Blondel’s Song

Blondel’s Song: The capture, imprisonment and ransom of Richard the Lionheart

Viking Penguin (2005)

This book is published in the USA as The Troubadour’s Song (Walker Books)2005
UK – Book details Buy the book
US – Book details Buy the book

“What makes Blondel’s Song come alive is Boyle’s retracing of Richard’s most likely route back from the Holy Land, via a shipwreck on the Dalmatian coast, and on, in disguise, over the Alps in the depths of winter to the village outside the walls of Vienna where he was finally captured. Here, where the narrative is most fully imagined — blending first-hand experience of the landscape with tales handed down by local tradition — the book reaches beyond the confusing accounts of the chroniclers with conviction and momentum.”
Sunday Times

“His colourful material may have been a writer’s gift, but he has made the most of it.  Rarely have I come across such a deeply satisfying book.”
Literary Review

On his way back from the crusades, one of England’s most famous and romantic medieval kings was ship-wrecked and stranded near Venice. Trying to make his way home in disguise, he was arrested and imprisoned and effectively disappeared. He didn’t get home for another 15 months, and at enormous cost – a quarter of the entire wealth of England was paid to win his release.

The bizarre events surrounding Richard the Lionheart’s disappearance has been relegated to the nursery by generations of historians. But it also provides the background to some of the most colourful and enduring legends – Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham, the discovery of King Arthur’s grave, and above all, the story of Blondel, Richard’s faithful minstrel, and his journey across central Europe – singing under castle towers – until he finds the missing king.

Blondel’s Song tells the tale of one of the most peculiar incidents of medieval history, and the background to the real Blondel and his fellow troubadours, as well as the courts of love, the Holy Grail, emergence of gothic cathedrals like Notre Dame and Chartres, and the unique moment of tolerance in the West – when Europe shared a language, and a new culture of music, romance and chivalry.

It retraces and rediscovers Richard’s secret journey across the Alps in winter, and uncovers the real story of the arrest of Europe’s most powerful king, two thousand miles from home, and the effects of his gigantic ransom. And it uncovers for the first time the real meaning of the legend of Blondel, the song that revealed Richard’s lonely cell, and the truth about who Blondel was.

Richard’s song written in prison, 1193

The route of Richard’s journey in disguise

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