Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Balian d'Ibelin and the Age of Chivalry





Balian d’Ibelin was a historical figure and my biography is based on the known facts about his life, but he is also the hero of my novels and as such he is intended to be a positive and attractive character. That, however, does not mean transforming him into a modern man with contemporary values and politically correct opinions. On the contrary, my goal is to portray him as realistically as possible and that means making him a positive figure in the context of his age. 

The end of the 12th century was the dawning of the age of chivalry and Balian was a contemporary and companion of Richard the Lionheart, who was seen by many of his followers and by later eulogists as the epitome of chivalry. Even in Ridley Scott’s film, “The Kingdom of Heaven,” Balian d’Ibelin is portrayed as a young man striving to be “a perfect knight.” 



But what was a perfect knight in the 12th Century?



Scott used the following oath both for Balian's knighting and the mass knighting at Jerusalem: 



“Be without fear in the face of your enemies.

Be brave and upright that God may love thee.

Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death.

Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong – that is your oath.”




But was fearlessness, bravery, honesty and protection of the helpless the essence of chivalry?



Medieval primers and romances stressed a variety of virtues, including: Nobility, Honor, Loyalty, Righteousness (a strong sense of right and wrong), Prowess (courage), Love, Courtesy - particularly to ladies, Cleanliness, Diligence, Perseverance, Piety, Sobriety,  Humility, Mercy and Kindness, Generosity, and Compassion for the Unfortunate.



In my next entries, I will explore the extent to which the historical Balian met these high goals – or at least as much as we can judge based on the historical record.




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