William Marshall: The Epitome Of Chivalry

William Marshall is considered by many to be the epitome of knighthood and chivalry, as well as being an outstanding ambassador, during the turbulent twelfth and thirteenth centuries of England. From a virtually obscure beginning, William evolves into one of the most dominant stately figures of the time in England. During his brilliant military and political career, William served as knight for the courts of Kings Henry II, Richard (the Lion-hearted), and John. William was born around 1147 to John Marshall and Sybil of Salisbury during the reign of King Stephen.

His father, John Marshall, served as a court officer and eventually earned the status of a minor baron. John Marshall was a shrewd soldier and a skilled negotiator. He was the premier example of lordship in Williams life. Williams relationship with his father would be brief and he would never experience him beyond his childhood. John Marshall died in 1165. John would leave a legacy behind that would influence Williams life and spark the future of his outstanding career both as a soldier and a courtier. At age thirteen William was sent to William De Tancarville, to begin his military training for the knighthood.

William De Tancarville was known throughout Europe as one of the grander patrons of knighthood. In the Tancarville household, William would learn courtliness in addition to all other prerequisites found in a professional soldier of the day. After six years of being a squire in the Tancarville Household, Marshall was knighted in 1166. In 1170, King Henry II appointed William to the head of his sons mesnie or military household. William was responsible for protecting, training, and maintaining the military household for Prince Henry. In 1173, William knighted the young Henry, becoming his lord of chivalry.

During this time period, Marshall earns many victories on the tournament field and here he first establishes himself as one of the most prolific and gallant knights of the time. During these tournaments, Marshall began to create and mold friendships with the most powerful and influential men of the day. In 1183, during a rebellion against his father, Prince Henry contracted dysentery. As his health rapidly deteriorated, Prince Henry gave William his cloak, which had a Crusaders cross stitched on it, and made him promise to deliver it to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

William pledged to fulfill his request. Prince Henry died shortly there after. Afterward, Marshall traveled to the holy-land to deliver the princes cloak. He remained in Jerusalem for two years. Upon his return to England, Marshall is welcomed into the Kings military household. War, counsel and command were now his daily life. William is a common figure in the court and currently does not have a prominent status. Marshall faithfully serves King Henry II during the last years of his reign. The King has two heirs to the throne in Richard and John. This presents a problem of sorts for Henry.

Richard, the most capable and competent, appears destined to descend the throne. Henry would prefer John in succeeding him as king, however he realizes that Richard is by far the most qualified and prolific of the two. Toward the end of Henrys rule, Richard rebels against his father, joining Phillip II of France. The two begin a series of battles against the King. During this time period, William remains faithful to Henry. Marshall inevitably realizes that his current enemy may well become his future king. This conflict does not influence Williams fidelity for his King.

His loyalty to Henry remains in tact and is not compromised despite the fact that treason might have seemed advantageous to him at the time. These wars coupled with his bitter relationship with Richard take a heavy toll on the King. In 1189, Henrys health gradually deteriorates until he eventually dies. Despite their past differences, Richard returns home to England for his fathers funeral and to assume his birthright of the throne. The count, soon to be king, was already turning in his mind the execution of the grand plan that was to become the Third Crusade.

After he becomes king, Richard has a meeting with Marshall. Richard decides to retain Marshall into his own military household. Richard also decides to fulfill a promise to Marshall from his father. Henry had promised William the title of Lord of Striguil. This title also included for Marshall the marriage of Isabel de Clare. Richard raised Marshall to the higher circles of power. In 1189, William Marshall becomes an official magnate. Richard appreciates the loyalty and integrity that Marshall possessed while serving under his father.

He also recognizes that Marshalls skill and knowledge are superior and practically unmatched in this field. Richard entrusts the security of his kingdom to Marshall, along with a few other individuals, while he is away on the Third Crusade. Richard remained in the Holy Land for about five years. He returns to England in 1195. For the rest of Richards reign William Marshall was deeply engaged in the business of the court, and for the most part he spent the five years in France. King Richards rule over England ended abruptly. He was killed while trying to besiege a small castle.

On his deathbed, Richard left his kingdom to his younger brother John. John was not a successful or efficient king. Many territories of the kingdom were lost to France during Johns reign. This didnt prevent William from prospering during Johns reign. Marshall acquired many lands during this time period, as well as the prestige that accompanies being a large landowner. It is during the reign of King John that Marshall earns the official title Earl of Pembroke. John levied heavy taxes on England and reserved the right to dispense punishment as he saw fit.

