Blondel's Song: The Capture, Imprisonment and Ransom of Richard the Lionheart

by David Boyle

Paperback, 2006



Call number




Penguin Books Ltd (2006), Paperback, 400 pages


David Boyle tells us about the extraordinary events surrounding Richard the Lionheart's disappearance. But, above all, he tells us 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 Songis the tale of one of the most peculiar incidents of medieval history. And, in giving us the background to the real Blondel and his fellow troubadours, David Boyle shows us the courts of love, the Holy Grail, the emergence of Gothic cathedrals like Notre-Dame and Chartres, and that unique moment of tolerance in the West when Europe shared a language, and a new culture of music, romance and chivalry.

User reviews

LibraryThing member cbl_tn
In his acknowledgments, the author reveals that this is a book he has always wanted to write. That worked out well for me, because it's a book I've always wanted to read. My interest in Richard the Lion-heart goes back to my early twenties, when I visited a friend in Austria and spent a couple of
Show More
hours in Dürnstein wandering its streets and climbing around the ruins of the castle where legend says Richard was imprisoned. I also read Ivanhoe around the same time, in which Walter Scott imagines Richard's return to England after the 3rd Crusade.

The author starts with the legend of Blondel's discovery of Richard in his prison in Dürnstein Castle as he sang beside its walls and heard Richard's echoing voice. Boyle presents evidence substantiating that Blondel was a historical person and not merely legendary, and he meshes legend and historical account into probable locations and a time line for Richard's flight through Europe, his capture, and his imprisonment. However, he doesn't present any convincing evidence that Richard and Blondel knew each other, let alone had any sort of friendship. All he offers is speculation about when and where they might have met. Blondel pretty much drops out of the story just over halfway through, when Richard is discovered in prison. The rest of the book describes the political negotiations for Richard's release, the raising of his ransom, Richard's return to England, and the last few years of his life. Blondel wasn't involved in any of that.

The narrative is chronological for the most part; the author only occasionally got ahead of himself in telling Richard's story. The list of characters at the front of the book is nice, but I still had trouble distinguishing among all of the different Henrys mentioned in the book. The maps, genealogical charts, and illustrations added to the text, and I didn't feel like anything was lacking in the helps provided. The author relies heavily on secondary sources, which is appropriate for a popular history for a general audience.
Show Less
LibraryThing member john257hopper
The main title of this book is a bit misleading as the role of Blondel is fairly marginal and I am not sure I am convinced by the author's theory that the story is essentially true. But as an account of the main events of the reign of Richard the Lionheart this is well written and in the process
Show More
gives us a vivid picture of cities and travel by sea and land during this period.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Chris_El
How to start a letter like a boss: "Eleanor, by the wrath of God, Queen of England, Duchess of Normandy and Count of Anjou". This letter was written to the pope asking him to enforce his edict protecting returning crusaders from harassment after her son (Richard the Lionhearted) was imprisoned
Show More
while returning from the crusades to England. (See page 194).

This books talks about the troubadour that allegedly helped find where King Richard the Lionhearted was hidden away in a castle after being captured returning from the crusades. The author acknowledges that this story was probably not true. It discusses the history of the Royal family, troubadours, the court of love and grace that affected Richard, and the crusades. A bit of discussion on how troubadours operated as public opinion makers with their creation and publication of songs, and possibly as spies. There is quite a bit of discussion about the ransom and politics over the arrest and ransom of Richard the Lionhearted.

A bit slow in the middle and feels like a history book most of the time rather than a re-telling of an exciting time in history. However, it filled in some of the gaps about Richard and his family that I had not read about since most of what I have read has focused more on the Crusader conflict rather than Richard. And it filled in the gaps about England raising the ransom and all the politics about that and getting it to the people with Richard in their power.
Show Less


Original publication date


Physical description

369 p.; 9.21 inches


0141015977 / 9780141015972
Page: 0.3348 seconds