Reviewed by Margaret Tomlinson
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.
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.
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