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The Greatest Knight : The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones
by Thomas Asbridge


Overview -

A thrillingly intimate portrait of one of history's most illustrious knights William Marshal that vividly evokes the grandeur and barbarity of the Middle Ages

William Marshal was the true Lancelot of his era a peerless warrior and paragon of chivalry yet over the centuries, the spectacular story of his achievements passed from memory.  Read more...


 
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More About The Greatest Knight by Thomas Asbridge
 
 
 
Overview

A thrillingly intimate portrait of one of history's most illustrious knights William Marshal that vividly evokes the grandeur and barbarity of the Middle Ages

William Marshal was the true Lancelot of his era a peerless warrior and paragon of chivalry yet over the centuries, the spectacular story of his achievements passed from memory. Marshal became just one more name in the dusty annals of history. Then, in 1861, a young French scholar named Paul Meyer made a startling discovery during an auction of rare medieval manuscripts. Meyer stumbled upon the sole surviving copy of an unknown text the first contemporary biography of a medieval knight, later dubbed the History of William Marshal. This richly detailed work helped to resurrect Marshal's reputation, putting flesh onto the bones of this otherwise obscure figure, yet even today William Marshal remains largely forgotten.

As a five-year-old boy, Marshal was sentenced to execution and led to the gallows, but this landless younger son survived his brush with death and went on to train as a knight. Against all odds, Marshal rose through the ranks serving at the right hand of five English monarchs to become a celebrated tournament champion, a baron and politician and, ultimately, a regent of the realm.

William Marshal befriended the great figures of his day, from Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine to the infamous King John, and helped to negotiate the terms of Magna Carta the first "bill of rights." By the age of seventy, the once-forsaken child had been transformed into the most powerful man in England, yet he was forced to fight in the front line of one final battle, striving to save the kingdom from a French invasion in 1217.

In The Greatest Knight, renowned historian Thomas Asbridge draws upon the thirteenth-century biography and an array of other contemporary evidence to present a compelling account of William Marshal's life and times. Asbridge follows Marshal on his journey from rural England onto the battlefields of France, to the desert castles of the Holy Land and the verdant shores of Ireland, charting the unparalleled rise to prominence of a man bound to a code of honor, yet driven by unquenchable ambition.

This knight's tale lays bare the brutish realities of medieval warfare and the machinations of the royal court, and draws us into the heart of a formative period of our history, when the West emerged from the Dark Ages and stood on the brink of modernity. It is the story of one remarkable man, the birth of the knightly class to which he belonged and the forging of the English nation."

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062262059
  • ISBN-10: 006226205X
  • Publisher: Ecco Press
  • Publish Date: December 2014
  • Page Count: 464


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Historical - General
Books > History > Europe - Great Britain - General
Books > History > Europe - Medieval

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-10-27
  • Reviewer: Staff

Respected medievalist Asbridge (The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land) investigates the life of William Marshal (1147–1219), thought by many to have been the model for the perfect chivalrous knight. Most of William’s life comes from a highly colored biography commissioned by his family shortly after his death; Asbridge uses contemporary sources to flesh out the story and correct the panegyric. The strength of this work is the depiction of the early formation of the concept of knighthood and the unromantic life of a professional warrior. Asbridge also explains the political context of the time in a clear narrative. William, the younger son of a minor lord, grew wealthy and powerful through his military skill, but even more through his loyalty to the members of the family of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine—a rare feat, considering the Plantagenets’ internecine battles. The story of William’s maturation from a freelance fighter to a statesman who managed his property and became the guardian for the young Henry III includes daily life, as well as politics. It is not always clear, however, which anecdotes are drawn from the biography and which are better substantiated; the maddening absence of footnotes spoils an otherwise excellent book. (Dec.)

 
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