Articles that complement and expand on information contained in The Templars, Two Kings and a Pope

Grigor's Templar Blog

September 14, 2011 at 9:04 am

The Templars' Nemesis: King Philip IV of France.

Who was King Philip IV, “Le Bel,” Literally, “The Beautiful?” I was curious about the man who went after the Knights Templar with the sole intent to destroy them. What was his motivation?

His admirers through the centuries have pointed out how he changed France for the better: instituted new laws and brought order; this is definitely the case, but one could argue that the work he supposedly accomplished was the product of his powerful ministers, Flote, Marigny, and Nogaret, and that the king was an image projected by a very efficient propaganda machine that his ministers controlled.

But why did he persecute the Knights Templar who at time were a much respected and admired order? Historians point to his court’s previous persecution of the Jews and the Italian Lombard bankers, for the sole purpose of expropriating their assets, and conveniently erasing debts of the crown. So money, they point out, was the main reason, after all, the Templars were rumored to be extremely wealthy. Going after foreigners as the Italian bankers and the Jews, who were not considered “French,” was politically easy. No one rose to their defense. But going after the much-loved Templars was different, Philip and his ministers knew that he would be despised for it.

But there is more to it.

There are two incidents that gave me a good look at how Philip, and the court around him, operated. The first one had to do with his mother in law. She had been at odds with a local bishop, and wanted to get rid of him. She went to Philip for help. In short order the propaganda machine made the bishop into an evil figure with satanic connections who had put a curse on the mother-in-law. Philip had the man put in chains on charges of witchcraft. The second incident involved Philip’s daughter, Isabella, who came to her father and accused her three sisters in-law of adultery. He had them put in prison, where two died. Years later, after Philip had met his own end, it became evident that Isabella had been cheating on her husband, the Prince of Wales, for quite some time, going back to the time she made her accusation. She very cleverly pre-empted her sisters’ in-law accusing her. The two incidents point out that Philip had very devious people around him and that he was an easy pawn to manipulation.

During Philip’s time, it was widely suspected that his prime ministers were the power behind the throne. They certainly knew how to appeal to his vanity, while padding their own positions for wealth and power, to the point that the monarchy became a large, bloated, and powerful bureaucracy. So much for law and order: they taxed and penalized people at will for their own benefit. It is this factor that led me to believe that one of Philip’s most trusted men, Cantor de Milly, was Otto de Grandson’s (England’s Edward I chief diplomat) master spy. My evidence is that Cantor was perhaps the only man who served close to Philip who never got rich and powerful at his expense. As reward for long years of service, he got a position as clerk to Philip’s petulant and disagreeable daughter, Isabella, Philip’s confidant, and Cantor’s source of information since he wrote and read all the correspondence between the daughter and her father.

People around Philip knew which buttons to push to get results; his religious fanaticism mixed with a grandiose sense of self and rather dull intelligence made him a ready target. His court portrayed him as someone above even the pope, God’s true lieutenant on earth. In fact, he did place himself above the pope when he handpicked a French bishop, Bertrand de Got, as his puppet pope.

His propaganda machine made Philip into a saint who performed miracles, filling in the shadow of his famous grandfather, Saint Louis. It is in this shadow that he lived. In fact, it is my assertion in the novel, based on solid evidence, that Philip IV had little choice in going after the Templars, because it was part of a larger plan handed to him by his father and grandfather, the “French Scheme.” Here’s where his propaganda machine tried to pave the way for the grand plan, by first making him into a saint, then a candidate to become the first “Rex Bellator” in charge of all military orders; crusader of all crusaders, and ultimately the natural Holy Roman Emperor, king of all kings, ruler of Europe. There is no question that he wanted to be the emperor so that he could lead the ultimate crusade that would liberate the Holy Land once and for all; this is what drove him, why he believed that once he got a hold of the Templars’ treasure and got them and the English king out of the way, all he had to do was claim the Emperor’s crown and he would be the most powerful monarch since Charlemagne. Or so, he was led to believe.

