John Marshall, I, of Rockley, Marshal of the Horses

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John Marshall (FitzGilbert), I, of Rockley, Marshal of the Horses

Also Known As: "Mareschal", "Mareschall", "Marshal"
Birthplace: Winterbourne Monkton, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England
Death: before September 29, 1165
Rockley, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England
Place of Burial: Bradenstoke, Wiltshire, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Gilbert FitzRobert Gibard, Mareschal to Henry I and Margaret de Venoix
Husband of Sibilla FitzEdward, of Salisbury
Ex-husband of Aline de Pipard
Father of Gilbert FitzJohn, I; Walter FitzJohn Marshal; John Marshal, II; William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke; Maud FitzJohn Marshall and 2 others

Occupation: Marshal of the Horses, a Minor Nobleman in the Court of King Stephen, Marshal of England
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Marshall, I, of Rockley, Marshal of the Horses


John FitzRobert, Marshal

b. 1105, d. 1165

Son of Gilbert FitzRobert, Marshal

Married and divorced: Aline Pippard. Children:

  • Gilbert (d. abt 1166)
  • Walter (d. bef 1165)

Married second: Sibyl of Salisbury. Children:

  • John (d. 1194)
  • William
  • Henry, Bishop of Exeter
  • Ancel
  • Margaret m. Ralph de Somery, son of John de Somery and Hawise de Paynell


John FitzRobert the Marshal (Marechal) (c. 1105 – 1165) was a minor Anglo-Norman nobleman during the reign of King Stephen, and fought in the 12th century civil war on the side of the Empress Matilda. Since at least 1130 and probably earlier, he had been the royal marshal to King Henry I. John was a loyal and trusted royal official and attested to at least twelve royal acts of Henry I between 1129 and 1135, most of them in England but some in Normandy.

When Stephen took the English throne on the death of Henry I in 1135, John continued to serve in the office of marshal and accompanied Stephen to Normandy in 1137. In 1138 John took possession of the castles of Marlborough and Ludgershall in Wiltshire as castellan and proceeded to strengthen both. Along with Hamstead Marshal, this gave him control of the valley of the River Kennet in Wiltshire.

During the early years of the war between King Stephen and the Empress Mathilda, John was more or less content to wait and watch, increasing the number of knights bound to him and fortifying his castles. He used his position in Wiltshire to attack and ravage the lands of those opposing King Stephen, though according to some of the chronicles of the times, John was not too particular about whom he attacked.

In February 1141, King Stephen was captured at the battle of Lincoln by Robert of Gloucester, natural brother to the Empress. This event apparently convinced John that he should be on the Empress’s side in the civil war, and he actively supported her from this time forward. John was with the Empress at Reading in May, Oxford in July, and at the siege of Winchester in August 1141. When Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester and brother to King Stephen, brought troops to relieve the siege of Winchester, it was decided that the Empress would flee to John’s castle of Ludgershall with John while Robert of Gloucester continued the battle. At the village of Wherwell, John sent the Empress on to his castle with Brian fitz Count, and he stayed with some men to defend her retreat at the River Test. At the end of this struggle at the river, only John and one of his knights were left standing. They retreated to the church of Wherwell Abbey, and the enemy set fire to it. The enemy departed from Wherwell thinking that John had perished, but he survived and made it to his castle of Marlborough, losing one eye from melting iron in the fire.

The rising and falling fortunes of neither side in this civil war greatly effected FitzRobert’s prosperity; he used his position and his castles in Wiltshire to continue to attack the lands of Stephen’s supporters. One of his frequent victims was Patrick constable of Salisbury, who was King Stephen’s man. After several years of this warfare, both men had had enough of the deprivations resulting from their attacks on each other. They worked out a compromise in 1141; John FitzRobert would put aside his first wife and marry Patrick’s sister Sibile [Sibyl], and Patrick came over to the Empress’s side. This compromise gave Patrick peace and relief as well as the later title and lands of the earldom of Salisbury. John nullified his most dangerous enemy and definitely increased his own social position by marrying into one of the great feudal families of England. It hurt neither man that they could both now raid the lands of Stephen’s supporters in Wiltshire, Berkshire and Hampshire.

John was in high favor with the Empress, and she appointed his brother William as her chancellor. John himself witnessed at least four charters of the Empress, and there are two writs addressed to John in Wiltshire by her. He also witnessed five charters of Duke Henry in Normandy.

