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Blood Royal

A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris


Eric Jager (View Bio)
Hardcover: Little, Brown and Co., 2014.

Blood Royal

On a chilly November night in 1407, Louis of Orleans, brother of the French king, was cut to pieces in a Paris street by a band of masked assassins wielding swords and axes.

The crime stunned the nation and paralyzed the government, since Louis had often ruled in place of the insane king, and his murder would throw France into turmoil.  As panic seized Paris, an investigation began.  In charge was the Provost of Paris, Guillame de Tignonville, the city’s chief law enforcement officer and one of history’s first detectives.  As de Tignonville began to investigate, he realized that his duty was much more dangerous than he could have imagined.

A rich portrait of a distant world, Blood Royal is a gripping story of conspiracy, crime, and a desperate hunt for the truth.

One of “Ten Brilliant Books That Grab You From Page One”—Kirkus Reviews
Chosen by the American Library Association’s Notable Books Council as one the 2015 selections of the Notable Books List
A selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Scientific American Book Club

"Few works of fiction will grab readers' attention as well as Jager's riveting story of a 1407 murder mystery that split the royal family of France. When Louis of Orleans, brother and frequent regent of King Charles VI, was brutally murdered in a Paris street, the provost of Paris, Guillaume de Tignonville was under pressure to solve the crime quickly. He had just overseen the execution of two murderers, whose claim to the right of 'clergy' would eventually come back to haunt him. Jager shares his extensive knowledge of medieval Paris, employing entertainingly meticulous descriptions throughout the book. The Châtelet, once a fortress, then a prison, morgue and police headquarters, was a vast building to be avoided at all costs, not unlike today's train stations. Montfaucon was a three-story gibbet capable of hanging 60 at a time, and bodies were left to putrefy and feed the crows and ravens. The author's portrayals of the perpetual stench and body parts will surely give readers shivers. De Tignonville's investigative techniques were exhaustive, and his discovery of the man behind the murder within days was spot-on. Accusing the suspect proved to be much more difficult, as he turned the accusation into a validation. Louis of Orleans was a broadly despised man, particularly by those men he had cuckolded (which were many), and he used his power as his schizophrenic brother's regent to impose impossible taxes. The murderer's justification for his dastardly deed was, as a leading scholar proclaimed, 'one of the most insolent pieces of political chicanery and theological casuistry in all history.' An impressive combination of mystery, crime story, and social and political history." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Though we think of the detective story as a modern-day invention, UCLA professor Eric Jager proves a good whodunit can be set in the muck and the mire of more barbaric times, away from the shining lights of a lab. In his new book, Blood Royal, the academic chronicles the true story of a grisly Medieval murder, and the brilliant, tenacious police chief solved it without help from fancy forensic tools…. Jager credits Tignonville as 'one of history’s first detectives'—and it's easy to see why. The provost scrawled his findings on a thirty-foot scroll discovered in a chateau in the Pyrenees in the 1660s. Jager unravels the vivid account, and in the process, spins many a ghastly turn of phrase. In sketching the scene of executions, Jager poetically describes hanged men's eyes 'ripening into fruit for birds, their flesh rotting away, their bones bleaching white in the wind and sun.' This whodunit is a gruesome tour de force, rich with scenes from the royal court, public gibbets, and monasteries where things aren't as pious as they seem.... Thoroughly researched and lyrically written, this sinister-but-informative period piece certainly beats watching reruns of 'CSI.'" — Jessica Leigh Hester, New York Daily News

"Fans of true crime and procedural mysteries will find special pleasure in Blood Royal…. Jager, a professor of medieval studies at UCLA and the author of several popular histories set in this era, is spare and meticulous in sifting his evidence. The pleasure of his narrative—and the devil that points to the duke’s killer—lies in the details of daily life in Paris in the early 1400s: the topography of the streets, the particulars of renting a house, and what it took to secure water for a band of horses. What Jager conveys so memorably here is the night atmosphere of medieval Paris—the walls within walls, the angling, unlit streets where a galloping troop of men can rouse an entire neighborhood—and a few streets later melt into darkness." — David Walton, Dallas Morning News

"Having built his reputation with books like The Last Duel, the story of a key trial by combat in late 1300s France, UCLA medievalist Jager is primed to break out with this reads-like-a-novel crime history. In November 1407, a group of masked men murdered Louis of Orleans, who had often ruled in place of his mad brother, King Charles, and Paris provost Guillaume de Tignonville was called upon to calm the suddenly destabilized kingdom by finding the culprits. Adding to the appeal: King Charles VI, Henry V, and Joan of Arc have walk-on roles." — Library Journal

"On a November evening in 1407, Louis of Orleans, brother of the mentally unbalanced French king Charles VI, was bludgeoned and stabbed to death on a Parisian street by several masked men. This was no simple street mugging. Louis had exercised great power during his brother’s frequent bouts of incapacitation. With France still embroiled in the Hundred Years' War with England and facing severe internal threats to the monarchy, the murder had far-reaching implications. To unravel the assassination plot, Guillaume de Tigonville, the chief law enforcement officer of Paris, had to wade through the layers of criminality, corruption, and high politics that permeated different levels of French society. Jager has utilized de Tigonville's written report as the basis for a tense and exciting true-life detective story. De Tigonville is the ideal detective, combining street smarts, a relentless drive, and a willingness to follow where the facts lead regardless of whose toes he steps on. An outstanding crime tale that also provides a good survey of both the glittering facade and the seamier aspects of medieval Paris." — Booklist

"UCLA professor and expert in medieval literature Jager examines the sensational assassination which rocked 15th Century France.... Drawing on extensive reports detailing the murder and its subsequent investigation, Jager reconstructs the chain of events, motives, and political squabbling that lit the spark. Though the story is ostensibly about the murder of Louis, brother to mad King Charles and frequent regent of France, it takes on a much larger scope as the uncovering of the mastermind leads to political maneuvering, civil war, and ultimately invasion by England.... Jager's attention to atmosphere and detail allows the setting to come to life in all its gruesome detail, especially as he explores the nature of crime and punishment and the many grisly repercussions for those held responsible.... This is a fascinating and complex look at the tumultuous events of early 15th century France." — Publishers Weekly

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