Here is a sample of a few chapters of my new novel about the Templar Knights in the late 1290’s up to 1307 when the French King arrested and tortured all the Knights in France and 1314 when he also burned the Grand Master of the Templar Knights Jacques de Molay for changing his forced confession. This novel is from the view of a Templar Page in Cyprus who eventually becomes a Squire at age 15 and begins training as part of Jacques de Molay’s personal family of knights. The Page’s name is Geoffrey de Villiars and his father was a Templar Knight who died in the Battle for Acre. Geoffrey travels with Jacques de Molay and his personal knights and sergeants to Paris for the funeral of a famous wife and aristocrat on Oct. 12, 1307 in Paris, France. Jacques’ spies already informed him that the King of France is broke and intents to arrest Jacques and all the Templar Knights in Paris and steal the Templar treasure. Jacques is one step ahead of the King of France and ordered a month in advance of October all the Templar Knights to secretly begin moving the massive treasure in their castles and manors to various hiding places in and outside Paris. The plan was for Galleons to sail up the Seine river to Paris at night and load the 220 tons of gold and silver and religious artifacts.
A Templar Squire’s Tale
By Dr. Pelham Mead III
Chapter One- In the Beginning
They tell me I was born on June 25, 1285 in the city of Troyes in the County of Champagne, France, to a young woman called Marianne de Villiars. My mother was the daughter of a rich merchant from Amiens, and my father was named Francois de Villiars, and he was the son of a Templar Knight who died in the fifth crusade in 1224. I barely remember my mother Marianne when I was just three years of age. I remember she had long brown hair that glistened in the sun. I was only three when she succumbed to the plague. “Mother, mothers are you alright? Father come quick,” I cried. Mom had been bedridden for weeks, and was getting weaker and weaker. My nanny Christiana tried to keep me happy, but I longed to see my mother get well. “Father can you help Mom, please father,” I cried. “You must be strong boy, your mother is ill, and perhaps by the will of God she will survive,” he said? “These are difficult times my son, let us pray to Mary the mother of Jesus to cure your mother.” Days blended into nights, and finally, without notice, mother was gone. ”Do not look upon your mother,” my father said. “But father what are we to do? I pleaded” I was only three, and did not understand what the plague was. They took mother away, and I never saw her again. Father took me to Aunt Teresa de Cottiers, who live nearby in a nice little cottage. I cried because I did not want to leave my father, but he felt he could not bring me up by himself, and that his sister Teresa, who had no children of her, own could better care for me.
“Teresa I would not ask you to care for my son Geoffrey if it were not important,” my father said. “I can barely take care of myself at present after losing my love Marianne,” he whispered with great emotion in his voice. Brother Francois I am at your disposal, and if be God’s will, I can care for little Geoffrey,” Teresa cried. I was outside waiting in a wagon with my favorite blanket, and my only bag of clothes. I remember father coming out of the cottage and getting on his horse, and riding off into the woods without saying good-bye. I cried all day and night and but Aunt Teresa could not console me. Eventually, I began to get used to living a simple life with Aunt Teresa. I watched, and learned Aunt Teresa milking the cows, picking the vegetables in the garden, and taking them into the house. Aunt Teresa would let me pretend to help her. Once a week we went into Troyes to the market to buy meat or fish that we could not grow on our farm. Aunt Teresa was a short and thin woman with rosy cheeks and a kind smile. Her hair was short with some grey in it. She was a very religious woman who always prayed in the morning and in the evening. She taught me a lot about how to read the Bible, and how to take care of horses and cows. Life seemed more complete for me.
Two years later my father returned for a short visit, and after a day of visiting he was gone. He had been training with some knights from a nearby castle in the use of a sword, battle-axe, and other weapons. He asked me how I was doing, and I responded that Aunt Teresa was kind to me and loved me. He smiled and gave some coins to Aunt Teresa to use to buy some food and clothing for both of us. “I will try to send more money as I earn it,” he said to Aunt Teresa. Early the following morning Father left on his horse to return to the nearby castle.
