Opfer der Könige consists of two of Herbert's essays - Verteidigung der Templer (Defense of the Templars) and Albigenser, Inquisitoren und Troubadoure (Albigensier, Inquisitors and Troubadors) - taken from his Barbarzynca w ogrodzie (A Barbarian in a Garden). So there are two "victims of the kings" here. The first essay is an address of an imaginary defense attorney for the Knights Templar before an imaginary court of inquisition. The Knights Templar were stamped out of existence by the infamous Jean le Beau, though he had the not entirely willing collaboration of the Pope he had arrested and placed on a leash in southern France. Perhaps Herbert was just trying to generate a little interest in some (very) general audience, but this rather superficial essay was a disappointment. Quite the opposite is the case of the second essay, which addresses in his normal voice the "Albigensian Crusade". Every time I read about this "crusade", I am reduced to despair! Herbert provides a concrete and moving summary of those horrible events, which led to the destruction of an entire culture and established the King of France (who ruled much of what is now the northern part of France) as master of what is now southern France and replaced the high culture of the langue d'oc with that of the north (langue d'oui). The notorious and shameful Inquisition began its centuries long rampage of torture and executions with the Catholic Church's attempt to root out the "heresy" of the Cathars after the large scale military engagements finally ended. Herbert quotes at length from the law which was to guide the elimination of the heresy - one's eyes bulge at the draconian measures taken! He also reports on a number of concrete incidents which illustrate how this law was carried out. Here at the latest one understands part of the reason why Herbert was so emotionally involved in the study and the telling of these events. (That there are more reasons for such involvement is quite evident.) These essays were written, just a few years after the Soviet tanks had crushed the Hungarian uprising, by a citizen of a country under the thumb of the Communist Party and subject to a network of spies, informers and enforcers of draconian laws not at all unlike what the Inquisition set up in the Languedoc. And I have no doubt that his Polish readers clearly understood the parallels.