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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars William Marshal was a very important figure in Medieval England, makes for an interesting read
William Marshal lived during an incredibly important time for English history and got involved in the majority of all the big events that happened; the creation of Magna Carta, acting as Regent to the new child King Henry III following the death of John, besieging countless castles and battling the French during their invasion in the early 13th century, when he was...
Published 5 months ago by Chris

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit clunky but a remarkable (true) story enthusiastically written
This period of the Middle Ages was not one I had read about before and is fascinating. I never realised before how close England came to being a province of the then developing French nation! Nor had I heard of William Marshall before : surely one of the most under reported 'game changers' in our tumultuous history. Mr Brooks is obviously a military historian and there is...
Published 3 months ago by Upgader


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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars William Marshal was a very important figure in Medieval England, makes for an interesting read, 26 Mar 2014
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William Marshal lived during an incredibly important time for English history and got involved in the majority of all the big events that happened; the creation of Magna Carta, acting as Regent to the new child King Henry III following the death of John, besieging countless castles and battling the French during their invasion in the early 13th century, when he was already at an age when most of his Medieval peers had long since passed on.

This was all after distinguished career as a tournament knight, traveling around the country winning numerous jousting battles and generally living the high life. He was a busy man!

I'm a big fan of National Trust / English Heritage type properties, and many are mentioned through the course of the book i.e. William lived in Chepstow & Pembroke Castles, fought the French at Dover & Lincoln Castles, and also spent time living in various sites Ireland. Its great to read about he real history which shaped many of the places we visit as tourist attractions today.

Richard Brooks has obviously done his research and his analysis of the life of 'The Marshal' is well written and flows along nicely throughout, which you would expect as the material & his deeds pretty much speak for themselves because of how historically relevant it all is. Recommended.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book, highly recommended, 23 April 2014
This review is from: The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 (General Military) (Paperback)
Richard Brooks is a free lance military historian with a reputation for writing analytical military history based on fresh research of original sources. One of his previous books, The Battlefields of Britain and Ireland, is considered the definitive work on the subject. His biography on Fred Jane (founder of Jane’s Fighting Ships and the Fred Jane Naval Wargame) is recognised as outstanding. Therefore, I was very interested when I heard about his new book by Osprey.

This book covers one of the lesser known heroes of the medieval world, William Marshal. He was a right hand man for three kings and the regent for a 4th. He was loyal to kings, respected by practically all, a fearsome knight at tournaments and a formidable general. His achievement in preserving England as a separate country is important today.

Based in part on The History of William Marshal, the first biography of a non-royal layman in medieval times, the work weaves a complex and detailed tale about the life and time of William Marshal. It covers the tournaments, the intrigue and politics, populated by accounts of the sieges and battles.

There are a number of factors that (to me) make Brooks’s style so interesting. One is his ability to bring together discussion of competing historical sources. Some historians simply state this is what happened, but Brooks outlines if there are different views before giving a reasoned decision which account he deems most likely. Another aspect is the narrative is interspersed with detailed analytical work on the technical aspects of early medieval warfare. Brook’s wider military knowledge is used to place this in a more general context, such as the analysis of the rate of march set against that achieved by armies from other periods of military history. Basically, in times of need, medieval armies could move very rapidly.

I have taken a close academic interest in the critical battle of Marshal’s career, The Battle of Lincoln (1217). This was a very important battle for England in the medieval era and 36 pages are devoted to a detailed investigation of this urban battle. Brooks has done some detailed battlefield walking and this is reflected in his excellent account. A criticism of the book is perhaps the map of Lincoln should have been included in with the chapter about the battle, rather than at the front of the book. I read half the chapter before I remember to check for the map in the front. Perhaps there should have been a note at the start of the chapter reminding the reader of the location of the map. However, this is just a minor point in a very enjoyable book.

For those interested in medieval history, I whole heartedly recommend this particular book
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting tale, well told, 25 July 2014
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I have read many reviews about this book particularly by readers who mistakenly thought this was a work of fiction (!) or felt the prose was too academic or that there were too many statistics. These did not deter me however and I am glad that I purchased this title.

I like many others have a very imperfect understanding about the origins or Magna Carta, King John and the Barons' Revolt, and this title seemed like a modern take on the events leading up to that significant event as seen through the eyes of one of the major, if little known, protagonists, William the Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. This person first came to my notice in Ridley Scott's 2010 take on the legend of Robin Hood. In this film, the Marshall is ably plaid by William Hurt but very little is known about his exciting earlier life as a Knight Errant, a jousting champion and a winner on the international tournament scene.

