Montferrat Coin Knight-Life

Roman-esque: Novels set in the Middle Ages

Maurice Hewlett, The Life & Death of Richard Yea-and-Nay

This is a very strange book. The author (a friend of Pound) was very knowledgeable about trobadors & c., but he caricatures Bertran de Born unforgivably. He gives Richard a major Mary-Sue of a mistress, Jehane, and another illegitimate son; they end up in the harem of the Sheikh of the Assassins, where Jehane plays a part in the instigating the death of Conrad.

Conrad is badly traduced in this novel, and I strongly suspect it is the source for his depiction in Cecil B DeMille's The Crusades. He is placed at the French Court, conspiring with Philip II and with Richard’s younger brother John, and travels to Outremer with Richard and Phil (as in the film). In reality, he was already there, heroically defending Tyre. As to his claim to the throne of Jerusalem, Hewlett writes:

Montferrat had the Archduke of Austria’s as well as French support; with these worthies, and the ravished wife of old King Baldwin for title-deed, he claimed the throne of Jerusalem...

Conrad’s wife was the half-sister, not the wife, of Baldwin IV - who, at 23, could hardly be considered old - and it seems extreme to refer to “rape” and “ravished”, when political marriages were far from unusual. Hewlett shows Conrad seeking out the Assassins to kill Richard. Sheikh Sinan is warned of his schemes by Jehane, who is in his harem. As a result, the Assassins murder Conrad instead, and cut off his right hand. It's all very strange, and somehow we end up with Jehane back on the scene in France to be with Richard when he is killed, something which her jealous husband has, in fact, arranged...

Back to