The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

Perfect knight, consummate politician.

This novel tells the story of William Marshal who was one of the greatest English knights of the twelfth century, or arguably, any century.  He was also astute politically and this story shows how he was able to loyally serve King Henry II and two of his sons who were engaged in an almost feral conflict with each other.  In this maelstrom of passion and family feud Marshal was the great survivor.

Chadwick weaves a marvellous story which made the era come very much alive.  She skilfully and lightly blends the essential historical facts into the story so that I never felt the research was showing through the narrative.  I would, however, have liked some indication of a few of the archaic words although such is her way with words that the vast majority I was able to understand from the context.

The most interesting thing for me is the fact that Marshal was such a survivor.  The novel, which is told from his point of view, has an excellent explanation for this; he was a man of exquisite loyalty and honour.  Yet, even while I was beguiled by this notion (and which person is not in some way the hero of their own story) I also began to wonder if he wasn’t too much of a good thing and that we were reading the account of a somewhat unreliable narrator.

I say, I wonder, because Chadwick never lets slip whether Marshal was perfect knight or consummate politician.  In fact, of course, he was probably both.  There is a teasing moment, when he was accused of being overly friendly to a well-connected female, but, even here we are left unsure of the veracity of events.  However, I wonder if he was more than just tempted.

This is a great book which I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to anyone interested in reading about the Medieval Period.  I look forward to reading more of her books.


About Martin Lake

Martin Lake lives in the French Riviera with his wife. After studying at the University of East Anglia he worked as a teacher, trainer and company director. A serious accident shattered his arm and meant that he had to rein back his work. He decided to concentrate on writing and is now writing full-time. He writes a wide range of fiction. His main interests are historical fiction, short stories and fiction for young adults. Martin has a series of novels 'The Lost King' which are set in the years following the Norman Invasion of England. They concern Edgar Atheling, last representative of the ancient English royal dynasty and his fight to regain the throne from William the Conqueror. Martin has also published 'Artful' the further adventures of the Dodger and 'Outcasts' a novel about fall of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. His latest novel, 'A Love Most Dangerous' is about a maid of honour who becomes the lover of Henry VIII. Martin’s work has been broadcast on radio. He won first prize in the Kenneth Grahame Society competition to write a story based on 'The Wind in the Willows.' You can get the collection, 'The Wind in the Willows Short Stories' from Amazon.
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