The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln - review by Michael Wood

Michael Wood

Jeux d’esprit

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail


 Jonathan Cape 480pp £9.95 order from our bookshop

Someone was obviously producing this material, but their real object remained unclear. At times we nearly dismissed the whole affair as an elaborate joke, a hoax of extravagant proportions. If this were true, however … and if one invests so much time, energy and resources in a hoax, can it really be called a hoax at all? In fact the interlocking skeins and the overall fabric were less a joke than a work of art – a display of ingenuity, suspense, brilliance, intricacy, historical knowledge and architectonic complexity worthy of, say, James Joyce.

So the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail sum up the arcane ‘documents’ out of which they spin the tale of ‘the single most shattering secret of the last two thousand years.’ The secret is, briefly, that Christ escaped the cross, married Mary Magdalene and had children whose decendants have maintained his ‘blood royal’ across the intervening centuries. In the Dark Ages they married into the Merovingian royal family. In the thirteenth century they were protected by the Cathars. Now, it is alleged, they constitute a powerful secret society to which the great temporal lords of our day still pay respect. The Second Coming, in short, will be the presentation of Jesus’ lineal heir.

This book has raised fury among learned reviewers and occasioned a spate of apoplectic letters to the Times. Some critics have even been so unkind as to suggest that a reputable publishing house should not have printed such a ‘farrago’. This is rather ingenuous, as the book’s first appearance in

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter