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To Defy A King (William Marshal) Hardcover – 6 May 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847442366
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847442369
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 4.5 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 408,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


As always, Chadwick simply dazzles the reader with her superb characterisation, her ability to bring the period alive, so we feel as if we are walking alongside the characters, seeing what they see, hearing the tumult surrounding them - sharing in their agonies, and celebrating their joys. I cannot commend the work of Chadwick's highly enough - if you enjoy historical fiction, she will surely become a firm favourite, if she isn't already (Bookbag blog)

Chadwick skilfully weaves her impressive historical research into a gripping narrative (Daily Express)

Book Description

A spell-binding historical novel set in the 13th century

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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By Misfit TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 1 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
Although that's pretty much standard for me with this author's books. To Defy a King is the story of Mahelt, the eldest and most beloved daughter of my favorite hunk in history, William Marshal. Preparing an extended trip to get their lands in Ireland under control, Mahelt's parents are anxious to see her married before he leaves and to that end she is betrothed to Hugh Bigod, the son of Roger Bigod the powerful Earl of Norfolk. While still too young for the marriage bed, Mahelt and Hugh are married and she joins the Bigods at Framlingham Castle, although the very-independent-minded Mahelt and set-in-his-ways Roger don't always see eye to eye.

When Mahelt reaches her fifteenth birthday she and Hugh are able to consummate their marriage and begin building a family together, but their happiness is ultimately threatened by the escalating tensions between King John and his barons. Hugh also has a lot of tension of his own to deal with from his half-brother William Longespée, who is quite full of himself and his relationship to the King (he is John's half-brother through his mother Ida see more about that in The Time of Singing);

"...although for Longespée attendance on John was a validation of his royal blood and an opportunity to pose in fine clothes."

The conflicts finally lead to open revolt against the King and Mahelt finds herself torn between loyalty to the Bigods who want to oust John and her father who swore fealty to John and is honor bound to keep it. And what of her beloved brothers who have been held hostage for years by John to ensure her father's loyalty?

"Do not talk to me of God. I have been supping with the Devil...
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Format: Hardcover
To Defy A King tells the story of Mahelt Marshal, favourite daughter of the powerful William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. At fourteen Mahelt is married to Hugh, eldest son of Roger and Ida Bigod. Hugh's half-brother is William of Salisbury (known as William Longespee), and his half-brother is King John. The book is all about divided loyalties: Hugh and Longespee have an uneasy relationship and Mahelt finds herself caught between the family she was born into and the one she married into. As the country descends into civil war, Hugh and Mahelt find themselves on the opposite side to Longespee and to Mahelt's beloved father.

I wasn't sure at first how much I would like Mahelt, who is very headstrong, a little spoiled and begins the book with a lot of growing up to do. But while she does have the occasional Fallon Carrington moment, once she married Hugh I found myself totally on her side. A paradox of historical fiction is that while readers usually prefer feisty heroines, in the past assertiveness was not appreciated in women and strong-willed females usually suffered for their lack of pliability. While Mahelt develops into a very appealing heroine, she pays the price for her rebelliousness more than once.

The theme of rebellion comes to the fore in the years leading up to Magna Carta, as the king's relationship with his barons steadily deteriorates. While this novel is written from the point of view of the barons driven to breaking point by King John's abuse of his power, Elizabeth Chadwick brings balance to the narrative by allowing us to glimpse John's point of view. My favourite character was Longespee, who is caught between his identification with his royal heritage, his loyalty to John and the connection he feels to his Bigod relatives.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is effectively the fourth in the quartet of novels the author has written about the dominant Marshal family in Angevin England. The leading figure here is William Marshal's eldest daughter, Mahelt (who was later in life the only surviving Marshal of her generation and was appointed hereditary Marshal of England after the deaths without heirs of all five of her brothers - surely a unique role in the period for a non-royal female). The thrust of the novel is the clash between love and duty towards family on the one hand; and loyalty and honour towards one's seigneur or King on the other, during the troubled times of King John after the loss of Normandy (when Christ and His Saints, if not actually sleeping, were certainly dozing in a rather relaxed state). The story is as colourful a page turner as all Ms Chadwick's novels are, though I was somewhat less keen on this than the William Marshal novels, and I found Mahelt's relentlessly headstrong nature and constant stubborn refusal to compromise on any issue of any nature a bit irritating at times. Hugh and Roger Bigod came across very well, especially the former, while William Marshal very much took a back seat here and was hardly in it, despite being the mainstay of support for King John. John is certainly depicted here as without a single redeeming feature (except perhaps a love of books); and indeed his ability to alienate so many barons to the point where they fought for the French dauphin Louis as their preferred alternative monarch could have radically altered the course of English history, had not John died unexpectedly at the age of 49 in 1216 and prompted most of those barons to reassess their position and declare loyalty to the boy king Henry III and William Marshal as his guardian. In sum, despite minor reservations, this was as engaging a read as ever. 4/5
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