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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.

5 people found this 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.

8 people found this 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 people found this helpful

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Six Stars!

This book is a diamond in every way. The subject. The story. The writing. The narration. The everything. This story is the perfect antidote for our modern era populated by conniving duplicitous politicians, press and business. In an era when no one has any values and no one can be trusted, it's reassuring to know that once someone like William Marshall lived. Many thanks to Thomas Asbridge for writing this book. It was a flawless immersive experience.

1 person found this helpful

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Absolutely superb

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

1 person found this 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 person found this helpful

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Quite enjoyable

This is a historical, as fact based as possible, novel on a real life knight who lived in parts of the 12th and 13th centuries. It is Wonderfully written and the Reader does a Great job reading this novel. I was afraid that the book was going to be boring because it did not appear to be written as a “story” ( and I had read fact-based story/novels about William Marshall before by other authors that were so very good.....) but I was very pleasantly surprised with this book! Based on an actual biography that was found in the 19th century and written partly during and after William Marshall’s life, the information, and the Reader’s talented way in which he is able to impart it, delightfully keeps the reader wanting more. Great read!

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Fascinating Medieval Character

Working with what information exists today, this books tells a very engaging story of an important English knight from the 12th and 13th centuries. Alive during Henry II, battled with Richard the Lionheart, and championed the cause (unfortunately) of King John's son Henry III. The books stays true to the facts, so you have to read between the lines to appreciate the Court intrigue that had to be understood and negotiated during the reign of King John. I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a great medieval story.

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A book for fans of Medieval Europe

If you love stories about knights, castles and the medieval European Aristocracy, read this book. If you love history of the Norman conquest and the rise and fall of the Plantagenets, read this book. Through the life of William Marshall, Asbridge weaves a bright study of the making of knights and how they lived, Barons and courtiers to several of the greatest Plantagenet rulers, including the one and only Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I thoroughly recommend Th Greatest Knight

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An outstanding Audible narration

A well modulated, clear narration by Derek Perkins, one of my favorites. This is a compelling, interesting time and is filled with bold characters. John Marshal is remarkable, not only for the time he lived, but for all times: a chivalrous and loyal knight, a strong warrior and General, a careful politician, dutiful diplomat, experienced advisor, and elder statesmen, eternally steadfast to the English crown. I read Marc Morris’s book, King John, before reading this book. Although focused on King John, it covered much of Marshal’s service to the Argevin dynasty. Whereas Asbridge did rely on The History of Marshal, Morris was much more skeptical of it and rejected to follow it so firmly. I do like both books.