Monday, December 24, 2007

Review - The Greatest Knight

Elizabeth Chadwick's novel on the life of William Marshall, the pre-eminant knight of his time.

Okay, the book deals with the first "half" of Marshall's life, up until roughly 1194. This includes his early years on the tourney circuit, his time as mentor to Henry, the Young King, and the rule of Richard I, King of England.

I knocked this book over in the course of one day - which translates to I couldn't put it down.

I was already familiar with the story of William Marshal from Georges Duby's excellent biography - which I was slightly disappointed to find the Elizabeth did not mention in her list of books used as references.

The one part of the book in which I was disappointed was with the introduction of Isabella de Clare - this introduction broke the whole continuity of the novel. It just didn't flow - I felt that this was sort of added in ad hoc. What would have been better, in my own opinion, was to introduce Isabella when we first meet Heloise - at the Tower of London 1186.

However, overall, I was extremely happy with the novel and look forward to "The Scarlet Lion".

Visit the William Marshall website.


Daphne said...

I loved this book! I didn't know there was a William Marshall website - thanks for the link.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Hi Melisende,
Thanks for the review of The Greatest Knight and I'm glad you mostly enjoyed it.
A couple of things:
I didn't include the Georges Duby biography in my list even though I've read it because I didn't think it was particularly good. He distorts the history in some very strange ways, particularly with reference to William and Isabelle in Ireland. He also only uses the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal as his source and not the Marshal's writs and charters. The best biography is by Professor David Crouch who does use the Marshal's charters to get at the man and who's sources are far wider than Duby's. Professor Crouch also comments that Duby's biography has 'many deficiencies' and that 'Duby's Marshal is an example of how selective historical writing can distort the evidence in a most unacceptable way.' So if I didn't cite Duby's biography for readers to follow up, it was because I didn't rate it.
The William Marshal website should be taken with a pinch of salt too because a lot of it is Duby based. William's birth date for e.g. is incorrect even if we don't know it. The date of 1144 is probably when his older brother John was born if one goes on charter evidence etc. A better site is Catherine Armstrong's one on the Castles Wales site - sorry I don't have the url. She's just brought a book on William Marshal, the result of 13years of in depth research - small press published by Seneschal Press.

Happy Christmas!

Carla said...

I enjoyed The Greatest Knight too. Hope you had a good Christmas, and best wishes for the New Year!