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Book Review - The Knight in History

by Frances Gies

T he Knight in History is a must for all medieval enthusiasts. It is filled with accurate information on all aspects of knighthood, starting from the 9th century and passing through the heyday of the institution into its decline in the 15th century. Frances Gies tells the story of knighthood in an eloquent tone, yet she never falls for the romanticized image of knighthood. The chronological approach allows for considerable width of narration, and Gies truly packs her book with material from all around Europe.

G ies takes us from the first knights to the First Crusade via the romantic troubadours, and then continues on to highlighting Knights Templars and three knights, namely William Marshal, Bertrand du Guesclin, and Sir John Fastolf. With these three knights she is able to illuminate all aspects of knighthood - the status, the wealth, the dangers and the political questions. Finally, there is a treatise on the evensong of knighthood and its passing into the realm of legends.

O n Templars, one could hardly wish for a better concise history of the Order. Gies devotes a chapter to the Templars and charts the whole career of the Order in it. Since Gies is writing as a historian, there is none of the speculation that sometimes disturbs the reader in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Gies links the success of the Templars with the strong promotion they got from the Church and secondly, on their extensive commerce between Europe and the Near East. In Gies's view the Templars welded the spiritual benefits of a monastic lifestyle with the pleasures of travel, adventure, and warfare, and contributed significantly to the image of knighthood we still have in the Western world.

I n short, Gies's book is a book hard to put away, but rather makes one read it throught at once, since her style and wit makes the book very pleasant indeed.

Armory Bailey Barracks Chapel Dungeon Library Pub

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