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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 https://www.thebrotherstrust.org
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.
— Mike Batie | Instagram | Twitter
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