The Greatest Knight, and The Scarlet Lion – Reviews, by
The Greatest Knight, and
The Scarlet Lion
by Elizabeth Chadwick
e-Royalty Rating: 5 stars
Elizabeth Chadwick’s fictionalized biography of William Marshal is presented in both The Greatest Knight appeared in 2005 and The Scarlet Lion followed in 2006. With these two novels, Ms. Chadwick has brought this great man to life.
We are big fans of Elizabeth Chadwick here at e-Royalty. Both of these older books are well-researched historical romance novels. While thoroughly enjoyable, these books do not have the flair and drama of say a Sharon Kay Penman novel, but that by no means should hinder you from reading these books. For Plantagenet lovers, both of these Chadwick books should be on your must-read list.
She has taken a remarkable, yet little-known knight, and placed him squarely in the middle of Plantagenet history. Her books are an exciting, albeit, fictionalized account of the middle ages.
The Greatest Knight follows William’s life from a small boy, to his service of four kings – Henry the Young King, Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and King John.
Born the second son of John Marshal circa 1147, young William’s future prospects were not promising. The war between Stephen and Matilda was ravishing the England country side and many knights of the time were in doubt of which side to join.
Initially a supporter of Stephen, John Marshall switched his support to Matilda. Stephen’s troops surrounded Newbury Castle and demanded John Marshal’s surrender. Playing for time, John offered his second son, William, as a hostage. John then used the time to fortify the castle and call on Matilda’s troops to support him.
In the meantime, six-year-old William was awaiting his father’s surrender to the king so that he could go home. To the shock of everyone involved, John’s attitude was one of defiance and not of abject surrender. When asked about the fate of his son, he replied, “I have the hammer and anvil to make more and better sons.” No one was more horrified by this than the King. Ignoring his supporters’ advice that the penalty be carried out, Stephen pardoned him.
This was the first time William the Marshal appeared in the pages of history but it would not be the last.
William first established himself on the tournament circuit. His prowess and victories began his legend of being ‘the greatest knight’. Although many knights challenged him, no one could topple him.
William’s rise to power came not from his conquests in jousting but in an encounter with England’s Queen Eleanor. Eleanor had been threatened with capture. But William, his Uncle, and a small contingent were able to hold off her attackers until she escaped. William’s uncle was killed and William was badly wounded and captured.
Eleanor paid William’s ransom and brought him into her household while his wounds healed. Thus began a friendship that lasted the rest of Eleanor’s life. Once William was well, Eleanor had him appointed to Henry the Young King’s Court as an advisor. His reputation as an undefeated tournament champion ensured his welcome with Young Henry and his friends who were obsessed with tournament competition.
William went on to serve King Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and King John. He went on a Crusade to the Holy Land. He was a valued member of the Plantagenet court and was respected and trusted because it was well known that his word was his bond.
The book was so engrossing I ended it yearning for more of the story of this great knight. Fortunately for me and the many fans of William Marshal, Elizabeth Chadwick quickly published a sequel the following year called The Scarlet Lion.
The Scarlet Lion tells the rest of William’s remarkable story. Because he had sworn allegiance to John as his liege lord, William felt a duty to serve him to the very best of his ability and to guide him away from his more bizarre actions.
When King John signed the Magna Carta on a hot June day in 1215, standing at his side was William the Marshall, loyalty personified.
John died shortly thereafter. His final request was that William the Marshall and Hugh de Burgh were to become Regents of England. William was past 70 and wanted nothing more than to retire from royal service. Instead, he was Regent for John’s nine- year-old son, Henry III, a bankrupt country, a disillusioned populace who had invited the French Prince to be England’s King, and a well-trained French army spreading out across the country.
The exciting conclusion of this tale and the rest of the Marshal’s career, his death and his interment in the Temple Church in London are skillfully and accurately laid out in the final chapters of The Scarlet Lion.
The Scarlet Lion