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Publisher's Summary

In The Greatest Knight, renowned historian Thomas Asbridge draws upon the thirteenth-century biography and an array of other contemporary evidence to present a compelling account of William Marshal's life and times. Asbridge charts the unparalleled rise to prominence of a man bound to a code of honor yet driven by unquenchable ambition.

Marshal was the true Lancelot of his era - a peerless warrior and paragon of chivalry. As a five-year-old boy, William was sentenced to execution and led to the gallows, yet this landless younger son survived his brush with death and went on to train as a medieval knight. Against all odds Marshal rose through the ranks - serving at the right hand of five English monarchs - to become a celebrated tournament champion, a baron and politician, and, ultimately, regent of the realm.

This knight's tale lays bare the brutish realities of medieval warfare and the machinations of the royal court and draws us into the heart of a formative period of our history. It is the story of one remarkable man, the birth of the knightly class to which he belonged, and the forging of the English nation.

©2014 Thomas Asbridge (P)2015 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Readers seeking a deeper understanding of early tournaments and the origins of chivalry will be pleased." (Library Journal)
"Derek Perkins skillfully narrates Asbridge's history of the exemplary twelfth-century knight William Marshall.... Perkins's voice has something of the medieval in it, and he easily fills the contours of a narrative that ranges from the manufacture of knight's armor to its bloody use on the field of battle. Here is Arthurian legend at its core--and one of the year's true sleepers." (AudioFile)

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Rare biography of a true knight

the rarity of a volume about an average man who broke the rules of the Middle Ages to become a figure of myth and greatness. Thus the focus is on some people and incidents that do not get much attention. Such as the details between Henry the second and his battles with his sons rather than the killing of Thomas Becket. Worth the time.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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true story of an amazing knight

This is the incredible story of William Marshal who rose from hostage who escaped execution as a child to renown knight to navigating deadly political waters. During the course of his life he served 5 kings and was known for his loyalty. In his lifetime he was known as a fierce warrior and he helped shape the chivalric code of knights.

The author does an excellent job of describing medieval life, especially of knights. William Marshal's life encompassed the reigns of Stephen through Henry III. William was larger than life. I recommend this book to anyone interested in medieval European history.

The narration is excellent. Derek Perkins did a wonderful job. Sometimes I shy away from history audiobooks because too often the narration is dull. Mr. Perkins kept the pace interesting.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The Biography of a Legend

Credited as the very embodiment of chivalry in a time with the concept was just coming into its own, William Marshal was very nearly executed at the age of five yet would go on to serve as the backbone of the Plantagenet dynasty. He would rebel against kings, serve alongside kings, go on Crusade, and become instrumental in the signing of Magna Carta. By any measure, this man is a legend in the annals of knighthood, England, and the whole of the Middle Ages.

This new biography is nothing less than impressive. While it does help to have some background knowledge of the Plantagenet dynasty and its key players (I highly recommend Dan Jones' The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England), the great thing about this book is that it does stand on its own for those who are just dipping their toes into this part of history. This means it works very well as both an introduction to the man and his times and as supplemental reading to other works. It's an easy read, but it's by no means lightweight in its approach. The result is that the Greatest Knight steps out to shine as one of the most respected men in history, fully accessible to modern readers some 800 years later.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • doctorj
  • Phoenix, United States
  • 08-03-16

Absolutely superb

What an engaging read! From start to finish a pure delight. Exceedingly well researched and well read...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful Story

This is a great read. The historical points are well researched and approached from multiple sources to provide as clear a picture as possible about William Marshall's life. While no one can be perfect, Marshall was a prototype of chivalry, courage, and loyalty and his story is fascinating.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Review

Drier than Pharaoh’s toast. Even to a history buff. The narrator only has so much to work with, but still.....

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Never Knew

I found this book remarkable. Although I thought I knew much about mEdie Val English history, I was not aware of William Marshall. This is truly the story of the “greatest night.“ A remarkable life story of a remarkable man.

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Great book. Terrific performance.

The author had a good story to tell, full of rich historical detail, and the narrator brought it to life with an outstanding performance. This book kept me fully engaged, though the rich array of characters can be confusing. I had to consult a hard copy to keep track of everyone.

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Enlightened History

I was absorbed and informed by this very powerful book. I will cherish this book and author for clarifying this complicated and confusing period of medieval history. I will reread portions of this wonderful book with a greater appreciation of Thomas Asbridge and his very comprehensive approach of documenting an extraordinary period of history. I feel I am better informed.

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Engaging story of an exceptional knight.

I was easily drawn into a period of history for which I had little background.