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William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry Paperback – 31 Mar 1987

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Product details

  • Paperback: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Random House USA Inc; 1st American Ed edition (31 Mar. 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039475154X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394751542
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 1 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 573,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Hamstead VINE VOICE on 23 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While this book reads in a swift, easily digestible style, the historical interpretation is fundamentally flawed and you won't find much of the 'real Marshal' among its pages.
Professor Crouch's biography of William Marshal blows this one out of the water and points up the flaws that George Duby makes, not least in his interpretation of the character of Isabelle de Clare, the Marshal's wife, and William's relationship with her. Duby also doesn't seem to give the Marshal enough credit in the intelligence stakes. William Marshal was a fiercely intelligent, incisive man both on and off the battle field. He could play politics just as easily as he could fight and he was no one's dupe when it came to money matters. Duby seems to have been wearing blinkers when he wrote this. As aforementioned, read David Crouch. Sidney Painter's biography of the Marshal is worth a look too. A terrific companion to these is the Anglo Norman Text Society's recent translation of the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Joe HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 May 2006
Format: Paperback
As you may recall in the film A LION IN WINTER, there was a briefly seen character named "William" (played by Nigel Stock in the superlative 1968 version starring Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn), the right-hand man of King Henry II, who fetched his master's sons, Richard and Geoffrey, and Henry's Queen Eleanor (imprisoned in England's Salisbury Tower) to the royal castle of Chinon in France for the 1183 Christmas court. This William was William Marshal, the subject of this small book (153 pages) of the same name by French medieval historian George Duby. The translated volume was published in 1985.

Marshal was a remarkable man, whose knightly career spanned roughly five decades, over which time he went from penniless knight to acting-King of England (when he served as Regent for the young Henry III). Over that period, he was a faithful servant to four kings (Henry II, Richard I, John, Henry III) and one almost-king, the Young King Henry, the eldest son of Henry II crowned and anointed heir in 1170, but who pre-deceased Ol' Dad in June of 1183. William, by then Earl of Pembroke, died in 1219.

Duby's interest lies in that facet of medieval feudalism called chivalry, and he admiringly uses Marshal's life to illustrate the subject. Indeed, the author's description of William's life seems sometimes oddly detached, as if describing a rat in a lab experiment. George uses as his primary source a biography of the man - twenty-seven parchment leaves containing 19,914 verses - commissioned by the family shortly after the earl's death, and which survived in its entirety to the present. The biography, "Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal", was written in French, a fact, I suspect, which was crucial in drawing Duby's attention to it.
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By Boyd Hone on 30 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
William Marshal was a man totally unknown to me. Then, when reading the lives of Henry II, Richard Coeur de Lion, Philip Augustus, Saladin, Eleanor of Aquitaine and others of that time, I found a unique common link among them all: William Marshal. Intrigued, I ordered Georges Duby's book WILLIAM MARSHAL. Rarely has a first chapter enthralled me to the extent of the one in this book, a first chapter that describes a mundane scene, one in which Marshal dispenses his worldly goods to the 5 sons he would soon leave behind, a wonderful first chapter poetic in its telling, warm-hearted and as visual as though it were a movie unfolding before my eyes.
The 2nd chapter tells us how the story of Marshal would have been lost to time had not his son paid for his life story to be written on velum in verses.
In chapter 3 Marshal, only age 28, knights King Henry III. Here we learn about achieving Knighthood, a quest as stringent -- and infinitely more dangerous - than becoming first dan in karate. The ceremony is moving and of infinite importance in attaining manhood.
Although many scenes were beautifully described, as I have indicated, Duby has just slavishly contented himself with resuming the velum manuscript. He has briefly and totally inadequately given an overview of major and great event. Through lack of ambition Duby has deprived himself of making a veritable contribution to history and to literature, thusly deserving hardly better than 2 stars out of 5. (I would be deeply grateful if a reader could put me on the track of a comprehensive book about this extraordinary knight, William the Marshal.) My own books can be found on Amazon under Michael Hone.
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