The Black Rose (novel)

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For other senses of the term, see Black Rose (disambiguation).
The Black Rose
Author Thomas B. Costain
Country United States
Language English
Genre Historical Novel
Publisher Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 208
OCLC 168057
LC Class PZ3.C8235 Bl 1945

The Black Rose is a 1945 historical novel by Thomas B. Costain. It is a fictional story set in the 13th century about a young Saxon who journeys to the far-away land of Cathay in search of fortune. Included in this narrative are several notable figures: Roger Bacon, Bayan Hundred Eyes, Edward I of England and his consort Eleanor of Castile.

Five years after its publication, 20th Century-Fox adapted it into a film of the same name starring Orson Welles, Tyrone Power, and Cécile Aubry.

Plot summary[edit]

In 13th century England, Walter, the bastard of Gurnie, attends a lecture by Roger Bacon at medieval Oxford and is inspired to journey to the far-away semi-mythical land of Cathay. After participating in a student riot and a raid on a castle – both led by his friend Tristram – Walter decides to leave England in order to escape Norman justice, taking Tristram with him. Walter's inheritance, obtained from his lord father's death, gets them as far as Antioch, where they are compelled to enter the services of a powerful Greek merchant named Anthemius. Impressed by Walter's cleverness and Tristram's physicality, he finds a place for them on a gift-bearing caravan heading east to the court of Kublai Khan. On the way, one of the beautiful women – the sister of Anthemius, Maryam (the Black Rose) - being sent as a gift to the great Khan escapes custody. She finds her way to the two Englishmen, who decide to shelter her on condition she pretend to be a servant boy and quietly leave when near the next large city.

The caravan soon meets up with its chief escort: Bayan of the Hundred Eyes and his Mongol horde. Having fallen in love with Walter, Maryam stays with the duo; all three risking the deadly consequences that would follow their being caught by the Mongol general. The journey east sees Walter curry the favor of Bayan through being a competent chess-player and Tristram demonstrate the power of the English longbow in front of an astonished horde. Unfortunately, a spiteful Mongolian learns of their secret, and Walter decides they all need to leave the army. While the rest flee south into China, Walter attempts a desperate measure to lead the army off course. Although initially successful, he is caught in the act. He is honest to Bayan – who considers him a friend - but punished.

He spends weeks recovering from the ordeal, and comes out with little hope of ever seeing his friend and lover again. He returns to Bayan only to be given the task of convincing the Chinese to surrender, for the Mongol horde has reached their borders. Once in the Chinese capital, he desperately searches for his companions while encouraging Chinese nobility to pursue peace. Although he succeeds in the first – marrying Maryam in the process – the Empress refuses to surrender due to an old proverb, and thereby holding them indefinitely. Caged in the most luxurious of palaces, the young couple live in happiness while the threat of war approaches. Eventually, they are able to procure escape, but Maryam is mistakenly left behind. Fearing her dead, the two friends find their way back to England.

Two years of ship-hopping see them arrive home, rich with presents from the Empress and knowledge of the wondrous inventions they encountered: paper-manufacturing, gunpowder, the telescope, and the compass. Walter returns to Gurnie to find his lord grandfather prosperous in his business pursuits. Proud of his grandson, the old man names him heir to Gurnie. Now a nobleman, Walter finds his fame gaining him audience with the young King Edward I and his Queen, Eleanor of Castile. He tells them of the truths of Roger Bacon and the adventures to Cathay. Meanwhile, the determined Maryam – now with a baby Walter – finds it incredibly difficult to travel with the knowledge of only two English words. Around India to Aden, Alexandria, Venice, and Marseilles, she finally reaches London to be reunited with her husband – the very joyous and surprised Walter.