Last year I read the Greatest Knight, I liked it very much but somehow I was not compelled to pick up its sequel right away. Now I was looking through Elizabeth Chadwick's books trying to decide what to read for the E in the ABC Challenge and The Scarlet Lion seemed like the perfect choice.
If The Greatest Knight focused solely on William Marshall, The Scarlet Lion devotes great attention to his wife and his children. I loved it how the characters are brought to life, their problems and worries, the political decisions of trying to survive during the reign of King John.
William Marshall was one of the most powerful men in medieval England and, through, his wife Isabelle; he also had considerable power in Ireland. With this story the author shows us how difficult it was to achieve and maintain that power, especially as Marshall’s achievements truly were outstanding in any age. If William comes alive has the consummate courtier, who knows that sometimes it is better to wait and ignore some of the indignities and humiliations to come out the victor; it is Isabelle Marshall that reveals herself has the true soul of the family, caring for her children and her husband while maintaining a keen eye on the political events.
Together they have to face seeing their oldest sons being made hostage by King John, war in their Irish lands and the constant political games of distrust and betrayal of a king who trusted no one and liked to break those who surrounded him.
The book covers the years from 1197 to William's death in 1219. In a period as politically complicated as this one was Elizabeth Chadwick truly has the gift of making it all seem very simple. My one complaint is that I was expecting to hear more about the Magna Carta but it is a small one considering what the author has achieved in explaining the period.