Studying Philip’s life under this light, things make sense: the expulsion of the Jews, the war with England, the invasion of Flanders and the murder of two popes. Certainly he, or more aptly, his ministers were after something big. Studying the prime ministers, Flote, Marigny and Nogaret, one finds very strong and able personalities who had risen through the ranks on their own merit. They set their own pace, and left their mark on French culture, so it makes perfect sense that they wanted their king to be all-powerful; this would translate into greater wealth and power for themselves.

So who among those three wanted to get rid of the Templars? The surprising answer, as I make clear in my novel, is that none. They were all in turn manipulated by one man, Lord Otto de Grandson, a Swiss working as the English King’s chief diplomat. His goal was not the destruction of the Templars, but the creation of a very special nation, the first democratic republic in modern times, Switzerland. For this, he first had to stop the French monarch from becoming the Holy Roman Emperor, and he needed the Templars.

But Philip was not the only king to be manipulated.. Otto de Grandson had to manipulate his own king Edward I and vie for control with another master manipulator, Bishop Anthony Bek, who ended up very wealthy as a result of his finagling of the English king.

To understand how this manipulation worked, we need only to read Machiavelli’s The Prince. This type of intrigue ran rampant throughout Europe. Every court, from lowly counties, duchies, and earldoms, played their “courtly games” to various degrees. It was part of the fabric of high society. If you survived it meant that you became very adept at scheming. In the novel, an earl’s son is very adept at courtly games. In his case he used rape as a tool, and he created havoc with people’s lives. This was not unusual, in those games anything went. They became a fabric of courtly culture, and pervaded how everyone in the nobility behaved.

We can then say that the master gamesman of them all was Otto de Grandson. He got wind of the “French Scheme” and used it very effectively to achieve what he wanted, but unlike the often-sadistic courtly games, he wasn’t after the satisfaction of controlling someone, it was a far greater end result, the liberation of his homeland.

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September 2, 2011 at 9:41 am H

Otto de Grandson: The man who saved the Templars.

One very satisfying finding as a result of my research for The Templars Two Kings and a Pope, my novel about the Knights Templar, was the discovery of Lord Otto de Grandson and the enormity of his accomplishments. He worked in secret to establish the first democracy in Europe in 2,000 years, Switzerland. As it turns out, I wasn’t the first to discover him; the Bundesbrief Society, a group dedicated to Swiss heritage contacted me after I published the novel to tell me that they had been researching Otto as well, and agreed with my findings. Be that as it may, I’m still very gratified to have found him on my own and to publicize what he did.

I became intrigued with Lord Otto de Grandson early on during my research. Once I confirmed what the Templars’ Gnostic secret society, The Brotherhood, had accomplished in their covert war against the French king Philip IV, to keep him from taking over the Holy Roman Empire, mostly through the English, I knew that someone near England’s Edward I had to be a member of The Brotherhood. It was just a matter of identifying key suspects and tracking their movements to see whether they were in the right place at the right time; and of course, any hints as to their motivation and character. Lord Otto de Grandson quickly stood out: a seemingly loyal subject, the king’s key diplomat in his dealings with the French crown. When I discovered that he had made a special trip to Acre as it fell to the Turks, he became my key candidate, for I knew that this was probably the time when The Brotherhood secured their cherished “Holy Grail," the only plausible reason why a 53-year old key English official, who also happened to be a high-ranking Brotherhood member, was doing battle in the Holy Land while his precious talents were sorely needed back home. He had already “Taken up the Cross” (gone on Crusade) with Edward years before, so his duty to the Church had been satisfied. When I found out that he was a Swiss (that is the cantons that would soon form the republic), I knew I had found my man. When I graphed key events that had to do with the formation of Switzerland with Otto’s life, there was no doubt. He alone was responsible for everything that led to that notorious emancipation, a radical new paradigm in governance that did away with monarchy.

