Character-Assassination: Conrad de Monferrat in English-language Fiction and Popular Histories


Character-Assassination: Conrad de Monferrat in English-language Fiction and Popular Histories

By M.M. Gilchrist

Bollettino del Marchesato, Vol.2 No.6 (2005)

Introduction: It is a story will all the ingredients of epic tragedy: a brilliant, courageous and handsome nobleman travels to distant lands, fights battles, marries princesses, is elected King but is slain by treachery, still relatively young, just before he is crowned. If a historical novelist invented the career of Conrad de Monferrat, King of Jerusalem (mid-1140s – 1192), it would seem improbably colourful. But English-language fiction, Hollywood cinema and popular histories have persistently represented him in an extremely negative light.

For almost two centuries, Conrad – Peirol’s “marques valens e pros”, the hero of Bertran de Born’s great Crusade song, Ara sai eu pretz quals l’a plus gran – has been marginalised and maligned in English-language popular writing. Despite the researches of academic historians over a long time-period (Ilgen and Usseglio’s classic works have never been translated into English), it is through historical novels or ‘bestseller’ popular non-fiction that most British and American readers make their first acquaintance with him. The impression they receive is disturbingly misleading: a treacherous, effete villain, even a vicious sadist. The weight of repetition has reinforced this image for generations of readers. I wish here to present a brief selection from these popular accounts, and to sketch in the background of this tradition of hostility.

Click here to read this article from Bollettino del Marchesato

Want more medieval? Take a look at our digital magazine – The Medievalverse – Click here to see our latest issues

medievalverse magazine