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Knights Templar History

Templars by the Numbers

Historical accounts tell that in 1307 when the king of France went after the Order of the Temple, there were approximately 15,000 Templars. Of these, about 3,000 were knights, 1,000 squires, and 3,000 sergeants. The rest were priests, masons, smiths, medical personnel, lawyers, financiers, clerks, cooks, farmers, and assorted other occupations. During the time the Templars were in the Holy Land, there were also "Associates," noblemen who served for some time in the Templars as punishment for a crime and did not take vows, but had to live like monks nevertheless. They underwent training and joined in fighting if deemed able, not as knights but in a lesser capacity. Most likely, there was a special place in the ranks for them.

The numbers in the Templar Order didn’t vary significantly in the last two decades prior to 1307 that they were in existence. The number of commanderies (geographic groupings of castles, forts, farms, and other possessions) were reduced with the loss of the Holy Land, but these men were absorbed into commanderies in Europe. This was the usual process when combat personnel became too old, infirm, or disabled, they were sent to a commanderie in Europe to work in one of the many farms, mills, or if literate, act as a clerk. If unable to work, they were allowed to lead a life of quiet contemplation. It was an egalitarian system, in as much that sergeants were given similar consideration as knights, took similar vows and were well respected.

Templars’ lives were austere and simple. When the French king ordered his men to find valuables in Templar castles in 1307, they were disappointed to discover that the monks actually lived in poverty. All the talk of a dissolute and luxurious life had been a fable.

Templar Types

Knights came from the middle and lower nobility, and sergeants from the merchant and working class.

Pages became squires and squires became knights. Grooms became sergeants. All took monastic vows, but not until a person became a sergeant or a knight was he eligible to take the appropriate permanent vows of dedication to serving Christ and loyalty to the Order. Grooms, pages and squires did not take permanent vows, and many in fact left the Order voluntarily, or by failing to make the grade.

Sergeants were there to support and assist their assigned knight, but also functioned as trainers of the squires to make them into knights.. So for a year or two, the proud knights took orders from lowly sergeants, who were the molders and shapers of the mightiest force of its time, the holders of the skills and abilities that made a Knight Templar. I wrote at length about Templar training in the novel since it was left out of historical accounts. I looked at Templar skills and proficiency, and extrapolated from other military organizations with similar abilities.

The Language the Templars Spoke

Templars spoke the Lingua Franca (the language of the Franks) what later became French. Sergeants spoke a mixture of Lingua Franca and other languages, a mixture that varied from country to country and region to region. Knights spoke a higher form of this language, closer to what was known as Provencal, the language of the court in England. Hardly anyone in any court spoke the local language. If you wanted to get ahead in that medieval world, be it as a guilds man, a merchant, a Templar, or a nobleman, you spoke the Lingua Franca.

The Templars in Europe

The commanderies in Europe had mostly non-combat personnel. There were a few combat Templars to provide protection, but mostly the farmers, millers, bankers, lawyers, diplomats, and clerks worked to keep the farms and financial institutions going. In so doing, the Templars amassed substantial assets. They received many gifted lands and other properties, but their financial empire was all of their own doing. They started out by issuing letters of credit to traveling merchants, who could purchase a letter in their name to be redeemed only by them at their destination. This effectively thwarted robbers. The Templars also loaned money to the kings of England and France and other noblemen. By 1307, European finances could not function without the Templar bankers.

The Templars In The Holy Land

The First Crusade saw the virtual conquest of the Holy Land by the Christian armies, who established a number of kingdoms and counties, including Jerusalem. They held it for a scant century before the Muslims, first the Egyptians but lately the Turks who had taken over the Egyptian army, started taking back much of the territory. In the last decade in the Holy Land, the Templars and all Christian armies had been reduced to five coastal cities including Acre and Beirut, and a few isolated castles, including Pilgrim, which is the one featured in the novel. Acre fell to the Turks on May 28, 1291 a turning point in Templar history for it signaled the beginning of the end of European presence in the Holy Land. Pilgrim Castle, which sat a scant few miles away waited for the fatal blow for months. But on August 14th, before the Turks arrived, everyone in the castle left. How this happened is featured in my novel.

