Short Take: The Greatest Knight – Thomas Asbridge

Asbridge’s last book, The Crusades, netted over 50,000 copies. That always makes me sit up and take notice. Why did it garner so many fans? The man can write. As Kirkus Reviews noted of this book, Asbridge brings to life “an important figure in a distant, violent, barely comprehensible era.”

William Marshall, the subject of this biography is widely thought to have been the original model of the chivalrous knight. Publishers Weekly calls it “an excellent book” and explains,

The strength of this work is the depiction of the early formation of the concept of knighthood and the unromantic life of a professional warrior. Asbridge also explains the political context of the time in a clear narrative. William, the younger son of a minor lord, grew wealthy and powerful through his military skill, but even more through his loyalty to the members of the family of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine—a rare feat, considering the Plantagenets’ internecine battles. The story of William’s maturation from a freelance fighter to a statesman who managed his property and became the guardian for the young Henry III includes daily life, as well as politics.”

The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones (9780062262059) by Thomas Asbridge. $27.99 hardcover. 12/2/14 on sale.

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