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William Marshal: Court, Career and Chivalry in the Angevin Empire, 1147-1219 (The Medieval World) Paperback – 1 Oct 1990

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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William Marshal
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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Longman; 1st edition (1 Oct. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0582037867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0582037861
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.9 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 394,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


'A refreshingly readable book'

J R Maddicott, The Times Literary Supplement

From the Back Cover

'a tour de force.....The world of the Angevin court is splendidly recreated, and Dr Crouch succeeds admirably in explaining the reality of the chivalric ethos. For him, the celebrations after a battle had more in common with the atmosphere in the bar of a rugby club than with that of the enclosures at Henley or the ski-slopes of Klosters - Dr. Crouch is adept at finding striking modern parallels'.

History Today

'a refreshingly readable book, it makes a contribution to medieval studies quite out of proportion to its size'


' Crouch resurrects a lost world in fluent, economic and readable prose, often enlivened by colloquialisms and contemporary parallels'

Southern History

'Written in a racy, accessible, idiosyncratic style, which might have appealed to the Marshal himself, it should be read by everyone interested in medieval people, politics and society'



William Marshal is the one medieval knight who had a contemporary biography written about him. He was THE knight of all knights as far as we are concerned today. He is the only medieval man whose authentic experience of aristocratic military life is preserved for us.

-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I would recommend this book to anyone who has already read Sidney Painter's 1937 biography. Dr Crouch updates Painter with modern research and addresses new questions that have arisen since it was written. The appendices are particularly useful.
I would not recommend this book to someone who had not done any other reading on the twelfth century, because Dr Crouch assumes background knowledge of the history of the period and his book is not as detailed as Dr Painter's.
I also find some of his variations from Painter bemusing, but it is difficult to judge who is right because there is no edition of their source, the 'Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschel' available to the lay reader, in translation or otherwise.
Hopefully Dr Crouch and his colleagues will remedy this soon. It is only 140 years overdue.
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Format: Hardcover
You could read this book as an intro to Medieval war tactics or Knightly habits or even Medieval kingship, but read it for the man. William Marshall should be known by every English speaking child because without him, we'd probably be speaking French (and yes he was a Norman by descent), but still he ensured that France's attempts to invade England failed and then he sat on the throne as Regent for Henry III without trying to claim power (when he could have). In his day he was famous throughout Europe as an exemplary knight and a man of personal honor. This book not only introduces you to Marshall, but you get a glimpse of the real King John who I found absolutely fascinating. Marshall miraculously survived his day job as a Knight to die an old man after serving four English Kings. After Marshall's death, his wife and children commissioned a poet to write the story of his life which is why we know so much about him. In my opinion, there aren't many men in history who lived lives intertwined with the most powerful men of their days who could be labelled heroes, William Marshall is one of them.
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Format: Paperback
David Crouch's biography of William Marshal, an icon in his own time, a courtier and knight who served five kings--Henry II, Henry the Young King, Richard the Lionheart, John, and Henry III--as well as a queen, Eleanor of Aquitane, coming to represent the ideal of the corteis (courtly) to his peers and the embodiment of chevalerie for those who have since studied the period, does much to ground the legend and question earlier interpretations that often accepted the contemporary accounts of Marshal's life at face value. Earlier biographers, such as Painter and the French doyen of medieval history, Georges Duby, based much of their understanding of Marshal's life upon the posthumous "Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal," a still extant epic poem commissioned by Marshal's sons and followers to celebrate his life and many accomplishments. Surprisingly, previous writers have chosen to base their biographies, especially Duby, almost entirely upon what is obviously, regardless of any factual accounting, a suspect source, in doing so ignoring other contemporary documents that go a long way to tempering the portrait of Marshal, not only in the "Historie" but in the subsequent biographies from which they were based.
Instead of the chivalric hero of battlefield and tournament cast in the mold of Chretien de Troyes, or the often fortunate simpleton of Duby that rose to the heights of medieval society through the sheer prowess of his arms, in Crouch we find a poor, relatively minor-born knight who through valor and shrewd financial self-interest uses both the battle and tournament field to promote his own fortunes, aided at times by pure good luck, which he is quick to turn to his own advantage.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am not an academic, but I work in the field of Medieval history in my job and I know the period well. I have read all three biographies of William Marshal i.e. the Crouch, the Painter and the Duby. I have also read the Anglo Norman Text Society's translation of the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal and through other sources I can probably say I know the Marshal very well indeed. Professor Crouch has done a sterling job in bringing the Marshal to life and he wears his scholarship with an authoritative but light hand that non academic readers will find accessible, but which does not stint on integrity. It's a 'proper' biography (unlike some of Alison Weir's offerings for example). If I digress in some of my opinions of the Marshal with professor Crouch, then it's just a case of personal interpretation and agreeing to differ. I would say he is too cynical. He would probably call me over-romantic!
I wouldn't put this book above the Painter, but would say read them side by side for an excellent, balanced overview. Well deserving of 5 stars.
Oh, and take the Duby with a large pinch of salt. If you only read one of the 3 Marshal biogs, then Crouch is the one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First published a quarter of a century ago, this relatively short book - some 216 pages of text but with numerous footnotes, a couple of useful appendices and some excellent maps – is a fine and first class piece of scholarship. It has stood the test of time to such an extent that more recent books on the same topic are heavily “inspired” from it, to put it mildly.

Unlike many of these books, and most recently Thomas Asbridge’s book on William Marshal, David Crouch’s volume is a real biography rather than “a life and times” of whatever “great man” happens to be the subject. The meaning here is that it is more tightly focused upon its subject instead on containing numerous digressions and extra pages that add context. In other terms, David Crouch’s book is a piece of scholarship, although written in a clear and simple way, rather than a book targeted at the so-called “general public”.

It is also a seminal book on which many of the more recent publications draw upon, if only because of the author’s major research work in gathering all the charters where William Marshal appear and using these as evidence to supplement and check the contents of the written (and biased) biography of this extraordinarily successful knight. In addition to this, analysing these documents allows David Crouch to reconstitute how and when William Marshall accumulated his landed estates and, perhaps even more importantly, who were his supporters, the knights of his “mesnie” and his friends.

One of the most fascinating features that comes across from this book is not that William Marshall was some kind of “super-hero” and paragon, contrary perhaps to what his (carefully built) reputation makes him out to be but that he was essentially a man of his time.
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