(Review) The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones by Thomas Asbridge

Publication Date: 2015
Publisher: ECCO, an imprint of HarperCollins
Genre: Nonfiction
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 464
Source: Self-purchase
Rating: 4 stars for very good

The preface tells the story of a man named Paul Meyer, who in 1861, first discovered at Sotheby's in London, a medieval book labeled "Norman French Chronicle on English Affairs." After a period of twenty years, he found the book again and was able to study the manuscript. He discovered it was about the life of William Marshal. Meyer later published a printed edition of the History of William Marshal.
The year is 1152, and five year old William Marshal has been sentenced to be executed on order from King Stephen. Young Marshal has not committed a crime but he is being used as a political pawn.
The rest of Marshals life, because he survived this frightening early childhood experience, lived a long, adventurous, and successful life.
The Greatest Knight is a biography of William Marshal. The biography includes his education and learning to war; serving five English kings; time spent as a professional warrior in a tournament circuit; friendship with Templars and Hospitallers; fighting in a crusade; and service under difficult King John.

My Thoughts:
This is the first book I've read about William Marshal. I've heard bloggers of British history remark about Marshal and I had to read a book about him.
I felt The Greatest Knight gave me a solid view of William Marshal and this era in history.
Several reasons led me to give The Greatest Knight 4 stars for very good.
  • The history and career of medieval knights.
  • Life in a tournament circuit.
  • The Crusade in the Holy Land. However, the medieval biography written on William Marshal about his two years in service in the Holy Land is minimal. Instead, Asbridge pieces together from other sources the history of the time Marshal was in the Holy Land (1183-1186).
  • History of "Medieval Wales and Ireland."
  • Marshal's wise ability to survive under King John.
The Greatest Knight is a work of nonfiction. I did not feel the book brought to life William Marshal; however, the book is not meant to be a historical fiction read. I'm not saying the book is a dry text book, but it is a historical account of William Marshal.   
The Greatest Knight is fascinating, because I love British medieval history.  
William Marshal served under five English kings! I find this amazing. For me, his bio is a walking encyclopedia of 12th and early 13th century English history.
I loved the story of how the medieval book about William Marshal was found by Paul Meyer; and how Meyer continued to piece together and study the remarkable person of William Marshal.
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