John became extremely unpopular with the barons of that age. Eventually, these events all contributed to John being forced to sign the Magna Carta, the first basic document of the British constitution, which eventually lead to the creation of the English Parliament. Loyalty to the king during this time was most difficult for Marshall. After a rebellion by the Barons, John grew ill beyond reconciliation. He died in 1216. This was the third king that Marshall had seen buried during his service to the England. Henry III was to be the next King of England.

William was chosen by his peers as the regent for the nine year old Henry III. This reestablished royal rule in England. Marshall watched over the noble household and cared for the young king until his own death on May 14, 1219. William served faithfully under three kings and served as regent for a fourth. His loyalty and honor were never compromised. His oaths of fealty and innate sense of honor governed his entire life. Because of his commitments, William Marshall will remain the most outstanding knight of the Middle Ages.

Ivanhoe: Book Report

Ivanhoe is set in approximately twelfth century England during the time of feudal Europe, the crusades, Richard the Lion Hearted, and Robin Hood. Chivalry is still a major force in England, as is Christianity. The story refers more exactly to a period towards the end of the reign of Richard I, when his return from his long captivity was yearned for by his subjects, being under of his brother, Prince John, who was incompetent as a monarch and corrupt, unfairly taxing the citizens.

The condition of the English nation was at this time sufficiently miserable. King Richard captivity in the clutches of the cruel and perfidious Duke of Austria was being prolonged as requested by Prince John, who was quite enjoying his power. The nobles were also taking advantage of their power during the king’s absence with their tyranny, causing much suffering among the inferior classes.

Also, Ivanhoe may take place soon after the Conquest by Duke William of Normandy in 1066, because the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons are still somewhat hostile towards each other during the course of the adventure, and Scott reveals the hatred and malice that Saxons felt towards Normans. They still speak different languages, still another barrier between the two races. Only educated could understand both the Norman French and the Anglo-Saxon, although even they would pretend not to understand each other, refusing to speak in their enemies tongue.

Throughout the novel, nobility gives the Normans, because the Normans were the victors in the Battle of Hastings. The Normans had the power, so everything affiliated with Saxons was considered inferior. The audience was shocked when a Saxon won the tournament at Ashby and still more astonished when the Queen of Love and Beauty chosen was a Saxon woman.

Indeed, the main character, Ivanhoe, was disinherited by his father for wanting to serve a Norman king. In addition, the absolute persecution of the Jews is lucid during this time period. They are mercilessly mistreated and abused and not even considered human. All the men who gaze upon the stunningly beautiful Rebecca look away ashamed to have noticed a Jewish girl. Even the slaves of servants gaze condescendingly upon the Jews. They were given less respect than animals.

Before encountering this novel, I knew little about this time period. I knew about the legends of Robin Hood of course, whom Ivanhoe later encounters in the novel and by whom Ivanhoe is assisted, and I knew from popular stories that Richard the Lion-Hearted was a good king, while his brother who ruled in his absence was corrupt. I knew a little about the crusades of twelfth century Europe, but Sir Walter Scott truly brought to life the honor and splendour that accompanied knighthood, the chivalry, the traditions of that time, and the injustices through his very realistic and developed characters. He was able to convey the magnitude of honor carried in wining a tournament and revealed the fact that although there were many honest and gallant knights, there were also those who did not exactly fit a chivalrous description.

Knowledge of this era, and in fact, experiencing religious persecution through the eyes of the Jewish character, Isaac, opens the reader’s eyes as the persecution dealing with sexual orientation today. In neither case is the minority being taken to an extreme similar to the Holocaust, yet, life is very difficult in both situations; services are denied, they are regarded as inferior, they are disrespected, and often believed to be evil, diabolical, or affiliated with the devil. Persecution is still rampant and alive in the world today.

Theme

Scott’s principal concern in Ivanhoe is to show the noble idealism of chivalry along with its often cruel and impractical consequences. Ivanhoe brings to life 12th-century England, and was probably intended to represent the Norman-Saxon feud. It gives a broadly realistic picture of a period of historical change. Being such an accurate study of Medieval England, it seems as though Sir Walter Scott mainly intended his novel to be an exciting historical account of twelfth-century England glazed with rivalry and romance.

