More Templars

The Last of the Templars”, by William Watson, ISBN 1-86046-411-4, 286 pages, first published 1979.

Since Hypatia alerted me to the fascination of the Knights Templar, this novel seemed like a good choice. It was written safely pre-Woke, and came highly recommended for its historical accuracy.
The author has a very interesting writing style, at times swashbuckling and at other times lyrical and almost dream-like.

The story traces the life of a Templar knight from the fall of Acre in 1291 – the final toehold of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Holy land – to his death years later in Scotland at the hands of fellow Templars as he tries to return the heart of a fallen comrade to its homeland.

This devout fighting knight found himself custodian of the Templar’s treasury of gold in the east, which he attempted to return to the Templar headquarters in France. Along the way, there was the disappointment of Templars falling away from the faith, the duplicity of the King of France, the timid weakness of the Pope, the foolishness of the leaders of the Templars, and the cruelty of Dominican monk torturers.

It is definitely an engrossing book. However, reading this novel four decades after it was written, it is hard not to see it as an allegory for our own now-decaying Western society. The prior world is passing away. Organizations forget their purpose and are mis-directed by self-deluding bureaucrats. Some individuals try hard to maintain the old standards, while other individuals seek only their own self-interest and abandon their commitments. It can only all end in death.


You oughta read Druon’s “Accursed Kings” series.

In the book I’m reading, “The Popes of Avignon:A Century in Exile” by Edwin Mullins (2007) the author points out that by the dawn of the 14th century the Templars had definitively failed in their mission to protect pilgrims to Palestine : in 1291 the last Christian stronghold, Acre, had fallen. That was demoralizing for Christendom. But the Templars had emerged fabulously wealthy. Mullins says some popular sentiment was to the effect that maybe they were complicit in the Muslim victory…
The Templars were under the Pope’s direct jurisdiction, and Clement sent a stern letter to Phillip after the 1307 arrests. Every time it looked like Clement would reassert authority, a buncha knights revoked their confessions that had been extracted under torture. That of course resulted in their being turned over to the secular authorities for death by fire. King Phillip staged a show of military force every time, and Clement, having just removed the papal seat from Rome because of political factional violence there, gave in at every juncture.

Gavin, you’re on your way: next up: the Cathars!