In the recently released movie Kingdom of Heaven, the movie makers take the facts of history, throw them into a hat and then pull them out in random order to make up this historical movie, and then sell it off as fact!
You see, I have always believed that the facts do not necessarily correlate to truth! Fact do not equal truth! Without context and perspective fact is merely raw data. Apply the context and perspective to fact and truth appears. In Kingdom of Heaven we can see this so clearly.
Kingdom of Heaven mixes different facts of a century apart to make its story. In the movie Godfrey, protector of the king of Jerusalem and baron of Ibelin, returns to France to look for his illegitimate son, Balian, to lure him to Jerusalem to join Godfrey in the new world. On the way back to Jerusalem Godfrey dies and leaves Balian to be the new protector of the king of Jerusalem and to be the new baron of Ibelin. Back in Jerusalem Balian discovers that the king is a leper who has been king since his teenage years and who just may not see his 30th year alive. Balian falls in love with Sybilla, the king's sister, but later denies his love for her when he realises that this love could cause great evil in the empire. After the king dies Sybilla becomes queen and her husband Guy of Lusignan becomes her king. Guy, who is a bloodthirsty man decides that it is time for war against the Saracens (Muslims). He leads his army, without the warrior knights of Balian and Tiberias who felt that Guy's actions were uncalled for, against the army of Saladin who ruled an army of 200,000. Saladin obliterates the army of the new king of Jerusalem and decides that Jerusalem must be taken. When Balian hears of this he decides that it is worth defending Jerusalem against Saladin. However, Saladin takes Jerusalem and gives the people of Jerusalem safe passage out of Jerusalem.
Much of the story is based on fact. Godfrey existed and so did Saladin, Sybilla, the leper king of Jerusalem and Guy the bloodthirsty new king. However, Balian did not exist, and there were at least 87 years and two crusades that separated the lives of these people.
True context for the fall of Jerusalem
Godfrey (a descendant of Charlemagne in the female line), accompanied by his two brothers, Baldwin and Eustace, was the moral hero of the First Crusade. He is described as having prodigious physical strength. He was as pious as he was brave, and his single purpose was rescuing Jerusalem from the hands of the Saracens. Contemporary historians call him a holy monk in military armor and ornaments of a duke. Even his rivals acknowledged his purity. In a word, a very different person than pictured in Kingdom of Heaven. Being one of the stalwarts of the first crusade, he helped in securing Jerusalem on July 15, 1099. However, just eight days after the capture of Jerusalem Godfrey was elected king of Jerusalem but declined the title of king, since he was unwilling to wear a crown of gold in the same city where the Saviour had worn a crown of thorns. He rather adopted the title of Baron and Defender of the Holy Sepulchre. Having extended his own realm, and survived the capture of Jerusalem, Godfrey died a year later on July 18, 1100. He was recognised as the most devout among the chieftains of the first crusade and as a result his body was laid to rest in the church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Godfrey, after his death, was succeeded by his brother Baldwin as king of Jerusalem (1100-1118). Next came Baldwin II, the nephew of Baldwin I (1118-1131). The next ruler was Fulke of Anjou (1131-1143), the husband of Millicent, Baldwin II's daughter. After this followed Baldwin III (1143-1162). He saw the progress of the second crusade. Baldwin III was succeeded by Amalric of Amaury (1162-1173). The next king was Baldwin IV (1173-1184), a thirteen old boy who was a leper. Sybilla was his sister, who married Montferrat, one of the regents during the reign of Baldwin IV. It was during the reign of Baldwin IV that Saladin became the caliph over the whole realm of Damascus to the Nile. Baldwin V (1184-1186), the five year old nephew of Baldwin IV, was succeeded by Sybilla's second husband, Guy of Lusignan. Kingdom of Heaven depicts the battle between Guy and Saladin.
