The Rise of the Knights Templar

 

It is not my intention here to give a full and complete history of the ancient order of the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem Mount. That is a subject for complete volumes, and not for web pages I'm afraid. As I mentioned previously, there are several good books out there which can lend an individual great insight on this mysterious and historically fascinating order. I will however give a brief account of their existence and activities in order to set the stage for the more relevant period of their activities, that of their "fall from grace". It is during and just after this period of their disbandment in which I feel the forerunner(s) of our Clann first arose from veiled origins.

I should also mention that (like the Templars) I am a strong believer in the power of science, theories, and mathematics. As such, part of my theory is based on probability, and even from extrapolating backwards from know dates to approximate unknown dates. Mathematics is a wonderful tool, and if used correctly, never fails to reveal the truth (though I have insufficient data from which to conclude a firm figure as yet as you will later see).

Finally I should note that the "Templar" books that I cite as sources here are in themselves somewhat historical detections, though they are all truly magnificent works by learned men of insight. I here attempt to merely expand upon what they have concluded, as it pertains to our much less well known Acheson family's existence. I think that the reader will hereafter see that this is indeed the most plausible theory for Acheson descent.

The early Knights Templar were a group of Christian warrior-monks who dedicated their lives to occupying the sacred Temple Mount in Jerusalem after the first Crusade, and safeguarding it for pilgrims journeying to the sacred places therein.. The order was ostensibly dedicated to a life of chastity, poverty, and obedience which would ultimately (they hoped) lead to a martyred death on the battlefield. As human beings of course reality has little basis on intent. In practice the knights were generally "chaste" only as far as women of their own class were concerned (others were fair game), impoverished (in that the true wealth lay with their organization, and the church, not always with individual members), and obedient (mostly when it furthered their goals). They were initially formed by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem in the spring of 1118 A.D. and started out with only nine members (all of whom were French). A short time later they were backed by the Roman Papacy, and derived much of their strength and influence from the church.

During their extended stay in the Holy Land they had extensive exposure to eastern religions, philosophy, knowledge, and medicine. Typically badly outnumbered in engagements, they fought with legendary bravery, and often with brilliant insight. Over the centuries, through patriarchy of the Catholic church, generous donations from wealthy families, and military conquest, they amassed wealth and power rivalling any organization of their age. The Templars implemented the earliest system of banking in the world, using "cheques", where a person could deposit money in one Templar facility and be issued a cheque which could be withdraw far away at another Templar location. They were perhaps the most powerful financial organization on earth during the middle ages, and used it to good effect.

Though initially the Templars were mostly of French origin, over time Germanic, Iberian, English, Scottish, and Eastern European membership grew (though always they were a French dominated organization- particullary with reguard to their leadership.) They had during that time an almost unheard of method for selecting a new Grandmaster (amounting to democratic election- though a sitting Grandmaster's nepotism went a long way).

From their contact with Islam, Judaism, and the accumulated knowledge then existing in the East (which was the most scientifically and medicinally advanced at that time), they adopted different styles of dress, mannerisms, philosophy, theology, and a great appreciation for the value of math and science. These last two they employed in their military endeavours in sailing, seige warfare, and construction techniques, allowing them to build some of the most advanced fortifications, and perhaps one of the largest shipping fleets of that era. Their knowledge of masonry, medicine, celestial bodies, mapping, and nautical tools was extensive, and increased the efficacy of their all of their endeavours, military, merchantile, or otherwise.

Unfortunately for the Templars, they also created many enemies along the way. The Catholic Church did not at all like the infusion of Eastern philosopy and religious elements into the Templar religious beliefs, while numerous national sovereigns came to resent the Templars as they had often borrowed heavily from them and incurred great debt. As a result, as time went on they were more and more often subject to suspician and hostility both from the Papacy, and sovereign powers. The clergy began to believe (rightfully) or not, that the Templars were beginning to worships pagan beliefs and were performing such "anti-biblical" acts as idol worship, homosexuality, and magic/witchcraft to name but a few. It was also from the Templar's however, that the legends of the Grail Knights, King Arthur, Relics of the True Cross, and the Shroud of Turin all encompassed to varying degrees.

I will not entertain a lengthy discussion of the aforementioned legends or accusations, though perhaps there lies some basis in fact for many such notions. Suffice it to say that in this early period virtually everything "unkown" to the Catholic Church was viewed with suspicion. This is best exemplified by recalling that later the Catholic Church's resisted vehemently the eventual "round earth theory" , "leeching is bad for you" notion, ""the earth is not the center of the universe" , and belatedly "dinosaurs, and Darwinism" with brutal tactics such as Jesuit inquisition, and excommunication. Many thoughtful texts have treated these topics, and I will not engage such topics here.

At length after about a 200 hundred year history of basically trying to hold onto what had been captured in the Holy Lands and attempting to unsuccessfully retake more of it, the Templar Knights finally lost Acre in 1291, their last stronghold in the Holy Land, and so retreated to the isle of Malta by sea by which so many had come.

