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The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Mon September 8th, 2008, 6:36 pm

"Ash" wrote:Thanks lil - tho I think for the time being I'm going to stick with CA - it actually has the dollar higher than the CA$! (by a few pennies, but still)

One thing that did bother me in this book, was Marshalls perfection. It wasn't enough to make me dislike the book, but enough that as I finished the book, I thought about more. He obviously had internal turmoil, which helped develop his character, and I liked his love/hate relationship with his older brother. But there were times I wanted him to really screw up (yes he did at the raid on the church, by being passive). He obviously went to Jerusalem to pay for his sins, and that was very believable. But esp when he was married to Isabel, it started not to ring true (didn't help that I thought she seemed too perfect as well). That being said, the characterizations in this book were right on, and I like the story of Marshall enough to check out the other two books. I suspect that he might not be such a knight in shining armour on a white horse a little later?


Hi Ash,
All I can say is I wrote as I found from my research. Granted the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal is somewhat biased as a source being as it was commissioned by his son, but I did factor in other sources too where available and tried to stay true to the people they showed me. Interestingly, I had a review from a reader who said that I had portrayed the Marshal as way not perfect enough and I had made him too tarnished and sordid!
I think you will find later on that William does have some grey areas develop on his white horse. I guess if I had written the chevauchee expeditions of the war of 1173, a different side would have been more openly exposed but it was a matter of fitting it into a novel where I had publisher word constraints. Given the room I would have explored that aspect. I've been very slowly researching his pilgrimage and one day may write about it, but 'slowly' is the operative word! I think it fascinating that he bought his own burial shrouds while he was there...
I've just put a short article on my blog about his daughter, Mahelt.
http://livingthehistoryelizabethchadwick.blogspot.com/2008/09/clothing-bones-finding-mahelt-marshal.html
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Telynor
Bibliophile
Location: On the Banks of the Hudson

Postby Telynor » Mon September 8th, 2008, 9:17 pm

Given everything that I've read about William Marshal, he was one of the genuine heroes of the 12th century. His honour was never in question, that's something that I noticed about him, and he behaved quite well for a man of his times. Even his enemies admired him for his conduct, and when it came towards the end of his life, he was one that everyone seemed to agree on to be regent for Henry III, and lead the loyalists against Louis' invasion of England. Quite an accomplishment.

EC: Just read the article about Mahelt -- wow. I had read some about her before, but as to her later life, I had no idea.
Last edited by Telynor on Mon September 8th, 2008, 9:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Mon September 8th, 2008, 9:24 pm

"Telynor" wrote:Given everything that I've read about William Marshal, he was one of the genuine heroes of the 12th century. His honour was never in question, that's something that I noticed about him, and he behaved quite well for a man of his times. Even his enemies admired him for his conduct, and when it came towards the end of his life, he was one that everyone seemed to agree on to be regent for Henry III, and lead the loyalists against Louis' invasion of England. Quite an accomplishment.


When he gave his word, he gave it and never went back. And yes, he was the only one that everyone would agree to unite behind. His nearest rival, who wanted the position was the Earl of Chester, but there were barons in the loyalist camp who would have refused point blank to fight under his banner.
The grey areas involved some very fast dancing near the line (if not with a toe over it) in order to hold onto his Norman lands, and a few rather dubious glad-hands deals when he was regent, but he took far less advantage than he might have done all things considered.
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com

Ash
Bibliomaniac
Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Tue September 9th, 2008, 12:37 am

EC, thanks for that. What you are saying makes sense, esp if you are going with the primary sources of the time and not making up your own characters. I will be very interested in reading the other two

And I do undrestand about not being able to include everything. The book was just long enough for me, and any more would have made it much more of a muddle I think. You seemed to have judged well!

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Libby
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Location: Lancashire
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Postby Libby » Wed January 14th, 2009, 10:08 pm

I read this book just before Christmas. To my disgrace I didn't know anything about William Marshal before and I found him a very compelling and interesting man.

He founded the priory at Cartmel and it was a visit there to take part in the morning service when I was eleven years old that helped to fuel my passion for history. So I enjoyed learning more about William Marshal and I'm now tempted to read more about him (a non-fiction biography) to see how well EC captured the essence of him in the novel. Could he really have been that perfect?

One thing that intrigued me about him was that he couldn't read or write and yet he seemed very intelligent. I wondered if he was dyslexic - though such a notion wouldn't be given a diagnosis for another 700 years or so. But he must have had to trust his scribes implicitly and I wondered if his wife Isabel could read. Was that one of the reasons he valued her so much perhaps?

In the book I liked the way he asked for her opinion, but she seemed very well informed and discerning, perhaps a bit too knowledgeable given her circumstances, but I understand why it was done. There always has to be some compromise between truth and storyline and characterisation. Though the truth can provide the most amusing parts. I'm thinking in particular of the incident when William got his helmet jammed on his head and whilst the blacksmith was trying to bash it off someone was waiting to present him with his prize of a huge pike. You'd be hard pushed to make something like that up!
By Loyalty Bound - the story of the mistress of Richard III.

http://www.elizabethashworth.com

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EC2
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Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Wed January 14th, 2009, 10:37 pm

"Libby" wrote:
I read this book just before Christmas. To my disgrace I didn't know anything about William Marshal before and I found him a very compelling and interesting man.


Libby, he definitely was - you don't get many like The Marshal to the pound.

