My apologies for another untoward pause, this time occasioned by work - (yes, I am still working!) – and also the slow sifting through my library and archive, which have been buried in boxes following my departure from the Cotswolds. And extraordinary treasures are coming to light - not all of them serious ... as, for example:
Those of you who have read Key to the Sacred Pattern may remember my account (pp 161/162) of the mad moment when Gérard de Sède gave me a black eye.
Here is the ocular (!) proof ... a fun photograph taken en souvenir by Henri Buthion some few moments after the event.
It is typical of dear Henri’s punctilious attention to detail, that he seems to have accompanied his ice-cubes with a table napkin of exactly the right shade to match my shirt. (Though both seem to clash with my hair!)
However, some more serious records are surfacing, which I hope to be sharing with you shortly.
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MY 1970s BBC FILMS
Yesterday, I received yet another enquiry regarding my old BBC Chronicle films, which served to remind me that I had promised to expand upon that ‘ludicrous tale’ - and attempt to answer the question: “Why are they not (legally) available?”
The background is somewhat complex - and the definitive answer to that question will lie, if anywhere, in the archives of the BBC. I don’t doubt that the personalities involved will long have faded into the obscurity of retirement ... or further. I can only, therefore, recount my end of the saga. Doubtless, other fragments of the absurd story may survive of which I am not aware, though I do possess some interesting tape-recordings of meetings which certainly shed some light. (I intend to investigate the possibility of making them available on this site.)
The tale, then, begins almost forty years ago, in 1972, after the transmission of the first Chronicle film, The Lost Treasure of Jerusalem...?
It was clear that another Rennes-le-Château programme would pull in a sizeable audience, who were already crying out for more. The Saunière story was going to be good for viewing figures. The inevitable follow-up had begun to shape itself in my head. But I could see that there was a great deal more time-consuming research to be done in France.
However, I was lucky enough to be offered work on a French film and this meant that my spare time could be devoted to hunting through the treasures in the Bibliothéque Nationale.
And so I had been working in Paris for some months, when I received an unexpected phone call from the BBC. (This story, too, is to be found in Key to the Sacred Pattern - pp 93 et seq.)
This call was the first intimation that someone had been attempting to get the follow-up Rennes-le-Château film off the ground - without my knowledge. I had been anticipating working on an eventual second film with Andrew Maxwell Hyslop, the director who had made the first . But now I learned that he had moved elsewhere in the Corporation. My caller was another BBC director - one Roy Davies.
It seemed that a viewer of Lost Treasure had, without any evidence, convinced Davies that he had found Saunière’s gold. Here was a programme with a built-in audience - without any need for me or my further researches. So Davies had set about mounting a film of the digging up of “the Treasure of the Millionaire Priest”.
Knowing nothing of Rennes-le-Château, nor of the delicacy needed when handling this little community, he was committed to his filming dates, with a crew already on stand-by, when he discovered that he was not dealing with a ‘usual’ kind of location. He was a stranger. The villagers were suspicious of strangers. They slammed the door in his face.
He was, therefore forced, with extreme reluctance, to turn to me for help - which meant a fair amount of umble-pie eating, with abject apologies for having kept me in the dark and urgent pleas for my assistance. Such grovelling would stick in anybody’s craw - and it was certainly not calculated to endear me to Davies - especially as it quickly became obvious that his ‘treasure’ was fool’s gold and that, without me, he would have no film - plus the black mark of having wasted a sizeable chunk of Chronicle’s budget.)
Although we went on to make the following two R-le-C films together, there always remained an under-current of mutual discomfort and distrust. And it seems that he never gave up trying to make a Rennes-le-Château programme of his own - (I know of at least one other abortive attempt with yet another treasure-hunting fantasist.)
The ever-present warning notes clanged most clearly when we were making The Shadow of the Templars. I had been contracted to write a ninety-minute programme - which was duly made. It was not until we were in the final stages of putting the film together in the studio, that Davies suddenly informed me that I would only have a sixty-minute slot. I would have to cut thirty minutes from the film - no easy feat.