Three years later Aunt Teresa began to become sick and took to her bed. She called a local monk Father Monde to our house, and told him she felt like she was dying, and if she died, she had no relative to take care of me. She told him that my Father had left for the Crusades to become a Templar Knight, like his father before him, and given up his lands, and all his wealth to join the Templar order in the year of our Lord, 1288. Teresa told Father Monde that she had a little money left from my father, and she would pay Father Monde to take me to my second cousin Jacques de Molay, a Templar Knight who was fighting the Mamluks in either Acre or Cyprus. She asked him to take me to become a page with our second cousin in Acre or Cyprus, wherever Jacques de Molay was located in the Crusades. Father Monde was reluctant at first, but when Aunt Teresa told him that I was related to the great Templar Knight Jacques de Molay, and that a great reward would be his if he could deliver me safely to my second cousin de Molay, he changed his mind.
Sadly, Teresa died the next week and the neighbors sent for Father Monde from the local monastery to come and take me to Acre or Cyprus. He was already paid by Aunt Teresa for his services with the possibility of a big reward for delivering me to my second cousin safe and sound to Templar Knight Jacques de Molay.
After Aunt Teresa was buried the next day, Father Monde and I sent out for the Holy Land as if it was just around the corner. What did I know; I was only six at the time. Cyprus could have been in the next town for all I knew. We traveled on donkeys, and the journey was terribly long. Father Monde was kind enough to show me how to write letters, and read Latin, as my mother and aunt Teresa had tried to do. “This is the letter A for alpha,” Geoffrey said. “Here take this charcoal and try and copy it yourself on this rock,” Father Monde asked. “How far do we have to go Father,” I asked. “Many miles my son, be patient, God will protect us,” he said. Father Monde was a short heavy man with the big bald spot on the back of his head like most monks wore. His nose was unusually large on his small round face. He wore only monks’ robes with sandals, and was as poor as a mouse. He made up for the lack of money in his ability to talk people into anything. He always managed to talk someone into giving us food, and he blessed him or her, and their house for doing so. “Bless you my child, bless you sir, may God watch over your house, and keep you safe in the name of Jesus Christ out Lord,” he prayed after we were given some vegetables to eat. “Keep you face looking toward the sky,” he would always tell me. He gurgled when he laughed, and I could not help but laugh when he laughed. I longed to see my father and would ask Father Monde where my father was. He would just look at me and smile. “In good time, young one, in good time,” he would always respond.
The days became weeks and the weeks became months as we continued on our journey. Whether in heavy rain or sunny skies, we trudged on, and on, with two slow donkeys to carry our bodies over rock and field. We went through towns and cities, country fields and woods, mountains and valleys always seeking the horizon.
I do not remember how long it took us, but I do remember the seasons changed from summer to fall, to winter, when we arrived at a seaport on the Mediterranean.
Chapter Two- Cyprus 1292
Father Monde negotiated with a ship’s captain to transport us to the island of Cyprus where it was believed the Templar Knight Jacques De Molay was last seen. It took many days to cross the Mediterranean, and the seas were rough. Father Monde, and I both got sick from the high waves. Secretly, I prayed to be on land many times. Finally, as the storm cleared an island appeared on the horizon. “Look Father, I think I see an island in the distance. Could it be Cyprus? I asked. “Yes, it might well be Cyprus my son. I have never been there before,” Father Monde said. “I think we will be approaching the walled city of Famagusta,” Father Monde declared. The blue green ocean water was beautiful as we approached the harbor for the town of Famagusta. Beautiful rock formations lined the coast with beaches reaching around the harbor. It was a big adventure for me for I was only six years of age at the time. Soon I would be meeting my second cousin the famous Templar Knight Jacques de Molay. I wondered how that meeting would go as the ship pulled into the harbor dock. “Come Geoffrey we have to leave the ship now and search for the Templar headquarters in town,” Father Monde exclaimed. I grabbed my bag of clothes that was all I owned in the world, and grabbed Father Monde’s hand as we walked down the gangplank to the dock. Father Monde asked a seaman standing on the dock, “Do you know where the Templar Knights headquarters are located?” “Yes, seniore,” he replied and pointed to a castle on the edge of the bay. “It is a beautiful city is it not Father” I asked? “Ahh, yes the sun is out and God is with us my son,” he responded.
