WILLIAM MARSHAL: The Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby

WILLIAM MARSHAL: The Flower of Chivalry

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Medieval Scholar Duby's biographical portrait of William Marshal, the first earl of Pembroke and God's first lieutenant on Earth, is constructed not as a history of events, nor strictly as biography, but as a study of the culture of chivalry. The story of William Marshal was originally told in a long poem, L'Histoire de Gullaume le Marechal. A vernacular work completed some years after Marshal's death in 1219, it is one of the early monuments of French Literature. This work--a commissioned panegyric, but also a detailed chronicle of a man and his era--is naturally Duby's primary source. Marshal began life as the youngest son, a position that denied him inheritance or importance, but through battlefield prowess became a respected and powerful knight. His career demonstrated uncompromising dedication to the ideals of chivalry, especially loyalty to the Plantagenet kings. He signed the Magna Carta, and at the end of his unusually long life--he was probably over 70--Marshal served as regent to the boy king, Henry III. Duby delves deep beneath the medieval text to create a vivid portrait of the man, his motives, his ethics, and his peers. The text is terse, sometimes quirky in style. Very short, and often fragmentary sentences are arranged in balanced meter, in places reading like L'Histoire itself. In addition, Duby uses present tense throughout. These unusual devices occasionally intrude, but in general they add drama to this fascinating study of what chivalry meant in human terms.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 039475154X
Publisher: Pantheon