The Founding of the Templar Order

As we know from Templar history nine knights founded the Knights Templar on Christmas day, 1119 in Jerusalem on the aftermath of the First Crusade. Key among them was Hugh of Payns.

Most of them had known ties to the Cathars. Their connection was clandestine, but detectable nevertheless after all these centuries. Hugh of Payns’ overlord was Count Hugh of Champagne who was supporting the entire venture. A close friend of both Hughs’ was a Cistercian monk named Bernard of Clairvaux who had founded the monastery at Clairvaux and was its abbot. He wrote the Templar Rules and was very likely a Cathar, a Gnostic group in France. At any rate, the principles espoused in the monastery he founded and the nature of the orders he wrote for the Templars reflected Gnostic principles, thinly disguised in Catholic terms. There was devotion to the Holy Mother not identified as the Virgin Mary, but always termed as “The Holy Mother.” The Holy Mother was an appellation used by Gnostics to describe Sophia, the female aspect of God, the mother of love and wisdom that counterbalances the Christ, the male aspect of God. Of note was also the distinction between Jesus the man, and Christ, the state that he achieved. This was a state of consciousness that all people could aspire to, and thus become the “sons of God.” There was also mention of the value of silent prayer, in the manner that we would call meditation today. This was quite a departure for any order, and Bernard was very careful how he worded these principles.

From then on, the Cistercian Order and the Templars remained very close.

Mystic and Fundamentalist Templars

Unfortunately not all Cistercians or Templars were the same. An austere form of fanaticism was pervasive throughout the Church. It was the norm, what begot the Crusades and the Inquisition. For most, Christianity was the only true religion because its founder was the Son of God. So it made sense that you would try to convert heretics to the only true religion, for the good of their immortal souls. A good many men joined military orders to fight the “enemies of Christ,” an extension of “Taking up the Cross” what they called going on Crusade. This is why a great majority of the men who comprised the Templars were religious fanatics. For the small minority who were not, they had to watch what they said and did, and at least appear to follow along. This was why secret societies sprung up, outside in society and within the cloisters. One such group was The Brotherhood, residing mainly within the Templars, but bridging Cistercians, the other military orders, and with members on the outside. Within The Brotherhood, the wording of Gnostic principles could be clear and to the point. They could gather to meditate; they could raise their voices to Christ and the Holy Mother.

But in daily life the two distinct populations of monks, the fanatics and the Gnostic mystics, had to coexist. The Gnostics had to go to mass and appear just as fanatical if the need arose.

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.

The Templars’ Connection to The Shaolin Monks Of China

Templar history does not mention how the Templars became warriors. Historians seem to overlook the fact that this represented an unthinkable departure for a Christian order. To find how the Templars got to wield a sword, we need to look at Gnosticism connection to Buddhism.

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.

How The Templars Fought

How did the Knights Templar fight? Actually, scant information is given in the most popular historical accounts. Piers Paul Read, who has sold more books than anyone else skips over the subject. So does Gordon Napier; both of whom have produced otherwise exemplary books. Karen Ralls does mention weapons, but doesn’t describe tactics or training. The assumption, implied and stated, is that Knights joined the Templars with whatever skill they brought with them and fought right away and somehow they made up the most formidable fighting force of the time. This simply does not make sense. True, the other military orders didn’t seem to provide training, but then again, they didn’t fight nearly as well as the Templars. In fact, there was no comparison.

Most Templar records were destroyed when the Turks invaded Cyprus in 1571, consequently we have no historical account of Templar training. For lack of documentation, I studied other military organizations that showed similar abilities. I went as far back as the Roman gladiators, the samurai, and Chinese and Japanese warrior monks. All of these shared with the Templars not just similar skills but a similar outlook in life, and viewed combat as a spiritual quest (yes, including the gladiators!). Winning was not as important as how one fought. Just as the Templars, they all went into battle expecting to die, believing that an honorable death was a goal they all should aspire to. Honor was paramount, so was loyalty and obedience. Death became insignificant. This was the case both for the often-fanatical rank-and file Templars, and for the inner core, the mystical Brotherhood. The training of those other warriors had surprising similarities and I figured that Templar training must have followed along similar lines. In the novel I describe how Templars were taught to fight blind by wearing a helmet with no eye slots. All of the groups I studied did the same; it was not just a practical measure to be able to continue fighting while blinded, but a means to “feel” the battlefield, the sharpening of one’s senses that would help enormously while doing combat.

