Magna Carta in Wales

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Marshal protecting Cilgerran Castle?

Marshal protecting Cilgerran Castle?

Although the Cadw Cadw (the Welsh heritage organisation) celebrations for Magna Carta really commences this coming Easter weekend with events at Chepstow and Cilgerran Castles, last Sunday at Cligerran attracted lots of visitors to see the unveiling of one of two willow sculptures that Cadw has commissioned.

The knight at Cilgerran represents William Marshall and is part of the new Magna Carta/William Marshal trail across south Wales. Designed and created by Michelle Cain, the metalwork was completed by Tim Phillips, it has already survived some very blustery days. Younger visitors were almost queing up to have their photographs taken with the knight.

The two sculptures will ‘bookend’ the trail in the east and the west and provide a focus of the celebrations across Wales in 2015, Cilgerran being at the far west of Wales in Northern Pembrokeshire and Chepstow being in the far east near the English border. Both Cilgerran and Chepstow Castles will host re-enactments weekends starting with a two-day William Marshal celebration in Chepstow in May and leading up to a full weekend of Magna Carta themed events over 13th and 14th June at both sites. The celebrations will finish in September with a two-day flower festival at Cilgerran Castle with the Magna Carta as the theme.

Marshal sculptureBut many will never have heard of William Marshal. He was an important marcher lord who had served King John’s father, henry II as well as John’s brother, Richard the Lionheart. He built castles in Chepstow, Cilgerran and Pembroke and was used by John as an emissary. Probably involved in drawing up Magna Carta to appease he barons, his signature was the first in the list of those supporting John that appears in the document. King John had no plan to support Magna Carta probably having seen it as expedient to sign but which could be dropped later. Murmurings from the barons grew but since John died before outright rebellion occurred we will never know what might have happened. Marshal’s support of John’s son, Henry III, as regent and the reissuing of Magna Carta under Marshal’s own seal as regent seems to have been the catalyst not just for peace but for the charter to be enshrined in legal history.

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