Watching the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla today, I wondered how many Coronations would have been attended by the Knights Templar. They surely would have been present at many crownings of kings and queens. Standing by the throne in their white mantles emblazoned with red crosses. So – who had a coronation between 1118, when the Templars were founded, and 1307, when they were crushed?
England was ruled by the following monarchs:
- Henry the first – Actually crowned in 1100 who implemented authoritarian Norman laws on his mainly Saxon subjects. His two sons drowned at sea in a ship that sank called the White Ship. When Henry died, his daughter Matilda tried to become queen but the nobility opted for Henry’s male cousin Stephen leading to a period of war and instability known as The Great Anarchy.
- Stephen – The cousin won but after much fighting a compromise was reached whereby when Stephen died, Matilda’s son Henry Plantagenet would become king. This was all basically a feud between different sections of the Norman nobility carried on above the heads of the mass of the population.
- Henry II – A strong though not very likeable king with a hot temper. Involved in constant wars in what is now France. You have to remember the rulers of England saw their ancestral home as being across the English Channel in Normandy and Anjou. They also spoke Norman French and not English. Henry is most infamous for murdering the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, which sparked off a Europe-wide cult around Thomas when he was made a saint.
- Richard the Lionheart – The quintessential crusader who spent more time outside England than at home ruling his kingdom. He spearheaded the Third Crusade fighting alongside the Knights Templar and other militaristic holy orders like the Hospitallers. Eventually killed after being struck by an arrow. He had no children so England passed to his brother.
- John – This ruler has gone down in history as one of the worst monarchs England ever had. He lacked his brother’s military prowess and lost territory in France. His own barons rose up in revolt and forced him to sign the Magna Carta, curtailing the royal powers. And the Pope even excommunicated him. Despite all this, John enjoyed friendly relations with the Grand Master of the Templars in England and stayed at the London preceptory just before signing Magna Carta.
- Henry III – Ruled for a long period of time but took the throne aged nine. Didn’t cope well with the pressure of monarchy and was dominated by church officials and nobles. Faced further baronial insurgencies. His one big achievement was the building of Westminster Abbey. The bulk of the abbey you see today was his doing.
- Edward I – An extremely strong king if utterly ruthless. He put an end to the discontent within the aristocracy by forming the “model parliament” with clergy, nobility, and knights convened together to consider laws. But the monarch was still very much in charge despite that. He hammered Wales into submission making his son Prince of Wales – the position that Charles III held before becoming king. He also defeated the Scots bringing their royal coronation “stone” down to Westminster.
- Edward II – The king during the crushing of the Knights Templar who was reticent to round up these brave knights but eventually gave into the orders from the Pope. His reign was turbulent, not least because his own Queen joined up with her lover to overthrow him. Edward was rumoured to be homosexual and the story persists that he was secretly killed by having a red hot poker rammed up his behind.
The Knights Templar operated across Europe so of course they were dealing with monarchs in many countries – even helping some of them to form their kingdoms. For example, the kingdom of Portugal was large created with the help of the Knights Templar defeating the Muslim emirs ruling southern Portugal in the 12th century. Relations with the Kings of France were cordial until King Philip “the Fair” in the early 14th century who decided that Templar gold would pay off his war debts. So, colluding with Pope Clement, this monarch brought the Templars down.
But you can certainly imagine, many Templar Grand Masters attending the coronation of kings and queens across Europe from 1118 to 1307 and being seen as trusted advisers and even bankers. Below – my views on today’s coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.