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Spider-Man's Tom Holland Descended from 'the Greatest Knight Who Ever Lived'

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

Interesting parallels can be drawn between Tom Holland's ancient ancestor and the character of Spider-Man, who Tom portrays in the Marvel movies. | By Mike Batie

Tom Holland in the Spider-man suit in Far from Home - Hollywood Ancestry by Mike Batie
Tom Holland in Spider-man: Far from Home / Image via Sony

Tom Holland is the latest actor to wear the Spider-Man suit. His charming looks, dance, choreography, and gymnastics training all seem to have predestined him for the role.

Tom Holland's Descent from the Greatest Knight Who Ever Lived

Eight hundred years ago, in the year 1219, Tom Holland's 25th great-grandfather was being laid to rest in Temple Church in London. He was William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, a knight of the realm and invested into the order of the Knights Templar. In giving the funeral sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared that William Marshal was "the greatest knight who ever lived." Yes, that's right, our boy Tom is the 25th great-grandson of the greatest knight who ever lived.

Tom Holland's family tree, ancestors, ethnicity in a line of descent chart by Mike Batie.
Tom Holland's line of descent from William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. / Chart by Mike Batie

There are some pretty amazing parallels that we can draw from the life of Tom Holland's ancestor William Marshal, and the character of Spider-Man that Holland plays in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Below is a checklist of the parallels, and we'll dive into the details further in this post.

Comparisons between Tom Holland's character of Spider-Man and his ancestor William Marshal.
Chart by Mike Batie

Both Are Legendary Superheroes

William Marshal was quite the hero of his day. He was a knight, a soldier, and a statesman, serving under five English kings. In all of these roles, he fought not only for his sovereign but also for the people of the realm. Marshal fought for those he loved and who had his loyalty. He proved himself a formidable opponent in battle.

Likewise, Peter Parker/Spider-Man is a bit of a knight, you could say. He is a soldier in the war against good and evil. Spider-Man fights for the people of his realm, whether they be his local community in Queens, New York City, or the world. He defends and protects those he loves and is loyal to.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man with Holland's ancestor, William Marshal in his knight regalia.
Tom Holland playing Spider-Man (left) is descended from the knight William Marshal (right). / Images via Sony/Marvel and D. Lordey (artist)

Both Grew Up Without Their Parents

William Marshal was primarily raised in the household of a cousin, and later in the household of his aunt and uncle, where he was brought up in the way his elders thought he should go, being taught literature, Biblical stories, and chivalry.

Similarly, Spider-Man was raised without his parents, being brought up in the household of his aunt and uncle, who taught him the morals and ethics they would expect him to live by.

Tom Holland with Marisa Tomei as Aunt May in Spider-Man.
Spider-Man grows up without his parents. Tom Holland with Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. / Image via Sony/Marvel

Both Tragically Lost Their Uncles

William Marshal lived in the household of his uncle, Patrick, the Earl of Salisbury. During this time, Marshal served as a knight in the household. Sadly, William lost his uncle Patrick when he was killed in an ambush while they were out hunting. William survived the attack, but the sadness and possible guilt of losing the uncle he was meant to serve and protect must have weighed heavily on him. From this point in time, William would go on to prove himself a great warrior and defender.

Many will recall that Spider-Man also lost his uncle, Ben, who was tragically killed by a burglar. Peter Parker felt a weight of guilt and remorse that led him to vow to protect the innocent from harm as Spider-Man.

Tom Holland with Robert Downey Jr., being mentored as Spider-Man being mentored by Tony Stark/Iron Man.
Tom Holland with Robert Downey Jr., portraying Spider-Man being mentored by Tony Stark/Iron Man. / Image via Sony/Marvel

Both Were Trained by Mentors

William Marshal was trained up and mentored to be a knight with lessons in chivalry and the art of warfare by his cousin William de Tancarville.

In Spider-Man: Homecoming, we see Peter Parker is guided and mentored by Tony Stark in preparing him for the role of a superhero as Spider-Man.

Both Wear Suits and Masks

Both William Marshal and Peter Parker wear suits and masks to go into battle, which protects them from bodily harm and enhances their abilities. For William Marshal, his chain mail and armor protect him from the blows of weapons, and his horse and sword extend his fighting abilities. For Peter Parker, his suit protects his identity, but also extends his abilities, including a HUD (heads up display) in his lenses, his web-shooters, and the Iron Spider Armor suit made for him by Tony Stark also gives him protection from bodily harm, much like the armor that William Marshal wore.

Spider-Man with a suit of armor.
As Spider-Man, Tom Holland wears a suite of armor, and so did his ancestor the Knight William Marshal. / Images via Sony/Marvel, D. Lordey

Both Have Stunning Love Interests

Everyone knows about Peter Parker's main love interest, MJ. She has become one of the most popular "non-powered" characters in the Marvel universe, and become one of the best-known love interests in superhero pop culture. MJ is smart, independent, supportive, and at times, thrust into battles tied to Peter's role as Spider-Man. In Holland's Spider-Man movies, MJ is Michelle Jones, who goes by the nickname of MJ as an homage to the original Mary Jane Watson.

Similarly, William Marshal married a pretty rad Medieval babe known as Isabel de Clare. She was one of the richest women of the day in England. Once when William was away on business, their castle was attacked and it was Isabel who orchestrated and led the defense of the castle and the battle against the attackers. Like Peter and MJ, Tom Holland's ancestors William and Isabel were quite a power couple.

Tom Holland with Zendaya
Tom Holland with Zendaya and his Holland's ancestor William Marshal with his wife, Isabel de Clare. / Images via Sony / Soundcloud

The Greatest Knight Who Ever Lived

Tom Holland's 25th great grandfather William Marshal came from humble beginnings. He wasn't the firstborn and was seemingly an insignificant boy when he set out to become a knight at the age of twelve. During his life he won over 500 tournaments of knights, gaining fame throughout Europe. He loyally served kings in battle and as a military advisor. It is no wonder that Tom Holland's ancestor was declared "the greatest knight who ever lived" at his funeral.

William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, ancestor of actor Tom Holland (Spider-Man).
William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke—Tom Holland's 25th great grandfather, is buried in Temple Church, London. / Image via BBC

Like William Marshal, our boy Tom Holland has come from humble beginnings and gone out into the world and made a name for himself. Even during school, Tom was bullied. Said Tom, "I had my rough patches. There was times when I was bullied about dancing and stuff, but you couldn’t hit me hard enough to stop me from doing it." I'm sure William Marshal would be proud of his 25th great grandson's determination to keep forging ahead, not allowing anyone to hit him hard enough to stop him from pursuing his ambitions.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man in No Way Home.
Tom Holland as Spider-Man in No Way Home. / Image via Sony/Marvel

Tom is close with his parents, Dominic and Nikki, his brothers Sam, Harry, and Paddy, and his beloved Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Tessa. Together the family runs The Brothers Trust, a UK registered charity that supports smaller charities that struggle to be heard. Tom is the focal point of the charity and its fundraising efforts. To learn more or to donate, visit

About the Author

Storytelling binds generations. Films and family history are both powerful forms of storytelling that do just that. Family history research has been a passion of mine since I was a teenager. Having researched my own family tree extensively, I enjoy looking into the family trees of notable people. It gives me a sense of their background and what shaped their family into who they are today. To see their roots and where they come from is always inspiring. Being a history geek, I’m often in awe of the historical experiences of their ancestors and how they connect to the present day. I hope to inspire others to research their own family trees and find out where they come from by sharing interesting insights from the family trees of some of my favorite artists and entertainers.

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Mike Batie



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