In 1152, John had a legendary confrontation with King Stephen, who had besieged him at Newbury Castle. Stephen used John's 6-year-old son William as a hostage to ensure that John kept a promise to surrender the castle. John broke his word, and when Stephen ordered John to surrender immediately or watch as he hanged William in front of the castle, John replied that he go ahead, for "I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge still more and better sons!" Stephen apparently took pity on the young boy and did not kill him. The boy grew up to be William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, a legendary figure in medieval lore, and one of the most powerful men in England.

October 25, 1154, King Stephen died and on December 19, 1154, Henry was crowned King Henry II of England. Henry II gave to John the manors of Marlborough, Wexcombe, and Cherhill in Wiltshire; they yielded eight-two pounds annually in revenues. He retained the office of marshal of the royal household. Along with these lands and the lands of his father, John held seven other knights’ fees: land of the bishop of Winchester, of the bishop of Exeter, of the bishop of Winchester, of the abbot of Abingdon, of Richard de Candos[Chandos], of Manasser de Arsic, and of Geoffrey de Mandeville. He held Tidworth in Wiltshire by serjeanty of his office as marshal and possibly Hampstead in Berkshire. The "Cartae Baronnum" shows him holding Wigan in Oxfordshire, and Inkberrow in Worcestershire may have been originally John FitzRobert’s. John was still a minor baron in comparison to the great magnates, but he had increased the inheritance left to him by his father by a great deal.

John FitzRobert died 1164/1165 while his son William was in Normandy being trained as a squire by his cousin William de Tancarville Chamberlain of Normandy

John FitzRobert, unlike others in the wars between King Stephen and the Empress, changed his allegiance only once. When he joined the Empress’ side in the war, he not only served her and her son loyally and faithfully, but he placed his own life in jeopardy protecting and defending her.

John FitzRobert was a clever and ruthless baron who had more than his share of daring, energy, and ambition. He was known for his ability as a soldier/knight and for his cunning and love of military stratagems. The "Gesta Stephani" describes him as "a limb of hell and the root of all evil." It accuses John of building adulterine castles [probably Newbury in Berkshire], taking the lands of both laity and clergy, and of forcing payments from the church. He put aside his first wife without a qualm in order to better himself and his position.


John was the son of Gilbert FitzRobert, Royal Serjeant and Marshal of the royal household of King Henry I. The office of the marshal was part of the Curia, with a deputy in the Exchequer and one in the King's Bench, as well as one in the Court of the Marshalsea of the King's household. The office was subordinate to the office of constable of the royal household. The office was responsible for everything connected to the horses of the royal household, the hawks and the hounds as well. He had the general duty of keeping order in the royal court/household, arranging for the billeting of members of the court, keeping tallies and other vouchers of the expenditures of the household, keeping rolls of all who performed their military service there, and being responsible for the imprisonment of debtors. The "Constitutio Domus Regis" gives the duties of the master marshal for King Henry I.

Both John and his father are found in the king’s court before 1130 where they maintained [probably by trial by battle] their office of master of the king’s marshals against William de Hastings and Robert de Venoiz. On the pipe roll of 1130 John is found paying twenty-two pounds for seisin to his father’s lands and ministerium and forty marks for the office of marshal of the court. In this same year John married the daughter and heiress of Walter Pipard, a minor Wiltshire landholder. John had two sons by Aline - Gilbert and Walter. Walter predeceased his father and Gilbert died shortly after inheriting his father's lands.

In 1141, John divorced his wife Aline Pipard to marry Sibyl of Salisbury, the sister of Patrick of Salisbury, who had been a local rival of his, and a supporter of King Stephen, up to that point. Of the two sons by John’s first marriage, the oldest, Gilbert, died within a year of John’s own death, and the youngest, Walter, died before John.

John's eldest son by Sybilla of Salisbury, also called John Marshal (d. 1194), inherited his father’s lands and the title of Marshal, which he held until his death.

