The New Tolkien Newsletter
News-sheet No 2 (March 1984)
Elizabeth Holland MA BSc (Econ)
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.
First published Jonathan Cape, London, 1982. Corgi edition 1983, £2.50.
This book on the Holy Grail has been a bestseller for some time. Its theme is that Jesus was, perhaps, married, to Mary Magdalene (an idea which we have heard before), that she escaped to the territory of France, and that the “blood-line” of Jesus has been carefully guarded in Europe through the centuries, the “Holy Blood”.
We can state with absolute confidence that this volume is rubbish from beginning to end. It is hard to decide whether the authors know least about history, Bible studies, genealogical research, or the architecture of tombs (a major point in their argument). Nor do they appear to care to know. They seem to have made a list of those subjects which invite bestsellerdom, including the Ten Lost Tribes and Atlantis and of course the Freemasons, but excluding JRR Tolkien, and then set out to romp through them, stopping, as Julian Critchley lately wrote, at only two stations on the way, Hokus and Pokus. That the book then did become a bestseller is a sad comment on the illiteracy which prevails today amongst the reading classes. And that the BBC sponsored such writers is disgraceful.
As for their suggestion that anything of importance was preserved or discovered in the Temple at Jerusalem, such as the true line of David, or the marriage certificate of Jesus – the Temple was razed and rebuilt again and again. It was entirely demolished by Titus under Vespasian in 70 AD, and the vaults underneath were altered after that period, Roman masonry being found embedded in later work. The Knights Templar did not, repeat not, find anything astounding to the Church on the site of the Temple, for nothing could have existed there which had not long been discovered before. The Knights Templar are of course another bestseller subject, the question of the Templars and their wicked practices having been aired many times before.
They have also, as already suggested, the most naive ideas on the subject of genealogies. First find your King, genealogies will follow. Alfred becomes King, he is automatically descended from Woden. The vision conjured up of people of the past keeping some vast Mormon's cave of authentic genealogical records to “substantiate” kings yet unborn is just part of the scenario of sheer ignorance which pervades all the pages of this work.
For a good book on the Knights Templar, see The Murdered Magicians: The Templars and Their Myth by Peter Partner, Oxford University Press, 1982. When one studies its pages, one sees how often the Templar soup has been boiled before – how much patient study, for example, the French historian Jules Michelet gave them, and how difficult he found it to come to a conclusion. This volume is history, of course, and the other is sensation; that's why it's the other that's the bestseller. Nevertheless the other will doubtless lead a good many people to read this one.