I learned a lot about the history of this thrilling era, and the splendour of knighthood and chivalry and the exhilaration of tournaments and fighting for one’s honor was truly conveyed in this novel. Having read this book would be useful in the future for the sake of history, and also because I really feel that my writing skills and reading comprehension have blossomed while reading this book. The writing is incredibly descriptive with complex vocabulary and expressive verb usage. I myself am trying to improve my application of verbs and reduce those of the form “to be,” so reading this book provided me with a perfect demonstration of vivid pictures created by expressive verb usage.

Symbolism

A good example of symbolism from Ivanhoe is the way in which Scott used his hero and his villain to represent the Norman-Saxon feud. The dark Brian de Bois-Guilbert, the main villain, is a Norman. The hero, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, is a Saxon. Ivanhoe versus Brian de Bois Guilbert, hero versus villain is a basic way of showing Norman versus Saxon. The two are also opposite in their characters. Brian de Bois Guilbert seems to represent revenge, grief, and hatred, while Ivanhoe is the perfect example of chivalry and valiancy.

Character

Although Brian de Bois Guilbert is the villain of the story, he is not one whom I completely dislike, because though he is portrayed as evil, he still has good intentions. I dislike Prince John, because he is treacherous and perfidious and power-hungry and not at all interested in the good of his people. He would advocate the death of his own brother in order to fulfill his selfish desires. In addition, he is partial and prejudiced against Saxons and Jews, and not subtly either. During the tournament at Ashby, when Ivanhoe, a Saxon, was feigning off three men at the same time, and valiantly so, the crowd begged Prince John to throw down his lance, indicating the end of the tournament, but he preferred to see a Saxon lose.

At the celebration after the tournament, Prince John flaunted the victory of the Normans over the Saxons in the Battle of Hastings in retaliation to an insult. However, he purposely insulted his own guest and didn’t show him the courtesy common to any guest in the house of a prince. When Prince John sees Isaac the Jew, he has no problem with taking the money right out of his hands and pushing the poor old man so that he rolls down the stairs. Willing to bribe the nobles to side with him upon King Richard’s return, Prince John demonstrates utter corruption, avarice, and self-centeredness, oblivious to the idea that a monarch’s duty is to protect the people, not oppress them.

A character I like is of course, Ivanhoe. He is noble and honest and chivalrous as well as the perfect example of a knight. He was kind even to the Jews whom no one respected and he never took more than he needed. For example, after the tournament, his opponents came to give him the money and their horses as was custom for the loser, but he only accepted that which he needed.

Unlike most Saxons, who resented even King Richard’s rule because he was a Norman king, Ivanhoe was is noble in the sense that he respected the good King Richard and was willing to support him solely because Richard was a good king. I admire his values very much, however, I don’t think I could follow them as strictly as Ivanhoe does, because if someone were to offer money that I don’t need and that I rightfully won, I would definitely accept. I can only admire Ivanhoe’s reaction to such a situation, but I could never emulate the high standards of character he possesses.

Scene

“The towering flames had now surmounted every obstruction and rose to the evening skies one huge and burning beacon, seen far and wide through the adjacent country. Tower after tower crashed down, with blazing roof and rafter; and the combatants were driven from the courtyard. The vanquished, of whom very few remained, scattered and escaped into the neighboring wood. The victors, assembling in large bands, gazed with wonder, not unmixed with fear, upon the flames, in which their own ranks and arms glanced dusky red. The maniac figure of the Saxon Ulrica was for a long time visible on the lofty stand she had chosen, tossing her arms abroad with wild exultation, as if she reigned empress of the conflagration which she had raised. At length, with a terrific crash, the whole turret gave way, and she perished in the flames, which had consumed her tyrant. An awful pause of horror silenced each murmur of the armed spectators, who, for the space of several minutes, stirred not a finger, save to sign the cross. ”

I chose this scene in particular because of the marvelous descriptions and the way in which Scott paints the chaotic scene in one’s mind. This scene takes place at the climax of the novel and its atmosphere and tone creates a very intense mood for the reader. I could hear the cries of the people in the background and see the raving, insane Ulrica being consumed by the scorching fire. Sir Walter Scott’s writing has a great impact on me, his writing, bringing every event to life. In fact, he brought the entire era of twelfth-century Europe to life for me.