Minoo Dinshaw

A thoroughly modern medieval romance

The novelist and essayist James Meek’s confident new medieval romance is conducted in brief passages separated out by three icons, a rose, a sickle and a quill, emblematic of the three estates of the realm. The nobility play at courtly love; the commons can only evade their bondage by war service; and the clergy are

New York times

Seven years ago Stella Tillyard, a successful historian of the 18th century, broke into historical fiction with Tides of War. This historically faithful and scrupulously detailed Napoleonic saga was thought in some quarters to have met its period’s gold standard: Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey novels. It also received the accolade, now obligatory for success in

Crusading passions

In W.B. Yeats’s ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’, a testing allusion emerges amid a scene of nightmare: Monstrous familiar images swim to the mind’s eye ‘Vengeance upon the murderers,’ the cry goes up ‘Vengeance for Jacques Molay.’ More about de Molay, last master of the Knights Templar, can be found in Dan Jones’s new

The Crusades live

The 12th-century crusader Reynald de Chatillon was one of the most controversial men of his time, and his new biographer Jeffrey Lee believes he has returned to disturbing relevance in ours. Over a relatively long life with a dramatically violent end, Reynald became Prince of Antioch by marriage, endured 16 years in a dungeon below

The First Crusade, by Peter Frankopan

Perhaps more than any other single historical event, the First Crusade (1096-99) lends itself to the narrative technique. This was the quest — and a successful one — on the part of Roman Catholic Europe to regain the Holy Lands taken during the Muslim conquests of the Levant four centuries earlier. Its rich cast of

A feast of vanities

The name of Savonarola slides off the tongue as if concocted for an orator’s climax. But when it came to names, whether by melody or reputation, the Florence he knew offered aggressive competition. Pico della Mirandola, Lorenzo ‘il Magnifico’ de’ Medici, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Machiavelli all shared his era. In an unexpected and sympathetic conclusion