Winner of the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Award for Dauntless!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Galavanting Around History

I can hardly ignore the new and wildly popular ABC series Galavant, set somewhere in Europe during some vague time in the Middle Ages. Now mind you this show is pure comedy makes no claims to historical accuracy. It brings to mind Monty Python, The Princess Bride, and Robin Hood Men in Tights. I've certainly gotten some ridiculous laughs from the show, and the music is actually very good. What it lacks in plot, it makes up for in amazing guest stars. The jokes can get a little dark and bawdy, so be warned, although at least that part is in fact historically true.

The funniest part to me so far was the black Jewish knight Sidney, who according to the song, even went on crusade. Being knee deep in crusade and Middle Eastern history for book 3 in the Valiant Heart Series, this struck me as particularly ironic. Jews were an oppressed minority at that time in both Europe and the Middle East. Certainly not eligible for knighthood. And considering the Europeans slaughtered many Jews in Jerusalem during their initial conquest, I'm guessing not many Jews would have signed up for the crusade even if they could. But enjoy the funny video nonetheless.


  1. Even though I don't think I've ever seen it right through, and despite the more objectionable parts, some scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail I love- Terry Jones as 'The annoying peasant' was comedy gold.
    Its good when a show can be anachronistic - yet can poke fun at itself for being so.

    I must say, though I'm no expert on the Crusades, things weren't always so black and white. I recently read a short Novella called 'The Splintered Oak' by Rosanne E Lortz, which recounted how a number of German Bishops actually protected the Jews (or tried to) in their cities during the First Crusade.
    I had heard of this before, but its a really good, albeit sad, story, and elaborates on things more- it even seems that the massacres of the Jews were against official Church Policy, and were condemned by some church leaders.

    I heard that even Richard 'the Lion-heart' tried to protect the Jews of London from a riot. There was discrimination certainly, but it seems not all Medieval Europeans were rabid anti-Semites....yet this is not often mentioned in the media.

    1. Yes, I've been deep in crusade research, and it seems there where all sorts of different mind sets and motivations involved. There was much religious fervor involved, while others sought power and wealth. Some of the crusaders, especially peasants who flooded there, became completely barbaric. And as time went on, there were always new influxes of crusaders who didn't understand the area and factions and wreaked havoc on the tenuous crusader states. Even on the Saracen side there were all sorts of different motivations, and some were well meaning or even sided with the Christians for political reasons. The information does however seem pretty consistent that the first crusaders to Jerusalem slaughtered a lot of Jews, although they later found ways to work with the Jews and incorporate them into the society. It's all been pretty fascinating.

    2. Indeed, I will probably have to bow to your superior knowledge at this point, because I haven't actually done a lot of research on the Crusades, esp. the First Crusade.
      I do know there are a lot of myths and misconceptions- but ultimately humans are humans- they don't fit into boxes...

      Don't know if you've seen this (and it might have some kind of territory restrictions), there's a good documentary on Youtube by a man called Thomas Asbridge

  2. Thanks for the goodreads suggestions. I'm trying to get a broad survey to see lots of views.

    1. That's OK. i have three books on the Crusades (including one 900 page tome that I don't know if I will ever read), but the Jonathan Phillips one is about the only one I have read almost from cover to cover. The Godrey de Bouillon one might be of interest too- as I believe Godfrey is often vilified, but it gives the impression that he was something of a moderating influence, and even that the massacres which took place were not official policy, or something he supported. I have been told that calling him a Frenchman is a faux pas also (Bouillon is apparently in modern Belgium).

      Agree. Its a good idea to 'read around' and get a good overview. I wonder if that can be harder with a subject like the Crusades, because its a subject that can be so emotive and controversial.

    2. Good luck with that, I'm sure you will manage- I will just take a lot of reading. As I said, the Jonathan Phillips book is good and quite balanced, but it is on all the Crusades, not just the first one.
      One often ignored group who I wonder if it might be interesting to look at (if there are sources) is Middle Eastern Christians, ancient communities, like the Copts and Assyrians.
      Someone I think suggested that, until recently, most Westerners hardly registered the existence of Christians in places like Syria, Iraq, etc.
      I think its because many Westerners tend to automatically assume that anyone from the Middle East is Muslim, or don't count them as 'proper' Christians.
      Yet they have their own Bishops, and according to an archeologist I studied under last year, there are churches and monasteries in some regions that are well date back as far as the seventh century- or even further in a few cases.

