Late British royal LORD LICHFIELD has been dragged into the DA VINCI CODE controversy - and may have been killed to protect secrets revealed in Dan Brown's bestseller.
In an explosive new documentary, called Bloodline, British filmmaker Bruce Burgess chronicles his three-year investigation into claims Jesus Christ did not die on the cross, but fled to France with his wife Mary Magdalene and their children.
Burgess took on the study after associates told him that much of Brown's compelling Da Vinci Code story was true, and that "a body of evidence" proves the bloodline of Jesus and Mary exists in a tomb beneath a French church.
But, as Burgess attempted to uncover the truth about the fabled secret society The Priory of Sion, whose members, it's claimed, guard the secret of the "royal" bloodline and the whereabouts of the religious "treasure" he came up against a number of hurdles.
And when he thought he'd made a breakthrough after Lord Lichfield offered to show him "vital" documents that would aid the documentarian's research, the royal was found dead in November, 2005.
In the thrilling new movie, which is released in America next month (May08), Burgess says, "A man we were going to meet, Lord Lichfield, died last night at a party. Apparently he died of a cerebral haemorrhage.
"He was going to show us some papers he had connected to the Priory and this whole mystery."
Burgess confesses he has no idea if Lord Lichfield was actually a member of the Priory of Sion, but the late royal did have a copy of Nicolas Poussin's The Shepherds of Arcadia in his study. The painting is believed to be a coded picture that all Priory members hold dear.
Nicolas Haywood, a man claiming to have crucial links to the Priory of Sion - and the adopted son of Prince Charles' former advisor Sir Harold Haywood, agreed to speak with Burgess for the film.
He revealed that some Priory members are keen not to reveal ancient secrets about their society and the treasure they protect - and they will take drastic steps to halt unwanted publicity.
He suggests those who reveal too much could suffer "a cerebral haemorrhage or stroke," which is "indicative of the use of a certain poison."
The documentary maker, who discovered his cellphone and hotelphones were bugged during his investigation, also learned that three men who recently handed over revealing paperwork connected to the Priory of Sion to a French library were all found dead within 24 hours of each other.
Each one died from a cerebral haemorrhage or stroke - the same fate that met Lord Lichfield.
In the film, Burgess states, "Maybe it's a coincidence that he (Lord Lichfield) died of a cerebral haemorrhage, and maybe it's a coincidence that he died just a few days before we were going to meet him and talk to him about the bloodline."
The director admits Lord Lichfield's sudden death gave him pause for thought: "If members of the Priory had been killed to stop information being revealed then it was possible that they would try and stop me too."
Burgess' findings, documented in Bloodline, have led the filmmaker to believe the "mummified" bodies of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and their children - together with treasures that prove the family's identity - are buried beneath the rural French town Rennes-le-Chateau, where a priest, called Berenger Sauniere, discovered secret documents while renovating his country church in 1891.
The discovery was immediately seized by Vatican officials, and Sauniere was financially rewarded for his co-operation.
But Burgess believes the priest left clues behind in the Rennes-le-Chateau church, so anyone investigating the bloodline myth could use his pointers.
The filmmaker stumbled upon "stolen" parchments that he believes include Sauniere's clues, and joined forces with a team of bloodline enthusiasts to follow riddles and clues dotted all around Rennes-le-Chateau in an effort to find the site of Jesus' final resting place.
The discovery of the site has been reported to the French government and plans are now underway for a full scale archaeological examination, according to Burgess.