on 1 August 2007
William Marshal steps out of the pages of history and, larger than life, provides us with an insight into the times in which he lived. This novel opens in 1197 and depicts the turbulent times around the reigns of King Richard I and King John.
While following the life of William and his wife Isabelle, we are treated to a finely depicted view of the politics, intrigue and events of medieval England and Ireland. The novel is multi-faceted: it enables us to relate to William and Isabelle as two human beings who needed to balance their own needs and those of their family with the code of honour and political constraints of the day. At the same time, the known historical facts are woven into the story in a way that breathes life into history and will have many readers wanting to know more about the actual events depicted.
And while those readers are learning more about the history, I have been provided with another hero worthy of my admiration.
Brava, Ms Chadwick! Few authors have ever made medieval history as interesting to me as you have.
The Scarlet Lion is the second of two standalone novels about William Marshal. The Greatest Knight is the first.
Historical fiction just doesn't get any better than this. A wonderful tale of one of the most honorable men to grace this earth, William Marshal and his true partner in all things, his wife Isabelle.
The first novel, The Greatest Knight, covered more of William Marshal's early life as a knight and courtier. This novel covers his life with Isabel and the dangers and terrors of living in the court of the King John, and then as regent for the young Henry III. I have to admit shedding more than a few tears at the last chapter, the end of Williams life.
I have read all of this author's works that I can get my hands on and I am amazed at how consistly she is improving (not that the earlier works were poorly written at all). Always an excellent story, a great history lesson and it's amazing how she effortlessly brings you into the sights, smells, sounds and life of another century. As someone else said, "The next best thing to time travel".
on 27 December 2006
Elizabeth Chadwick has given us a holiday gift---the sequel to her outstanding novel, The Greatest Knight. The Scarlet Lion picks up the life of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and eventual Regent of England in the early 1200s. To say that this man was more than a mere knight would be an understatement of the first order, and would be a disservice to the writing skills Ms. Chadwick displays so well.
Where should I begin in describing this magnificent novel? Maybe I will start with William's accomplishments, all of which were almost unheard of for someone who had to make his own way in life. Or perhaps I should begin with the cast of characters who populate this tale, among them Richard the Lion Heart, King John of Magna Carta fame, and the young Henry III who was placed in the care of Marshal upon the death of his father. But starting with those would take away the heart of the novel: the uncommon relationship between William and his wife, Isabelle. William, in a time when women were basically chattel, cherished his wife and listened to her counsel. Ms. Chadwick has taken all of these historical facts and woven them into one grand tapestry that brings Marshal to life and inserts him into your heart, mind, and soul. Her research is impeccable, and her gift of phrase will make you want to slow down while reading so as to savor every word.
To those who are lovers of good fiction, this is one of the best and truly deserving of a widespread audience. To those who are lovers of historical fiction, I can say with complete assurance that this will be a book you will treasure forever. Ms. Chadwick's skill in recreating the past pulls you into the story immediately, and won't let you go once you close the book. Highly, highly recommended.
on 24 July 2007
When reading a historical book, often they can be spoiled, as you generally know the outcome.. You know who will become king, and who will live and die.. However as this book is about a largely unknown figure it held me in suspense from the start of the Greatest Knight, to the end of the Scarlet Lion...
This sequal is as good, if not better than the first. Although it could be read seperatley, I think it would be benefical to read the Greatest Knight First..
Scarlet Lion gives more focus to Williams domestic life, the fate of his wife, his Irish lands, even his mother in law! A big concern in the book is how his sons are raised and their own attitudes to their father.. Which William does not want to mirror how Henry II's sons feel about him.
These books really brought William to life, and I must say I am very fond of him! He really was the greatest knight.
