chapter  5
19 Pages

In search of the Marshal’s lost crusade: the persistence of memory, the problems of history and the painful birth of crusading romance

WithNicholas L. Paul

With a singleness of purpose rarely seen in medieval historical narratives, the Anglo-Norman poem known by its modern title as the History of William Marshal sustains, over the course of 19,214 lines of verse, its project to gild the memory of William Marshal (d.1219), the knight who rose to become earl of Pembroke and Striguil and regent of England during the minority

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of Vol. 40, No. 3, 292-310,

f i t , r niversit , Bronx, New York City, NY, United States of America

of Henry III. Memory, both in the sense of the ‘collective memory’ emerging from social relationships and the intellectual process underpinning medieval practices of mnemonic retrieval, thinking and imagination, was a central concern of this work.1 The writer – an otherwise unknown figure who names himself only as ‘John’ – repeatedly intervened in his narrative to describe his struggles with memory and forgetfulness.2 Memory was his aid, guide and friend: the enemy of Oblivion. As David Crouch has convincingly shown, John fashioned the History from a variety of different materials, including household accounts and tournament rolls.3 He based much of it, particularly in the first half, on the reports of William’s children and the surviving members of his household, who remembered stories they had either heard about ‘the Marshal’ – as he was known – or from the man himself.