The early twelfth century is a time for ambitious men to prosper - and royal servant John FitzGilbert is one of them. But when the old king dies and his successor is appointed, John's position at court is weakened and his wife, the pious, pliant Aline, is hopelessly unequipped to deal with a life lived on the edge.
John knows the only way to protect his lands and his children is to divorce Aline. He meets his match in new wife Sybilla, daughter of his enemy Patrick of Salisbury, as she possesses a strength and courage that equals his own. But when Sybilla's son, William, is seized by the king, John is forced to make a terrible sacrifice. Sometimes keeping your honour means breaking your word . . .
In this spellbinding prequel to 2009's The Greatest Knight, Chadwick takes readers on a tour of royal intrigue in 12th-century England. After a fortune-teller reveals to a young royal servant named John FitzGilbert Marshal that one of his offspring will one day rule England, the unmarried man laughs in her face. Later, John's wives first the pious and meek Aline, and then the sassy spitfire Sybilla bear him multiple children, and it soon becomes clear that at least one of them is destined for greatness. As an honorable servant to King Henry, John's loyalties are thrown into turmoil upon his beloved leader's death. He goes on to pledge allegiance to the new King Stephen, but others are less sure of the new monarch. As warring parties struggle for the throne, John must reconcile his wishes for his children with what is best for his country, and what he himself most desires. Based on real characters and extensive research, Chadwick's imaginative tale will keep readers captive till the final page.