He founded the priory at Cartmel and it was a visit there to take part in the morning service when I was eleven years old that helped to fuel my passion for history. So I enjoyed learning more about William Marshal and I'm now tempted to read more about him (a non-fiction biography) to see how well EC captured the essence of him in the novel. Could he really have been that perfect?


I don't think I made him that perfect and I adhered to the sources. He was a rarity I think, and one fantastic individual. The best non fiction biographies are by David Crouch and Sidney Painter. Ignore the Duby one - it's bad. Of the two bios, Crouch errs on the side of being slightly snarky about The Marshal (trying to debunk some of the SCA-like chivalry paraphernalia that has attached) and Painter sees more of the shining knight. Both biographies are by erudite and insightful men. If you want to see William in his own words, then you will need the Anglo Norman Text Society's Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal volumes 1 and 2. This is primary source and based on eye-witness reports.
One thing that intrigued me about him was that he couldn't read or write and yet he seemed very intelligent. I wondered if he was dyslexic -


Bang on the money. That's what I think. My brother in law is highly dyslexic but fiercely intelligent and with a capacity for estimation and logistics that would have made him fantastic in the role of Marshal back in the day (although he can't fight for toffee :D ). I strongly suspect that William's dad could read and write - as one of Henry I's men with responsibilities at the exchequer. I would think at least one of William's brother's could - Henry, who became bishop of Exeter.

t
hough such a notion wouldn't be given a diagnosis for another 700 years or so. But he must have had to trust his scribes implicitly and I wondered if his wife Isabel could read. Was that one of the reasons he valued her so much perhaps?

In the book I liked the way he asked for her opinion, but she seemed very well informed and discerning, perhaps a bit too knowledgeable given her circumstances, but I understand why it was done.


Professor Crouch seems to think that Isabelle was more than a mere cipher. She made her voice known. She was always close to William. Where he went, she was mostly not too far away. I was recently speaking to a lady who has written a thesis on Isabelle and she told me that what she had discovered about her in the course of her researches gelled with everything she had read in The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion - which was nice to know!

There always has to be some compromise between truth and storyline and characterisation. Though the truth can provide the most amusing parts. I'm thinking in particular of the incident when William got his helmet jammed on his head and whilst the blacksmith was trying to bash it off someone was waiting to present him with his prize of a huge pike. You'd be hard pushed to make something like that up!


Indeed. That scene can be read in its full glory in the Histoire, along with all sorts of other fascinating snippets that I didn't have room to include.
Glad you enjoyed it anyway. I have to say I am a sad person who would talk about Marshals until the cows came home!
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell & The Travelling Bag by Susan Hill
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Thu January 15th, 2009, 12:17 pm

I must admit I also thought William was just a bit too good to be true in The Greatest Knight (haven't read The Scarlet Lion yet) although I enjoyed it and admire him greatly. I went to Cartmel years ago but only found out about the Marshal connection last year from EC's website, wish I'd known about it at the time as I'd have gone to the Priory properly (we didn't want to climb the hill and went to a pub for lunch instead :) ), in fact I'd never heard of the Marshals until I discovered your books EC! Also as regards dyslexia, in A Place Beyond Courage (about William's dad John) it does say that John's father made sure that he (John) could read and write, and he does write quite a few letters! But I did wonder if William was dyslexic, as he was obviously very bright.

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell & The Travelling Bag by Susan Hill
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Thu May 21st, 2009, 6:59 pm

EC, I've just been reading your blog about William Marshal, and I sat there sniffing when I got to the end - which is probably why I haven't read The Scarlet Lion yet! I didn't know that Templars couldn't be embraced by a woman, that must have been torment for both William and Isabelle, they must both have been so strong.

Off to get some more Kleenex now!

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EC2
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Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Thu May 21st, 2009, 7:23 pm

"Madeleine" wrote:EC, I've just been reading your blog about William Marshal, and I sat there sniffing when I got to the end - which is probably why I haven't read The Scarlet Lion yet! I didn't know that Templars couldn't be embraced by a woman, that must have been torment for both William and Isabelle, they must both have been so strong.

Off to get some more Kleenex now!


Sorry! :D
I've only just put that piece up at my site - I have others to write on Roger Bigod, John Marshal, and their womenfolk. It's ongoing, but slow due to other irons in the fire. Anyway, my agent e-mailed me to say that she'd read the piece and sat blubbing in her office - his story gets her that way even though she knows it.
True about the Templars - it's there in the Histoire, the whole scene where he tells her to kiss him one last time. 'Bel' amie, or me beseriez, car ja mes nul jor nel ferez.'
The sadness only gets to me when I look at a beautiful English May evening such as now, and think that once William Marshal would have smelled the elderflower in bloom and seen all this beautiful green, and sat before the fire with his cup in his hand and Isabelle at his side. And now no more.
William does have a strong guest appearance in The Time of Singing and also in my current WIP - and in both of those, he gets out alive!
I tried to visit him in London last week for the anniversary of his burial at the Temple Church, but said church was closed (again!) as they were preparing for a recital of Handel's Messiah. I reckon wherever he is, he'd like that
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com

User avatar
Rowan
Bibliophile
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
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Postby Rowan » Tue September 13th, 2011, 4:11 pm

Hiya EC!! Just read this book of yours and I have to say it's fantastic! I loved every page. I just wish I'd read it in a different format. :rolleyes:


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