Monday, September 01, 2008

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Greatest Knight: The Story of William Marshal 'The Story of William Marshal' 
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: William Marshall #2
Publication Date: November 2005
Pages: 552
Book Source: Own purchase

Synopsis: A penniless young knight, William Marshal is plucked from obscurity when he saves the life of Henry II's formidable queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In gratitude, she appoints him tutor in arms to her son. However, being a royal favorite brings its share of conflict and envy. Besmirched by his enemies, banished from court, William seeks redemption in pilgrimages across Europe and the Holy Land, returning to find bygones forgotten and his prowess on the battlefield in demand. The only knight ever to unhorse the legendary Richard Coeur de Lion, William is offered the hand in marriage of Isabelle de Clare, 18-year-old ward of the King. Strangers to each other on their wedding day, the pair must immediately confront deadly political intrigue, strained family loyalties and betrayals. As King Richard prepares to depart on crusade, other men, including the King's own brother John, are waiting for their moment to seize power - it is William's duty to stand in their path...

My Thoughts:
Another favourite read for 2008 In this rich tapestry of medieval life Chadwick chronicles the life of William Marshal 'one of Englands's greatest forgotten heroes' from humble origins through his service to 4 kings & finally as Regent of England. 

Marshal is loyal to those he pledges his fealty even in the face of death, a rare commodity in an age where many men switched allegiance to suit themselves. He was well known and loved as a chivalrous knight & for his success on the tourney circuit. When his older brother John inherits the family lands, William travels to Normandy to train as a knight and earns a place in his uncle's household. Here he saves Eleanor of Aquitane from capture by enemy knights & in her gratitude she assigns William tutelage of Prince Henry, heir to the throne. 

Upon the death of Henry II, Richard impressed with William's loyalty requests that William serve him. For his loyalty and courage William is rewarded with the hand in marriage of Isabelle de Clare (an Anglo-Irish heiress.) Their marriage offers Isabelle freedom (she has been a ward of the Crown for 3 years) & William financial security. 

Their match which begins as one of expediency soon becomes much more - William refers to Isabelle as his "safe harbour". The Greatest Knight is a seamless blend of fact & fiction. Elizabeth Chadwick, embellishes those parts of William's life not covered by the biography of his life, the HISTOIRE DE GUILLAUME LE MARECHAL, but in a manner she trusts is consistent with the man's personality and achievements. 

It was an absolute delight to learn more about this fascinating man, a man of high integrity & morals, loyal character & courageous nature. I look forward to reading the next chapter in William's life - The Scarlet Lion. 

For those interested in learning more about William Marshal check out the website created by Gerry Kissell; it is fascinating reading. Gerry spent nearly thirty years researching William Marshal's life.

1 comment:

  1. I am happy to have run into your blog and even happier that you liked my William Marshal site.


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