In this stirring historical novel, Elisabeth Chadwick, presents a dazzling recreation of the second part of the life of Willim Marshall, Earl of Pembroke und Regent of England and maybe the most loyal servant of the Plantagenet dynasty. She fills it with the sights and sounds of battle, the customs and lore of the 12th/13th-century daily life, the rigors of court politics, and the passion of the highborn. Most of all, it brings to life a gifted man, who held close to his principles, a man of moderation who acquired the respect of friend and foe. Fact and fiction are interwoven nicely. Elisabeth Chadwick's novel is rich in detail and research that brings a far off time to brillant life. Elizabeth Chadwick's characters are so shrewdly imagined, so full of resonant human feeling that they seem to breath on the page. Chadwick showcases her mastery of historicl novel - absolutely fantastic!!
Elizabeth Chadwick has a string of excellent historical novels behind her. Much of her research is carried out as a member of a medieval re-enactment society called Regia Anglorum. Many of her books could I suppose be called historical romances, but certainly not in the Mills and Boon mode. Her books are well written historical fiction that may or may not have a romantic attachment woven into them. Her books are not directed at a male or female audience, they are for everyone with a love of historical novels.
From his early beginnings as a tournament knight William Marshall's bravery and loyalty have been rewarded by marriage to Isabelle de Clare, heiress to great estates not only in England but also France and Ireland. Now a very powerful man in his own right William has come through the difficult years in England, brought about by the absence of the Lionheart on crusade. William is currently serving the King on campaign in Normandy while Isabelle governs the estate.
But everything that William Marshall and Isabelle hold dear comes down around their heads when Richard dies and his brother John takes up the throne of England. Whenever the two men have met before each tended to rub the other one up the wrong way. William and Isabelle try to distance themselves from John by returning to their estates in Ireland, but John counteracts this by holding their sons as hostage and confiscating their English lands. A man such as William will not take this sort of thing lying down and his dislike of King John turns to something much more forceful . . .
on 10 January 2007
I really wish I could give this novel more than 5 stars but if I did they would be as infinite as the stars in the sky! This novel is the sequel to THE GREATEST KNIGHT: THE STORY OF WILLIAM MARSHAL but is also an excellent stand-alone novel. However, I'd recommend reading it first to truly appreciate all the young man's life and accomplishments before his married life brings about more.
In this novel William and his wife Isabelle de Clare, Countess of Leinster and Striguil, have no more stability as Richard, The Lionheart, King of England suddenly dies of a battle wound. His younger brother John Lackland has been named his heir and their world and everyone else in it that is connected to the royal family has their lives turned upside down. John is a vindictive and cruel king, especially to those who are most loyal to him. He strips William of lands but not before he has taken two of his sons hostage for his good behavior which William has always displayed time and time again.
King John trusts no one and creates havoc in his own kingdom. The barons are set to rebel against him thus bringing about the Magna Carta. Before any of this comes to pass the unthinkable happens threatening to throw the kingdom into chaos yet again. William and Isabelle are unshakable through all of this yet William is finally succumbing to old age.
I could barely make it through the last chapter of the book, 46. I literally had tears streaming down my face and had to remove my glasses more than once to clear my vision to continue. I truly believe this is Elizabeth Chadwick's best novel yet! This author never disappoints but this time she went above and beyond the call of duty! Thank you Susan for an incredible read, all others pale in comparison to your genius! Read this book, you'll be under her spell and will be compelled to read the rest of her books!
P.S. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE MAPS! I LOVED BEING ABLE TO LOCATE ALL OF THE PLACES MENTIONED IN THE STORY. Thank you too for the genealogy charts of the Kings of England and William Marshal's line. These additions made the story that much more enjoyable!
English history is my personal esoteric interest, especially the period of the first Plantagenet monarchs: Henry II, Richard I (the Lionheart), John, and Henry III. Orbiting each of the four at one time or another was England's incomparable, albeit unsung, representative of feudal loyalty, William Marshal, who became 1st Earl of Pembroke. In addition to serving the monarchs mentioned, Marshal also pledged vassalage to Henry II's queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the Young King Henry, the eldest son of Henry II and Eleanor acknowledged and crowned as the heir and future king while his father was still in his prime and ruling. Of course, William pledged his loyal service to only one at a time as honorable circumstance or invitation called upon him to do so, and that occasionally made it a dodgy walk along the precipice considering the notable dysfunctionality of Henry II's family.