It was during this period of greatest weakness in which they soon fell prey to that which had previously been their strongest sources of support: the Catholic Church which had sanctioned and supported them, and the kingdoms and monarchs who had supplied them their sons, fought alongside them, and leant them all manner of financial and military support.

It is at this point where we must slow down our historical recounting, for it is mostly during these final years that Templar activities become relevant to the investigation at hand.

For the publicly "visible" Templar Knighthood, the end was near. They were about to enter a new and unusual phase of their existence. Though they had amassed immense wealth as an order and had a substantial fleet of ships, they were virtually helpless to prevent what next befell them. They were an order without a cause, and began to act along nationalistic lines; English Templars siding with England against the Scots, Spanish Templars fighting the Muslims encroaching in Spain, etc.

The Last of the Templar Knights

The leader of the Templar Knighthood, Jacques de Molay, was summoned to Europe in part to answer charges about the order. It was during this period that the Papacy had been in effect "hijacked" by the Kings of France, and as such the seat of the Pontiff was at Avignon, and not in Rome. Grandmaster DeMolay took a year to respond as he had taken time to carefully draft a plan to retake the Holy Land and hoped to earn the respect and perhaps gratitude of the Pope.

Other machinations were at work behind the scenes however. King Phillip of France was greatly indebted to the order and so envied their great resources and wealth that he conspired to take it for himself. He and his councillors conspired to arrest and suppress the Templars, and to confiscate their wealth and assets. Since the Templars were an arm of the Catholic Church and immune to secular law, Phillip's accusations were of crimes against God (Devil worship, witchcraft, idol worship, homosexuality, etc.), and these worked to good effect (casting a long shadow over the knighthood, in some quarters right down to the present day). He especially pushed the crime of heresy, as this crime would allow him to confiscate property. In the end, the church approved and even resorted to torture to extract confessions of heresy. Even under such torture, legally one could not retract such a confession or they were said to have become a "relapsed heretic" and could be burned at the stake.

Though Jacques de Molay was asked to report to the Pope in secrecy, he arrived in six ships at Marseille, with a personal escort of sixty knights in their white robes with pennons flying, accompanied by black robed squires and sergeants, and a twelve horse pack train carrying one hundred and fifty thousand gold florins. DeMolay was expecting good treatment from Phillip for his many past favors to the King, but walked into a trap instead.

At length, on the morning of Friday 13th of October, 1307 virtually every Templar Knight, Priest, sergeant, and servant in France was captured and put in chains. (And ever after Friday the thirteenth has been viewed as an ominous day). The knights were tortured, and propoganda was in full swing. Though the Pope was initially greatly displeased, apparently a deal was struck and the King of France had his way.

A letter dated December 24, 1310 was sent out to England, and others to all of the Christian kingdoms to arrest the Templars for heresy. In England the letter was not well recieved as he did not believe the charges, and King Edward II delayed the arrests as long as he could. Many Templars went "underground" during this period and disappeared from history. Torture was thus introduced to the English legal system, while anyone giving aid to Templars was also to be arrested, excommunicated and suitably punished. Templars were given one year to turn themselves in or would become "proven heretics" and would if found be burned to death at the stake with no trial. To King Edward's credit, many Templars apparently "Escaped" from English prisons during this period.

After a formal trial which began April 11, 1310 in France the Templar's were allowed to "defend themselves" without the confidence of their grandmaster. Five hundred forty turned out to do so, and the King of France took the opportunity to reopen proceedings against these knights. Eventually in late 1310 fifty four recanted Templars were summarily burned at the stake en masse outside of Paris, and any Templars who had resisted the torture were sentenced to life in prison. In all 120 Templars were burned at the stake.

Throughout the rest of Europe the Templars often fared better. In Germany, Cyprus, and throughout the whole Iberian Peninsula the Templars were found to be innocent. In England, those still in jail were offered leniency in exchange for admission to some minor guilt, and could retire to a monastic life. Most took this option and those that would not were sentenced to life imprisonment (though the terms may not have been enforced). The King of England did however happily seize all of the Templar lands and assets, depriving them of necessary support. In France, much of the vast Templar wealth disappeared without a trace (apparently from La Rochelle aboard ship as apparently the Templars had been tipped off about the arrests in advance), and is to this day one of the great unsolved treasure mysteries. Thousands of Templars in France and Europe went "underground" in hiding. In Portugal and Aragon the orders were renamed, and kept their properties and wealth, and continued to help wage war against the Muslims under the guise of these new Knighthoods.

What became of most of the Templars throughout Europe who escaped imprisonment and the arm of the inquisition is given to much speculation today. Much evidence stands in support of the theory that the ancient Craft of Freemasonry finds its roots directly from the underground Templar Knightood. In Britain, this theory cannot at all be dismissed simply, as evidence has come to light of what may well have happened to some Templars on the island of modern day Britain.