The Knights Templar headquarters was at Nicosia far in land on Cyprus and the Hospitallers had their headquarters in Limassol on the southern tip of the island on the sea. The journey to Nicosia from Famagusta was 33 miles or a day’s journey by horse or donkey. Father Monde bargained with a local merchant to buy two donkeys for us to travel on to get to Nicosia the Templar castle headquarters. We rested that night in a church in the town of Famagusta sleeping in quarters where the priests or monks usually stayed. Early the next morning with the chirping of birds heard in the trees we left early for Nicosia. It was a difficult journey over the mountains to get to Nicosia that was inland on Cyprus south of Kerynia on the northern coast. All this father monde learned from the local merchant, and he wrote the directions and facts down on a piece of parchment. “Soon we will be there little one,” Father Monde said. “Here chew on this for a while to help you hunger as he offered me s small piece of bread he purchased in Famagusta.” I took the bread and chewed and chewed until the hard crust began to dissolve in my mouth, which then made me thirsty. I had a small water gourd with me, and I quickly removed the plug and drank down half of the gourd of water afterward. Father Monde laughed at my hunger and thirst. He was used to fasting or eating only one meal a day, but I wasn’t. The road to Nicosia was narrow over the mountains, but well marked. We passed an old man with a donkey and a cart full off fruit on the way and had to step to the side of the trail to allow him to pass. Father Monde said, good day to you in French, but the old man did not understand French, and kept walking away from us. We rested finally after riding around twenty miles on our donkeys. A stream nearby was a good place for us to water our donkeys, and fill out water gourds for the rest of the journey. “We will try to get to Nicosia before nightfall,” Father Monde shouted from his donkey. I just held onto my donkey’s neck, and wished the trip were over. Finally, we came to a ridge on the backside of a mountain that overlooked Nicosia in the valley below. The town was completely surrounded by a wall in a star like shape. It was a very unique wall defending the city in all directions. We descended down the mountain slopes on our donkeys, greatly fatigued from our long tiring journey over the Cyprus Mountains. We entered the city through one of its guarded gates, and headed to the Templar Knight headquarters somewhere in the middle of the town.
We walked about a mile until we reached a three story stone building that had the Templar flag hanging from a pole outside, a red cross on a white background. “ We are here young one,” Father Monde exclaimed. As we entered the building a Templar Knight was guarding the door and stopped us as we attempted to enter. “Stop, what is your purpose here,” he asked? “I am Father Monde from Toyes, France to see Templar Jacques de Molay,” Father Monde declared. “What is your business with Brother de Molay,” the Knight asked? “I am here with Brother de Molay’s second cousin, Geoffrey de Villars, son of Templar Knight Francois de Villars,” Father Monde stated. “Wait here and I will seek him out Grand Master,” the Knight responded. I look around the room and all the walls were of stone with a Templar Banner hanging on one wall with the black and white rectangle shape and a battle-axe on another wall. There was a small fireplace in the far corner and the floor was also stone. Minutes later a tall old man in his late 50’s or early 60’s with thin grey hair wearing a Templar tunic of white with a large red cross on his chest and on his white cape appeared. He was an impressive looking man, and when he first spoke his voice was deep. His beard was long and grey and his face was dark and wrinkled from the sun. “I am brother de Molay, whom are you pilgrim,” He asked Father Monde? “ I am Father Monde from Troyes, France on behalf of your second cousin Templar Francois de Villars, I bring you his son, Geoffrey de Villars to serve with you as a page,” Father Monde stated. “Francois de Villars, you say, ah yes, how is Francois,” brother de Molay asked? “I imagine he is well brother de Molay since he is serving as a Templar Knight somewhere here in Cyprus or Acre,” father Monde declared. “Well he is not in Acre, unless he is dead,” brother de Molay barked out loud with his booming voice. On behalf of your second cousin Aunt Teresa de Cottiers on her death bed, and her last wishes were for me to swear to safely deliver young Geoffrey to you brother de Molay to serve as a Page in your entourage. She died a week after making this request of me and instructing me to ask for compensation for keeping Geoffrey safe and sound in our long voyage to the Holy Land. “You will be well paid Father,” brother de Molay stated. I have need of a priest at this time. My previous priest died of fever recently. Would you like to stay in my service father,” Jacque asked? “It would be my honor to serve you brother de Molay or shall I call you master,” Father Monde asked? “We are all brothers Templar around her,” Jacques responded. “Come have you eaten yet this day,” Jacques asked? “We have some fruits and breads out and the cook is preparing some lamb. “Help yourself, and later I will introduce Geoffrey to Squire Pierre de Romaine, and Sergeant Gui de Basenville, Jacques said. “Thank you brother,” Father Monde responded. “Squire Pierre trains all our pages and Sergeant Basenville trains all the Squires, and knights in the skills of a battle Knight,” Jacques said.