One key indicator that Otto had a secret master plan was the timing of a critical event. Not long after the Templars were arrested on orders from the pope and they ceased their invaluable financial operations, Switzerland was open for business, providing the same services. Centuries later historians found that a key number of Templars had moved to Switzerland with their financial know-how at the right moment. I discovered evidence that the Templars had also helped by training and possibly leading the local peasants to fight against the Austrians. It's no coincidence that Switzerland's flag consists of a Templar cross (all four legs the same size) against a red background.

When I put together the other pieces, how Flanders was used to distract and weaken the French, the tug of war in Scotland, the evident assassination of key French officials and ultimately very likely Philip IV; it all pointed to the workings of The Brotherhood, and specifically Lord Otto de Grandson, whose ultimate target was the Holy Roman Empire, which at the time was relatively weak and disorganized. It was very important for Otto and his cohorts to keep it that way. If the French king became Emperor, all of Otto’s plans would forever dissipate as the Empire became unified with the most powerful and highly organized monarchy in Europe. All of this is the subject of my novel, and how everything came to a head in 1315 after a long and secret war against the French king in which Otto successfully maneuvered the Templars, the English, the Scots, the Flemish and ultimately the French, for his own ends. In the process he saved the Templar Order from being destroyed by the French king. The events that he had set in motion eventually led the Brotherhood's leadership no other option but to escape en masse to Scotland and Switzerland.

Otto was a very astute, energetic, highly intelligent man who used every skill and talent at his disposal to free his homeland. But how did he manage to end up in England in such a position of power?

Otto was a small child when his father went to work for the English crown. This seems very unusual for someone to come from so far away, an obscure forest canton (a district) within the Holy Roman Empire’s territory and under the jurisdiction of the Duchy of Austria. Otto’s family was very well off; they were land barons in the area of Lake Neuchatel and the town of Grandson (Great Sound).

What would motivate a wealthy land baron in Switzerland to go to work for the English crown, a long and perilous journey to a foreign and remote land, and why would he take his infant son? Why not his entire family?

The answer can be found in the deceivingly sudden and successful emancipation of the forest cantons from the Holy Roman Empire one generation later. It would seem that Otto’s father was already connected to The Brotherhood, and that he was perhaps one of several “plants” in key European courts, plausibly even the papacy. A father would pass on his mission to his son, waiting for the right opportunity to act. This Swiss Master Plan evidently took much planning and very elaborate, patient, and methodical implementation, an almost impossible undertaking that succeeded thanks to Otto.

Otto was the same age as the future Edward I, and they became fast childhood friends (a plausible reason for his being brought along by his father). They studied, played, and were knighted together; when they grew up Otto became Edward’s confidant and faithful aide. He was right beside his king when he went on Crusade and on the various campaigns, including Wales. He saved his king’s life, at least once, when Edward was struck with a poisoned arrow during the Crusade and Otto sucked the poison out. In due time, Edward bestowed lands to his loyal friend, but Otto never moved away from the court. When hostilities started against France, Otto made himself indispensable as the king’s chief diplomat.

All the while Otto was working in secret within The Brotherhood, maneuvering the Templars to contain the French king in Aquitaine, developing a rebel uprising in Flanders against Philip and training the peasant army in the forest cantons.

Following the successful conclusion of his efforts, Otto retired to his castle in Switzerland where he lived peacefully until his death at the ripe old age of 90.

The Swiss example led to the French revolution and the formation of the United States. It is doubtful that either would have taken place without the Swiss model.

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August 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm HST

The Saga of the Templars' Holy Grail

The Templars’ Holy Grail has been sought after, secreted away, possibly destroyed, only to surface again in the mysterious labyrinth of Christendom intrigue.

The legends point to the existence of a Holy Grail. Historical evidence defines it as a Gnostic Gospel written by Jesus. But where has it been all these centuries?

Jesus taught what became known as Gnosticism to the select few, those he deemed ready. It is unknown to how many of his twelve disciples he imparted his secret teachings, but what survives today as the Gnostic Gospels, what was found in a cave in Egypt in 1947 and is known as the Naj Hammadi library, contain the writings of Mary Magdalene and Thomas.

