THERE is concern over the unveiling of a statue of the first earl of Pembroke from some of our readers.

The statue of William Marshal, the first earl of Pembroke in the 13th century is due to be unveiled in Pembroke on Saturday, May 7.

The sculpture was designed by Harriet Addyman and has been planned since 2019 – the 800th anniversary of the death of the knight who mentored five kings.

But a resident in Pembroke, who wished to remain anonymous, has raised concerns about the ethics behind unveiling a statue of the earl after researching some of the events he was involved in and the money involved in creating the statue in the cost of living.

The resident sent a letter to the Western Telegraph published on May 4 saying:

“I believe a statue of William Marshal (C.1146-1219), an Anglo-Norman Knight renowned for his diplomatic, royal and military service from 1170 to 1219, has recently been commissioned and is due to be unveiled on Saturday 7th May.

“I am writing to express my objections to the unveiling of this statue. Moreover, I feel that many people across Pembrokeshire and Wales, may similarly agree that a statue to honour this individual is inappropriate. I will outline my rationale below.

Subjugation and conquest

“Although a celebrated knight and diplomat, Marshal participated in several war campaigns throughout his years of service.

“According to Roger of Wendover in the Flores Historiarum, Marshal led an attack on the city of Lincoln in May 1217, which had been captured by forces loyal to Prince Louis of France, under the command of Thomas, Count of Perche.

“However, in the aftermath of Marshal’s victory, Wendover notes that Marshal’s forces sacked the city, in the belief that its’ citizens were loyal to Prince Louis, an event which infamously become known as the “Lincoln Fair”.

“Wendover adds that Marshal’s forces “seized on every kind of property, so that nothing remained in any corner of the houses” and “drank amidst mirth and festivity”.

“Ominously, Wendover adds that: “Many of the women of the city were drowned in the river, for, to avoid insult, they took to small boats with their children, female servants, and household property, and perished on their journey”.

“The above account would suggest that Marshal’s forces committed atrocities.

“Marshal also acquired the title of Earl of Pembroke through marriage prior to the Conquest of Wales.

“As an opinion piece by David Hannington Smith, published in Nation Cymru on the 24th April illustrates, “For historical context, Pembrokeshire was conquered by Normans and liberated by the Princes of Deheubarth and Powys several times between 1080 and 1138”, hence it is possible that residual pockets of Welsh resistance remained in Pembrokeshire up until, and after, the conferment of Marshal’s title in 1199.

“In essence, William Marshal was involved in the eventual conquest of, and subjugation of Wales and the Welsh people, and given the alleged conduct of his forces in Lincoln, similar atrocities committed in Wales cannot be ruled out.

“Many people will surely question whether it is appropriate to honour this individual, when today, he may well be accused of being a war criminal.

Commissioning and funding

"I would suggest that the commissioning and funding of a statue dedicated to a dubious individual suspected of war crimes and involved in the subjugation of the Welsh people, particularly during an unprecedented cost of living crisis, is gratuitous, culturally insensitive and tone-deaf.

“I am sure many people would raise the following questions:

  1. Which organisation commissioned this statue?
  2. Where was funding for the commissioning of the statue obtained from?
  3. Was a public consultation launched?
  4. What positive contributions did William Marshal make to Welsh society in Pembroke? What evidence is there to support these contributions?


“To conclude, the objections raised against the commissioning of this statue is not grounded on any anti-English sentiment.

“I would not object to the commissioning of a statue of any individual of good standing, who has positively contributed to Welsh society or culture, although I would question the merits of doing so at a time when ordinary people across Pembrokeshire and Wales are experiencing an unprecedented cost of living crisis.

However, Marshal’s achievements are grounded in services to monarchs that included medieval warfare and were motivated by personal gain. I fail to see what positive outcomes he achieved for the people of Pembroke.

“People should be able to form their own opinion of this individual’s merits and decide for themselves as to whether a statue to celebrate his “achievements” is justified, before it is unveiled to the public.”

Name and address supplied.