I just stood there with my mouth closed the whole time. Jacques de Molay was an impressive man who seemed in charge of everything. We sat down at the large wooden table, and eat greedily after not being able to hold down any food while we were on the ship. Brother de Molay left us alone, and went back upstairs.
An hour later Jacques came back and said, “let me take you into the courtyard and introduce you to Pierre, our Squire, who I believe is polishing some silver armor right now,” Jacques stated. As we walked into the courtyard of the castle there was a young boy sitting in the shade in a corner of the courtyard surrounded by silver armor plate, and various size swords and daggers. He was busily rubbing away at a breastplate when we approached him he quickly stood up. “Master de Molay, what can I do for you,” he asked. “Pierre this is our new page, Geoffrey de Villiars of Troyes who will be serving under you,” Jacques said. “The is wonderful Master de Molay. I will be glad to welcome him into our family,” Pierre said. “Hello I am Geoffrey,” I introduced myself extending my hand in friendship. Pierre shook my hand and then Jacques said, “I will leave you two for now since I have to show father Monde where the chapel is, and where he will sleep at nights. I will see you two at dinner tonight after evening prayer,” Jacques said. “Thank you Master de Molay,” Pierre responded as Jacques started to walk away with father Monde.
“I will be your teacher, and will show you what is expected of a page in the service of a Templar knight. You must follow me exactly, and stay out of the way of Sergeant Gui de Basenville. He is a real mean person and if you get in his way he will beat you with a stick. Templar Sergeants have a lot of responsibility in developing young Knights. When you become a squire at age 15 you will get to learn the skills of war, and how to take care of the Templar warhorses. The Templar warhorses are highly valued around here, and we squires have the duty of putting on their saddles and bridles when a Templar knight needs them. Here are the four warhorses Master de Molay has, and their names are Saladin, the black Arabian stallion. Over in the second stall is Damascus the white warhorse. The third horse is Orpheus the brown stallion. Watch out of Orpheus he will kick you in his stall if you are not careful. He has a lot of spirit. The fourth horse is Sky Borne who is a mixed Arabian breed. The last horse is Challenger who is Sergeant de Basenville’s horse. We do not touch the Sergeant’s horse ever. He feeds and cares for his own horse, and allows no one else near his warhorse. We have other packhorses, and standard riding horses that were not trained for warfare; therefore they are not given names. Only the Knights and Sergeants have warhorses with names.
From now on you will stay with me and the other squires and pages. All the knights have their own pages, squires, and sergeants that take care of their horses. Their horses are not our responsibility. We are of the house of de Molay and serve only our master,” Pierre stated.
So began my new life of service as a page in the Templar Knight order. Everyday there was work to do from sun up to sun down with prayer and meditation. Master de Molay was illiterate, and did not encourage his knights to learn to read and write, but I had started to read early on with my mother, and later Aunt Teresa. When Father Monde had time he continued to show me how to read Latin, usually at nights after vespers. To honor my mother and Aunt Teresa, I kept up my reading and writing studies with Father Monde. Reading Latin would be important in being able to read messages from other Knights and kings. More important the Knights Templar were well known for developing their own secret code for issuing people credits for their money when they traveled to the Holy Land and being able to read would be a good skill to have.
