Blood Royal: A True Tale Of Crime And Detection In Medieval Paris, by Eric Jager
This book is a fascinating example of crime detection in the early modern period, and a reminder that even in ages where torture was common and the ability to gather physical evidence was limited, there was still the possibility of using clues to solve crimes and still a great risk to oneself in solving them. This book deals with an example of crime detection where the hardest aspect was not in figuring out who was guilty and what the motive was, per se, but in bringing the killer to justice. It has often been the case that the wheels of justice turn slowly when those who behave corruptly and wickedly are powers in high places, and this book deals not only with the forensics of solving crime and the personalities involved in the crime and its solving, but also with the political repercussions that resulted from it. The author, a writer I am in general unfamiliar with, has done a good job at handling the various threads of this book, including the true crime angle as well as the historical interest of the case and those who were involved in it, and if the case is solved, the ending is not a happy one for most of the people involved.
This book is about 250 pages long and is divided into fifteen chapters. The book begins with an introduction that discusses the way that this crime and its investigation was preserved but forgotten for generations until a large manuscript was found showing the report of the investigation. After that the author focuses attention on the detective who solved the titular brutal murder (1) as well as his home (2), the victim and his large number of enemies (3), and the place where the murderers hid out and planned their foul deed (4). There is then a look at the cold, dark night when the murder occurred (5), the post-mortem that followed (6), and the mass for the dead that was held (7). There is a discussion of the inquiry that took place (8), and a break in the case that came about after discussions with a great many witnesses (9), as well as the rival dukes whose hatred led to near disaster for France (10). This leads to a discussion of the confession of one of the Dukes to the murder (11), his justification of the murder as a case of tyrannicide (12), and the fact that it was the detective himself who was forced into a humiliating Amende Honorable (13), while France fell into a civil war (14), and the detective, now sacked, and a great many other French notables fell against the English at Agincourt (15), after which the book ends with a melancholy epilogue, a note on the depositions, acknowledgements, notes, sources, illustration and photograph credits, and an index.
The book’s title itself gives a double clue to the book’s content, in that both the victim of the true crime and the mastermind of the murder are themselves of blood royal, and the author’s demonstration of how the case was solved and then the repercussions of the case given the continuing insanity of France’s king and the ineffectiveness of the French government in being able to manage issues of justice and governance, especially as the victim had been the regent for the kingdom. The failure of the French royal family to sort its own business in an effective manner led to some serious consequences in the near fall of France to the English during the Hundred Years War. And the author not only talks about the crime and its consequences in terms of the justice system of early fifteenth century France, but also about the consequences of the governance on the well-being of France as a whole, and that is a compelling story even if it is a deeply sad one and one that caused a lot of problems.