Nigel Saul states his aim in this book as the illumination of ‘the relationship between chivalry and the main political, military, social and artistic currents’ of the changing times over the period 1066–1500. It is an entirely original project, and in his hands it proves illuminating indeed.
Saul’s book is built around a series of narrative chapters, interspersed with thematic discussions of particular topics highlighted within them. In this narration, kingship and kings, as leaders of the martial-minded aristocracy, naturally loom large. Three kings in particular attract his special attention: Richard I, hero of the Crusades, patron of the tournament, and stout defender of the Norman and Angevin inheritance in France; Edward I, crusader, conqueror of Wales, and Hammer of the Scots; and Edward III, victor of Crécy, founder of the Order of the Garter, and devotee of St George, whom he adopted as patron saint of England and her celestial sponsor in war. The reigns of these three kings, their victories and their skill in projecting themselves as generous chivalrous leaders, provide the main benchmarks.
The twelfth century was an important period in the history of chivalry. From humble beginnings as a professional soldier, valued