      Sorry to go on, its just sort of fascinating and ironic that there are Christians in places that we wouldn't expect, who have been there since before much of Europe was Christianized... and apparently in past centuries their communities were larger than the are today.

    3. Actually!!! You (and perhaps you alone ;) will be excited to hear that I plan to highlight the Maronite Christians in the County of Tripoli. I purposely chose the area of Lebanon because my husband is from Lebanon, and I have traveled there several times. Also, in the specific year of my story, it is sort of a minor player in the fifth crusade, so that made it easier to bring in some fictional fun. I could go on and on about what I've learned, but I'll save it for the book.

    4. Oh, that does sound interesting- though I can't say I've heard of that particular group-though I know Tripoli is in Lebanon (and there's another Tripoli too?). I remembered you mentioned your husband's nationality in your Christmas post- thought the surname sounded vaguely Middle Eastern or German.
      I hear tell that Lebanon is (or was until recently?) the only Christian majority state in the Middle East? Is that correct...?

      Don't know about the fifth Crusade really:( Know about the first and the third probably everyone knows about. Was that the one in which Constantinople was sacked, or was that the Fourth Crusade? I know now...

      Anyway, enough of my ramblings here... must sign off.Best of luck and happy reading (for both of us- I have feudal rights to deal with.....)

    5. Lebanon supposedly has a Christian majority, but they purposely haven't taken a census in a long time. Most people think that has shifted, but right now the president has to be Maronite Catholic, and they seem to avoid taking a new census that might change that. There are probably more Muslims now because many Christians have emigrated. And yes, I think there is another Tripoli, maybe somewhere in Africa. The fourth crusade they sacked Constantinople. The fifth didn't end up accomplishing much at all.

    6. P.S. 1218 - 1219 has to be the years for this book because of the series and the fact that I started Dauntless in 1216. But so far the time seems to be working fine for my purposes. A question for you, because I've found huge disparity in the research, any opinion on the time for a nice clear sea voyage from England to the Holy Land? I've seen as long as two years and as little as two months. I had Dandelion take about two months from England to Italy, and they didn't have to take as many stops at ports in the 1300s. So I'm thinking maybe four to six months for this story.

    7. That's sad about Lebanon. I have heard that statistically, there were a lot more Christians in the Middle East at the beginning of the last century than there are today, but the population has reduced significantly because of persecution.
      I can't remember who it was (might have been Prince Charles or a maj0r Bishop) in this country that said Christianity is in danger of being driven out of the very place it started....

      As for a sea voyage- I'm no maritime expert- but two months sounds closer to the mark-or even less. I would have to research specifics of such voyages though. Perhaps you would know better than I how long in took Columbus to travel across the Atlantic-? A month, more?
      I don't really see any conceivable reason why it would take as long as two years unless something went horribly wrong on the way, or they were stopping in literally every port for a significant amount of time. Also, there would be logistical issues on such long voyage, such as having enough food and keeping the crew in order.

      Sorry I couldn't be more helpful....

    8. I've been digging around more, and it looks like many got waylaid with battles along the way. There was still much fighting in Europe at that time, and some of those battles had been declared "political crusades" by the pope because he strongly backed a certain side.

      Anyway, the main difference between this time and say Columbus was that they stopped in ports a lot. The ships weren't big enough to carry tons of supplies, and the sailing techniques weren't quite as advanced. It seems most ships had the options of sails or oars. The oars were used if the winds just wouldn't cooperate, and also to row into ports. I'm leaning toward a three to four month journey. Glad that sounds reasonable to you. There was definitely a contingent of ships that sailed from the Hungary area to the Holy Land in sixteen days, but to go start in England and have to go around Spain is a much longer trip.

    9. Like the Pope sanctioned William the Conqueror's invasion of England in 1066? Bet we were none too pleased about that.....
      Again, I bow to your superior knowledge in that regard sounds as though you have done far more research in that regard. I know the Vikings were adept mariners, and seem to have traveled quite fast, but I suppose a Longship is rather different from a passenger/cargo ship.

      Was the fifth Crusade the one led by Louis of France, by any chance?

  3. No, some key players included Andrew of Hungary, Leopold of Austria, some back up came from the Frisians and Germans. Perhaps most interesting, Francis of Assisi played a role, and not surprisingly was more interested in making peace and evangelizing the Muslims. LOL. It was mainly an attack on Diamatta in Egypt, which only very briefly succeeded and was lost again a few years later. Since I'm in Tripoli and the Levant, I'm more interested in figuring out Bohemond IV and V. The Egypt attack will only play a backdrop for my story.