The title was then granted by King Richard the Lionheart to his second son by Sybilla, William, Earl of Pembroke, who made the name and title famous. Though he had started out as a younger son without inheritance, by the time he actually inherited the title his reputation as a soldier and statesman was unmatched across Western Europe. John FitzRobert, unlike others in the wars between King Stephen and the Empress, changed his allegiance only once. When he joined the Empress’ side in the war, he not only served her and her son loyally and faithfully, but he placed his own life in jeopardy protecting and defending her. This was a debt that Henry II remembered and paid. John’s son William would do the same for King Henry’s wife Eleanor near the castle of Lusignan in Poitou at the end of 1167. Two of the Lusignan brothers attacked and killed William’s unarmed uncle, Patrick earl of Salisbury, while Patrick, Queen Eleanor, and William were riding near the castle of Lusignan. William was wounded and taken prisoner while defending the Queen’s retreat into the castle and trying to avenge his uncle’s murder. William might have inherited some of the physical strength and knowledge of military strategy from his father, but as a second son, he would become in his own right and by his own abilities, skills, and sense of honour the best of chivalric knighthood, a "familiaris Regis," the Earl of Pembroke and regent of England.

Henry Bishop of Exeter

Ancel, who served as a knight in the household of his kinsman, Rotrou, Count of Perche.

John had a daughter, Margaret Marshal, married Ralph de Somery, son of John de Somery and Hawise de Paynell.

SOURCES for considerably more information. 

From Jim Weber's site

Name: John "The Marshal" FITZGILBERT , of Rockley 1 2 3 4

  • Sex: M
  • ALIA: John FitzGilbert le /Marshal/
  • Birth: BEF 1109 in Winterbourne Monkton, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England 5
  • Death: BEF 29 SEP 1165 in Rockley, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England 4


John FitzGilbert, styled also John the Marshal, 1st son and heir [of Gilbert], a party to the suit aforesaid, succeeded to his father's lands and office in or shortly before 1130, when he owed 22.13.4 marks for them. He then held land in Wiltshire, and owed 40 marks silver for the office of supplying fodder for the royal horses in his charge, as well as 30 marks silver for the land and daughter of Walter Pipard. He was with Henry I in Normandy in 1137 and in England in 1138, in which year he fortified the castles of Marlborough and Ludgershall. In 1140 he held Marlborough for the King, and captured Robert FitzHubert, who had taken the royal castle of Devizes. After Stephen had been taken prisoner at Lincoln, John joined the Empress, with whom he was at Reading in May, at Oxford in July, and at Winchester in Aug-Sep 1141, where in the final rout he was cut off and surrounded in Wherwell Abbey, but escaped with the loss of an eye and other wounds (b). In 1142 he was again with the Empress at Oxford, and some 2 years later at Devizes. In 1144 he was raiding the surrounding country form Marlborough Castle and oppressing the clergy. He was with Maud's son Henry at Devizes in 1149 and 1153; and in 1152 Newbury Castle was defended by his constable against Stephen. After Henry's accession John was granted Crown lands in Wiltshire worth 82 marks per annum, including Marlborough Castle; but he had to surrender the castle in 1158. He was present at the Council of Clarendon in 1164; soon after which he sued Thomas Becket for part of his manor at Pagham, in Sussex. John was a benefactor to the priory of Bradenstoke, the abbey of Troarn, and the Templars.

He m., 1stly, Aline, who may have been the daughter and heir of Walter Pipard. He is said to have repudiated her circa 1141, and he m., 2ndly, Sibyl, sister of Patrick de Salisbury, 1st Earl of WIltshire, and daughter of Walter de Salisbury, hereditary sheriff of Wiltshire and constable of Salisbury Castle, by Sibyl, daughter of Patrick de Chaources (Chaworth). John d. in 1165, before Michaelmas. [Complete Peerage X:Appendix G:93-95]

(b) According to the poem, John escaped from Winchester on foot to Marlborough, and there assembled troops, with which he inflicted much loss on the King and his partisans, and when Stephen marched towards Ludgershall, the Marshal waylaid and defeated the royal forces. After this Patrick de Salisbury (whom the poet prematurely makes an Earl) is said to have made many attacks on the Marshal, with the King's support; until the feud was settled by John repudiating his 1st wife and marrying Patrick's sister.


John Marshal, whom the Gesta Stephani rather unkindly describes as 'a limb of hell and the root of all evil' was a man who loved warfare, and played the game of politics with great success. At first he supported Stephen but, when he began to realise the failings of the King and the potentialities of Matilda's party, he changed sides. Almost immediately he proved by a consummate act of bravery and hardihood, that he was worth having: escorting Matilda to safety in his castle at Ledgershall, John found that the party was going dangerously slowly because Matilda was riding side-saddle, so he persuaded her to ride astride, and stopped behind to delay the pursuers at Wherwell. His force was soon overpowered by the numbers of the enemy, and John took refuge with one of his knights in the Abbey. The opposing party promptly set fire to the church, and John and his knight had to take cover in the tower, John threatening to kill his knight if he made any move to surrender. As the lead of the roof began to melt and drop on the two soldiers, putting out one of John's eyes, the enemy moved off, convinced that they were dead. They escaped, in a terrible state, but triumphant, to John's castle.

