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The sad news has been confirmed by the New Zealand Herald. Michael Baigent, Kiwi, historian, and father of four, suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage at a Brighton hospital in England on Wednesday. He was 65.

With co-authors Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, Michael Baigent revolutionised the alternative history scene with the publishing of Holy Blood, Holy Grail in 1982. Did Jesus Christ have children with Mary Magdalene, and does his bloodline survive to this day? This controversial theory not only caught the wrath of the Vatican, but inspired thriller author Dan Brown, who used it for the plot of The Da Vinci Code. Baigent and Richard Leigh filed a lawsuit against Random House, Brown’s publisher, claiming plagiarism of their work (however, co-author Henry Lincoln refused to join them). They lost, and were ordered to pay 85 per cent of Random House’s legal costs (about £1.3 million at the time). Baigent’s youngest daughter, Tansy, told the NZ Herald how much it cost them personally:

[quote=Tansy]There was a lot of stress, his partner Richard Leigh died immediately after and my father, within six months, had to have a liver transplant because he was so unwell from the trauma of the experience.

Since then he has been living in rented accommodation because he lost all of our money and had nothing, so it’s been a terrible time and a hard time. The legal battle was something he didn’t want to be remembered for but it has been such a weight, it really ripped him apart because all he was seeking was some credibility for the work he had spent so many years doing.”[/quote]

The Daily Grail might have been a completely different beast without Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The book played a part in inspiring Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, Lynn Picknett, Clive Prince, and countless others. So we tip our hats in gratitude and thank Michael for his books that made us think and question and seek, whatever our own personal Grails may be.

Robert Bauval posted this tribute on his Facebook page:

UNCONFIRMED NEWS.

Author and dear friend Michael Baigent passed away last night. I have known Michael for many years. I remember with great nostalgia the amazing trip we shared in Egypt in 1998. Michael (with co-authors Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln ) published The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail in 1982, a huge book that even inspired Dan Brown’s blockbuster Da Vinci Code.

Michael was a kind and gentle man, and a great writer. He was the real thing, original and with fine virtues and integrity, who wrote responsibly after carefully researching his subject. He was a Renaissance Man, a Gnostic on a quest for the divine spark. I had much admiration and respect for him.

You have left us, Michael, but your divine spark, your light, will always glow in the wonderful books you wrote fur us.

From Graham Hancock:

Michael was a good man, a creative innovator, and a great spirit. Dan Brown and Random House have their hundreds of millions of dollars from the success of The Da Vinci Code but it is Michael who rightly should be remembered by history. Rest in peace, Michael. Rest in honour.

Fellow alternative history author Dr Robert Lomas has also tweeted the following message: “Sad news about Michael Baigent dying. He advised and helped me before I wrote my first book and remained a good friend. RIP Michael”.

Thanks to LastLoup for providing updates. Greg’s original post edited/updated by Rick.