Michael Baigent

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Biographical Information

"In the flourishing publishing market of "religious mystery" books thrive some authors driven by a fascination with rewriting history, some convinced of ecclesiastical conspiracies at every turn and others simply prepared to play fast and loose with the facts. Michael Baigent, who has died after suffering a brain haemorrhage aged 65, fitted none of these types. A convinced believer, he produced 14 books mirroring his own sincere and scholarly journey into the origins and claims of the Christian faith of his upbringing.

"The most successful of them, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982), co-authored with Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, became an international bestseller...Some critics suggested that the book might have been more accurately written as a novel. When Dan Brown covered much the same disputed historical ground in his 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, Baigent and Leigh sued his publishers for plagiarism. It was a high-profile case, with Baigent on the witness stand for almost a week. "It was like watching a man being flayed alive," wrote one observer. They lost that case – and a subsequent appeal in 2007 – and were faced with a £3m legal bill that ruined them...

"His first instinct was to study forestry at Canterbury University in Christchurch, but at heart he was a religious seeker and switched to comparative religion and psychology, at one time joining a group called the Builders of the Adytum to explore a Christian version of the Jewish mystic Kabbalah tradition. After graduating in 1972, and half-heartedly starting to train as a teacher, he set off to see the world, acquiring en route two exotic middle names (Ferran Meritxell), and spending time in India, in Laos (as a war photographer), around the Inca ruins in Bolivia, and in Spain (as a fashion photographer), before arriving in London in 1976.

"He was working in the BBC photographic department, and doing night shifts at the Lucozade factory in Brentford, when through Lincoln, a TV producer, he met Leigh, an American-born budding novelist. Together the three discovered a passionate interest in the mystery that surrounded a small church in Rennes-le-Château in the Languedoc region of France. That proved the starting point for The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

"Its commercial success led Leigh and Baigent to five further collaborations in a similar vein, one of them with Lincoln, on, among other subjects, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the origins of freemasonry and the Inquisition. None impressed scholars... Baigent's unwavering goal in all his published works was to test the claims of religious institutions and holy books against historical fact. Even if mainstream academics tended to question his definition of fact, he always saw himself as a popularising scholar, and in 2000 gained an MA in mysticism and religious experience from the University of Kent. He was active in the Scientific and Medical Network, an organisation that seeks to bring together scientists and those with an interest in spirituality...His decision, with Leigh, in 2006 to sue Brown's publishers (ironically also their own, for The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail) proved calamitous. With their request denied for an acknowledgment of their book in The Da Vinci Code, they had, Baigent said, "no alternative but to sue for a blatant exploitation of our intellectual property".

"It was suggested at the time that they were simply trying to grab a slice of Brown's royalties and revive the sales of their own 24-year-old title in the process. Such a verdict attributed a cynicism to the idealistic, unworldly Baigent that he did not possess. He paid a high price for his naivety. To meet the bill, he had to sell his home and he was living in rented accommodation at the time of his death.

"The resultant stress took a heavy toll on him. All revenue from his later writing projects went into paying off his debt, but he worked away furiously to restore his fortunes. Two days before he died, he had finished his second novel."[1]


Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch

  • Mundane Astrology: Introduction to the Astrology of Nations and Groups (co-written with Nicholas Campion and Charles Harvey) 1984 (reissued expanded edition, 1992)


  1. theguardian Michael Baigent Obituary, organizational web page, accessed April 29, 2014.