The return of the crusader

Here’s how it all started. Doing my research on the Middle Ages, I found this statue and the short story behind it.


Le retour du Croisé - Hugues de Vaudémont, parti en 1147, retrouve son épouse (XIIsiècle) Nancy, Musée Lorrain


Translation of caption: Return of the Crusader – Hugues de Vaudémont, who left in the year 1147, reunites with his wife. She waited for him faithfully for 14 or 16 years… That’s the Second Crusade (1145–1149), and I’m following the third (1189–1192), but you get the point!


close-up of Return of the Crusader


So I started with a crusader – although at the time they didn’t call themselves “crusaders”, but they spoke of  “taking the cross”. At first I thought to put Robin Hood in the story, except Robin Hood is a legendary figure invented much later and there’s no evidence of an historical person who could become the legendary outlaw in the 12th century.

Thus I went back to the idea of knights, tournaments, chivalry and courtly love. I’ve seen what is left of Brocéliande forest back in 1999, so my knight comes from Little Brittany, his best friend from Normandy, his wife is Anglo-Norman living near Lincoln. Historical characters they meet are William Marshall, Richard Lionheart and Philippe Auguste, John Lackland, Saladin and a few “minor” names found in chronicles of the time (too many to list them all).

I look forward to check my notes and add more specific research in some areas I might have overlooked when writing the screenplay. I read that when pitching historical novels you should point out what in the novel would appeal to readers in the 21st century, as good historical fiction shows us what binds us together as human beings from different historical periods. So here are the reasons for this novel:

  • 12th century crusades are the equivalent of 21st century struggle between Christianity and Islam
  • 12th century chivalry is totally lacking in the 21st century, but maybe reminding us that it existed might help us to believe again in honor and faith
  • hatred for “other” and ignorance of  “other” were present then and are still quite present today, as is the clash of civilizations.

Hence I believe contemporary readers can learn something from those men and women and events of the past.

I pitched it on an agent’s blog as “conflict between Christianity and Islam” and she looks forward to reading it! So stay tuned for more. As soon as I finish the Books of the Immortals, I’ll dive into this brilliant new adventure! 😀

Leave a comment


  1. nikaleeanne

     /  14/10/2010

    I too am looking forward to reading it. Reading your blog even makes me want to pull out my history books again!


  2. I think you may be onto something now, Barb. I like the reasons for your choice: the relevance to our times.

    As a historical fiction reader, I look for times I am interested in: ie 12-17th centuries.
    I look for the human condition: faith, faithfulness, love, honour and the lack of it, grief.
    I look for idiosyncratic characters.
    I look for smooth character-driven plots.

    I am impressed with the way the statue was your inspiration and the way the ‘Dame’ waited for 14-16 years. What happened to her in that time? How did she survive the absence of her husband? Was she in France? Or did she seek him out in the Holy Land? So much room to base a story around a strong and fascinating woman.

    And I can’t believe you’ve pitched it already! My God you’re brave! Goodluck. Can’t wait for Chapter One.


    • About the statue, the only thing I know is she waited for her husband, refusing to remarry and taking care of his lands (in France, I’m guessing, as that’s where the statue is) until he came back. Hence the statue to her vertue etc. My character isn’t that faithful actually, but she has her reasons! 😉
      About the pitch: the agent was asking to both readers and writers what they wanted from historical novels and I sayd what I wanted… *blush* I have printed out that post with the comments and highlighter her reply. Whenever I’ll feel like I can’t do it, I’ll check it again! 😀


  3. Amy

     /  15/10/2010

    I’ve never heard of that method of relating historical books to the modern day, but it’s a fantastic idea. I particularly like the idea of the Crusades as an analogy for the current conflict between Christianity and Islam. I think knowing that would make reading a historical novel a lot more interesting.

    I’ve also got to say I think you’ve made the right decision not to include Robin Hood. I actually live in Nottingham and I frequently visit Sherwood Forest (it’s not very impressive these days, unfortunately), but I think it’s difficult for readers to take Robin Hood seriously sometimes.


    • I went through Nottingham once, it was a rush for a show, and I didn’t even have time to check whatever is left of the castle… grunt! 😦 And I’m NOT watching Ridley Scott’s version of it, after the mess he made with Kingdom of Heaven! 😉
      It’s time someone shows what the middle ages were really like… with strong women who could resist suitors and faithfully wait for their husbands to come back from the Holy Land and minstrels and tournaments, etc…



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