Now it was in this programme that I first revealed the landscape geometry and I had filmed the curious pool hidden by the copse of trees in the centre of the pentacle. (Key to the Sacred Pattern pp133 et seq.) Davies appeared nervous about this. ‘Someone’ he said, had told him that the pool was used by locals for washing their clothes! This was a patently ridiculous idea. What locals? The aerial photograph shows its isolation :
Nevertheless, this was the explanation which he apparently preferred to my question marks and it was this strange water basin with the exploration of the key locations of the geometry which I had to lose. The un-transmitted film was destroyed ... a tragedy compounded by the fact that, anticipating the film to come, I had no good photographic record of the find. Only a very few unsatisfactory shots survive, taken on my first visit to the site, in late January 1975. Mere visual note-taking - this is the sole image to give any proper sense of scale:
And there is this shadowy glimpse of the entire surface:
Its construction was of stone. The walls were sheer-sided and the water maintained a constant depth of about three feet.
Like the “Poussin Tomb”, the pool is now gone.
With the passing of time, I eventually assembled the material for a fourth film. Although other producers were interested and my relationship with Davies was not too comfortable, I felt a - perhaps unnecessary - obligation to take it to the BBC, where he was now editor of Timewatch, the successor programme to Chronicle.
My archive contains an interesting tape-recording of our discussion, when I showed him the extraordinary new developments in the research. He became excited by the latest discoveries and we agreed to set to work. As editor of Timewatch, he would not be directing this film – which, I confess was something of a relief to me. He duly appointed a director and sent us off to make the pre-production reconnaissance trip, at the end of which he would join us to see the new locations. It was during this trip, in early 1990, that yet another discovery was to be made.
The geometry appeared to indicate the importance of a location a mile or so to the north of Rennes-le-Château. Curiously, this fell at a place which was labelled on the map as ‘Grand Camp’. We decided to investigate and were astonished to find enormous stone walls and a huge assemblage of bee-hive huts.
When Davies arrived on the following day, we took him to see what we had found. He was as impressed and puzzled as were we. The site, he said, reminded him of nothing so much as the ancient City of Mycenae. We were more than happy with the discoveries to which we had been led by the geometry. Certainly, our film was going to raise some remarkable and intriguing questions.
A day later I was left to continue my researches on the ground, while the other two set off for England to make final preparations and to set the date for filming.
At this point, something changed.
On the next morning, I received a call from a worried director. He told me that, on the way home, Davies had said that he wanted to make this film “without Lincoln”. The director had pointed out that it could hardly be made without explaining how the new discovery had been made ... and that led directly back to my work. Even so, the director was worried by Davies’ attitude as he and his crew were booked and we had still been given no start date. In the ensuing weeks, Davies continued to defer giving the go-ahead and eventually cancelled the production, which I later made with TV2 Danmark. This film, incorporating more material and titled The Secret, was repeated numerous times on the Discovery Channel.
But at the BBC a strange hostility was developing. As soon as video-recordings became available, viewers had begun writing to tell me that when they asked for copies of the Rennes-le-Château documentaries, they were told that these were not available as “there was no public interest”. This seemed a curious response – especially as I had been approached by BBC Enterprises – (the separate and independent commercial arm of the Corporation.) This organisation had come to me with the idea of packaging the three films for the video market, with new introductory and concluding sections, which I was to make.
I thought that this was a good idea – and a contract was duly signed. But before the ink was dry, I received a telephone call to tell me that Enterprises would not be able to proceed with the project. No explanation was forthcoming. And then Timewatch produced The History of a Mystery, in which, by debunking a rather silly book, they tried to destroy the Saunière story, labelling it as ‘pseudo-history’.
What has happened? This is a confusing tale and it is not easy to draw together all the various elements, but something curious has occurred. Why the complete change of attitude at the BBC? Why the refusal to sell the films – though one of them is now available free of charge on the Internet?
Those of you who have taken the trouble to check my findings know that I have been careful to restrict myself to “that which is demonstrable and provable”. The mathematics and the geometry stand. Why do some people wish to pretend that they do not?
Perhaps it is all no more than a question of ‘personalities’, but ... I regret ... copies of the Chronicle films are not available – except illegally. But - grieve not – they’re decades out-of-date and all the material is available in my non-BBC films and books.