Brooks' biography does a sterling job in bringing this man to life by detailing the context and events of the time when the Marshall lived. This work does tend to rely quite heavily on the "History" and other contemporary sources but as the author makes clear on numerous occasions, very little of the Marshall's life has come down to us. I found the author's evaluation of sources to be balanced, and his interpretation and analysis of characters and events to be lively. Brooks is also critical of previous modern day interpretations and outlines his proofs in a logical fashion. I found the prose easy to follow and yes there are a lot of statistics than most would find in a coffee table work of history but I found that rather than detracting from the story, the tables of data actually enhances the understanding of the Marshall and helped to bring him to life. I managed to digest this book in less than three days which is a testament to the fast flowing way in which Brooks has penned this much needed biography. This tale of an unsung Medieval hero is long overdue and to be highly recommended.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 14 April 2014
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 (General Military) (Paperback)
Richard Brooks gives us here an illuminating book about William Marshal. To understand the importance of William and what his legacy to us means this book also shows us the political situation of the period, where England had been decimated by civil war and France was trying to gain some sort of supremacy.

From the outset and until his death we see how William changed as he grew older and started to learn from his experiences and that of others. Definitely the right man for this period of history William grew to hold immense power, and made sure that the Magna Charta stayed in force and kept the French from conquering our country and annexing it to France.

Of course William Marshal wasn’t perfect, far from it, although he was held up as an example of a fine Knight. He wasn’t above the usual sort of things you would expect, such as tax fraud (some things never change), he was also always on the lookout for the main chance and could be a bit slippery. However, despite this he was obviously a lot more honest and trustworthy than certain others who held position and power after him, although arguably at a lower level.

From the very beginning of this book you are shown how things could have been very much different in today’s world than they currently are, or even if some things had come about, it could have been centuries later. So although not necessarily that well known today William Marshal should still live on in our hearts; after all you could say he helped us forge a national identity separate from our European neighbours.

This book as well as being well researched and very interesting is also a relatively easy read, and if you don’t know much about the period of which Richard Brooks is writing you don’t have to worry, as you are in some ways given a crash course into the politics, diplomacy, conflicts and machinations of the period. In all this is a very satisfactory read that should have more than enough in it to keep most people satisfied.

As well as the main text you also have some great photos here and lists of such things as the major castles of the time, and the battles that William Marshal was present at, as well as some basic family trees.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit clunky but a remarkable (true) story enthusiastically written, 2 Jun 2014
By 
Upgader (Malvern, England) - See all my reviews
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This period of the Middle Ages was not one I had read about before and is fascinating. I never realised before how close England came to being a province of the then developing French nation! Nor had I heard of William Marshall before : surely one of the most under reported 'game changers' in our tumultuous history. Mr Brooks is obviously a military historian and there is much detail of medieval military tactics and equipment in this book as well as the key point history of the Angevin monarchy : Henry II, Richard I, John and the early years of Henry III's reign as William Marshall's life spanned all of this eventful period. I mark the book down a little simply because the author in my view assumes too much historical knowledge of the period from the reader as he sweeps back and forth to examine the key events in detail. However I am still pleased to have read the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great wel documented history, not all well known. Not a work of historical fiction., 15 Jun 2014
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Sir William the Marshal had 5 sons (2nd to 6th Earls of Pembroke in succession) but they all died without heirs, in fulfilment of an Irish curse upon the Marshal. Fortunately he had 5 daughters and I am descended from Isobel who married Gilbert de Clare, and Eva who married William de Braose. The male lines of these 2 other Marcher Lords are also extinct, like those of many of the other Anglo Norman Barons, but the female line persisted. Furthermore I live only 30 miles (46 Km) from Lincoln Castle where the crucial events of this book, and the salvation of England from the last almost successful foreign invasion and occupation (by the Dauphin) occurred. In consequence I may have a predjudice, in favour of books about the Sir William, who also featured in Shakespeare's "King John" as Pembroke.
I prefer history to historical fiction, and this book makes no attempt to be fiction. It certainly does cover many other contemporary persons and events, but in a relevant and historical way. I probably learned nothing really new to me about his life, that I had not discoverd from previous reading. However the relief of Lincoln Castle in the 2nd Battle of Lincoln was covered in far more detail than I was aware of. Sir William was 70 when he led the final charge on horseback.
His career as a jouster, soldier, Crusader, politician and loyal supporter of 5 consecutive kings of England, including being Protector of the young Henry III, and closely involved in the development of Magna Carta, made him one of the greatest Englishmen of the Middle Ages.
He was the only man who unseated Richard Coeur de Lion, in defense of the Old King (Henry II). On the Lion Heart's Accession to the throne he was accused of trying to kill Prince Richard previously. Sir William replied that was impossible as Richard was still alive, though his horse was not. Richard rewarded him for William's loyalty to the old King by creating the Marshal Earl of Pembroke, and giving him Isabel de Clare, daughter of Strongbow, and the richest heiress in the country, as a wife.
This well researched and documented book does justice to this unusual man, and the threat to England that he helped overcome.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelation - excellent on motivation and lifestyle of a knight, 11 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 (General Military) (Paperback)
Anyone who thinks that the England of today was the result of a smooth progress from the arrival of the Normans, via the Magna Carta, to the present day will find this book a revelation.

