Timewatch: The Greatest Knight

Updated Monday 14th January 2008

Timewatch presenter and military historian, Dr Saul David, delves deep into the violent world of the medieval melee tournament.

Tournament melee Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC

Forget the images of chivalric knights, well-dressed damsels and dropped handkerchiefs associated with the joust. The melee tournament was a brutal free-for-all with sharpened weapons, few rules and one undisputed champion, William Marshal.

His story reveals a very different kind of tournament, one in which brute force ruled, handkerchiefs stayed in pockets and where money was more important than manners.

Saul journey's into the knightly world of William Marshall, training as he did, trying out his weapons and charting his epic rise from a money-grabbing tournament champion to the Regent of England who saves a kingdom on the battlefield. On the way armour is tested, heraldry is explored and how William Marshall received a transfer fee that would have shocked even David Beckham.

More about The Greatest Knight

Take it further: Books

The Tournament in England: 1100-1400
Juliet R.V. Barker, Boydell

Tournament: A Chivalric Way of Life
David Crouch, Hambledon

William Marshal: Knighthood, War and Chivalry
David Crouch, Longman

William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry
Georges Duby, Random House

 

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