ireland, farmed sheep there as well

    As in Pembrokeshire also their coffers did swell.

    54.    Regarded by most as the realm's greatest knight

    He became a great statesman by chance and by right.

    His daughters sang to him beside his death bed

    Then, dubbed a Knight Templar, the last rites were said.

    On the fourteenth of May 1219 his life ended

    His body was wrapped in rare silks as intended

    In the great Temple Church in London his bones

    Bear silent witness to his game of thrones.

    Panel 2

    Panel 3

                           The Earl William Marshal Embroidered Triptych

    in its purpose-built display cabinet in Pembroke Castle, its permanent home.

    Upper Border:  34.  Wales.  35.  Pembroke Castle Keep which WM designed.  36. Ireland.  37.  England.  39.  WM's mesnie or military household of knights.  40. and 41.  Another ship representing the many voyages WM took between Wales and Ireland and the many castles he caused to be built or enlarged.  53.  WM knights the boy King Henry III by slapping both cheeks to awaken him to his responsibilities. (Dubbing with the sword did not begin for another 200 years).

    Bottom Border:  J.  The Rights of Man.  K. The French medievalist who discovered the only copy of John the Poet's verse biography of WM in a Sotheby's auction in 1861. 30 years later Meyer published it in 3 volumes.  L.  The League of Nations and Eleanor Roosevelt. 

    M.  The United Nations and Barbara Hepworth's 'Single Form'.

    The following praise for WM is attributed to Matthew Paris, 13th Century  Benedictine monk, English Chronicler, artist and cartographer:                                        "He was a Saturn to Ireland, the Sun to England, a Mercury to Normandy, a Mars to France."