Kingdom of Heaven

  By Rider, 2 December 2006; Revised
  Category: Medieval Europe
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The Movie
Kingdom of Heaven poster
Kingdom of Heaven poster

Kingdom of Heaven is a good Hollywood movie about a blacksmith, Balian, who discovers that he is the son of the Baron of Ibelin, Godfrey. Balian kills a friar and escapes, whilst the bishop’s men give him a chase and when Balian reaches Godfrey’s men, the bishop’s troops assault them. In the following skirmish, Godfrey is mortally wounded and the force starts moving towards Messina. In Messina, Godfrey dies, but not before knighting Balian and making him the next Baron of Ibelin.

Balian sets out to go to the Holy Land but his ship is shipwrecked and he finds himself in a situation where he will have to fight with a Muslim cavaleer. He wins and lets the servant of the cavaleer lead him to Jerusalem. There Balian meets with Sibylla, Tiberias and the King of Jerusalem. Balian then rides to Ibelin and he quickly solved the water supply problem. Sibylla arrives in Ibelin, and shortly after comes a message from Tiberias that the King rides to Kerak to defend Reynald de Chatillion from Saladin, for Reynald had attacked a caravan. Balian rode to Kerak along with his men-at-arms and Sibylla. Balian assaulted a numerically superior force and was defeated but the man who led the Saracen cavalry spared the men of Balian.

Then the King of Jerusalem met with Saladin, and both made peace. At Saladin’s departure, the King of Jerusalem imprisoned Reynald de Chatillion. Soon the King died, however, Guy de Lusignan became the king, and sent some men to kill Balian and to release de Chatillion. De Chatillion soon brought war upon Jerusalem and Guy de Lusignan summoned the armies and marched out despite the warnings of Tiberias and Balian, who had killed his killers. The army was defeated at Hattin and Saladin soon besieged Jerusalem. Balian saved the city, and back in France he met Richard the Lionheart who was going to Jerusalem. Balian stayed in his little village with Sibylla.

The Characters

Balian of Ibelin
Never was he a blacksmith but a powerful and wiseknight. In reality his father was named Barisan, not Godfrey. But the Ibelin family is so tweaked in this movie that it would be totally confusing to discuss it to the extremes.

King Baldwin IV
King Baldwin IV
King Baldwin IV
A great king. He brought up the victory at Montgisard two times during the entire movie saying that it was his, but I would more attribute the victury to the Templars although both played a significant role. He was indeed a leper and died on the worst possible time he could have.

The name has been changed, the true person was Raymond, count of Tripoli. Perhaps the Hollywood filmmakers thought that too complicated? Don’t know. Nothing much has been altered, except the small fact that he was there at Hattin and he was charged as one of the first persons along with his men. Saladin’s troops allowed them pass through, and so he was saved from the slaughter.

Guy de Lusignan
Never a Templar, although he carries Templar robes in the movie. He became the King, and it was his tactical mistakes that lost Jerusalem at Hattin.

Reynald de Chatillion
Well, again, he was never a Templar but he carries Templar robes in the movie. A perfect man for starting a war, I would say, for "Someone has to do it!" as he mentioned in the movie. When he was riding off to Hattin, it was good to see that he poured water onto his armoured and it vaporized immediately.

Again, another place where Templars are pictured as evil persons wishing to kill every Saracen. The hanging of two Templars that was shown when Balian entered Jerusalem might have been a true loss for the Templars. Two knights were worth a lot and hanging them was just foolishness. Also, I have understood that the only person to judge Templars were their Grand Master and the Pope, not the King of Jerusalem (as was the case with Hospitallers). The men that were sent to kill Balian later on were told to be Templars, yet they were dressed as men of the Teutonic Order which didn’t exist yet. And to leave aside the people that actually weren’t Templars (Guy de Lusignan and Reynald de Chatillion), the Templars only said during the entire movie: „God wills it!“ and „Blasphemy!“ and one (the same as started the cries before) gave some advice on war. During the little conflict where the Templars (plus Guy de Lusignan and Reynald de Chatillion) attacked a Saracen caravan in the movie, the Templar battlecry was in English although they would have used the Latin version of it.

I think it is outrageous that a Hospitaller could just wonder around Europe and choose whether he wanted to go to battle. Although I must say that I liked the guy, he was wise and all the Templars were not. We could have seen more of these Hospitallers as a contrast to the Templars. Although, another thing is that I don’t recall seeing the Hospitallers in any of the discussions in the Courtyard.

The Patriarch, never seen a more horrid guy in a Crusades movie. He was against everything that could save them--yes, ride out and let the Muslims capture you. After all, knighting a man, makes him a better fighter Patriarch... and you taught me much about religion too. Oh, in real life, Heraclius was a greedy man who tried to weaken the standing of King Baldwin, but we didn’t see him that early in the movie. And he wanted war too. And I’ll never forget it when he was walking out of the city, and he saw Balian ride past him on a horse.

Well, she became a Queen indeed after her brother’s death. But the thing that gets me thinking was whether Sibylla’s mother indeed wed him to de Lusignan or not. Still, he never escaped to France with Balian. And her lover was Balian’s brother, not Balian.

The Christian charge at Kerak
The Christian charge at Kerak

Skirmish at Kerak
The small fight between the forces of Ibelin and the Muslim cavalry at Kerak was quite extraordinary. For one, both forces were in typical formations for that era (the Muslim half-moon and Christian wedge). Secondly, it was wonderful to see the Christian force defeated contrary to most movies where a small group goes and wins the day...

Battle of Hattin
The tactics used at Hattin vary in sources, and we didn’t see it on the screen, so we don’t have much to discuss here. Only, I must point out the fact that Count Raymond was missing from the scene and that the Crusaders should have been on a hilltop, yet in the movie they were in a valley. 

It is true that Balian, in defence of Jerusalem, knighted men, but not more than 50, contrary to all men-at-arms whom Balian knighted in the movie.

Surrender of Jerusalem
I have always heard that all people had to pay a relatively short amount of money to leave Jerusalmen at its surrender. Richer organizations could buy people's freedom in case they didn’t have the needed amount. Despite this, many richer people or organizations (the Patriarch, Orders) left with all their money and gold intact. In the movie all people were allowed to leave.