At the end of November I am bringing out a new book "The Templar
" a story which has haunted my imagination since childhood. I have always been fascinated by the First Crusade, a movement of literally tens of thousands of people from Western Europe who simply "downed tools" and marched east to free Jerusalem . It's one of the most incredible journeys I have ever read, evoking comparison with the Long March in China.
What strikes me as both compelling and fascinating about the march is the absolute heroism, courage and ferocious bravery of both sides in the ensuing conflict. What is equally fascinating is that there were as many reasons for the Crusade as there were crusaders, reflecting the best and worst in humanity. All in all a truly gripping story.
What attracted me as a historian is that quite a few of those who went on the crusade kept diaries and journals, so its almost like watching a film when you study them. Another intriguing aspect of the crusade was that many women also marched and later displayed the most remarkable courage and stamina.
The story of "The Templar" is told through the eyes of one such woman, Eleanor de Payens, the sister of Hugh de Payens, the founder of the Templar Order. This brings me to my second fascination. The Templar Order were a very mysterious group, [they had female members during the early years!]
There have been countless stories about the Templars and the curse levelled against those who destroyed the order. Was there such a curse? I used to disbelieve this until I did my doctorate on Isabella, daughter of Philip IV of France, the King who destroyed the Templars, and I found the curse! Within fourteen years of the Templars' destruction the following happened:
- All three wives of Philip IV sons committed adultery and were removed.
- All three sons married again – not one of them beget a healthy living male heir.
- Isabella, Philip's daughter, married the King of England to bring peace between England and France. The reverse happened, because all of Philip's sons died without a male heir, Isabella's child [Edward III] claimed the throne of France and plunged both countries into the bitter Hundred Year War.
- Pope Clement V, who sanctioned the end of the Templars, died of bowel cancer and his corpse burst into flames.
- De Marigny – Philip's first minister fell from power and was hanged…
I could go on and on. Basically, most of those involved in the death of the Grand Master Jacques de Molay died horrible deaths. The Templars do fascinate me. I hope, if you read "The Templar
" out this November, you'll find the same!
Labels: Edward III, Isabella, Jerusalem, Philip IV, Pope Clement V, Templars, The Crusades