Templar Weapons

It was important for me to figure out every detail of Templar life, to produce an accurate description of who they were. Weapons have a lot to do with battle tactics. If an army is wielding battle-axes rather than swords and lances, you don’t charge the enemy the same way; axes are heavier than swords, more unwieldy, it takes longer to recover after a swing. The type of weapons the Templars used impacted how they would have trained and fought.

All Templars used lance, sword, dagger, shield, and a suit of chain mail called a hauberk, that had plates of steel attached in mostly chest, back, shoulders and knees. (It wasn’t until the early 14th century that knights had armor from head to toe when steel was made lighter and stronger. Up to then suits of armor were too heavy for battle and were used exclusively for jousting). Templars did not use bow and arrows or crossbows; these were deemed cowardly, and were used by mercenaries they hired. In the Holy Land these were Syrian Turcopoles.

Templar Military Training

New recruits had to forgo the use of favorite weapons, such as the calltrop, a multi-pointed missile thrown at small range, the mace, battle-ax, talchion or broadsword, and the flail, a baton with a chain and ball at one end. Out in the world each feudal principality, be it a kingdom, earldom, county, or a duchy, had its own training practice depending with the castellan, seneschal, or marshall in charge of military training, but mostly dependent on the style of the knight doing the training. (In feudal Europe, to become a knight one apprenticed for years under a knight). Also, Europe had no standing army; knights served an apprenticeship with one lord, say a count, then serve with the overlord (a duke, earl, or king) for a time if the need arose. This all made for a variance of training, skill levels, tactics, and weapons used; and this is the diversity that Templar sergeants had to deal with, to mold one cohesive, well disciplined fighting body that would act in unison.

A knight would come into the Templar Order as a squire-in-training, regardless whether he had already been dubbed a knight elsewhere. If he made the grade, he would be knighted within a year or two, depending on abilities. The training was very rigorous, judging by the discipline and skill shown in battle. Starting with the Second Crusade, Templars’ fighting skill was far beyond other European knights. Piers Paul Read relates how Templar Knights were often used to lead and protect crusading knights in the Holy Land. This disparity of skill level was probably one of the reasons why Templars were forbidden from entering tournaments.

A Knight Templar was the equivalent of a modern-day tank, and this is how he was used tactically. He charged into battle surrounded on either side by his sergeant and squire, who in turn were flanked by two mercenary bowmen. The knight broke the enemy ranks with his charge, and his men protected his flanks. A typical formation consisted of thirty "lances" that is, each individual knight and his team. This was a squadron. Two squadrons made up a battle group, what later became known as a battalion.

The Templars’ Arrest and Trials

On Friday October the 13th, 1307, all members of the Order of the Temple within the kingdom of France were rounded up by French troops on orders from the pope, who was doing the French king’s bidding. Shortly thereafter all the kings of Europe followed suit.

How this came about is a long and convoluted story, purposely misconstrued, lied about, and obscured by the powers that be, but without doubt, a product of the most powerful king of its time, Philip IV of France. Historians would say either it was greed that drove him, the quest for all the money and goods the Templars had accumulated in the previous two centuries; or a product of his fanatical catholic beliefs, his conviction that the Templars had become heretical, given to lascivious and dissolute practices involving homosexual sex, partying, and a luxurious life style.

Philip IV: The Templars’ Nemesis

The kings of France, starting with Philip’s grandfather, the supposedly saintly Louis, had become obsessed with the reclaiming of the empire that Charlemagne had created, which they believed was their birth-right, in affect the conquest of all of Europe and most of the Middle East; the Emperor’s crown that centuries later Napoleon would wear. A reference to this plot surfaced in a wonderful treatise, Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, The Calamitous 14th Century. It’s clear that the French monarchs had a long-lived obsession with the Holy Roman Empire and restoring it to its former glory.

