Templar Silks

by Elizabeth Chadwick

Reviewed by Margaret Tomlinson

Templar Silks offers another dive into the story of the Norman knight William Marshal for readers who enjoyed Chadwick's The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion. Marshal served King Henry II and his sons Henry, Richard and John for over 40 years through a tumultuous period that included a revolt by the younger Henry against his father. Before Marshal dies at the end of The Scarlet Lion he reveals to his wife and family that he made a solemn vow to become a Templar Knight and be buried with the silk shroud of the Order.

This novel backtracks to tell the story of Marshal's three-year pilgrimage to Jerusalem from 1183 to 1186, as he remembers it on his deathbed. On young Henry's orders, Marshal had pillaged a shrine, an act horrifying to a pious medieval knight, during the war between young Henry and his father. This conscience-searing act is strong motivation for a pilgrimage of atonement. In Jerusalem, though, Marshal finds even the Knights Templar corrupted by worldly concerns. And there, a churchman's beautiful and devious concubine leads him into temptation.

With the Marshal novels, Chadwick immerses readers in the psyche of a man at the center of Angevin England's political world. Although his values may overlap with ours, twelfth-century Europe was a very different world, and readers must take Marshal on his own terms. He sincerely believed that risking his life in a struggle to end the rule of "infidels" over the land where Jesus had lived would be an act of the highest virtue. A more virtuous struggle may be working for the right of all people to practice their religion (or lack thereof) in peace. To impute such a notion to Marshal, though, would violate historical authenticity, Chadwick's guiding principle.

Readers unfamiliar with her work are well-advised to start with The Greatest Knight, her first novel about Marshal, and possibly her finest novel. Without Templar Silks, though, her story of this complex man would remain incomplete. (2019; 421 pages including an Author's Note about the history behind the story)

More about Templar Silks at Powell's Books or The Book Depository

Other novels by Elizabeth Chadwick about William Marshal and his family:

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick (2005), about William Marshal from his youth as a squire to the time of King John. See review or more info at Powell's Books

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick (2006), sequel to The Greatest Knight (2006). See review or more info at Powell's Books

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick (2011), about William Marshal's daughter Mahelt. See review or more info at Powell's Books

Nonfiction about the Knights Templar:

The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors by Dan Jones (2017). More info

The Templars: The History and the Myth by Michael Haag (2008). More info

The Knights Templar: From Catholic Crusaders to Conspiring Criminals by Michael Kerrigan (2019). More info


Knights Templar at the Ancient History Encyclopedia

Back to Medieval: the Angevins

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