Pierre and I developed a fast bond over time. There was one other page called Ken La Mar, and he was seven years of age, and also the son of a Templar Knight, who was killed in action at Acre. The servants were to numerous to mention or remember. Some were Europeans, and some were Syrians from the Holy Land. We were a mixed pot of stew from many nations united under one cause, Christianity. There were about 300 or 400 people living in the Templar Headquarters including servants. Each dinner meal the knights all sat down at several long banquet tables, and ate in silence while one of the Priests read from the bible. Vespers were held every afternoon before dinner, and all of the Knights, Sergeants, Priests, Squires, and Pages attended. My day began at 4:00 am with Matins. All the Knights were required to recite thirteen Paternosters or Lord’s Prayers, and Prayers to Our lady Mary everyday. Sometimes Thirty prayers were said for the living and thirty for the deceased.
Matins was followed by Prime at 6:00 am often called Morning Prayer. At Matins the Knights would hear a full mass. We usually ate only two meals a day consisting of cheese, bread, and vegetables. Meat was rarely served two or three times a week to keep the knight strong. After the afternoon meal, if we had one, came Nones around 2:30 p.m., and later on, Vespers at 6 p.m. We all ate in silence during meals, and the last order of the day was Compline. After that the brothers or knights would gather for community drinking of water or diluted wine. Pages were not allowed at this meeting. We lived a very monastic life despite the fact that the knights were also warriors. It took me a long time to get used to the same routine every day. Pierre was always reminding me when to get up and when to go to chapel.
Once a week the Templar Knights has a general meeting in which they confessed any transgressions they committed during the week. I was not allowed into the knights weekly meeting because I was only a page. I do not know what they discussed, because it was a big secret. The knights Templar I learned, had a lot of secrets. They had Secret meetings, a secret history, secret treasurer, and a host of other secrets.
Each day brought new surprises, and news of the Mamluks spread around the castle as gossip. I only saw master Jacques de Molay on occasion at dinner or in passing during the day. He always seemed preoccupied with starting another Crusade against the Mamluk armies that had taken back the Holy Land or in trading for food and supplies to feed all the knights and their followings.
I watched messengers come and go every day as Master Jacques de Molay was always sending letters via the Templar ships to Rome or to the Pope or the King of England or France, and other nations seeking funding for the Templar Knights in Cyprus.
Once in a while Master de Molay would take some of us along with him when he went to visit the Hospitallers, who were living in Limassol at Kolossi castle. Squire Pierre, and Sergeant Gui de Basenville would prepare the horses with saddles and supplies for the trip. Several other knights would always accompany us such as Geoffroi de Charney the Master of Normandy who was a good friend of brother de Molay. Hughes de Pairand the Visitor of France would also travel with us to Limassol to confer with the Hospitallers on possible raids against the Mamluks. Brother Pierre told me the journey over the mountains to Kolossi castle was a two-day ride on a narrow trail wide enough for only one horse at a time. Sergeant Gui De Basenville would carry the beauseant banner of white and black that was the traditional banner of the Knights Templar in battle. Grand Master de Molay would follow the Sergeant, and his brother Templars would follow behind him. Squire Pierre, and I would bring up the rear hauling packhorses with supplies, and some gold and silver for transactions with the Hospitallers. It was a sunny day when we departed early in the morning for Kolossi castle in Limassol. In order to get to Limassol we had to cut across the middle of Cyprus island over several mountain ranges to get to the ocean shore, and then along the shoreline until we reached Kolossi castle that was a few miles outside of the town of Limassol. Pierre told me they processed a lot of sugar in Limassol and the Hospitallers and the Templars processed a great deal of sugar and sold for revenue to support the knights of both orders. I have never been to Limassol, but at the age of six going on seven, everything seemed like a magical adventure. I held onto my pony as tight as I could during the journey. Many times the trail would be along a narrow rock outcropping with the valley below thousands of feet. I just looked at the horse in front of me when I got scared. We stopped after a few hours for water at a mountain stream. Pierre and I fetched water for the Knights and Sergeant de Basenville. The air was much colder in the mountains, and I had to put a blanket around me to keep from being chilled. Master de Molay talked the entire trip about the need to fund a new Crusade against the Mamluks, and how most of the monarchs in England, France, and Argon did not have the funds to support another Crusade. War was expensive, and taking back lost cities won by the Mamluks, required assault weapons, and large armies. He complained that all he could get was supplies exported to Cyprus for the Templars and Hospitallers. Pierre said to me on the way that the master did not seem happy. I agreed with him as we trudged along in single file over the mountain passes and down into the valleys below.