He plainly expected his children to be as tough as himself, as an incident of the year 1152, when William was about six, will show. King Stephen went to besiege Newbury Castle, which Matilda had given John to defend; the castellan, realising that provisions and the garrison were both too low to stand a long siege, asked for a truce to inform his master. This was normal practice, for if the castellan were not at once relieved, he could then surrender without being held to have let his master down. Now John had not sufficient troops to relieve the castle, so he asked Stephen to extend the truce whilst he, in turn, informed his mistress, and agreed to give William as a hostage, promising not to provision and garrison the castle during the truce. This he promptly did, and when he received word from Stephen that the child would be hung if he did not at once surrender the castle, he cheerfully replied that he had hammer and anvils to forge a better child than William. [Who's Who in the Middle Ages, John Fines, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1995]


John Mareschall, attaching himself to the fortunes of Maud against King Stephen, was with Robert, the consul, Earl of Gloucester, at the siege of Winchester Castle, when the party of the empress sustained so signal a defeat. Upon the accession of Henry II, however, in 1154, his fidelity was amply rewarded by considerable grants in the co. Wilts; and in the 10th of that monarch's reign, being then marshal, he laid claim, for the crown, to one of the manors of the see of Canterbury from the prelate, Thomas à Becket, who about that period, had commenced his contest with the king. To this John s. his son and heir, John Mareschall. [Sir Bernard Burke, Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited, and Extinct Peerages, Burke's Peerage, Ltd., London, 1883, p. 357, Marshal, Barons Marshal]

"Born John FitzGilbert about 1105, he is known in history as John Marshal (Marshall, Guillaume le Mareschal, etc.)

The son of Gilbert Giffard, Master Marshal at the court of King Henry I; John became Marshal to Henry upon his father's death in about 1129 until the King's death in 1135.

Henry had no legitimate male heirs, but had declared his daughter Matilda as his heir. Instead, upon his death Henry's nephew, Stephen de Blois, seized power and John Marshal declared for him.

Whether rightly or due to collusion of his enemies at court, John Marshal was rumored to be secretly supporting Empress Matilda/Maude after her arrival in England in 1139, and King Stephen besieged John's castle at Marlborough, after which he did declare for Maude, (his brother William Giffard later became her Chancellor 1141-1142).

Although capturing Stephen, Matilda was never crowned Queen of England. Unable to gain the upper hand militarily, Maude fled England in 1148. John's lands were seized or ransacked and he was excommunicated from the Church, despite having given his house and lands in Winchester to Troarn Abbey, land at Rockley Manor to the Templars, and being a benefactor of Bradenstoke Priory, where his Salisbury in-laws were interred.

Maude's son, Henry, came to oppose King Stephen and a truce was finally reached which allowed Stephen to rule during his lifetime upon his guarantee that the crown would pass to Henry, which it did, thus ending 'the Anarchy.'

After his coronation in 1154, King Henry II restored much of John Marshal's former holdings which had been confiscated by Stephen.

He married first, Aline Pipard in about 1129 and with her had two sons, Gilbert and Walter. As a result of a peace pact negotiated by Robert, Earl of Gloucester between John Marshal and Patrick of Salisbury who had besieged him, John agreed to set aside Aline and have her married to a cousin of the Earl of Gloucester's, and to take as his second wife Sybille, the sister of Patrick of Salisbury, which he did in about 1145.

Descendants of John Marshal and Sybille include Robert the Bruce, Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I, George Washington and Sir Winston Churchill.

Although neither his grave marker or Sybille's remain, John Marshal's remains are at Bradenstoke."

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John Marshall, I, of Rockley, Marshal of the Horses's Timeline

Winterbourne Monkton, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England
Age 26
Salisbury, Wiltshire, , England
Age 28
Age 39
Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, Wales
May 12, 1146
Age 41
Rockley, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England

Might have been born in Marlborough Castle.
Might have been born in Marlborough Castle.

Age 47
Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Age 49
Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Age 51
Of, Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, Wales