It was a French king who destroyed the Knights Templar – King Philip the Fair – when he had the knights arrested en masse in 1307. But could the Templars have got their revenge over 450 years later when the last French king was imprisoned in the Temple fortress in Paris after a revolution overthrew the monarchy.
Templar revenge against the French king
Louis XVI and his family were imprisoned in the aftermath of the 1789 French revolution. Louis was a direct successor to King Philip. So, not surprisingly, some have seen this as a kind of revenge meted against the French royals by the Templars.
Some Templar commentators even think that the knights had continued to exist down the centuries despite the trials and executions carried out by Philip. It’s even asserted that when King Louis was eventually guillotined to death in front of a vast crowd in January 1793, somebody leaped forward and yelled: “Now, Jacques de Molay you are avenged!”
That was a reference to the last Templar grand master who was burned to death not far from Notre Dame cathedral in 1314. If one takes this theory of Templar revenge seriously, then another fact might support it.
French king imprisoned in the Paris Temple
The Templars constructed a huge fortress in the middle of Paris for their headquarters. It once dominated what is now the Marais district. Incredibly, the fortress survived the extinction of the Knights Templar and still stood strong at the time of the French revolution.
Behind its thick walls, the knights had once stored vast amounts of bullion. One story has it that during a riot in Paris against currency devaluation, King Philip was forced to seek refuge at the Paris Temple. While there, his eyes feasted on all this Templar gold. And, the theory runs, this set him on a course of crushing the knights and stealing their wealth.
It’s perhaps fitting or even ironic that King Louis XVI also visited the Temple but this time as a prisoner. How the ghosts of those tortured and executed by his ancestor must have laughed at this pathetic spectacle. He was joined at the Temple by Marie Antoinette, his unpopular wife – who would also lose her head on the guillotine.
Louis and Marie Antoinette couldn’t stop scheming to reclaim their throne from the Republican revolutionaries and even conspired with foreign powers. This led to their eventual bloody downfall. After a period of Republican chaos, a man called Napoleon Bonaparte declared himself Emperor of France.
Napoleon demolished the Templar fortress in the first decade of the nineteenth century – it took quite a while apparently to take the thing down. He was worried that Bourbon royalists loyal to Louis would converge there regarding it as a kind of pilgrimage site. That was the last thing he was prepared to tolerate and so in went the wreckers.