Holy Blood, Holy Hell
At the same time, however, Brown was at best disingenuous when testifying under oath that Bagient and Leigh’s book The Holy Blood, And the Holy Grail was neither critical nor necessary in the writing of The Da Vinci Code. Although it is true that Brown could have written a novel about Christ’s twenty-first century descendants and the Catholic suppression of neo-Merovingian mythology without Bagient and Leigh, one aspect of The Da Vinci Code almost certainly came directly, or indirectly from Holy Blood, Holy Grail: the connection between the Grail mystery and the secret society known as The Priory of Sion.
Through author Geard de Sede and then-Nautonnier (Navigator, or Grand Master) Pierre Plantard du St. Clair, the Priory coaxed BBC journalist Henry Lincoln into publicizing their existence over the course of two documentaries, both airing in the 1970s. With Bagient and Leigh, Lincoln wrote Holy Blood, Holy Grail in 1982. Prior to the Lincoln’s research, only one known (to this writer) mention of the Priory ever surfaced in print, in Le Journal Officiel, an index of all organizations operating in post-World War II France. It’s entire 1956 listing gave little hint that the Priory was anything close to a secret society:
"25 juin 1956. Declaration a la sous-prefecture de Saint-Julien en-Genevois. Prieure de Sion. But: etudes et entr’ aide des membres. Siege social: Sous-Cassan, Annemasse (Haute Savoie) [June 25, 1956. Declaration to the Sub-Prefecture of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois. Priory of Sion. Objective: studies and mutual aid to members. Head Office: Sous-Cassan, Annemasse, (Haute Savoie.)]."
(The above quoted in Holy Blood, Holy Grail. I'm citing the passage because I don't want to get sued either)
Although he admitted to sometimes feeling kinda suckered into the whole Priory affair, Lincoln was the primary mover behind the Grail research. Yet, he is the only author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail not suing Dan Brown at the moment. Lincoln, reported to be in declining health at the time of this post, has declined any comment on the case, and on the upcoming movie due out next month. When questioned by reporters why Lincoln refused to join the lawsuit, Bagient and Leigh’s attorneys have repeatedly declined to offer any explanation.
Most likely, Lincoln had already made his piece with the book and was happy to see his work having influence on a wider audience. When The Da Vinci Code first hit the bestsellers charts, Lincoln videotaped commentary on it, and his observations on Brown’s novel are currently available at your local Blockbuster.
One has to wonder why Bagient and Leigh have persisted in their efforts to sue Brown. After all, The Da Vinci Code is pure fluff, a beach-read at best, whereas Holy Blood, Holy Grail is a kick-ass, page-turning, exhaustively researched, refreshingly bold synthesis of historic fact, and a competent interpretation of legend. Why would these two authors want a stake in a book so clearly inferior to their own efforts? Could it only be the money alone?
My best guess at this time is that Bagient and Leigh knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on when they filed. And though it’s tempting to think that they might have sued Brown to drive up sales of their own book (which I hope happens), that might not be the entire reason either. Perhaps their actions, and those of Lincoln too, were designed to promote the Priory of Sion, through The Da Vinci Code and Tom Hanks, to its largest audience to date. That, after all, was what de Sede had in mind when he enticed Lincoln in the first place: a last hurrah for Le Prieure di Sion, the grand daddy of all secret societies, an old, toothless man bidding for attention against the Rosicrucians, the Skull and Bonesmen, the Knights of Malta, the Mafia and other young upstarts.