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Grail Trail

C.H. Roberts

4 March 1982
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail 
by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.
Cape, 445 pp., £8.95, January 1982, 0 224 01735 7
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The Foreigner: A Search for the First-Century Jesus 
by Desmond Stewart.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 241 10686 9
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Satan: The Early Christian Tradition 
by Jeffrey Burton Russell.
Cornell, 258 pp., £14, November 1981, 0 8014 1267 6
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... of different people, and it looked as if Saunière was an agent for some group. This story, the subject of a paperback in France by Gérard de Sède and of a Chronicle film for BBC Television by HenryLincoln, is the starting-point of the present book. In their investigation of the problems posed by the story, Lincoln and his co-authors begin with the Cathars, and the Cathars lead to the Templars ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Da Vinci Code’

8 June 2006
The Da Vinci Code 
directed by Ron Howard.
May 2006
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... directly and by anagram to the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail: Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent, who recently sued Brown’s publisher for plagiarism and lost. The third author, HenryLincoln, didn’t sue. The book itself is mentioned in large capitals, and Teabing comments on it pedantically (‘their fundamental premise is sound’). Of course Brown was playing these games long before ...

A Topic Best Avoided

Nicholas Guyatt: Abraham Lincoln

1 December 2011
The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln​ and American Slavery 
by Eric Foner.
Norton, 426 pp., £21, February 2011, 978 0 393 06618 0
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... On the evening of 11 April 1865, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd in Washington about black suffrage. The Civil War had been over for a week. Lincoln had already walked the streets of Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, taking in the devastation at first hand. ‘The only people who showed themselves were negroes,’ the radical senator ...

How to Be a Knight

Diarmaid MacCulloch: William Marshal

20 May 2015
The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power behind Five English Thrones 
by Thomas Asbridge.
Simon and Schuster, 444 pp., £20, January 2015, 978 0 7432 6862 2
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... has shown that it was installed around the year 1189. It was paid for, we now know, by William Marshal, first Earl of Pembroke, who rose from relative obscurity to become regent for the young Henry III and one of the most powerful men in Europe. Marshal’s craftsmen used fast-grown trees for the door’s outer face and a powerful lattice of slow-grown timber for the reinforcement inside: no ...

No Accident

Zachary Leader: Gore Vidal’s Golden Age

21 June 2001
The Golden Age: A Novel 
by Gore Vidal.
Little, Brown, 467 pp., £17.99, October 2000, 0 316 85409 3
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... biographer.’ With the publication of The Golden Age, the biography draws to a close. The novels which comprise it, to list them in order of the historical periods they cover, are Burr (1973), Lincoln (1984), 1876 (1976, of course), Empire (1987), Hollywood (1989), Washington, DC (1967) and now The Golden Age. According to Vidal’s biographer, Fred Kaplan, it was while at work on Lincoln, in the ...

Young Man’s Nostalgia

Diarmaid MacCulloch: William Byrd

30 July 2014
by Kerry McCarthy.
Oxford, 282 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 0 19 538875 6
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... they were still admired and adapted through the centuries when most Tudor music was relegated to the archives.2 Beside him are Thomas Sackville, earl of Dorset, and the earls and cousins Charles and Henry Howard. All three were Byrd’s patrons, and to various degrees shared the shifts and ambiguities of his religious convictions; it was odds-on that all of them would have conformed to a restoration ...

What news?

Patrick Collinson: The Pilgrimage of Grace

1 November 2001
The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Politics of the 1530s 
by R.W. Hoyle.
Oxford, 487 pp., £30, May 2001, 9780198208747
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... upstart ministers, and above all at Thomas Cromwell, whose personal role in ‘all this’ is still debated. The way in which the commotions began tends to support the view of, among others, Abraham Lincoln and Harold Macmillan that events are the motors of history, not policy decisions, or, according to Hoyle, the deeper underlying structures, the slowly shifting tectonic plates preferred by Braudel ...

A Preference for Strenuous Ghosts

Michael Kammen: Theodore Roosevelt

6 June 2002
Theodore Rex 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 772 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 00 217708 0
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... Washington (1996) in order to paint a portrait of integrity and rectitude as an exemplar of what was wanting in the Clinton White House. Books about Franklin D. Roosevelt and, above all, Abraham Lincoln have long since become a cottage industry. FDR’s elder cousin, Theodore, who occupied the White House from 1901 to 1909, has not exactly been neglected, but Nathan Miller’s 1992 biography was the ...

