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The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones (2014)

por Thomas Asbridge

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Biography & Autobiography. History. Nonfiction. 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 charts the unparalleled rise to prominence of a man bound to a code of honor yet driven by unquenchable ambition. Marshal was the true Lancelot of his era-a peerless warrior and paragon of chivalry. As a five-year-old boy, William was sentenced to execution and led to the gallows, yet this landless younger son survived his brush with death, and went on to train as a medieval 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, regent of the realm. This knight's tale lays bare the brutish realities of medieval warfare and the machinations of royal court, and draws us into the heart of a formative period of our history. 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.… (mais)
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This was pretty fun to listen to. I'm a little unhappy with the inaccuracies in this volume that have been pointed out by other, more knowledgeable, reviewers. But since I'm not a history scholar details like this don't really bother me. I just wanted something to give me an overall feel for the era.

Comparisons with Game of Thrones are inevitable. It's fascinating how similar and different GoT is to many aspects of medieval reality.

Once again, I had to play this at 1.25 speed to keep from being too frustrated with the reading. ( )
  zot79 | Aug 20, 2023 |
A biography of William Marshal, an influential member of the Plantagenet Court for the reigns of five kings. From the time of Henry II to his role as guardian to the enfant Henry III, William was steadily increasing his personal status, and that of his children. He is also noted in constitutional history due to his editing and dissemination of two further editions of the Magna Carta, in 1216, and 1217. Asbridge has done well in producing a readable text. However, I found it necessary to add to the initial list of maps in the table of contents, a listing for 1) a map of the Angevin Empire on P.77, 2) of Ireland p.277, 3) of Lincoln p.355. Therefore the editing was not well done by the publisher. The rest of the book is well produced. I hope there may have been the necessary corrections in the later editions. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Oct 30, 2022 |
I have mixed feelings about this book and debated a 3 vs 4 star rating. The story of William Marshal is very interesting and I learned a lot about the history, development and evolutions of knights, but I found this a slow book to read. I am not sure, given the paucity of information, how the author could have written it better, but I think someone like David McCullough would have done a better job. It was still an interesting that I would recommend to history buffs as it will most likely change your perception of knights and give you a lesson on the kings of that time. ( )
  egrant5329 | Jan 20, 2018 |
I have mixed feelings about this book and debated a 3 vs 4 star rating. The story of William Marshal is very interesting and I learned a lot about the history, development and evolutions of knights, but I found this a slow book to read. I am not sure, given the paucity of information, how the author could have written it better, but I think someone like David McCullough would have done a better job. It was still an interesting that I would recommend to history buffs as it will most likely change your perception of knights and give you a lesson on the kings of that time. ( )
  egrant5329 | Jan 20, 2018 |
William Marshall is a popular subject for biography. I know of at least four such titles- mostly with a different focus or perspective.
Richard Brooks 'The Knight Who Saved England' (2013), had an emphasis on battles and military history. David Crouch's 'Knighhood, War and Chivalry' is a more academic work.

Thomas Asbridge's offering is a timely and accesible work, revealing much about Marshall's 'life and times', as well as his famous role in the events surrounding the creation of the Magna Carta, and the aftermath.

I also liked the information about Knighthood and the role of a retainer in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In some ways, there seemed to be more focus on this than William's later career as a major Magnate, the Earl of Pembroke and Lord of Striguil.
In the course of the narrative, something was revealed of what it meant to try to adhere to the code of Chivalry, which Marshall was hailed as a paragon of, but tends to be disparaged today.

Marshall was perhaps not the most Romantic or Charismatic of heroes- indeed sometimes he comes across as a rather plain and ordinary chap, who life was coloured by his involvement with the major events and figures of the age, and his tendency to ride the tide of politics and intruige, but generally come out on top.
More than once on the wrong side and embroiled in rebellion, sometimes reckless, and not always making good choices, the flawed man comes through- and also the virtues (that he seems to have believed in) such as loyalty to his Lord- even if that Lord's cause seemed to have been hopeless.

Some have drawn attention to a few translation and technical errors (is it more correct to say hearing mass, or going to mass?), but this was still an informative, useful work and a good read. I want more than evern to read some Transcription of the 'The Life of William Marshall' (what a shame the only surviving copy is owned by America).

Some may accuse the author of having fallen into what some regard as the age-old biogaphers trap of growing to love and admire his subject to an undue degree, and so losing objectivity. Yet, perhaps, that admiration is not wholly undeserved.
Marshall may not have been the best warrior, or the most astute politican, but the contemporary adage of 'The Greatest Knight' seems well deserved.
( )
1 vote Medievalgirl | Oct 4, 2016 |
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Biography & Autobiography. History. Nonfiction. 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 charts the unparalleled rise to prominence of a man bound to a code of honor yet driven by unquenchable ambition. Marshal was the true Lancelot of his era-a peerless warrior and paragon of chivalry. As a five-year-old boy, William was sentenced to execution and led to the gallows, yet this landless younger son survived his brush with death, and went on to train as a medieval 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, regent of the realm. This knight's tale lays bare the brutish realities of medieval warfare and the machinations of royal court, and draws us into the heart of a formative period of our history. 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.

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