But why then wasn’t there a gospel written by Jesus as well? If he wrote something, wouldn’t there be at least references to such a document? Among the Gnostic Gospels there is one called the Gospel of the Savior, but no one knows who the author is as yet. Whatever the case might be about that document, wouldn’t a gospel written by Jesus been singled out and heralded through the centuries? Well, not if it started out as a secret document by the author himself, giving very specific instructions that it cannot be disseminated. Jesus meant his secret teachings for those who were ready, and these were few and far between. To the masses he spoke in parables, to the minds with limited understanding that could not conceive of God residing inside them. He knew that should his teachings be made public, they would be grossly misinterpreted, and indeed they were. People were burned at the stake in the Middle Ages for claiming that they had God inside them. If such a document had made its way to Church officials, in all probability they would have either destroyed it or hidden it, for the same reason that it was so valuable to the Brotherhood, the secret Gnostic organization behind the Templars: it validated Gnosticism as Jesus’ true teachings while doing away with the Church’s reason for being, the whole notion that one can only reach God and salvation through its priests, teachings and liturgy.

The first instance that the Jesus Gospel surfaced was shortly after the founding of the Templar Order in 1119. The nine Gnostic knights who founded the order, almost immediately started digging around Solomon’s Temple where they were headquartered. In due course they stopped digging and made their way to Rome where they exacted huge concessions from the pontiff that guaranteed the viability of their new order. Historians have speculated as to what it was that they found that they could use to sway the pope. The Temple of Solomon had contained the legendary Ark of the Covenant, but the chances that it was still around after all those centuries would be unlikely, given that the Temple had been destroyed and rebuilt several times, and even then, its possession would not have given such a powerful bargaining position to the Templars. What would have done it, would be a Jesus Gospel that if made public, would have meant the end of the Church’s role as intermediary. But did they find it under the Temple? Not likely. Through the centuries the place had been just too much of a target, not a good hiding place for anything of value. It’s far more likely that the nine Gnostic Templars were after something buried near the Temple. What lay next to the Temple of Solomon in Jesus’ time was the Antonia Fortress, the Roman’s administrative center that had also housed a jail where Jesus had been held before being crucified. Several Roman jails had cells dug into the ground. It is then possible that Jesus’ cell could have survived. But why would it hold anything so valuable and who put it there and why?

When studying mystics, it pays to think like one.

In The Templars Two Kings and a Pope, William and Hughes are also after the Jesus Gospel. They are instructed to find Jesus' cell where he meditated and prayed for long hours, because this is the only place left where his essence has been left relatively undisturbed. They make the journey and imbue themselves with Jesus’ essence that leads them to where his gospel was hidden. This line of reasoning would have made perfect sense to a mystic of the time. For centuries, before embarking on a pilgrimage it was customary to seek the essence of the saint one wanted to reach through the pilgrimage. I believe this is what the nine Templars were after; they found Jesus’ cell, and in due course they found where the gospel was hidden. To us this whole process would seem like magical thinking, but in those days that’s how things worked, how people thought and acted, and is the process I applied in the novel given that I was writing about medieval Templars.

At any rate, by however process and means, it was found.

After the nine Templars originally found it, the next time the gospel surfaced was almost a century and a half later, on March 25, 1244, when the Cathar castle of Montsegur in the Languedoc region of France fell to the pope’s army. Legend has it that a handful of Cathars (who were Gnostics) within the Castle took the Holy Grail with them before the castle fell.

It makes sense that the Templars loaned the Gospel to other Gnostics. After all, it validated their faith as the true teachings of Jesus, and it was probably passed around from one group to another.

The next time we hear about the Holy Grail, it’s back in Templar hands, that is their Brotherhood, and they make it to Scotland with it.

