This blog is dedicated to discussing the Crusader Kingdoms of Jerusalem and Cyprus. I will post information about the history and legacy of these remarkable kingdoms, as well as post reviews of books relevant to the crusades and the Crusader Kingdoms.
I have joined the Real Crusades History team and will posting simultaneously to the Real Crusades History Blog.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Balian d'Ibelin: Knight of Jerusalem
The Kingdom of Heaven, a 20th Century Fox film directed
by Ridley Scott and staring Orlando Bloom, was based
— very loosely — on the story of Balian d’Ibelin, a historical figure. Although Scott’s film was a brilliant piece of
cinematography, the story of the real Balian d’Ibelin was not only different
but arguably more fascinating than that of the Hollywood hero.
was the younger son of Barisan d’Ibelin, an adventurer from Western Europe, who
first emerged in history when he was made Constable of Jaffa and then later
granted a fief in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the mid-1140s. Barisan than did what every self-respecting
adventurer did: he married an heiress, the heiress of Ramla and Mirabel. On his
death, his eldest son Hugh, evidently by an earlier marriage, inherited the
paternal title of Ibelin, while Barisan’s eldest son by his second and richer
wife inherited Ramla and Mirabel. The youngest son, Balian, was left
empty-handed — a phenomenon unknown in earlier ages but increasingly a problem
by the 12th century.
handicap, Balian rose to such prominence in the Kingdom of Jerusalem that Arab
sources describe him as “like a king.” Unusually, and in sharp contrast to his
elder brother, he was not merely an outstanding fighting man and knight,
effective on the battlefield in offense and defense, but he was a diplomat and
peacemaker. Balian played a decisive mediating role between factions within the
Kingdom of Jerusalem and between the Kingdom and its external enemies,
including negotiations with Saladin himself on two known occasions.
astonishing for a younger son, he made a brilliant marriage that catapulted him
into the royal family, and, indeed, his descendants would repeatedly intermarry
into the royal houses of both Jerusalem and Cyprus. Furthermore, this marriage
was as close to a love-match as one could come among the nobility in the 12th
Such a man, it
seemed to me, deserved a biography — a biography based on all the known facts,
not just those that fit into Ridley Scott’s film concept. But while there are
many intriguing known facts about Balian, there are many more things we do not know, making a traditional biography
impossible. A biographical novel,
on the other hand, is a media that can turn a name in the history books into a
person so vivid, complex and yet comprehensible that history itself becomes
That is my
objective with a novel in three parts: to tell Balian’s story and to describe
the fateful historical events surrounding the collapse of the Christian Kingdom
of Jerusalem in the last quarter of the 12th century. The historical
record is the skeleton of this biographical novel, but the flesh and blood,
faces, emotions, dreams and fears are extrapolated from those known facts. I hope I have created a tale that my readers
will find as fascinating, exiting and engaging as I do. A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin, Book I:
A landless knight, a leper king, and the struggle for Jerusalem. Buy now in Paperback or Kindle format!