Imagine a King of England taking his crown down to the pawnbrokers to see how much he could get for it. But that’s exactly what Henry III did and the pawnbrokers were none other than the Knights Templar.
Henry was fighting his own barons – much as his father King John had. You’ll remember John as the monarch forced to sign Magna Carta. Henry’s popularity had collapsed because his various attempts to regain his lost territory in France had failed. That had cost a pretty penny but when his own barons in England rebelled, the king’s debts skyrocketed.
Henry turns to the nearest pawnbrokers – the Knights Templar
Henry was struggling to keep his throne and save his own life. And according to one account, he asked the Knights Templar in Paris to keep hold of his crown and other jewels. These priceless items then reappeared a few years later, presumably once he’d paid off the debt. The Templars essentially behaved like pawnbrokers, giving Henry some ready cash in return for state regalia.
There’s some confusion over which crown Henry might have pawned to the Templars. Because his father John had lost one set of crown jewels at the end of his reign. They were swallowed up accidentally into a marsh while John was fleeing a French army.
Knights Templar as pawnbrokers
The Paris Temple was the mother of all preceptories with its high walls and vast amounts of bullion contained within. Crowned heads, popes and princes borrowed thousands of ‘livres’ from Paris making it a source of envy and hatred among the Templar’s enemies and creditors.
For Henry, it was a financial lifeline. The Templars had always run a kind of early banking system. The nobility and clergy could deposit their wealth in return for a kind of cheque. Henry just one step further and stuck his crown in the vault.