Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick

Following early beginnings as a knight in the English royal household and a champion of the tourneys, William Marshal's prowess and loyalty have been rewarded by the hand in marriage of Isabelle de Clare, heiress to great estates in England, Normandy and Ireland. Now a powerful magnate, William has weathered the difficult years of King Richard's absence on crusade and is currently serving him on campaign in Normandy while Isabelle governs their estates. All the stability William and Isabelle have enjoyed with their young and growing family comes crashing down as Richard dies and his brother John becomes King. Rebellion is stirring throughout the Angevin domains and although John has created William Earl of Pembroke, the friction between the two men leads William and Isabelle to distance themselves in Ireland. The situation escalates, with John holding their sons as hostages and seizing their English lands. The conflict between remaining loyal and rebelling over injustices committed, threatens to tear apart William and Isabelle's marriage and their family...

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 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.

Now I can't wait for William and Isabelle's daughter Mahelt's story. And while I wait for it I may just have to start reading about Ida and Roger Bigod. It seems I can’t get enough of these characters and I would happily continue reading about the Marshall family and their allies in future books. But somehow I don’t think we will be seeing them in many more books as none of the Marshall sons had children and the properties and wealth ended up being divided between the daughter’s husbands.

Grade: 5/5


  1. Pre-ordered this after reading The Greatest Knight last fall. Can't wait!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I recently finished The Greatest Knight, so I will def. read this one as well. Glad to know it centers a lot of William and Isobel. Thanks for the review!

  3. I can not wait to read this one!

  4. I'm a very devoted fan of Elizabeth Chadwick, and like others, I consider William Marshal to be the ultimate Hero in every sense of the word. So I always read reviews of Greatest Knight and Scarlet Lion with interest, and a bit of envy for someone reading those books for the first time - such a rewarding experience! But I must tell you, that my personal favorite is A Place Beyond Courage, Chadwick's wonderful novel about William's father, John Marshal. You must read it too.

  5. Ladies, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    Linda, it's in my TBR too, thanks for the recommendation!

  6. I want to read this one before the next book in the Marshall series comes out, too! I have it, just have to pick it up. I also really enjoyed The Greatest Knight.

  7. This is waiting for me on my shelf...I think I need to read it right away :) Thanks for the great review.

  8. You know that I am right there with you in loving this book, and Linda is right to recommend A Place Beyond Courage as well!