Henry Lincoln is the author who co-wrote the bestselling The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (HBHG), with colleagues Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. Their work later inspired that of Dan BrownThe “Da Vinci Code” and its hit film adaptation.
Lincoln, who died at the age of 92, helped launch a field of research that, in turn, spawned countless other books in the alternative history genre and put Rennes le Château on the readers’ map. English.
Henry Lincoln was born Henry Soskin in London in 1930 to Jewish parents of Russian and Polish descent. After national service, he began his professional career as a stage actor, leading to roles on radio and television.
He then wrote scripts for Z-cars – the popular crime drama – and for Doctor Whointroducing the enduring and much-loved character of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart to the franchise in the series The Web of Fear (1968), co-written with Mervyn Haisman.
It was in 1969, while on vacation in France with his family, that Lincoln came across a book by journalist and former surrealist poet Gérard de Sède. In Rennes Gold (L’Or de Rennes), De Sède evokes a treasure and a secret society, the Priory of Sion, which has preserved a line of royal blood from the Merovingians to the present day.
When, during his investigations, Lincoln asked De Sède why he had published certain scrolls in his book but had not decoded them, the French author replied cryptically “because we thought it might be of interest to someone. one like you to find it for yourself”.
The first results of his research were a series of three television episodes for the BBC the Chronicle series, including “The priest, the painter and the devil” (1974) which told the story of Bérenger Saunière, a village priest who allegedly found a treasure, and Nicolas Poussin, the Renaissance artist.
Lincoln met Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh in the late 70s and began working on the book that would define their careers. First published in 1982, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail is a compelling read, a tome that advances the idea that Jesus did not die on the cross but rather married Mary Magdalene and had children who later came to live in the south of France.
For some readers it was heresy, for others it was the start of a journey of discovery. Anthony Burgess, reviewing in The observer, noted, “It is typical of my irregenerate soul that I can only see this as a wonderful theme for a novel.”
follow-up work, The Messianic Legacy (1986), further explored the “line of Jesus” theory, reflecting on the possible impact on modern Europe of an existing genealogical line from the House of David to European royalty.
Author Dan Brown had read HBHG and was inspired to write his bestseller The “Da Vinci Code”, leaving behind some clues to its original sources. For example, the character of Sir Leigh Teabing, whose name nods to two of the HBHG authors, one in plain text and the other in anagram form. This book has since sold over 80 million copies and was made into a hit movie starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou.
In 2006, Baigent and Leigh made the reckless decision to take Dan Brown’s publisher Random House to court. They alleged that he plagiarized ideas for his novel from HBHG, a work of non-fiction. It turned out to be a costly mistake when the case and an appeal were lost.
Fortunately, Lincoln had kept his distance from this litigation. His son, Rupert, said: ‘He refused to have anything to do with the case, saying Dan Brown had done them no harm. Indeed, the success of The “Da Vinci Code” was simply used to put HBHG back in the bestseller lists, so they should be grateful. Leigh died in 2007 and Baigent followed in 2013.
In a later work, Sacred Pattern Key (1997), Lincoln had investigated the fascinating phenomenon of sacred geometry, whereby landmarks in the Rennes le Château area seemed to line up to form a pentacle in the landscape. Once again his work inspired many other scholars and writers to tend to their cards and pens.
In his later life, Lincoln lived on the outskirts of a small village near Rennes le Château with his son and daughter-in-law. Well into his eighties, he continued to lecture on his research and made himself available to fans around the world.
I had met Lincoln several times because of my own interest in Rennes le Chateau and we had last spoken in October. A man full of surprises and talents, I learned for the first time that he was fluent in German, as well as Arabic and, of course, French.
During our conversation, I commented on how many people had discovered the wonderful region of Languedoc and its people, thanks to him and his writings. He in turn understood and recognized the contribution he had made during his lifetime. This, I believe, is Henry Lincoln’s true treasure and enduring legacy.
He married Patricia Cope in 1952. They had four children: Rupert, photographer and writer; Hugo, writer, died in 2012; and housewives Kate and Caroline.
Henry Lincoln, author and screenwriter, born April 17, 1930, died February 24, 2022