To accomplish this, Philip, his father and grandfather, had devised a plan that involved the destruction of the Templars and the conquest of England as the first two steps. A preparatory step involved the placing on the papal throne a compliant French bishop they could control. This plan, and how the Brotherhood effectively thwarted it, is the centerpiece of my novel, The Templars, Two Kings and a Pope. In doing this, the Brotherhood consented to the apparent destruction of the Templars as part of a convoluted secret war they conducted against the French king. A telling fact is that out of the 15,000 Templars of that time in Europe only 5,000 were captured or accounted for by the authorities. The rest simply disappeared. This is proof that the Templars knew well in advance of Philip’s plan, and that they decided to let him believe that he had destroyed the order so they could escape and continue their work from Scotland and Switzerland.

The Charges

The most salient charges, against the Templars, what actually was used to convict them, were accusations of venerating a black cat, Bahomet, of homosexual practices, and of spitting on a cross and denying Christ.

Like any other trumped up charges, if the prosecution finds any glimmer of truth in one, the rest, the most egregious, will be believed by association. This is a ploy lawyers have been using since the time of Cicero. The Templars were guilty of prompting recruits of denying Christ and spitting on the Cross, but, as I describe in the novel, this was a test, one of several, to see if they would stand by their convictions. These types of tests were, and still are, common in military and para-military organizations where character traits are paramount. Those who failed, spat on the Cross and denied Christ, were not made Knights Templar. These are the ones who came forth to testify during the Templar trials, the ones who never made it through Templar training and were still resentful.

As for the two other accusations, they were simply ridiculous. Any Templar who engaged in any sexual activity was summarily imprisoned, and very likely thrown out of the Order. As for venerating Bahomet the black kitty, and the charge that this represented a conversion to Islam...it’s laughable. Muslims do not revere any objects or images; in fact this is a central tenet of their faith.

So how did the Templars decide to go along with a plan that called for the sacrifice of some of their brothers to be falsely accused, tortured, and burned at the stake? It was part of their culture, death and sacrifice for their brothers and Christ was what they had practiced for two hundred years.

What Happened to the Templars After Their Trials

The trials of the Templars went on for over a decade. The only kingdom that refused to arrest and prosecute them was rebel-held Scotland, although their assets were supposedly passed on to other orders. But in fact, Templars in that kingdom continued to live almost as normally as they had before. Small wonder, given that they were hard at work on behalf of rebel leader Robert de Bruce.

England had a new king, Edward II, who was trying desperately to measure up to his father, the much-loved Edward “Long Shanks.” To the new king’s credit, no Templar was ever tortured, and most were set free in due time, after the fervor died away.

For years before the arrest of the Templars, The Scot Robert de Bruce and his troops could make no headway against the superior English army, which held key castles. But inexplicably, in the fall of 1306 they started winning while eyewitnesses reported seeing Templars fighting with the rebels. After the fateful Friday the 13th, the Scottish rebels couldn’t lose. At the same time, forest cantons in the Alps had declared their independence from Austria. The mostly peasant infantry fought with great discipline, using long pikes against the cavalry with devastating results. Right about the time that the Templars were arrested and their financial practices shut down, Switzerland became a nation and took over the practice almost seamlessly.

In The Templars Two Kings and a Pope I describe how the Swiss Lord Otto de Grandson, Edward I right-hand-man, in conjunction with the Brotherhood, carefully engineered the Templars’ exodus to Scotland and Switzerland. For years, Otto and the Brotherhood stood by as Edward I shamelessly tried to take over Scotland, betraying the trust placed on him by Scottish nobles to safeguard their kingdom and oversee the ascendancy of a rightful heir to their throne. It started out with the suspicious deaths of all the Scottish royal family. The French king was trying his best to make life as difficult as possible for Edward in Scotland, and it’s very likely that he was behind the deaths of the Scottish royals, who were related to Edward, in order to lure him into trying to take over the Scottish kingdom. The French king had plans to invade England, and wanted Edward weak and distracted. This is where the Brotherhood stepped in, by engineering a trap for the French king in Flanders. They had successfully recruited the textile guilds and trained them with pikes to fight Philip’s powerful cavalry. In a well-laid trap, they lured the French army into a craggy field ill suited for a cavalry charge. This was the very same tactic used by the Swiss rebels years later, and in fact, the very same trap with minor variations, that was used by the Scots to defeat Edward II’s army. In Flanders, the rebel war lasted for a long time, always a drain on the French. Eventually they succeeded and became a nation, Belgium.

