Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves created and hosted by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post, here.
William Marshal was the true Lancelot of his era – a peerless warrior and paragon of chivalry – yet over the centuries, the spectacular story of his achievements passed from memory. Marshal became just one more name in the dusty annals of history. Then, in 1861, a young French scholar named Paul Meyer made a startling discovery during an auction of rare medieval manuscripts. Meyer stumbled upon the sole surviving copy of an unknown text – the first contemporary biography of a medieval knight, later dubbed the History of William Marshal. This richly detailed work helped to resurrect Marshal’s reputation, putting flesh onto the bones of this otherwise obscure figure, yet even today William Marshal remains largely forgotten.
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, William 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.
Marshal befriended the great figures of his day, from Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine to the infamous King John, and helped to negotiate the terms of Magna Carta – the first ‘bill of rights’. By the age of seventy, the once-forsaken child had been transformed into the most powerful man in England, yet he was forced to fight in the frontline of one final battle, striving to save the kingdom from French invasion in 1217.
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 follows Marshal on his journey from rural England onto the battlefields of France, to the desert castles of the Holy Land and the verdant shores of Ireland, charting the unparalleled rise to prominence of a man bound to a code of honour, yet driven by unquenchable ambition.
This knight’s tale lays bare the brutish realities of medieval warfare and the machinations of royal court, and draws us into the heart of a formative period of our history, when the West emerged from the Dark Ages and stood on the brink of modernity. 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.
That blurb is ginormous. I bought a copy of this biography for my dad for his birthday back in May – he’s also an avid reader, and he quite likes his medieval history – and since finishing it he’s been telling me that I need to read it. William Marshal is a figure from history I’d like to learn more about, so one of these days I need to pick this up!
Are there any books on your TBR recommended to you by your family?
It’s the final day of the Medieval-A-Thon! I’ve really enjoyed this readathon, but I’m looking forward to beginning the N.E.W.Ts tomorrow.
On Sunday night I finished the Book of the Ancestor trilogy with the audiobook of Holy Sister, and I’m still trying to figure out how to put how I feel about it into words. For the most part I like how the story ended, I just wasn’t a big fan of how we got there and there’s one character death that I don’t think I can forgive Lawrence for. It earned me a pair of daggers for the Medieval-A-Thon, though!
I was planning to pick up Mortal Heart when I finished Holy Sister, I’m never going to say no to more assassin nuns, but I own the hardback which is a little big to carry around on my commute to work. Instead I decided to pick up the second book in the October Daye series, A Local Habitation, because I usually breeze through urban fantasy and I need something not too dense before I begin the N.E.W.Ts. It’s technically a book about fae, but one of the characters likens them to elves at one point and they even have pointy ears, so I’m counting it for my bow and arrow for the Medieval-A-Thon!
It’s almost N.E.W.Ts time! Phoenix Unbound is on my TBR for my A in History of Magic, and as History of Magic is the subject I need to get an O in more than any of the other subjects I’m taking, I want to make a start on it straight away. This Romantasy novel is also on my summer TBR, and I’m looking forward to reading more Grace Draven!