During his training as a knight, William was a bit of an outsider. Soon though, his talent with horses, plus a bit of luck, bring him to the attention of the new royal family. Henry I and Eleanor of Aquitaine take notice of the young knight and when William saves Eleanor's life during a surprise raid, he earns her lasting goodwill. He is placed with the heir to the throne, Prince Henry, and given the responsibility for his training and instruction.
As the young Prince and his brothers grow, turmoil begins to boil and the relationship between the brothers and their father sours. During the strife that pits each of them against the other, William steadfastly stands beside Prince Henry, even though he agrees with almost nothing that the young man decides to do. Despite many terrible actions on the Prince's part, William is there to support him and help him, he is loyal almost to a fault.
When the unthinkable happens, William is shattered. He departs on a two year pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he tries to reconcile his past and find a way to move forward with his life. After his return, all his service is eventually rewarded when he is given the hand of Isabelle de Clare, a rich but lonely young heiress. Despite the fact that William is years older than Isabel, the two form a surprisingly happy and supportive marriage.
William Marshal's Tomb
Once again, Elizabeth Chadwick has given us a rich and detailed historical fiction novel, filled with excellent research and lively characters. William is a complex man: loyal, committed, giving, but with a sore spot in his heart that keeps him from a close bond with his family. He is definitely his own man but his is a lonely life. He had quite a view of the volatile Plantagenet clan, Ms. Chadwick's envisioning of his experiences there make for a fascinating read.
As I finished this book, I marvelled at how one man could fit so much into one lifetime. But it turns out that The Greatest Knight is not the end of the Marshal story! It will be continued in her next book, The Scarlet Lion, which should be released in the Spring of 2010.
For more information on Elizabeth Chadwick and all of her fantastic books, visit her website. She also has a wonderful blog, Living the History, where you will find all sorts of interesting historical information and photos. Her blog is one of my favorites! She recently posted twenty of her favorite historical fiction novels (from her "Keeper" shelf...I have one of those, too! Do you?). About half of them were new to me, so I was thrilled to add them to my wish list. I always love discovering new (to me) historical fiction!