My theory is that these were copies, not the original. Even before medieval times, copies signed by reputable scribes were considered just as good as the original. In fact, it was necessary to make copies to safeguard the original. Anyone with a blade for scraping and a quill could make changes to a document, but copies made by reputable scribes was a way to safeguard the integrity of the text. The original in Jesus’ actual handwriting would have been treasured in a sacred place, much as the Ark of the Covenant had been because of its mystical rather than practical value.

In the novel, the gospel has to be a copy, for it came from the Library of Alexandria. For centuries the scribes at the library copied every document they came across. The law said that any ship containing books, or any traveler who came into the city had to surrender their books for copying. This is how the library became the foremost depository of knowledge in the Empire. In the previous article The Holy Grail’s Hiding Place, I describe how and why several copies made it from Alexandria to the depository called Hafiz Mountain in the Tibesti Mountains, in present day Chad. The Templars in the novel go after one of these copies because they know that their time in the Holy Land is running out as the Turks are about to expel all Christian armies.

It’s quite conceivable that the copy that the original Templars found in 1120, the one at Montsegnur in 1244 and the one the Templars took to Scotland in 1307, were all different copies; but I doubt it, you couldn’t have anything so potentially dangerous loose. Someone could alter the writing and make it say something different, and then the other copies would have to come to the surface to correct the falsehood, probably resulting in their destruction. There was probably one copy always guarded by Templars who had orders to destroy it if necessary.

My thought is that the copy found by the original nine Templars was the same as the one at Montsegur, and this one copy was destroyed before it fell into enemy hands. The Brotherhood decided at this point to leave the remaining copies where they were, safe in their original hiding place, the Hafiz Mountain in the novel, a very likely real depository for the Gospel and the other books from the Library of Alexandria.

It is at Hafiz Mountain that the Templars in the novel find a copy of the Gospel. This is one of several instances in the book where fiction approximates what really happened. The rest of the novel, the impact that the Gospel had on the Brotherhood, what they had to do to protect it, and how it shaped history, is very real.

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August 4, 2011 at 11:10 am HST

How the Templars Became Warriors

I found that the connection of the Gnostic Cathars to the Templars was direct and unequivocal. As I mentioned in the article The Founding of the Templar Order, all nine knights who founded the Templars in Jerusalem after the First Crusade were very likely Cathars. The leader was Hugh of Payns, whose overlord and mentor was Count Hugh of Champagne; both of whom had ties to the Cathars. This was exemplified when they went to Bernard of Clairvoux to ask him to write the rules that would govern them. What Bernard wrote was right out of the Gnostic teachings, although couched in a way that would mollify any Christian fanatic

The Cathars were a religious sect, not an ethnicity. They were a Gnostic group who lived in the south of France, in the Languedoc region. For centuries the Cathars had welcomed freethinkers and mystics into their midst; Muslims, Jews, and Christian. By the 10th century, Islam’s Gnostics had become the Sufis. A century later we find the first school of the Jewish Kabbalah in France. It didn’t take long for all Gnostics of all faiths to be branded as heretics by the dominant religions. But anyone being persecuted for their beliefs anywhere could find sanctuary in the Languedoc. At one point the first and only Jewish kingdom in Europe existed briefly in this region.

The Cathars engaged in discussions with the Church to allow them to live in peace, but in 1209 Pope Innocent III decided to exterminate them, to eradicate what he deemed as heresy. To motivate the French king and nobles, the pope decreed that any Cathar land conquered would be free for the taking. The French king at the time, Philip Augustus, deemed the papal decree an affront to his suzerainty over the region, but after his death, his son Louis pursued the crusade with zeal.

It is of note that the Templars were founded almost a century before the 50-year crusade against the Cathars. The timing of the Order’s founding was perhaps simply a happenstance, an opportunity that presented itself for the need to protect pilgrims, but the notion must have taken years to develop, the radical concept that monks would carry arms and engage in warfare. That was a very unique and stark departure from the norm in Christendom, but it had been around for centuries in China and Japan.