We camped in a lush valley next to a stream that evening and after prayers we ate in silence, as was the rule. Pierre and I started some extra fires for the knights to sleep near, and stay warm at night. Master de Molay was in a better mood after dinner, and he sat around the fire and talked about the old days in the Templar order in Jerusalem. “Many have tried to guess what our brothers were doing for nice years while they lived in the Al Aqsa Mosque. When King Baldwin of Jerusalem allowed the Knights Templar to use the Mosque also known as the Temple of Solomon, it was partially in ruins. With only nine Knights, who were sworn to poverty, they had to repair the ruins to make it safe to live inside. This is where their interest in building first began. When our brothers were digging out the rubble from the Mosque they came upon an area in the southeast corner of the mount where the dirt fell away to reveal rooms carved into the rock itself. This was the area known as Solomon’s stables. Brother Hugues de Payens soon realized the arches must have held up Solomon’s castle, and kept it level on an uneven hilltop known as the mount. Our Templar brothers protected the Pilgrims on the roads to Jerusalem and when they were not doing so they helped excavate rubble in the mosque, and the Stables of Solomon. Hugues soon learned about early gothic architecture, and how the keystone at the top of an arch would distribute the load of the building and the arch much better the current buildings. Afterward, he was one of the first to use the newly gothic architecture to build the Cathedral in Amiens France. The greatest mystery is what did our Templar brothers find under Solomon’s temple after nine years. How did they go from poverty to sudden wealth when Hugues de Payens traveled to France, and the Vatican to seek funding and converts to the order of the Templars? I have heard in the most secret of meetings that our brothers discovered the nine Enoch vaults under the temple of Solomon ruins by accessing the vaults from the Solomon Stables. Just like the story in the Bible of Enoch, and the nine vaults he created.
Each Enoch vault led to another vault below until several hundred feet below the mount a circular rock with a round metal object was discovered. The round rock was wedged into the hole from generations of ruble being piled on top. The Templars has to use chisels and hammers to remove the debris that had compressed the round stone and jammed it from being removed with normal pressure. After months of backbreaking work the Templar brothers finally broke through to a ninth vault below full of scrolls of antiquity, gold and silver and the broken remains of the Arch of the Covenant. The treasure was so vast that it took almost a year to completely remove it. Hugues de Payens and Geoffrey de St. Omer decided it would be wise to remove the treasurer back to France just in case the sacrens conquered Jerusalem. That was the real reason for the voyage in 1125 of Hugues de Payens to France, because he was secretly removing the treasures of the Temple of Solomon, before anyone else knew about it, especially the King of Jerusalem. Had anyone checked, three galleys left for France instead of just one, and all were loaded with treasurer that was disguised in sacks of grain and sugar? No one, not even the ship’s captain knew what was in the crates and sacks of grain, and sugar being shipped to France to the port of La Rochelle, and then sent to the main Temple treasury in Paris.
“We shall never know how much Brothers Hugues and Geoffrey, transported but it was enough to build a cathedral in Amiens years later in the new Gothic structure that they had learned in the Temple of Solomon stables. Sacred scrolls written in Hebrew and some in Arabic were found. They had to be interpreted by Jewish scholars of the day, and that would take some time. So my brothers now that you have heard this story you are sworn to forget it. The secret will always remain in the Templar order never to be revealed even until this day and forever after.”
Let us finish with Vespers and turn in for the night. We have a long ride tomorrow to get to Limassol and Kolossi Castle to meet our Hospitallers brothers.
