King Baldwin's Mask Is a Point of Historical Inaccuracy in 2005's 'Kingdom of Heaven'

Ever wonder why King Baldwin is wearing a mask in 'Kingdom of Heaven'? Turns out the answer is historically inaccurate.

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

Apr. 18 2024, Published 12:34 p.m. ET

Nearly 20 years after its original release, folks are still talking about Kingdom of Heaven. Directed by Ridley Scott of Alien and Gladiator fame, the film portrays a heavily fictionalized and highly dramatized version of events leading to the Third Crusade in which Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Bloom) fights to defend the Kingdom of Jerusalem against the Ayyubid dynasty. The movie was released in 2005 to lukewarm reception, though the subsequent director's cut garnered much more praise on release.

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The film is upwards of two decades old, yet people still look back on it fondly, especially with the director's cut having been deemed a major improvement over the theatrical cut. In fact, folks are still curious about many questionable elements of the film. One such talking point is that of King Baldwin IV. He was portrayed by Edward Norton in the film, but you might not have known it before the credits roll considering he was in a mask the whole time. Why did he have this on? Let's break it down.

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King Baldwin's mask is a point of historical inaccuracy in 'Kingdom of Heaven'.

One of the most prominent figures in the film was King Baldwin IV. As King of Jerusalem, he was kind-hearted and sought to rule peacefully, gaining the respect of his subjects and Balian during his reign. By the time he took the throne, however, he had been long suffering from leprosy. Throughout the years, his condition worsened as he became more frail and sickly and was often confined to his chamber. His face became deformed and sores were inflicted upon his limbs.

Because of his ever-worsening illness, Baldwin often concealed his physical appearance. He wore a mask at all times so that his face could not be seen by his people. He lived this way right up until his death, ultimately succumbing to his illness and passing away with his sister Sibylla (Eva Green) by his side. During his funeral service, Sibylla finally removes his mask, revealing his deformity for the first and last time in the film.

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Unsurprisingly, the film took plenty of creative liberties with the portrayal King Baldwin IV. Historical accounts suggest that Baldwin was actually quite vigorous during his reign despite his real-life bout with leprosy. Furthermore, there is no historical evidence to suggest that he ever wore a mask in real life in order to hide his illness.

The death and unmasking of King Baldwin IV

Of course, the entirety of the film has been subject to historical and political scrutiny following its release. Many even view its depiction of the relationship between Christianity and Islam as highly problematic and detrimental to actual world history. Having a character wear a mask when he didn't actually do so in history is likely the least of the film's issues.

Regardless, the film is still recognized these days as an unsung gem unfairly judged by the quality of its theatrical release.

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