Starting in the 4th century, Buddhist monks in China, most notably the Shaolin, practiced their fighting skills as a means of spiritual attainment. Five centuries later, the concept had spread to other Buddhist sects in Japan. It is very likely that the Cathars heard about these monks from the mystics that came to them from all over the known world, most likely by way of the highly advanced Sultanate of Granada, the most progressive bastion in Islam, and a relatively short ride away across the Pyrenees. Way before the 10th century the Languedoc was already well known in mystical circles as a welcoming destination. At a time when the average European medieval person kept within ten miles of his/her place of birth, people were still traveling far and wide in the Middle East and the Orient. Marco Polo was soon to change all that with his own trip down the old trade routes still in use from the time of the Roman Empire. It is very possible that Buddhist monks would have come to the Languedoc after visiting Granada, a veritable metropolis compared to what the rest of Europe had to offer.

There is a lot of common ground between Gnosticism and Buddhism. In fact, Elaine Pagels, the Princeton Theologian author of The Gnostic Gospels, theorized that Jesus got his Gnostic concepts from Buddhists in Alexandria.

It makes sense that once the Cathars realized how close their practice was to Buddhism, that they wanted to explore all of Buddhism, and would have been fascinated to hear about the Shaolin monks. This is most likely where the idea for the Templar Order came from, a concept that was already in gestation when the Cathar knights who founded the Templars arrived in the Holy Land during the First Crusade.

Bernard of Clairvoux, wrote the Templar Rules and described their lives as Christian monks; in this respect they were much like their sister order, the Cistercians. The warrior aspect of the Templars had to come from another source, the Buddhists in China. There is no other precedent, no other possible link. When founding the order, the nine Cathar knights imparted on the Templars the Shaolin concept of fighting as a means to conquer the physical world, to transcend one’s attachments to life and fear of death. Like the Shaolin, the Templars learned that how one fights is more important than winning. All the accounts I read about the Templars in battle reflected this, and once I understood this basic tenet of their lives I felt I could tell their story. For The Templars Two Kings and a Pope I took cold facts out of the history books and gave them the proper perspective, the way I knew a Templar would think and act.

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July 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm HST

The Templars' Secret Society and their War.

For centuries, the legends about the Templars said that they fought a covert war against the king of France. In my novel, The Templars, Two Kings and a Pope, I prove that this was the case. I found that The Brotherhood, the Templars’ secret society, engaged in a war against the French king Philip IV, to prevent him from becoming Holy Roman Emperor and thus taking under his control much of Europe.

What’s the evidence? I provide step-by-step detail in the novel, but here are the highlights:

We can start with the fact that three successive French prime ministers died in sudden and suspicious circumstances, to be followed by their king. The "French Scheme" resided in these men, and it died with them. That was my first clue. Two popes had also died suspiciously, one quite openly assassinated by Nogaret, the French prime minister, to pave the way for the French pope handpicked by Philip. The entire Scottish royal family had also died one after the other until there was no legitimate successor to the throne. Apparently assassins from both sides had been quite busy over the years.

Confirmation came when I took a careful look at the three foremost armed engagement of that time: the Battle of the Golden Spurs in Flanders in 1302; the Battle of Bannockburn in Scotland in 1314; and the Battle of Morgarten in Switzerland in 1315.

The battle in Flanders signaled the first time in European history that infantry defeated a major cavalry force. The previously unarmed and untrained Flemish guildsmen acquired a new weapon, a pike that they used to beat back the formidable French army. They also exhibited tremendous skill and discipline, the obvious result of expert training. The French army was lured by the Flemish to a broken plain ill suited for cavalry and were met by the pikemen. The same thing happened in Scotland, this time the Scots defeated the English cavalry on a boggy plain. A year later, Swiss peasants, again armed with pikes, and surprisingly well trained, defeated the Austrian cavalry.

