Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Templars - a lifelong fascination!

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!

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At October 18, 2007 at 1:07 PM , Blogger Ignazio Alessandro said...

All that regards the Templars is fascinating. I didn't know that in the early years women also can belong to the Order, partly because the Templars believed so much in men's superiority that were charged with homosexuality. They say that the Templars adored Baphomet, a demon that I saw engraved on the ceiling of a room at Castel del Monte.
As for the rest, I think that Philip IV and Clement V got what they deserved!

At October 19, 2007 at 7:50 PM , Blogger ultra modern cowgirl said...

According to, it will be available in the U.S. during the week of December 13th-- looking forward to it very much!

Your 'Canterbury Tales Mysteries' are wonderful!

At October 20, 2007 at 10:00 AM , Blogger Sophia said...

There IS something fascinating about the Crusades.
I was reading a piece on them once and how men were 'recruited' for them and I did wonder what it was that made normal working men from England 'take up the cross' for a cause so many miles away in a such a distant place.

But then I thought about the times these people were living in.Fighting for the Holy Land would have been seen as a noble cause in the name of Christianity and also a chance for spiritual advancement and to atone for any past sins.
Then again, perhaps there was also something similar to the Foreign Legion about it, a chance to escape from any bad things back home, whether personal or political.
Maybe perversely, it offered a sort of personal freedom.

At December 7, 2007 at 12:21 PM , Blogger KMCVA said...

I agree that the Templar story is very fascinating.

But with regards to the curse I totally disagree. It is very sensational to believe in this like in the curse of the mummy.
F.e. the pope died a month after the burning of the last Grand Master of cancer - so he was definitely suffering from cancer before it and taking the medical science of the time into account he was doomed anyway. Maybe one should rather look for more logical explanations for what has happened then going for the "curse scenario". I am actually quite disappointed that Paul Doherty - an author I highly value and have read properly all of his books - goes for such stuff!

At December 17, 2007 at 11:03 PM , Blogger the fisherman said...

Have just finished Alexander:Death of a God, and can't wait to get The Templar - hopefully in my Christmas stocking!

At February 10, 2008 at 4:24 PM , Blogger Gillian said...

I have read EVERY book you have ever written, and I must say that The Templar is one of the best so far. I can't wait for others in this series.

At June 20, 2012 at 11:18 AM , Blogger Sharedworlds said...

I am quite new to your writing and I note that this post is several years old. What I find missing from many accounts of the crusades is the murder of the Jewish communities in Europe by the crusading armies on their way to "liberate" Jerusalem. I am thinking in particular of the Jews of Speyer. Are these subjects you tackle in your novels?


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