The SCARLET LION is Elizabeth Chadwick's sequel to The Greatest Knight: The Story of William Marshal. The book pair is a supremely engaging work of historical fiction about medieval England for any casual or serious student of the time and the 1st Earl of Pembroke.
William was born in 1146 and died at age 73. The forty-three chapters plus Epilogue of THE GREATEST KNIGHT span the period from the summer of 1167, when Marshal was a newly minted young knight in the household of Sir Guillaume de Tancarville, Chamberlain of Normandy and a distant kinsman, to May 1194, when William, accompanied by his heiress wife, Isabelle de Clare, and their two sons and daughter, embark by ship for Normandy with Marshal's lord at the time, King Richard.
The forty-six chapters plus Epilogue of THE SCARLET LION span the period from the summer of 1197, near the end of the Lionheart's reign, to Marshal's death in the spring of 1219.
Each chapter advances the two-volume plot by several months to three years depending on the events of importance in William's life. THE GREATEST KNIGHT comprises his time in Queen Eleanor's retinue, his years in the Young King's household, his touneying days, the Young King's revolt against his father, the Young King's death, his time in Henry II's retinue, Henry's death during the revolt by Richard and John, his marriage to Isabelle, his appointment as a Royal Justiciar by King Richard, John's revolt against Richard during the latter's German imprisonment, Richard's ransom, and Richard's return to England. THE SCARLET LION encompasses the birth of the rest of Marshal's ten children, the death's of Richard and Queen Mother Eleanor, the time William and Isabelle spent in Ireland administering the latter's inherited lands, Marshal's uneasy relationship with King John, Magna Carta and the Baron's Revolt, John's death, William's role as Regent for the boy-king Henry III, and the invasion of England by, and the English defeat of, the French Crown Prince Louis.
The only (minor) criticism I can level is that nothing is written about the terms of the Magna Carta, a traditional and venerable pillar to Anglo-American democracy; an educational opportunity was thus lost.
THE GREATEST KNIGHT and THE SCARLET LION are based on the biography of Marshal's life, the HISTOIRE DE GUILLAUME LE MARECHAL, commissioned by his family soon after his death. Elizabeth Chadwick embellishes those parts of William's life not covered by the HISTOIRE, but in a manner she trusts is consistent with the man's personality and achievements. The two books should perhaps be read as companion pieces to a fine non-fiction narrative, William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby, also based on the HISTOIRE.
Chadwick's Marshal duo not only serves as a thoroughly engaging vehicle of reading entertainment, but also as a lesson in the disadvantages of governance by feudalism, which was first and foremost a vertical network of social, military, and legal obligations between members of the nobility on several levels, from lowest knight to King, sometimes even crossing national boundaries. This often resulted in a perilous situation that called for careful stepping. As the reader will see, Marshal managed to survive in the lions' den, and indeed prospered, with his honor intact to become England's preeminent example of integrity and chivalry.
Marshal is buried in London's Temple Church. I regret that I never knew enough to pay my respects at his tomb on any of my many visits to the city. In our age of blemished or non-existent heroes, honor is due.
on 6 April 2007
This is the best historical novel I have ever read. Chadwick's facts are so correct. I couldn't put the book down. It is fantastic. A must read for anyone interested in medieval English history. William Marshall was an amazing man. One can just picture the times, the costumes, the castles.
on 12 September 2016
A bit disappointing really - I bought this book having read the reviews and having previously met the character of William Marshal in the Sharon Penman novels. I have to say that Penman is a much better author - this book was ok but I wouldn't bother reading it again, whereas I read Penman's novels again and again.