The Scarlet Cross: The Fourth Book of the Crusades
Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.
This fine fourth book in Bradford’s Crusades series is a strong
prequel to Angeline, which dealt with the Egypt-based fortunes of three
individuals who had been involved in the ill-fated Children’s Crusade.
The story begins in the spring of 1212, when 15-year-old Stephen, a
poor shepherd boy from the village of Cloyes, France, receives a visit
from “Jesus.” It concludes in August of the same year when the young
man, accompanied by five boatloads of children, arrives in what he
erroneously believes to be the Holy Land. The novel is an effective
study in character, especially as it relates to religious faith.
Stephen, who initially daydreams about participating in a holy military
crusade, encounters a “man” claiming to bring a letter from God, the
missive commanding Stephen to lead an army of weaponless children to
reclaim Jerusalem for Christianity. Stephen must also present the
parchment to France’s King Phillip and enlist his support. Illiterate,
Stephen takes the letter to the village priest, Father Martin, who
believes its contents and accompanies Stephen on his four-month journey
across France. Stephen’s quest is one of emotional highs and lows as
his children’s army swells to 20,000, scarlet crosses on their
shoulders, before dwindling to less than a thousand in Marseilles when
he fails to part the sea а la Moses. Angeline, one of Stephen’s early
followers, frequently serves as his external conscience, especially when
pride causes him to forget his humble origins. Two opening maps help
readers follow Stephen’s journey across France and over the
Mediterranean to Egypt. Recommended.