Divinely Ordained

Jackson Lears: God loves America

19 May 2011
A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided 
by Amanda Foreman.
Penguin, 988 pp., £12.99, June 2011, 978 0 14 104058 5
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... misperceptions of the foreigners whose favour they courted so assiduously. The result is a rich account on a stunningly broad canvas, populated by a fascinating array of characters. Mythic figures (Lincoln, Grant, Lee, Jackson), seen afresh, acquire sharper outlines. Second-tier players have their moment in the limelight: the secretary of state William Seward drinks too much and blusters about invading ...


Denton Fox

21 January 1988
Robert Grosseteste: The Growth of an English Mind in Medieval Europe 
by R.W. Southern.
Oxford, 337 pp., £30, July 1986, 9780198264507
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Politics, Policy and Finance under Henry​ III, 1216-1245 
by Robert Stacey.
Oxford, 284 pp., £27.50, July 1987, 0 19 820086 2
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... and that a substantial one – though it should have come a good twenty-five years earlier, in the normal pattern of a successful career. It may be that this preferment was connected with the young Henry III, who was released from the control of his guardians in the early 1220s, and whom Grosseteste may have served as secretary and keeper of his secret seal. With his new independence, Grosseteste ...

Renewing the Struggle

Penelope Fitzgerald: Edward White Benson

18 June 1998
Father of the Bensons: The Life of Edward White Benson, Sometime Archbiship of Canterbury 
by Geoffrey Palmer and Noel Lloyd.
Lennard, 226 pp., £16.99, May 1998, 1 85291 138 7
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... schoolfellows think slightingly, on the score of poverty or social distinctions, of those who are dearest to him in the world.’ This is from the biography of one of my grandfathers, later Bishop of Lincoln: it tactfully conceals the fact that in the 1860s his father kept a shop, and got hopelessly into debt. Edward Benson was spared this, but when his mother died in 1850 he was still working for his ...

The Idea of America

Alasdair MacIntyre

6 November 1980
Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence 
by Garry Wills.
Athlone, 398 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 485 11201 9
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... commentators such as G.K. Chesterton, who wrote that ‘America is the only nation in the world founded upon a creed,’ but more importantly a central American tradition whose hero and spokesman is Lincoln. Lincoln is for Wills the prototype of the political moralist who is prepared to appeal to the Declaration against the status quo, even the constitutional status quo. From this moralism, so Wills ...

How to Be Tudor

Hilary Mantel: Can a King Have Friends?

17 March 2016
Charles Brandon: Henry​ VIII’s Closest Friend 
by Steven Gunn.
Amberley, 304 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4456 4184 3
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... On​ their West Country progress in the summer of 1535, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited Thornbury Castle near Bristol. Thornbury is an upmarket hotel now, a popular choice for guests working through their bucket list. Now that every narrative is a ‘journey ...

At the Royal Academy

Rosemary Hill: The Treasures of the Society of Antiquaries

18 October 2007
... they acquired a reputation for crankiness. Drawings in Making History show them in action opening tombs, taking pickaxes to prehistoric barrows and climbing across a spindly ladder high up in Lincoln Cathedral to inspect the concealed ‘prison chamber’. Since the study of local antiquities did not require a classical education or a grand tour, members might be of modest means. They included ...
21 September 1995
Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull and Sumner Welles 
by Irwin Gellman.
Johns Hopkins, 499 pp., $29.95, April 1995, 0 8018 5083 5
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Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley 
edited by Geoffrey Ward.
Houghton Mifflin, 444 pp., $24.95, April 1995, 0 395 66080 7
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No Ordinary Time. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War Two 
by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Simon and Schuster, 759 pp., £18, June 1995, 0 671 64240 5
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The End of Reform 
by Alan Brinkley.
Knopf, 371 pp., $27.50, March 1995, 0 394 53573 1
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... aides by being unable to choose one against the other. ‘You know I am a juggler, and I never let my right hand know what my left hand does,’ the President explained to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau (whose own undercutting we can follow in Alan Brinkley’s The End of Reform). This method of human relations worked, paradoxically, better with the women in the President’s private life ...

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