Taking as his main source the epic poem “L’Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal” backed up by his own research into and translation of the poem, Richard Brooks tells the story of William Marshal who served four of England’s monarchs during his long life.

Using this source, previous accounts of the period are examined and clarified, and contradictions explained.

Overall, the book gives a view of the dynastic turmoil, treacheries and betrayals in the England and France of the 12th and 13th centuries. The treacheries occasionally resulted in the punishment of castration, occasionally meted out to members of one’s own family

“The normal state of affairs in England was civil war” as the author sums it up, blaming “the inconstancy of the English (lords)” who backed whichever side seemed to be winning, in contrast to William Marshal whose loyalty to his monarch brought him great respect.

On the lighter side, there is an excellent discussion of how an experienced knight could make considerable financial gain from a good showing at a tournament.

Towards the end of his life, Marshal held to his allegiance to King John, and was instrumental in finding sufficient common ground on ‘Magna Carta’ so that King John could accept it. The author makes clear that both sides, king and barons, viewed ‘Magna Carta’ as a document which would buy them time, rather being of historical significance.

After King John’s death Marshall remained loyal to his son, the young King Henry III, while the majority of the the barons of England were in such open revolt that they offered the crown of England to the king of France.

By rallying the Royalist forces, William led the campaign to expel the French forces, by The Dauphin, from England in 1217, after they were defeated at the Battle of Lincoln. The author points out that had The Dauphin triumphed, and the whole business was ‘a close-run thing’ the England of today may never have become established.

One last comment - in his discussion of the Battle of Lincoln, I would point out that It is a rare author who can bring out the urgency and drama in a battle without dramatising the event- Richard Brooks is such an author.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Like Penn's THE WINTER KING, a biography that provides a gripping picture of a complex man in a turbulent time, 17 Sep 2014
By 
David C. Isby "Author of THE DECISIVE DUEL: S... (Alexandria VA (or Gandamack Lodge, Kabul)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 (General Military) (Paperback)
The book starts with Marshal’s most important victory at Lincoln, when he was already an old man. It then tells the story from its beginning. In many ways a man of the xii century (e.g., he could not read), he had benefitted, as did so many in England, from the prosperity that had followed the wars associated with Stephen and Matilda. He had been hostage as a child and a crusader as a young knight. But he saw all his and his country’s hard-won gains put at risk by a cast of characters that still grabs our attention today: King Richard I , King John (boo!), the beautiful Queen Eleanor or Saint Louis (busy turning the Ile-de-France into France). William Marshal was such a powerful man that the author can give him centre stage even with these powerful figures shaping events.

If you liked William Penn’s THE WINTER KING, you may find this interesting as a biography of a medieval Englishman not only from a different era, but of a different character. The books’ claim that Marshal saved England is certainly buttressed by its narrative, how time and time again he proved to be the indispensable man, either as a counselor or as a military commander. The book treats his statecraft with respect as well as his strategy and tactics. The author shows an understanding of medieval warfare without falling into the trap, consciously or unconsciously, that things happened back then as they did in our own time. The author makes a point of providing this information so that the story is understandable even by non-specialists without diminishing Marshal and his time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Knight Who Saved England., 15 Jun 2014
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Good reading if you like history but got bogged down with statistics. Still it was worth the effort just to establish the problems he had during a lifetime of service to the crown.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good history but not tightly edited, 31 May 2014
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Richard Bond - See all my reviews
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Intriguing snippet of medieval history and especially interesting on the immediate aftermath of Magna Carta. Well researched on the warfare strategies and tactics of the time. Could have benefitted from tighter editing.
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