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The Greatest Knight

The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


A renowned scholar brings to life medieval England’s most celebrated knight, William Marshal—providing an unprecedented and intimate view of this age and the legendary warrior class that shaped it.

Caught on the wrong side of an English civil war and condemned by his father to the gallows at age five, William Marshal defied all odds to become one of England’s most celebrated knights. Thomas Asbridge’s rousing narrative chronicles William’s rise, using his life as a prism to view the origins, experiences, and influence of the knight in British history.

In William’s day, the brutish realities of war and politics collided with romanticized myths about an Arthurian “golden age,” giving rise to a new chivalric ideal. Asbridge details the training rituals, weaponry, and battle tactics of knighthood, and explores the codes of chivalry and courtliness that shaped their daily lives. These skills were essential to survive one of the most turbulent periods in English history—an era of striking transformation, as the West emerged from the Dark Ages.

A leading retainer of five English kings, Marshal served the great figures of this age, from Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine to Richard the Lionheart and his infamous brother John, and was involved in some of the most critical phases of medieval history, from the Magna Carta to the survival of the Angevin/Plantagenet dynasty. Asbridge introduces this storied knight to modern readers and places him firmly in the context of the majesty, passion, and bloody intrigue of the Middle Ages.

The Greatest Knight features 16 pages of black-and-white and color illustrations.

From Publishers Weekly

Oct 27, 2014 – 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.

Customer Reviews

Captivating and informative read

An exciting way to learn about the late 12th and early 13th century Anglo-French world through the remarkable perspective of William Marshall.

The Greatest Knight
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  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Europe
  • Published: Dec 02, 2014
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • Seller: HarperCollins
  • Print Length: 464 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings