Isabel Marshal

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Isabel Marshal
Countess of Hertford; Countess of Cornwall
Born9 October 1200
Pembroke Castle, Wales
Died17 January 1240(1240-01-17) (aged 39)
Berkhamsted Castle, Hertfordshire, England
SpouseGilbert de Clare, 4th Earl of Hertford
(m. 1217–30; his death)
Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall
(m. 1231–40; her death)
IssueAgnes de Clare
Amice de Redvers, Countess of Devon
Richard de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford
Isabel de Brus, Lady of Annandale
William de Clare
Gilbert de Clare
Henry of Almain
FatherWilliam Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke
MotherIsabel de Clare, 3rd Countess of Pembroke

Isabel Marshal (9 October 1200 – 17 January 1240) was a medieval English countess. She was the wife of both Gilbert de Clare, 4th Earl of Hertford and 5th Earl of Gloucester and Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall (son of King John of England). With the former, she was a great grandmother of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland.


Born at Pembroke Castle, Isabel was the seventh child, and second daughter, of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke and Isabel de Clare. She had 9 siblings: 4 sisters and 5 brothers, who included the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Earls of Pembroke; each of her brothers dying without a legitimate male heir, thus passing the title on to the next brother in line. Her last brother to hold the title of Earl of Pembroke died without legitimate issue, and the title was passed down through the family of Isabel's younger sister Joan. Her sisters married, respectively, the Earls of Norfolk, Surrey, and Derby; the Lord of Abergavenny and the Lord of Swanscombe.

First marriage[edit]

On her 17th birthday, Isabel was married to Gilbert de Clare, 4th Earl of Hertford and 5th Earl of Gloucester, who was 20 years her senior, at Tewkesbury Abbey. The marriage was an extremely happy one, despite the age difference, and the couple had six children:

Isabel's husband Gilbert joined in an expedition to Brittany in 1229, but died 25 October 1230 on his way back to Penrose, in that duchy. His body was conveyed home by way of Plymouth and Cranborne, to Tewkesbury, where he was buried at the abbey.

Second marriage[edit]

the marriage of Richard of Cornwall to Isabella of Gloucester

Isabel was a young widow, only 30 years old. She had proven childbearing ability and the ability to bear healthy sons; as evidenced by her six young children, three of whom were sons. These were most likely the reasons for both the proposal of marriage from Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, and Isabel's acceptance of it, despite the fact that her husband had been dead for only five months. The two were married on 30 March 1231 at Fawley Church, much to the displeasure of Richard's brother King Henry, who had been arranging a more advantageous match for Richard. Isabel and Richard got along well enough, though Richard had a reputation as a womanizer and is known to have had mistresses during the marriage. They were the parents of four children, three of whom died in the cradle.

  • John of Cornwall (31 January 1232 – 22 September 1233), born and died at Marlow, Buckinghamshire, buried at Reading Abbey
  • Isabella of Cornwall (9 September 1233 – 10 October 1234), born and died at Marlow, Buckinghamshire, buried at Reading Abbey
  • Henry of Almain (2 November 1235 – 13 March 1271), murdered by his cousins Guy and Simon de Montfort, buried at Hailes Abbey.
  • Nicholas of Cornwall (b. & d. 17 January 1240 Berkhamsted Castle), died shortly after birth, buried at Beaulieu Abbey with his mother

Death and burial[edit]

Isabel died of liver failure, contracted while in childbirth, on 17 January 1240, at Berkhamsted Castle. She was 39 years old.

When Isabel was dying she asked to be buried next to her first husband at Tewkesbury Abbey, but Richard had her interred at Beaulieu Abbey, with her infant son, instead. As a pious gesture, however, he sent her heart, in a silver-gilt casket,[1] to Tewkesbury.


  • Isabel and her husband Richard appear as characters in Virginia Henley's historical novels, The Marriage Prize and The Dragon and the Jewel.


  1. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "e660.htm". The Peerage.[unreliable source]


  • Cokayne, G.E. (2000). The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant. Alan Sutton. volume II, page 359 & volume III, page 244
  • Lundy, Darryl. "The Dictionary of National Biography". The Peerage.[unreliable source]
  • Denholm-Young, Noel. Richard of Cornwall, 1947