The pike, consisting of a 12 to 16-ft long heavy spear, had an ax-blade and a hook by the tip. The blade was used against armor and the hook to unseat a rider, but its main purpose was to anchor the butt into the ground to stop a charging horseman. It was an evolution of the long sharpened poles the Arabs used successfully against Templar charges in the Holy Land (a pike of another form was used by the ancient Spartans, but in the 14th century its particular characteristics, use and development shows a clear path to the Templars' experience in the Holy Land). The Arabs were also adept at luring the Templars into well-laid traps placing horses at a disadvantage; on either broken plains or narrow canyons where they were met by men holding the long sharpened poles. Only someone like a Templar (or conceivably but very unlikely, an Arab) could have conceived the weapon and tactic from personal experience. This, and the fact that experienced military men trained the guilds men and peasants in Flanders, Switzerland and Scotland, undoubtedly point to the presence of Templars and of The Brotherhood in all three places.

Digging deeper, I found that a key member of The Brotherhood, was a Swiss, Lord Otto de Grandson, who was England's King Edward’s right-hand-man, and who retired to the soon to be formed Swiss Republic right after the king’s death. He had much to do with what happened.

The French court spoke openly about how the Holy Roman Empire’s crown rightfully belonged to their king. The Empire at that point was in the hands of the Hapsburgs, the German-Austro dynasty. Had the French king, Philip IV, succeeded in taking over the Empire he would have controlled most of Europe. The retaking of the Holy land would have been feasible at that point, which was apparently his ultimate goal.

Obviously the English crown would have considered a French king as Holy Roman Emperor a great threat to their existence and would have tried to prevent it at any cost. The French and English had been perennial enemies for centuries. But the English king had troubles of his own. As I describe in my novel, the revolt in Scotland was a debilitating distraction to the point that Edward I was largely ineffectual in fighting the French in both Flanders and also Aquitaine, a duchy in France that both kings claimed. There is plenty of evidence that the French king meddled heavily in Scotland to keep the English occupied, starting by making sure that all Scottish royals died, which precipitated the whole situation for the English, by opening an opportunity to take over the kingdom. It was all quite a sophisticated and convoluted plot.

Besides wanting to wrestle Aquitane from the English, Flanders was a county (ruled by a count) that Philip IV also wanted for himself, but as I mentioned before, his initial attempt failed. Had he been able to conquer Flanders, its wealth in textiles would have been his, a tremendous boon to his coffers, which would have enabled him to hire a large army. His next step would have been the invasion of England, and then the Empire’s crown would have been easily his. To pave the way, he had already named one of his men, a French bishop, as pope, who dutifully supported everything he did, even threatening excommunication to those who opposed Philip.

The failure in Flanders served to significantly weaken the French king. The one in Scotland opened the kingdom as a safe haven for the Templars and the subsequent treaty meant that the English army was no longer engaged and could face the French if necessary. The Austrians’ defeat in Switzerland made that Empire’s crown lose its appeal. Had the French king become emperor at this juncture, he would have inherited a second long lasting, weakening war. Flanders was already a huge drain and now the Swiss seemed unbeatable.

I go into greater detail in the novel, but in a nutshell, that's how The Brotherhood managed to stop the French king while securing a haven for themselves in Scotland and Switzerland. This was a secret and intense war of spies, intrigue, assassinations, and careful orchestration that went on for several years, engineered by Lord Otto de Grandson.

But how did the French king, Philip IV get the notion that he could conquer Europe and most of the Middle East?

In all probability, it started with his grandfather, Louis IX, the famous “Saint Louis.” He was quite the crusader, a failed one at that, except for the Albigensian Crusade, which he conducted against his own people, the French living in Languedoc; the Cathars that were responsible for the founding of the Templars, the peaceful and tolerant Gnostics he and the pope wanted obliterated. Louis died on his last crusade, one he launched against Tunis. He was definitely pious in terms of that age, and that meant killing all whom he considered enemies of the Church. It seems that he passed on his frustration at driving off the Muslims from the Holy Land to his son and grandson, as well as his religious fanaticism. Although they spoke of their hatred for the “enemies of Christ” they did not pursue another crusade after Tunis, and seemed to be bidding their time for the right moment.

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