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William Marshal Books In Order

Publication Order of William Marshal Books

The Greatest Knight (2005) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Scarlet Lion (2006) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Place Beyond Courage (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Time of Singing (2008) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
To Defy a King (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Chronological Order of William Marshal Books

A Place Beyond Courage (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Greatest Knight (2005) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Scarlet Lion (2006) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Time of Singing (2008) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
To Defy a King (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle


William Marshal, the 1st Earl of Pembroke, and widely considered to be one of, if not the greatest knight of all time, was an Anglo-Norman soldier, who served and trained five kings: “The Young King” Henry, King Henry II, King Richard the Lionheart, the infamous King John, and King Henry III.

The second son to a minor noble, William had long understood that he would have to make his own way in life, having no title and no property to inherit. He eventually became a knight Errant or wandering knight, seeking glory in quests, tournaments and the battle.

He was knighted in 1166 in Upper Normandy, just before his first battle in which historians agree he came out pretty well, proving himself in the foray. One thing he forgot however, was the fact that wars in the twelfth century were partly done for profit-he came out of the skirmish no better than when he went in, much to the surprise and amusement of those around him.

His bravery and skill in battle was perhaps only surpassed by his mettle in jousting and other tournaments. Indeed, by the end of his life, he confessed to having bested over five hundred opponents during his tourneying career.

He married Isabelle de Clare, and by the end of his life, had amassed considerable amounts of wealth and landed property, had fought in the crusades and had eventually risen to the title of Regent of all England. Not bad for an unfortunate second son of a minor noble.

His is an extraordinary tale of a man who rose to the highest heights through skill, ability, integrity, and a well-honed instinct for self-preservation.

The title of Earl of Pembroke lives on to this very day.

Elisabeth Chadwick brings a storyteller’s touch in her bid to chronicle this extraordinary tale in her series. She does well to bring William Marshal and his times to life in a genre that is notoriously difficult to execute properly.

Historical romance deals with real people, even if the stories may not be entirely true, there people are. As the controversial French philosopher and activist so aptly put it, “To the living we owe honour; to the dead, only truth.”

This is an especially difficult maxim to hold to when the character happens to be one who has all but fallen from the collective consciousness in contemporary times, apparently forgotten within the dusty pages of history.

To the Marshal trilogy, the author brings her undeniable know how in storytelling, and merges it with a firm knowledge of history.

There is also a nice romantic thread that runs through most of the story, detailing the relationship between Marshal and his impressive wife Isabelle de Clare.

The first two book of the series, The Greatest Knight’ and The Scarlet Lion’ detail much of the history: William Marshal’s rise through the ranks, eventually being chosen by the enigmatic Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine to train her sons in horsemanship and chivalry. The writing is masterful, perfectly capturing the subtle nuances that would pervade regular events in a time very different from that which the reader is accustomed to. In medieval times, records were not what they are today; the author has done well filling in some of the grey areas. There is not much mention of the crusades in Jerusalem. The second book follows William Marshal and Isabelle de Clare after they leave England for Ireland.

The author does well not to let the romantic aspects overtake the tone and texture of the storytelling. Rather, she gives it proper perspective as a part of history-an important one that helped shape out an era.

Each of these books can be read as a standalone or in no particular order without diminishing the experience.

Fans of the author Elisabeth Marshal are going to have contenders for the favourite novel by her after going through the series; while there can be no greater introduction to new readers.

This is a fitting tribute to a forgotten hero, one who exhumed all the qualities required of knights by disagreeable kings who more often than not fell on the questionable side of morality: integrity, bravery, and unflinching loyalty to those he had pledged allegiance to. One only has to think of the Magna Carta and the events that led up to it to see just how feisty the times were. In fact, it is usually when introduced to the Magna Carta that students first get introduced to the Marshal-William Marshal stuck by his own even in the face of open peril!

The only shortcomings in the book, one has to admit has to be the fact that William Marshal, seems a little too noble. One might suggest he bordered on sainthood. Given the mood and tempo of the times, one looks upon this idea with a fair amount of scepticism. A historical work is never complete without visiting the inner demons that plague us all-even if it means creating some for yourself. There are a lot of these to go around in any case when the name of William Marshal crops up; not all surprising given the Kings he served.

There is the questionable tale about him seducing Queen Eleanor for instance. And also the claiming of two manors that the Bishop of Fern laid claim to but could not take back. If you believe in such things, after William Marshal’s death, it is said that the Marshal family was cursed by the Bishop, who said the sons shall bear no children and the estates would be scattered. As fate would have it, the two sons bore no sons of their own and the estate eventually had to be shared between the husbands of William’s five daughters.

These are just a few demons that could have been dealt with to put more flourish on a, yet unquestionably, great book from a brilliant writer.

It’s about time we were all properly reminded about those perilous times, and the chivalrous knights they spurned, the greatest of whom was William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke. Elisabeth Chadwick does just that.

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