Richard Harris Leigh
16 August 1943
|Died||21 November 2007 (aged 64)|
|Education||B.A. Tufts University|
M.S. University of Chicago
Ph.D. State University of New York at Stony Brook.
|Alma mater||Tufts University|
|Known for||Co-author The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail|
|Relatives||Liz Greene (sister), an author and astrologer|
Richard Harris Leigh (16 August 1943 – 21 November 2007) was a novelist and short story writer born in New Jersey, United States to a British father and an American mother, who spent most of his life in the UK. Leigh earned a BA from Tufts University, a master's degree from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
Leigh met his frequent co-author Michael Baigent while living in the United Kingdom in the 1970s. They subsequently struck a friendship with the writer and British television scriptwriter Henry Lincoln in 1975 and between them developed a conspiracy theory involving the Knights Templar and the alleged mystery of Rennes-le-Château, proposing the existence of a secret that Jesus had not died on the Cross, but had married Mary Magdalene and fathered descendants who continued to exert an influence on European history. This hypothesis was later put forward in their 1982 book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail achieved enormous commercial success and has been described as "one of the most controversial books of the 1980s". It popularised the idea that the true object of the quest for the Holy Grail was to find secret descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. This bloodline is stated to have later married into a Frankish royal dynasty, the Merovingians, and to be championed and protected by a secret society known as the Priory of Sion. These notions were later used as a basis for Dan Brown's international best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code.
The day after publication, the authors had a public clash on BBC television with the Bishop of Birmingham and Marina Warner. The book rapidly climbed the best-seller charts, and the authors published a sequel, The Messianic Legacy, in 1986.
The book has been described as "a work thoroughly debunked by scholars and critics alike". Arthurian scholar Richard Barber has commented, "It would take a book as long as the original to refute and dissect The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail point by point: it is essentially a text which proceeds by innuendo, not by refutable scholarly debate".
Two books of Leigh's fictional works have been published: Erceldoune & Other Stories (2006), and Grey Magic (2007).
Dan Brown suit
In March 2006, Baigent and Leigh filed suit in a British court against Brown's publisher, Random House, claiming copyright infringement. On 7 April 2006 High Court judge Peter Smith rejected the claim. On 28 March 2007, Baigent and Leigh lost their appeal, and were faced with legal bills of about £3m.
Leigh died on 21 November 2007 in London from causes related to a heart condition.
Co-written with Michael Baigent and Henry Lincoln
- The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, 1982, UK ISBN 0-09-968241-9
- The Messianic Legacy, 1986
Co-written with Michael Baigent
- The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, 1991
- The Temple and the Lodge, 1991, ISBN 0-552-13596-8
- Secret Germany: Claus Von Stauffenberg and the Mystical Crusade Against Hitler, 1994
- The Elixir and the Stone: The Tradition of Magic and Alchemy, 1997
- The Inquisition. 1999
- Erceldoune & Other Stories (2006, ISBN 978-1-4116-9943-4)
- Grey Magic (2007, ISBN 978-0-615-13733-9).
- The Telegraph, 'Richard Leigh Obituary', 30 November 2007. Available online at www.telegraph.co.uk, retrieved (4 July 2012).
- Milne, Jonathan (12 March 2006). "The Kiwi trying to break the Code". Herald on Sunday. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
- Elizabeth Sherr Sklar, Donald L. Hoffman (editors), King Arthur In Popular Culture, page 214 (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002). ISBN 0-7864-1257-7
- cited in Richard Barber, "The Search for Sources: The Case of the Grail", in Norris J. Lacy, editor, A History of Arthurian Scholarship, page 34 (D. S. Brewer, 2006). ISBN 978-1-84384-069-5
- NZ author claims copyright breach in Da Vinci Code, 28 February 2006
- Kiwi author takes on Dan Brown, 1 March 2006
- staff and agencies (28 March 2007). "Authors lose appeal over Da Vinci Code plagiarism". The Guardian.
- The Daily Telegraph 30 Nov 2007
- Obituary in The Times, 30 November 2007
- Marcus Williamson (29 November 2007). "Richard Leigh – 'Holy Blood and the Holy Grail' author". The Independent (UK). Archived from the original (obituary) on 1 December 2007.