Why the First Crusade?
Guest post by Rosanne E. Lortz, author of
Road from the West
It is a noble exercise to recount accurately the deeds of princes. To do so is to consider generously all that is subject to time, to celebrate the dead, to entertain the living, and to set out a past life as a model for later generations.So writes Ralph of Caen, a medieval chronicler living in the twelfth century. Although Ralph writes as a historian, his reasons for writing are ones that all historical novelists can adopt as we bring to life forgotten worlds and fallen heroes.
For me, the choice to write about the First Crusade was based, first of all, on the goal of “entertaining the living.” The entire story of the Crusade is filled with riveting historical realities that a novelist would be hard pressed to invent—the perpetual peril of the Crusaders’ journey, the cutthroat quarrels of their leaders, the calculating intrigues of the Byzantine emperor, and the desperate drama of the siege of Antioch all kindle the imagination and ignite the fire of adventure.
The leaders of the First Crusade often receive short shrift in fiction and film, and so “celebrating the dead” was another goal I wanted to accomplish. Richard the Lionheart and his kingly companions of the Third Crusade are perpetually stealing the stage, but although less well known, the men of the First Crusade are just as courageous, tenacious, complex, and remarkable. Count Bohemond’s cool effrontery contrasts well with Godfrey’s piety, Baldwin’s ruthlessness, and Raymond’s secret ambitions. And, of course, it is Tancred’s impetuous zeal that drives the plot of my book as he struggles to decide which of his fellow Crusader lords it is safe to trust.
The lives of the First Crusaders can indeed be “a model for later generations” both as positive and negative examples. Many of the issues they dealt with are the same issues we face today. How many of your principles are you willing to sacrifice when the people you are responsible for come under threat? Tancred faces that very question when famine forces him to borrow money to feed his men. When is it appropriate to break your word even if you have sworn a solemn promise? Bohemond gives his answer by seizing Antioch instead of delivering it up to the Byzantines, concurring with Machiavelli’s philosophy of four centuries later—you need not keep your word to others since they will not keep their word to you. Tancred, on the other hand, gives a different answer to the question, refusing to make a promise he knows he cannot keep, and carrying out the oaths he has made in spite of the hardship and difficulties it costs him.
I chose to write about the First Crusade in order to entertain my readers, to commemorate its participants, and to provide examples of great men and women worthy of our study. But I also chose the First Crusade for one further reason: the importance of the Crusade itself. The First Crusade captured Jerusalem and established the five Latin kingdoms in the East. Out of the nine Crusades to the East, it was the most successful and the most pivotal. To understand the other Crusades, you must understand the one that began them all, for the subsequent Crusades came to salvage what the First Crusade had established. Richard the Lionheart would never have assaulted the walls of Acre if Tancred, Godfrey, Raymond and the rest had not first breached the walls of Jerusalem. That’s why I chose to tell the story of the First Crusade and to pursue—in the words of Ralph of Caen—the “noble exercise” of recounting the deeds of its heroes.
You can learn more about Roseanne and her books at her website. You can follow the rest of her blog tour at the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour website.
Now for the giveaway...I have one copy of Road from the West open Internationally! Just complete the form below. Giveaway ends September 17th!
Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court