The Greatest Knight
The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones
My bad book review this week is about a book that sounds like a pretty normal Fantasy Novel. However, this is a non-fiction book, and is fascinating. The book, written by Thomas Asbridge, is about William Marshal. Marshal, the First Earl of Pembroke, was born during a time of civil war in England and lived most of his life negotiating one type of conflict or another.
I picked this book because much of the idea of the medieval knight that many of our stories are based on originated with Marshal. He was a jouster during the ear when the sport really became popular. He was very good at it. Marshal was was the younger son of a minor noble and had no land to inherit, yet he would prove to be one of the most important political figures in English history, serving under five different monarchs. That is a stunning number, considering the short life of people in those times and how frequently power changed hands. Could you imagine someone people Secretary of State for five different presidents?
Thomas Asbridge, The Greatest Knight Author
Thomas Asbridge does a wonderful job taking a historical topic and bringing it to life. He was fortunate to have access to some very good source material, and presented it very well. Marshal’s life looked like a tale from a George R. R. Martin tale (minus the rape and incest). Asbridge didn’t did a lot of research beyond the immediate material to bring us The Greatest Knight. I learned an incredible amount about the time period, as well as many of the key characters central to that age.
The story was told in such great detail that I was inspired to read other material about this period. Apart from our iconic view of the English Knight, The Greatest Knight played a role in the forming of the document that many Western nations would base their governments upon, the Magna Carta.
Without revealing too many spoilers, I encourage you to check out this rags-to-riches heroes tale, that is actually a real life account of the life of a remarkable man.
Please check out some of my other Bad Book Reviews.