So, the creators of Kingdom of Heaven played fast and loose with the facts of the crusades by inserting Godfrey into a historic future in which he is simply the friend of the leprous king Baldwin IV, who reigned 73 years after Godfrey's own reign. Godfrey is also never depicted as the king of Jerusalem during this movie. The movie is also a depiction of the second crusade whereas Godfrey fought in the first crusade. Sybilla and her husband Guy also never succeeded Sybilla's brother directly, but rather followed Sybilla's five year old son, Baldwin V. This then also shows that there never could have been any antagonism between Guy and Godfrey, since they never could have known each other!
Hollywood again shows its bias against Christianity in Kingdom of Heaven. The reasons for the crusades are not clearly shown and the Christians (under the leadership of Guy) are shown to simply want to go to war without any provocation. In fact, the Christians are shown to have provoked Saladin to come to war. On the other hand, the Muslims are shown to be the honourable ones and never to be the aggressors apart from when they are provoked. This clearly overlooks one of the main reasons for the start of the crusades.
Since the inception of Islam by the false prophet Mohammed, he and his followers have been involved in wars of great destruction against anyone who did not believe in Mohammed's message. This included Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and pagans. In the first century of Islamic jihad from Mohammed on, 3200 churches have been destroyed or converted into mosques. Thousands of Christians were massacred in this period alone. And it has not stopped. Men were forced to hand over their women and children to be sold as slaves. City upon city was invaded by hordes of Muslims who continued to slaughter the inhabitants of these cities. As recently as in "1860 over 12,000 Christians were slaughtered in Lebanon." Later, in "1876 14,700 Bulgarians were murdered by the Turks." Continuing in this trend, "200,000 Armenian Christians were slaughtered by the Turks in Bayazid in 1877. And in 1915 the Turks massacred over 1.5 million Armenian Christians. As recently as September 1922 the Turkish army destroyed the ancient city of Smyrna with its 300,000 Christian population."
This had been "Mohammed's" rule since Islam's inception for close on 500 years when the crusades started. It simply came to a point where the Muslims could no longer be ignored. The fact that "Mohammed" tried to convert the world by the sword never even made it to this piece of celluloid.
Do not get me wrong, many atrocities were committed by many of the so-called "Christians" on these crusades. This we do not deny. Yet, many of these same atrocities were committed by the armies of Islam for almost 500 years but we are never informed of them in this movie.
Because this is a historic epic, many unsuspecting viewers will leave the theatre believing that what they saw to be truth. Yet, this movie simply produces the "truth" of the warped worldview of its makers. It passes the many mixed up facts as truth. However, it never brings us truth, but rather stores in the minds of the viewers a rewritten historic concoction of half truths and innuendo.
To learn more about the crusades and what led to them, read The Real History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden.
Not all is bad
Even though Kingdom of Heaven is historically inaccurate there is some good we can take from this movie. It is a movie of honour, bravery and consequences. Balian's brave stand against the Saracens is shown to be a stand of honour, since he and his men promised the king to protect those that cannot be protected. Even Saladin is shown to be honourable in his dealings with the king. A deal was struck between the king and Saladin as to who rules where. Saladin never seems to have gone against this deal. The consequences of wrong actions are also shown when we see the end of Guy, who succeeded the leper king. He was not an honourable man. He was also a man of bloodlust. He ended losing his kingdom and had nowhere to go.
This movie is not for someone who is sensitive. Whenever a battle is on the go, blood is splattered across the screen and onto those in battle. However, the violence and blood cannot be compared to that of garbage like Kill Bill. If you are interested in an accurate historical movie, this is also not for you, especially if you are a history buff.
All in all the movie is good in terms of the story and the special effects. But, like most other historic epics produced by Hollywood such as Troy, King Arthur and Alexander, Hollywood gets it wrong once again!
1. Peter Hammond, The End of Islam, http://www.frontline.org.za/news/end_of_islam.htm
Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 5, The Middle Ages, From Gregory VII to Boniface VIII, 1049-1294, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, First Printing, July 1996.
30 November 2009 - After I received a correction from Anonymous, on Sat, 28 November 2009, concerning Balian, I thought it best to put a link to my correction concerning Balian that I wrote back on 18 May 2005 called Kingdom of Heaven Correction.