A full, lavishly illustrated study of a nobleman whose exploits became the stuff of medieval romance, once recounted in the same breath as Robin Hood. Ranulf de Blondeville was fabulously rich and powerful. He served six kings, endured difficult regime-change, fought his way across half of France and back and more than once turned wrested victory from defeat. He never forgot that his roots were Norman although his efforts were for England, where he made his home. Loyal to a fault, as a youth he was disastrously married to the Duchess of Brittany, firebrand of contemporary politics, who tried to destroy him. His second wife brought happiness but not children. He was a fiercely independent spirit with a renowned temper. Unafraid of anyone, he besieged castles aggressively, constructed and defended them stoutly and built an Earldom of unparalleled power at England's heart. Kings lavished titles on him and the Pope sought out his support, noting his exceptional leadership. On his death-bed he bequeathed to Henry III the only piece of Normandy ever recovered from the French. It was rumoured that when he died the devil himself kicked him out of hell, he was so much trouble.
An archaeologist for 25 years, Iain Soden was born and educated in Coventry and Durham. He is currently Senior Project Officer at Northamptonshire Archaeology. He has been a contributor to BBC Radio, Channel 4's Time Team and BBC's Meet the Ancestors. He has directed excavations on a number of the sites described in this book, castles, monasteries and manor houses. It was during this work that he became fascinated by the sixth Earl of Chester, the pre-eminent soldier and statesman of his generation and saviour of the fledgling English state. In pursuit of his subject he has visited almost every site mentioned across England Wales and France.