Nothing is more calculated to wind up a Scottish nationalist than to suggest that King Robert the Bruce needed help from the Knights Templar to win the Battle of Bannockburn in June 1314.
We did it ourselves! They will cry like Braveheart. And no magical assistance from the white mantled knights was required, thank you very much. And anyway – a sceptic would point out immediately – the year 1314 is a full seven years after the Knights Templar were crushed throughout Europe. So what are they doing charging around Scotland?
Well – like all conspiracy theories – it’s complicated.
And the Netflix series on Robert the Bruce titled Outlaw King won’t have helped you much. Even despite actor Chris Pine being in the lead role. For this is a story you will only find told on blogs such as this and esoteric books on the Templars. But it’s a fun tale nevertheless.
Templar link to the Outlaw King – Robert the Bruce
In 1307, the Knights Templar in France were being arrested en masse and flung into prisons to be tortured till they confessed to heinous crimes like spitting on the cross and denying Christ. But, some Templars got away. It’s asserted that they fled in two directions: Portugal and Scotland.
In the dead of night, their ships set sail from the port of La Rochelle weighed down by vast amounts of treasure, bullion and sacred items brought back from Jerusalem. This was the Templars on the run. Facing the prospect of being burnt at the stake, the once brave warriors scurried away to save their necks. Understandable given that being burnt at the stake was one of the most painful forms of public execution in the Middle Ages.
Down in Portugal they were given royal protection and morphed into the Order of Christ – playing a leading role in the discovery of the New World. In Scotland, they teamed up with Robert the Bruce to defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn.
Well, that’s according to historian Robert Ferguson who says their involvement tipped the balance in favour of the Scots. Now, not only is that a claim that raises the hackles of many Scottish nationalists but it was derided as rubbish by leading Templar historian Helen Nicholson back in 2009.
However, Ferguson is adamant that between 29 and 48 Templars were on the battlefield with the Scottish when they inflicted a historic defeat on the old enemy. Nicholson counters that the only Templars left with real fighting ability in 1307 would have been in their last stronghold of Cyprus.
Now – Helen Nicholson is my favourite Templar historian and if she says they weren’t at the Battle of Bannockburn then I’m inclined to assume the knights were a no-show and Robert the Bruce achieved victory through Scottish might and cunning.