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Reading Marks 800th Anniversary of ‘The Greatest Knight that ever Lived’

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The Greatest Knight that ever Lived – William Marshal


Reading is playing tribute to the ‘greatest knight that ever lived’ this month, on the 800th anniversary of the death of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke on 14th May.


William Marshal


Whilst his name is not as widely recognised now, William Marshal, who lived in Reading during the late 12th and early 13th Centuries, was one of the most important and powerful English knights of the Middle Ages, with immense estates in England, Wales, Ireland and Normandy


Reading Museum


Reading Museum, in partnership with local groups, is marking the historic anniversary of Marshal’s death on Saturday 11th May and during the May half term.


For those with an interest in local history, there will be an afternoon talk (3pm – 4pm, booking essential) on William Marshal by Dr Elizabeth Matthew, of the University of Reading. The talk is part of the popular continuing series of public lectures relating to the Abbey Quarter organised as part of the Reading Abbey Revealed project. Find out more at


Caversham Court Gardens


The Friends of Caversham Court Gardens have a ‘pop-up’ William Marshal exhibition at the Reading Abbey Gateway from 10am to 3pm, which will provide another opportunity to visit the newly restored medieval gateway.


Saturday 11th May is also the Forbury Fiesta (the launch event for Reading’s Children’s Festival) where other royal characters from Reading’s past will be making an appearance, including Empress Matilda and Queen Elizabeth I.


During May half term, on Tuesday 28th May, the Museum is running ‘The Greatest Knight!’ family workshops. Children will be inspired to decorate their own signature helmet and shield (1-hour sessions starting at 10am, 11.15am, 1pm & 2.15pm, booking via the museum


Caversham and District Residents Association is also offering an evening talk on “The life of William Marshal” by Tom Asbridge, author of “The Greatest Knight” on Tuesday 11th  June  7.30pm – 9.30pm at Thameside School, Harley Rd, Caversham. The association is fundraising towards a permanent memorial to Marshal on Caversham Bridge. Find out more at




Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “William Marshal is a significant figure in Reading’s history and it is fitting we play tribute to ‘the greatest knight that ever lived’ on the 800th anniversary of his death. Come along to the pop up exhibition at the Abbey Gateway or to the fascinating talk on offer at Reading Museum on 11th May or from Tom Asbridge on 11th June and find out more about Marshal’s illustrious past.”


William Marshal, who was born around 1147, served five English kings and was Lord Protector and regent of the kingdom during the reign of Henry III and was a man greatly admired and regarded as the epitome of knighthood, chivalry and honour.


He was lord of Caversham Park Estate, which was known as ‘Caversham Manor’. It was here he chose to end his days and Caversham is said to have been one of his favourite places.


After Marshal died on 14th May 1219, his body lay in state at Reading Abbey until it was transported for burial at the Temple church in London. The Abbey is famous as the burial place of King Henry I, but many other royals were also buried at this favoured royal abbey.