Synopses & Reviews
Jerusalem sits at the crossroads of three continents and has been continuously invaded for millennia. Yet, in the middle of one of the regions most violent eras, the Crusades, an amazing multicultural world was forming. Templar knights, Muslim peasants, Turkish caliphs, Jewish merchants, and the native Christians, along with the children of the first crusaders, blended cultures while struggling to survive in a land constantly at war. Defending the City of God
explores this fascinating and forgotten world, and how a group of sisters, daughters of the King of Jerusalem, whose supporters included Grand Masters of the Templars and Armenian clerics, held together the fragile treaties, understandings, and marriages that allowed for relative peace among the many different factions. As the crusaders fought to maintain their conquests, these relationships quickly unraveled, and the religious and cultural diversity was lost as hardline factions took over. Weaving together the political intrigues and dynastic battles that transformed the Near East with an evocative portrait of medieval Jerusalem, this is an astonishing look at a forgotten side of the first Crusades.
"Medieval historian Newman (The Real History of the End of the World) takes readers to the 12th century Near East, where European Crusaders clashed with Muslim denizens over the territory, with sacred Jerusalem at its center ruled by the dynasty of controversial Queen Melisende. We follow the queen's father, Baldwin of le Bourq, from his acquisition of Edessa in the Middle East to his election as king of Jerusalem and his death, which resulted in Melisende's joint coronation with her husband, Fulk. Melisende grew up 'subject to the machinations of men with swords and armies' and developed both a keen understanding of the politics of multiculturalism and a sense of diplomacy from observing her father's mistakes. Newman relates the challenges to her authority, first by her husband, and later by her son, King Baldwin III, and praises Melisende's sister, Alice, and their shrewd mother, Morfia. Newman also provides the perspective of the Muslim Turks, the first development of 'jihad' sentiment, murders of Sunnis by Shi'ite assassins, and atabeg Imad al-din Zengi's reign of terror. Though Newman's account relies on a good deal of speculation, it is well-reasoned and effectively corrects a bias against Melisende by historians. Maps." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Newman… takes readers to the 12th century Near East, where European Crusaders clashed with Muslim denizens over the territory, with sacred Jerusalem at its center ruled by the dynasty of controversial Queen Melisende.” —Publishers Weekly
“This book is an intriguing and full account of the early crusades with a well-balanced emphasis on the role of women in the states that the crusaders created in the Holy Land. It is a lively story told on the basis of thorough and up-to-date research. The star is Melisende, Queen of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and a woman whose wisdom and power are all the more remarkable for the fact that the crusaders, once established, quarreled and fought amongst themselves. The supporting cast includes the other important women in the crusading states as well as the men who doomed them by their irrepressible internecine wars. The reader looks forward to hearing more about Melisende.” —Professor Jeffrey Burton Russell, University of California Santa Barbara
“Take a gifted writer-historian, a strong-willed medieval queen, and the result is a biography that is as impossible to put down as the most suspenseful novel.” —Sharon Kay Penman, New York Times Bestselling author of Lionheart
"This is an amazing study of an amazing woman in amazing times---the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Crusades, a lost world that continues to intrigue us. Using every scrap of surviving evidence, Sharan Newman pieces together a detailed life and times of the remarkable Queen Melisende who ruled the Crusader prize city, Jerusalem, in her own right in the mid-1100s. Long a staple of romantic legend, Melisende emerges here as a genuine historic presence.” —Margaret George, author of The Memoirs of Cleopatra
“With her impressive narrative drive, Sharan Newman here invites us to consider attempts by the “Franks” to forge new Christian societies in the disputed Holy Lands of the Near East during the twelfth century. In spite of exhausting endless warfare in the region—sometimes among and sometimes between different ethnic and religious groups—hereditary female power was briefly a norm. Using every possible historical record, Newman focuses a strong light on Queen Melisende as daughter, wife, mother, sponsor, and (mostly) as a moderate and independent ruler. This book is a fine historical achievement, an absolute “must read” for all of us worried about the misery of the Near East then and now. Grieve for Aleppo!” —Bonnie Wheeler, Southern Methodist University, series editor, The New Middle Ages
About the Author
Sharan Newman is a medieval historian and award-winning author of nonfiction and fiction. Her books include The Real History Behind the Templars and The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code . Shes been featured in The Catholic World Report, The Oregonian, Fortean Times, Yahoo! Voices, and on TLC. She lives in Ashland, Oregon.