An interesting title here, don’t you think? There is, of course, a reason behind it, but I’ll get to that in due time.
From the Medieval Lands project:
JOHN FitzGilbert “the Marshal” (-before Nov 1165). He succeeded his father in  as Master Marshal of the king’s household. The 1129/30 Pipe Roll records “Johs Marisc” accounting for “terra et ministerio patris sui“. The Gesta Stephani Regis names “Joannes, ille Marescallus agnominatus” among the supporters of Empress Matilda in the English civil war. Military fee certifications in the Red Book of the Exchequer, in 1166, record that “Johannes Marescallus” used to hold knights´ fees in Oxfordshire during the reign of King Henry I, now held by “Gilbertus filius eius” from “Manasser Arsic“. Empress Matilda made various grants of property by charter dated to [1141/42] witnessed by “…Johes filius Gisleberti…“. “…Rainaldo comite Cornubie…Johanne Marescallo” witnessed the charter dated to [Feb/Mar] 1155 under which Henry II King of England restored properties of “Roberto filio Hereberti Camerarii“, held by “pater suus vel avus suus”. The 1157 Pipe Roll records “Johi Marescall” in Herefordshire and Hampshire (three times). The Red Book of the Exchequer refers to “Johannes Marscallus xx s” in Worcestershire in [1161/62]. m firstly (repudiated ) as her first husband, ALINE, daughter of [WALTER Pipard] & his wife —. The Complete Peerage states that the marriage to a daughter of Walter Pipard, a minor Wiltshire baron, is “stated as a fact by Painter” but “this seems a rash deduction from the fact that John paid 30 marks for Walter´s land and daughter” [as recorded in the 1129/30 Pipe Roll in which “Johs Marisc” accounted for “terra et filia Walti Pipardi“]. The early 13th century Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal records that John divorced his first wife and married “damesele Sibire la sorur le cunte Patriz“. She married secondly Stephen Gai. Henri Duke of Normandy confirmed an agreement between “Stephanum Gai et Adelicia uxorem suam” and “Gislbtu fil Johannis Mariscalli et eiusdem Aeline” relating to her inheritance by charter dated to [Apr/May] 1153. m secondly (before ) SIBYL de Salisbury, daughter of WALTER FitzEdward de Salisbury & his wife Matilda de Chaources . The early 13th century Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal records that John divorced his first wife and married “damesele Sibire la sorur le cunte Patriz“.
If having a memorable parent is a key to having a memorable life, than William Marshal definitely qualifies.He got the marshalship from his father upon his death in 1130, and apparently was competent enough that his holding of the office survived the death of Henry I five years later.
Though his allegiance to Stephen had gained him the castles of Marlborough and Ludgershall (Wiltshire), John renounced his support for the king, instead choosing to side with the Empress Matilda when she invaded England in 1139. The change of sides initially seemed to benefit John, as Stephen was captured by Robert FitzRoy, Earl of Gloucester (an illegitimate son of Henry I and thus a half-brother of Matilda), during the Battle of Lincoln on 2 February 1141. As one of Matilda’s first supporters in England, there was no doubt that John FitzGilbert stood to gain a lot from his patroness’s coronation.
Fate, however, would have other plans for them all. As the townspeople had been firmly in Stephen’s pocket throughout the civil war, Matilda was naturally suspicious of the burghers of London. For their part, the burghers returned the suspicion, and the proximity of Stephen’s few remaining followers led Londoners to rise up and force the empress out of the city.
Driven from London without her crown, Matilda and her forces decided to then besiege the episcopal castle in Winchester, the seat of Bishop Henry (brother of Stephen and notorious side-switcher), but were routed by forces under Stephen’s queen (also named Matilda) and his mercenary captain, William de Ypres. While Matilda herself managed to find safety in John’s castle of Lugdershall, John was forced to find refuge in Wherwell Abbey. Unable to coax the marshal out of hiding (though legend has it that they did convince John’s one companion – until the marshal informed him that he would sooner shoot his friend then watch him surrender), the supporters of Stephen burnt the abbey. John escaped, but the molten iron from a burning bell cost him one of his eyes.
However, the eye of John FitzGilbert was not the battle’s most noteworthy casualty – Robert of Gloucester was captured leading Matilda’s rearguard, and was later exchanged for Stephen, returning the king to power. While the civil war continued, John’s attention was turned to harassing his neighboring barons who remained loyal to Stephen. The most notable of these harassed barons was Patrick, Earl of Salisbury, who concocted a very odd truce to end the harassment. John agreed to put aside his first wife and marry Sibyl, and the earl agreed to throw his support behind the Empress. This union would prove to be instrumental in many events during William Marshal’s life – most notably, his own birth as the second son of this marriage (and fourth overall).
The other notable foray of John FitzGilbert into the historical records of the Anarchy dates from 1152. The civil war between Stephen and Matilda having nearly fizzled out, Stephen had turned his attention to re-asserting control over his recalcitrant barons, with John’s castle of Newbury falling under siege. The siege was effective, and John (not present) agreed to a truce, also promising to surrender the castle to Stephen. This marks the first mention of William in history, as he was the hostage given to Stephen to ensure his father’s behavior.
However, John was not about to give up his castle, and used the truce as a front to sneak in reinforcements, which he led. As this was a flagrant violation of the terms of the truce, by the rules of warfare, young William’s life was void, the punishment for his father’s infidelity. Stephen reminded John of this, promising to hang William if the castle was not immediately surrendered – to which John FitzGilbert issued the memorable reply “Do as you will. I have the hammer and anvil by which to forge still an even finer son.”
While this might seem overly callous and uncaring, John might have been playing on a fact that had often cost Stephen dearly over the years: the king was, in essence, a good man – in a time when the last thing people wanted as king was a good man. Known for his willingness to give mercy, even when it wasn’t traditionally given, Stephen could not bring himself to order the death of the young William, and is later reported to have been discovered playing a game with the young hostage. While one would love to think ha John knew this and used this as his reasoning, a look at other events in his life suggest that he truly felt that he could make more sons.
After the death of Stephen, John was indeed rewarded for his loyalt – though by the young King Henry II, the son of the woman that John had fought for. The fact that his only switch had been made in 1139, forsaking Stephen for Matilda before the latter’s invasion of England, led Henry II to confirm his grandfather’s words that John would pass the office of marshal to his sons – and to ensure that those sons stood to benefit from the favor that their father had managed to cultivate.
John FitzGilbert died sometime in either 1164 or 1165, with the office of marshal passing to his eldest son by Sibyl (neither son by his first wife survived long after his death), also named John. Though it can be guessed that he served Henry II as faithfully as his father his younger brother, William, who would raise the family to even greater heights.