The following day Squire Pierre, Sergeant Gui de Basenville, and I loaded up the horses and packed the supplies for the trip to Kolossi castle. The trail was mostly downhill from here on Pierre told me and then we would travel along the flat coastland next to the ocean to get to Kolossi castle. Sergeant Gui de Basenville let the single file with the Templar banner again (beauseant). The trail widened at the bottom of the trail as we descended from the mountain range. Here the riders could ride two abreast and talk as we rode along on our journey. I learned more about the Templars in the past day or so then I had in my entire short life of six years. I would always remember the secret story of Jerusalem Jacques de Molay told the other nights and hold it close to my heart. After another short water stop we pushed on hoping to arrive before nightfall at Kolossi castle.
Toward late in the afternoon we could see a stone structure in the distance as we road along side the ocean. It was a three-story castle keeps with a rectangle building attached to it. The stone square three story building stood high above the trees and could be seen for miles from any direction. As we drew closer, Jacques de Molay sent Sergeant Gui de Basenville ahead with the beauseant to inform the Hospitallers we had arrived. By the time we got to the Kolossi castle gate several Knight Hospitallers were waiting for us at the castle gate. The Hospitallers banner was flying from a pole on top of the castle keep white cross on a black background. Standing in the entrance of Kolossi castle was the Hospitallers Grand Master named Guillaume de Villaret. As Jacques de Molay approached the castle he got down off his horse and shouted, “brother Guillaume, how good it is to see you again.” “Welcome brother Jacques to Kolossi castle,” Guillaume responded. They hugged in the usual fashion of men of arms meeting and preceded to walk into the castle keep. We all followed by dismounting and bringing our horses and knights into the castle keep passing through to a courtyard inside the keep where we tied our horses up. Sergeant Gui de Basenville asked Master Jacques de Molay what would be his pleasure and he responded that we should all wait in the great hall while he met with the Hospitallers Grand Master De Villaret.
I noticed when I first saw Grand Master de Villaret that he had curly hair and a full goatee and his hair was not short cropped as the Templar Knights kept their hair. Secondly, I observed Guillaume had a limp in his leg when he walked. A wound from a recent battle perhaps? Squire Pierre and I brushed down the horses and took off their saddles and prepared other supplies. Sergeant de Basenville secured some feed for the horses and Pierre and I fed and watered the horses that were tired after a long journey over the mountain trails.
Dinner was served early that evening and Master Jacques de Molay and Hospitallers Grand Master Guillaume de Villaret sat at the head of the table surrounded by Templar knights and Hospitallers knights. Sergeant de Basenville, Pierre and I sat at the other end of the table ignored by the Knights at the other end. I did not care because I was starved after our two-day ride from Nicosia.
Master Jacques de Molay stood up and offered a wine toast to the Hospitallers Grand Master Guillaume de Villaret. “To our brothers in arms the Hospitallers and brother de Villaret,” he said. We all raised our cups in honor of the toast and drank. When we sat down Master de Molay addressed the entire group at the table. Brothers we have come together in battle and in survival against the Mamluks. With the fall of Acre we were forced to retreat to Cyprus. Now we are in a position where we must ask the Kings of Europe to additional funds to create another Crusade to conquer back what we lost to the infidels. We have hoped for the participation of the Mongols, but they did not show up when we planned to unite in raids on the mainland. Now we are in a new generation and a new effort to move forward in recapturing the Holy Land. Together the Hospitallers and the Templars have picked up the remains of many failed battles and have tried to continue the struggle. Now we must plan for a stricter code for our orders to prevent others from accusing our orders from straying from our original goals.
Let us eat and thank the lord. It was an especially quiet dinner that evening as many of the knights were evaluating the declining support from France, England, Germany and other countries. As little as I was, I wondered in my sleep that night if the Templars and the Hospitallers would survive without a Crusade to inspire their knights?
The next day master de Molay’s business with Hospitallers Grand Master Guillaume de Villaret was concluded, and sacks of sugar were placed on the pack horses in exchange for our gold and silver. Pierre and I prepared our horses and brother de Molay’s as we prepared to return to Nicosia.
