Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Templars in England

In 1307, on Friday the 13th of October, King Philip of France ordered the head of the Knights of the Temple, Jacques de Molay, arrested along with scores of other Templars. That wasn't the intent outside of France, however. Philip's motive for crushing the Templars was his indebtedness to them, but his opportunity came when Pope Clement V asked the King's help in investigating charges made two years previously by an ex-Templar. Philip used this request as a reason to arrest them and appropriate their property. This is usually considered the "end of the Templars" and the start of their disgrace.

The Templars' Church in London
Under torture, many Templars confessed to heresy, idolatry, corruption and fraud, homosexuality. With that "evidence," the Pope had to issue a bull on 22 November 1307 demanding the seizing of the Templars and their property all over Europe.

In England, however, the Templars found refuge for a time. This was partially due to England being busy with other things. Edward I had died in July 1307, after illness and constant military engagements in order to keep Scotland under control. His successor, Edward II, was a disappointment on many levels, one of which was his lack of interest in administration. Worrying about giving orders for mass arrests was not on his agenda. He focused instead on sport and entertainment, gave up the Scottish campaign, and recalled his banished best friend (with whom he was considered to have an "unnatural" relationship). His hand on the Templar matter was probably forced when he accepted an alliance with France by marrying the daughter of King Philip—a woman in whom he showed no interest.

Once the marriage was arranged, Philip started urging Edward to respect the papal bull (and support Philip's personal prejudices) and arrest Templars. A trial in England was a much more mild approach than the French torture chambers, and the few Templars subpoenaed were made to admit that their order was in error on the subject of the order's master being able to give absolution. The trial lasted until March 1310, by which time the Templars were thoroughly discredited. Rather than arrests or executions for heresy, however, Templars in England generally just transferred to other monastic orders, such as the Order of Hospitallers (which happened to receive much Templar property) and the Cistercians. The Templars in France may have ended with stake-burnings and torture, but in England they simply faded away.

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