Ibn Warraq: Walter Scott, The Talisman, the Crusades, Richard I of England and Saladin: Myths, Legends and History (Part 4)
In Ivanhoe, when describing the attitudes of various characters to Jews, Scott is able to paint a sympathetic portrait of a despised people in Twelfth Century England, and implicitly criticize religious fanaticism as a source of perpetual strife and instability.
Scott, though often considered a respectable historian, is quite cavalier with the historical facts in Ivanhoe, or as A.N.Wilson put it, “wildly inaccurate”.  Scott himself admits the unhistorical nature of many of the details in a footnote, “”¦but neither will I allow that the author of a modern antique romance is obliged to confine himself to the introduction of those manners only which can be proved to have absolutely existed in the times he is depicting, so that he restrain himself to such as are plausible and natural, and contain no obvious anachronism”.  And yet, Scott does manage to recreate a vivid past which he treats with respect, and, pace Riley-Smith, does not dismiss the Age of Chivalry as a total fraud. Scott wrote in his Essay on Chivalry that, “from the wild and overstrained courtesies of Chivalry have been derived our present system of manners. It is certainly not faultless”¦.Yet it has grace and dignity unknown to classic times, when women were slaves, and men coarse and vulgar, or overbearing and brutal as suited their humour, without respect to that of the rest of their society. Such being the tone and spirit of Chivalry, derived from love, devotion, and valour”¦”. 
Coming back to Count Robert of Paris, Nicephorus”s (and probably of Scott”s) opinions of Godfrey of Bouillon, Raymond of Toulouse, and Bohemond of Taranto, let us take Bohemond first. Nicephorus”s harsh judgment of Bohemond accords well with the assessments of some modern historians. For example, Thomas F. Madden, a distinguished historian of the Crusades at Saint Louis University, wrote, “More than any other crusading leader, Bohemond was ambitious for personal gain. He had once believed that he would rule in Thessalonica or perhaps even Constantinople. Although his hopes had been dashed, he still looked to the east as his opportunity for power and wealth”.  For Sir Steven Runciman, “genuine religious fervour was the strongest motive” with all of the leaders of the First Crusade, “except Bohemond”.  While for Thomas Asbridge of the University of London, Bohemond was “driven by rapacious ambition,”¦with at least one eye upon personal advancement”. 
However, other historians are not so convinced of Bohemond”s perfidy. As Christopher Tyerman, of New College, University of Oxford, reminds us in his superb one-volume history of the Crusades , “The picture of Bohemond the ruthless schemer derives from the Alexiad of Anna Comnena, Alexius”s daughter”. Certainly, Walter Scott depended heavily on the Alexiad for his historical details. Anna”s account is vehemently anti-Western, and is a “confused and misleading source for the crusade let alone the motives of the Western leaders”. Bohemond proved to be Alexius” staunchest ally, and far from being treacherous “provided a medium of contact between east and west”. But Tyerman makes a more general point of the greatest importance: “The traditional view sees [Bohemond"s] motives as basely material, in contrast to the supposedly more elevated inspirations of some of his colleagues. This is untenable. The psychologies of the crusade”s leaders cannot be reconstructed. Each can be shown to have as much avarice or as little piety as the other. The dichotomy between spiritual and mercenary possesses little meaning. Raymond of Toulouse, whose religious sincerity has been widely accepted, proved both scheming and petulant in his earnest quest for an eastern principality, which he finally achieved in the lands around Tripoli in the south Lebanon. The spiritual agonizing of Tancred of Lecce, Bohemond”s nephew, was matched by his alert political opportunism. Godfrey of Bouillon accepted power and lands when offered them in 1099. Baldwin of Boulogne, the most obviously careerist of all, devoted the last twenty years of his life to defending the Holy Places. All the leaders sought to protect their material interests rather than proceed to Jerusalem in the five months after July 1098. Bohemond was not alone in his desire to achieve status, lands and wealth; neither did this ambition automatically contradict the genuineness of his adherence to the cause of Jerusalem. With Baldwin, he undertook a tricky and dangerous journey to fulfill his pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre at Christmas 1099, a gesture that, for lack of evidence, cannot be assumed to have been purely for reasons of image or politics”.
As for Godfrey of Bouillon, Steven Runciman refuses to accept him as “the perfect Christian knight, the peerless hero of the whole Crusading epic. A scrupulous study of history must modify the verdict”. Runciman points to some distasteful episodes in Godfrey”s career: Godfrey raised money for his venture to the Holy Land by blackmailing Jews.  And Tyerman also is skeptical of Godfrey of the legend, “Far from the selfless hero of chivalric legend he later appeared, Godfrey struck a number of hard bargains to raise funds for his expedition. Apart from extorting money from the Rhineland Jews, he sold some estates”¦” 
 A.N.Wilson. Introduction, Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, Penguin Books: Harmondsworth, 1986, p.viii
 Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, Penguin Books: Harmondsworth, 1986, p.552.
 The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott Bart , Edinburgh: Robert Cadell, 1847 Vol. VI, p.49. First published in 1818 in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
 Thomas F.Madden. The New Concise History of the Crusades. New York: Barnes and Noble, 2007 p.22.
 Steven Runciman . A History of the Crusades. Vol. I The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [1951, Ist Edn] p.112.
 Thomas Asbridge. The Crusades. New York: Harper Collins, 2010, p.45.
 Christopher Tyerman. God”s War. A New History of the Crusades. Cambridge [Mass.]: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006, p.111ff.
 Runciman, vol. I, p.145.
 Tyerman, op.cit.p.108.
To be continued.