There has long lived a legend about the day in Scotland long ago when the Scots defeated a much greater English host at Bannockburn. In recent years this legend has gathered a far stronger basis in fact. Fascinating historical detection by several authors appears to have restored the truth about those days long ago when the Templars were men on the run. These men did not just vanish from history without a trace after all, but continued to greatly affect and even shape its outcome.

When the Papal letter reached the hand of Robert the Bruce of Scotland to imprison the Templars, he summarily dismissed it. No effort at all was ever made to prosecute the Knighthood in Scotland and this was undoubtedly a major attraction to many noble Templars in hiding. Though perhaps no longer able to openly call themselves Templars, they appear to have continued to exercise real power in the world.

Scotland had suffered greatly at the hand of the English. Under Edward I they had been cruelly treated and their continued subjugation had been the cause for much bloodshed, most noteably under the leadership of William Wallace. After Wallace's death, Robert the Bruce, a claiment to the Scottish throne took up his mantle and endeavoured to once again free Scotland from England's yoke against Edward's son Edward II. Not nearly as able a leader as his father Edward II none the less had far superior forces and resources than did the Scots.

Edward's armies harried Bruce's army all about Scotland in an effort to exterminate the rebellion. Much evidence supports the belief that Robert the Bruce apparently welcomed renegade Templars into Scotland, both by overland journey from England, and as well as on ships from France. He was in great need of experienced and well equipped fighting men of this there is no doubt. the English outnumbered and out-eqquipped him badly, particularly when it came to armor and horse. Dispossed of their lands and primary means of support, the Templars sought shelter anywhere they were well recieved. Such a place was Scotland.

One French Masonic tradition exists that nine ships landed on the Isle of Mey in the Firth of Forth. Others suggest that ships went to the West shores of Scotland and to Ireland. When the authorites in Catholic Ireland burst into the Templar presbyteries, they found them stripped of ornamentation, while Robert the Bruce was recieving fresh supplies before the Battle of Bannockburn in Scotland. At least eight Templar tombstones have been found in Currie near Edinburgh, and at Westkirk near Culcross in Fife.

Three months after Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake, Robert the Bruce found himself facing the English at Bannockburn after being hounded about the highlands by a much larger English force. Something had changed. Outnumbered about 20,000 to perhaps 6,000 with a much smaller contingent of mounted knights (3000 vs 500 who were poorly armed), the Bruce and his Scots stood their ground at Bannockburn. The site was chosen and prepared well by the Scots, in an experienced military fashion. The battle took place near Stirling in June on St. John's Day (significant for military orders) in the year 1314.

Accounts of the battle are fragmentary, but testify to two events: There was an unexpected charge of the English archers by mounted soldiers which had been held back by Bruce; and when all of the troops were fully engaged on both sides, a fresh force of horsemen appeared from behind a hill with banners flying, and routed the much larger English force. Though one legend claims these reinforcements were Scottish pony boys and camp followers weilding sheets, clubs, and pitch forks, another claims that it was a fresh band of Templar Knights whose well known pennons and tabards struck fear into the hearts of the English host and routed them, winning the day.

Camp followers would hardly have been a serious challenge to an experienced well equipped force such as the massive English armies. At the sight of fully armed and experienced Templar Knight's however, the results may readily be believed. Templars were well accustomed to combatting far superior numbers in the Holy Land, and would have quickly made an impression upon the English host. It is my belief that among these Templars was one or more of our earliest Acheson ancestors, and hereafter I shall endeavour to supply enough evidence to all but prove it.

Present at Bannockburn on the Scots side were many noteworthy Scottish Knights- 4 Sinclair Knights (the "Fighting Bishop of Dunkeld", his brother Henry Sinclair, the Lord of Rosslyn, and Sir William Sinclair- who was buried as a Master Templar), Sir Adam Gordon of Gordon (with his kinsmen, knights, retainers, and clann), and Alexander Seton (Templar) who left the English host the night before to give the Scots intelligence, and fought with them at Bannockburn (he was later drawn and quartered as had been his father and a relation John). William Sinclair, Alexander Seton and (perhaps since he delivered it) Adam Gordon were all signatories or supporters of the 1320 Declaration of Scottish Independence sealed at Arbroath. The Sinclairs and Setons at least had strong connections to the monastic knighthood orders; the Setons presided over the Templar Courts at Balantrodoch, while Rosslyn castle appears to have been the center of Templar activity with Sinclairs as Grandmasters.

13th Century Templar Gravestone beneath Rosslyn Chapel

Exhibits the form of an Engrailed Cross

All of these families profited greatly from the victory at Bannockburn with lands and titles.

I pose to the reader that among the hundreds of other knights who were present on the Scottish side, though less well known and influential, were proud Acheson Templars with their splendid Templar double-headed eagle emblazoned upon their shields.

Gathering the evidence....

 

 

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