• The Greatest Knight

  • The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones
  • By: Thomas Asbridge
  • Narrated by: Derek Perkins
  • Length: 14 hrs and 29 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (812 ratings)

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The Greatest Knight

By: Thomas Asbridge
Narrated by: Derek Perkins
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Publisher's Summary

In The Greatest Knight, renowned historian Thomas Asbridge draws upon the thirteenth-century biography and an array of other contemporary evidence to present a compelling account of William Marshal's life and times. Asbridge charts the unparalleled rise to prominence of a man bound to a code of honor yet driven by unquenchable ambition.

Marshal was the true Lancelot of his era - a peerless warrior and paragon of chivalry. As a five-year-old boy, William was sentenced to execution and led to the gallows, yet this landless younger son survived his brush with death and went on to train as a medieval knight. Against all odds Marshal rose through the ranks - serving at the right hand of five English monarchs - to become a celebrated tournament champion, a baron and politician, and, ultimately, regent of the realm.

This knight's tale lays bare the brutish realities of medieval warfare and the machinations of the royal court and draws us into the heart of a formative period of our history. It is the story of one remarkable man, the birth of the knightly class to which he belonged, and the forging of the English nation.

©2014 Thomas Asbridge (P)2015 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Readers seeking a deeper understanding of early tournaments and the origins of chivalry will be pleased." (Library Journal)

"Derek Perkins skillfully narrates Asbridge's history of the exemplary twelfth-century knight William Marshall.... Perkins's voice has something of the medieval in it, and he easily fills the contours of a narrative that ranges from the manufacture of knight's armor to its bloody use on the field of battle. Here is Arthurian legend at its core - and one of the year's true sleepers." (AudioFile)

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The Biography of a Legend

Credited as the very embodiment of chivalry in a time with the concept was just coming into its own, William Marshal was very nearly executed at the age of five yet would go on to serve as the backbone of the Plantagenet dynasty. He would rebel against kings, serve alongside kings, go on Crusade, and become instrumental in the signing of Magna Carta. By any measure, this man is a legend in the annals of knighthood, England, and the whole of the Middle Ages.

This new biography is nothing less than impressive. While it does help to have some background knowledge of the Plantagenet dynasty and its key players (I highly recommend Dan Jones' The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England), the great thing about this book is that it does stand on its own for those who are just dipping their toes into this part of history. This means it works very well as both an introduction to the man and his times and as supplemental reading to other works. It's an easy read, but it's by no means lightweight in its approach. The result is that the Greatest Knight steps out to shine as one of the most respected men in history, fully accessible to modern readers some 800 years later.

11 people found this helpful

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Rare biography of a true knight

the rarity of a volume about an average man who broke the rules of the Middle Ages to become a figure of myth and greatness. Thus the focus is on some people and incidents that do not get much attention. Such as the details between Henry the second and his battles with his sons rather than the killing of Thomas Becket. Worth the time.

6 people found this helpful

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Six Stars!

This book is a diamond in every way. The subject. The story. The writing. The narration. The everything. This story is the perfect antidote for our modern era populated by conniving duplicitous politicians, press and business. In an era when no one has any values and no one can be trusted, it's reassuring to know that once someone like William Marshall lived. Many thanks to Thomas Asbridge for writing this book. It was a flawless immersive experience.

5 people found this helpful

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true story of an amazing knight

This is the incredible story of William Marshal who rose from hostage who escaped execution as a child to renown knight to navigating deadly political waters. During the course of his life he served 5 kings and was known for his loyalty. In his lifetime he was known as a fierce warrior and he helped shape the chivalric code of knights.

The author does an excellent job of describing medieval life, especially of knights. William Marshal's life encompassed the reigns of Stephen through Henry III. William was larger than life. I recommend this book to anyone interested in medieval European history.

The narration is excellent. Derek Perkins did a wonderful job. Sometimes I shy away from history audiobooks because too often the narration is dull. Mr. Perkins kept the pace interesting.

4 people found this helpful

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  • CJ
  • 07-06-22

Excellent..

Born a commoner, he rose to the pinnacle of power as regent to Henry III. He made & shaped England‘s history. Through his daughter Isabel, William is ancestor to the Bruce & Stewart kings of Scotland. By his granddaughter Maud de Braose, William is ancestor to the last Plantagenet kings, Edward IV through to Richard III, and all English monarchs from Henry VIII ➡️ Elizabeth II

2 people found this helpful

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Absolutely superb

What an engaging read! From start to finish a pure delight. Exceedingly well researched and well read...

2 people found this helpful

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Wonderful Story

This is a great read. The historical points are well researched and approached from multiple sources to provide as clear a picture as possible about William Marshall's life. While no one can be perfect, Marshall was a prototype of chivalry, courage, and loyalty and his story is fascinating.

2 people found this helpful

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A good story told poorly....

Fascinating story, but the author certainly took his time getting to the point. Would have appreciated it more if he hadn't spend so much time guessing at the emotions that the characters "must have felt" during different times.

1 person found this helpful

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Wiliam Marshall is an AMAZING subject

Sadly, I cannot bear to listen to this narrator talk about him. Sometimes he sounds...overly reverential, I suppose, is the word I want...and sometimes this sounds like sarcasm. And Asbridge is nowhere close to either of those things, about literally the most impressive human being born in England between 1066 and 1776, that I've ever read about.

The mismatch to my ear is just too much.

1 person found this helpful

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A Lively Story of a Real Knight

This audio book was enjoyable and interesting. William Marshall was an amazing character. Since (as the author tells us) the word "marshall" refers to a knight, I wasn't sure if his surname was actually Marshall, or that he was simply William (the) Marshall. In any event, he was sentenced to death by the King at the age of five, and luckily escaped and ultimately became the greatest knight.. How that happened is a long and convoluted amazing story worth reading. He served several monarchs; fought (essentially unsuccessfully) in the Second Crusade and eventually even became Regent for a boy King. I particularly found the background and early history of jousting to be very interesting (knights had to have something to do when there were no wars, so they jousted to keep up their skills and more importantly to make sure that they didn't get into trouble). In the end, I would have to say that I didn't get a real sense of who Marshall was, But I do know what he did and the time in which he lived. Maybe the background history on him is sketch; and maybe we can only know the events and not the man. Still, this is a worthwhile story well read, for anyone interested in that vanished time which is almost impossible to fathom..

1 person found this helpful