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The History of William Marshal

William Marshal’s outstanding career and his rise in power would not have been possible without Henry the Young King. From the fourth son and landless knight he had still been in 1170s he eventually became one of the most powerful men in the Angevin empire and during the minority of the future Henry III the regent of England. Some time ago I wrote an article about the beginnings of what was to become William and the Young King’s lifelong friendship. In it I mainly focused on the earlier years spent by William in the Plantagenet household, the years when he served his young lord as tutor in arms, guide and most faithful companion. To read it click here.

Upon William’s death, on 14 May 1219, his eldest son and namesake commissioned one John, a poet to write a poem on an epic scale to celebrate his late father’s life story. Written in Middle French and comprising 19,214 lines in rhyming couplets, the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal is the only surviving biography of a layman of that time, and it is a treasure chest full of information concerning not only William himself, but also his young lord, Henry. Elizabeth Chadwick celebrated the life of William Marshal in her two wonderful novels, The Greatest Knight (2005) and The Scarlet Lion (2006). The first focuses in greater part on William-Henry adventurous and sometimes tempestuous relationship and describes at length their marvelous exploits on the tournament field. Miss Chadwick also wrote a brilliant text on William’s death anniversary to commemorate his long and eventful life. Some time ago she has started a new “series” on her blog, devoting one day per week entirely to the episode from the History. By her kind permission I would like to recommend all the parts “featuring” Henry the Young King.

The History of William Marshal Episode 7. Describes how the young William came to the attention of Queen Eleanor.

The History of William Marshal Episode 8. Tells us how William was appointed tutor to Henry the Young King.

The History of William Marshal Episode 9. Describes at length the events of the Great Revolt of 1173-74.

The History of William Marshal Episode 10. Gives us the recollection of the peaceful times spent in England and later on the tournament circuits of Normandy.

The History of William Marshal Episode 11. From which we learn more about the Young King, the worthy Philip of Flanders and the tournament techniques the latter employed. The author also includes my favourite anecdote concerning William Marshal, upon which Elizabeth Chadwick built a wonderful scene in the Greatest Knight, namely the tournament at Anet and its aftermath.

I am going to include the link each time the new episode appears on Living the History. For the time being, enjoy the reading!


  1. William, ahhhh, what a man! :) :)

  2. I think the word we're looking for is legend! Thanks for the links - I 'll check them out.

  3. Hi Kasia,

    Thank you for all's just oozing with great stuff. Now that I've been introduced to Elizabeth Chadwick's novels (Lady of the English), I want to continue & William Marshall will be next (well, after I finish the small stack I'm working on). So it will be fun to read all the links as well. So nice of you to include them.

    I hope all is well in your world....take care,

    1. Thanks Joan! As for Elizabeth Chadwick's novels, Lady of the English is on my TBR list. Quite recently I've read To Defy a King. Brilliantly written story of William Marshal's eldest daughter (and featuring the Marshal himself as well :-)).

      All is well in my world, thank you. At present I'm working on the new post, which should appear quite soon.


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