The Brotherhood was well aware that the French plan to take over the Holy Roman Empire had a long precedent, and would continue on by French monarchs unless they stopped it once and for all. The Brotherhood used all tools at their disposal, including assassination, to do away with “The French Scheme.”

They managed to stop Philip, and they succeeded in starting a new nation, Switzerland, secured the independence of Scotland, and continued with their harassment of the French in Flanders. But they knew that that wasn’t enough, they had to make sure the era of despotic rule came to a stop. Switzerland was the first democracy in Europe in 2,000 years. In England and France they continued their work to weaken the monarchy and strengthen parliament.

Eventually, over several centuries, they triumphed. But their crowning achievement came with the founding of the United States. Several of the founding fathers were 33 degree Masons, linear descendants and mystical and ideological inheritors of The Brotherhood.

The Templar Prophecy: Real Templar History?

On October Friday the 13th 1307 when French troops went to arrest all Templars in France on orders from the pope, they found that a good many of the Templars had vanished.

Much later, way after the trials were over and the French king and the pope had met their untimely ends, people found that most, about two-thirds of the Templars in Europe had made their escape to destinations unknown. It became evident that the Templars knew well in advance of the pope and French king’s plans against them. At the time no one knew how the Templars got wind of the plan. Three centuries later, the Rosicrucians let it be known that there had been a secret Gnostic organization behind the Templars. It’s implied in the Rosicrucian document that the name of the group was The Brotherhood. Legends sprung up telling that the Brotherhood had saved the Templars.

We now know that this actually happened. The question is how did the Brotherhood manage to divulge the plan to the rank and file without making its own presence known? That was quite a feat. They couldn’t just come up and say: "We are a secret organization with spies all over because we are heretics and need to protect ourselves against the Church, and in the process we found out that the pope and king of France want to destroy us". Most of the Templars’ rank and file reflected the population at the time, they adhered to the Church’s teachings with heart and soul and would have probably turned against their own brothers had they known that they were a secretive Gnostic group, that is heretics, according to Church dogma.

The Prophet Caesarius of Hesiterbach

A couple of references I ran across made me think of a prophecy, but where and how would the Brotherhood come up with such a thing? I then found that there had been a famous prophet of that time, Caesarius of Heisterbach, and the fact that he was a Cistercian gave me pause, for Cistercians were the sister Order of the Templars, as close to the Templars as any other Order could come. They were the unarmed Templars, as it were. Over the years there had been a lot of dealings between the two orders, a lot of common ground and working together. Caesarius’ prophecies were mostly run-of-the-mill; when the world would end, disasters coming up, etc. I theorized that The Brotherhood might have ascribed a convenient prophesy to him, one that would describe the attempt of the French king and pope against the Templars. They would have had to tie the prophecy close to things they knew were going to happen, and merge it with the French king’s own plans. This is something that the rank-and-file would readily believe, and it probably said that the Templars would be destroyed by the pope and French king after the fall of the Holy Land, for the Brotherhood knew that the French king was waiting for such an inevitable event before launching his plan. To validate my theory, I examined the historical trail to see if there was evidence that such a prophesy could have existed, and I found that there was; that the Brotherhood could very well have used Caesarius as a safe venue to let their own people know what was going to happen. At the time, seers were common, some were considered heretics, but those within the Church were thought of as God’s means to warn his people, and their words, no matter how shocking, were to be trusted and taken seriously.

Caesarious’ prophecy is featured prominently in my novel, although I can’t fully attest to the existence. The Brotherhood, after al, functioned in secret and there were no written records, but we can read behind the unexplained gaps in history, the mysteries, and find a plausible explanation. In this case a prophesy is a sound theory, and if it wasn’t exactly the way I formulated it, then it was something very close to it. The fact that there was a Cistercian monk named Caesarius who made prophesies at about the right time does make it plausible.

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:

The Covert War

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.

The Battles

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 Weapon that Turned the Tide

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.

The French and the Holy Roman Empire

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.

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.

Discovering the Templars’ Master Spy

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.

Otto’s Plan: A Quest

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’s Journey to England’s Court

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.