On the way back brother de Molay mentioned that he was not happy with the way the Grand Master of the Hospitallers Guillaume was handling things. After we rode two days with a rest at night we arrived back at the Templar headquarters at Nicosia. Brother de Molay pointed out to his knights that the Templar Headquarters would be harder to defend because the entire city was surrounded by a wall that could easily breached by ladder or cannon. He mentioned that he thought Kolossi castle that the Hospitallers controlled was better fortified for an assault and outside of the village of Limassol and not dependent on a city wall to protect them. The other knights agreed that Kolossi castle was much better built than the Templar headquarters at Nicosi. This talk I overheard would become important years later when the Templars would take over Kolossi castle and kick out the Hospitallers.
Chapter Three-A New Order (1293)
A year later Templar Grand Master Thibaud Gaudin died and in the spring of 1293 brother Jacques de Molay was elected Grand Master of the Knights Templar at age 47. At the time brother de Molay had met with other Templar Knights and Hospitallers regarding reforming some of the 72 Templar rules of life, planning for the future defense of Cyprus, and raising funds for another Crusade. After our initial celebration at the Nicosia headquarters of brother de Molay being elected Grand Master of the Knights Templar, preparations were being made for Grand Master de Molay to travel to the South of France to Montpellier to a general meeting of the Templar Order. Pierre and I would not be going on this voyage and we stayed behind to care for the horses. Master de Molay would travel with several knights on his sea voyage to southern France. Without a Crusade to rally around, the Knights Templar were facing some critical decisions as to their future. The kingdom of Armenia needed to be defended from the Turkish Seldjoukides and the future of the island of Cyprus were all in Master de Molay’s hands.
The Grand Master returned a few months later in 1293 to report what discussions went on at the Knights Templar general meeting in Montpellier, France. The overall feeling by the majority of the Knights Templar was that these were bad times not to have a Crusade to rally around. All the kings and monarchs of all the countries did not want to invest any more money in a future crusade after having lost Acre. Even the Pope was skeptical as to what successes the Knights Templar and the Hospitallers could have without a standing army to back them in the Holy Land. I overheard the Grand Master say to his knights that they would try small attacks, perhaps from the sea against coastal cities. The Hospitallers had offered to join with the Knights Templar in any of these small attacks. What was lacking was a large army to provide enough troops to attack any walled cities.
We heard in Cyprus that Phillip II became King of France in 1295 at age 17, and since that time he had borrowed huge sums of money from the Templars for running France into major debt. He was beginning to become annoying in 1293 and Master de Molay realized there may be a growing problem and discussed this with other Templar Knights in France.
Pierre gave me a wooden sword to practice with when I wasn’t delivering messages, polishing armor, brushing horses down and feeding horses and animals. Everyone in the castle seemed to have need of a page on a regular basis. We delivered messages around the castle from one Knight to another or from one servant to another. We picked up after meals and cleaned the rooms on a regular basis when the maids could not keep up with the work. We were the shadows of the castle to be seen but not heard from. Often Knights and squires would act like we were not even in the room with them. We were the lowest of the low on the social ladder, but no matter we were treated fairly and trusted with many secrets. We were never allow in the secret meetings or ceremonies but were required to be at all prayer sessions, morning prayer, evening prayer, and Vespers. The priests often used us as altar boys in the chapel services and we light all the candles and helped the Templar Priest to dress in the Green Tunic with the red cross on the front.
Some days were rewarding and some days were awful hard labor and jobs no one else wanted to do like removing garbage and burning it outside the Templar Castle. Grain supplies, sugar, and flour had to be stored in dry storage rooms off of the stone floors and sometimes lifting these grain sacks was even to hard for me. Two or three pages had to work together to life one sack of 100 pounds of rice. We had no uniform like the Squires, Sergeants, Priests or Knights had. We simple worn a pair of trousers and a smock tied at the neck with baggy sleeves. The material was usually rough wool that itched a great deal. Some of us pages only had one or two changes of clothes.
Today Pierre was going to work with me on the use of a wooden sword and to block and parry with a sabre style sword. My wooden sword was nothing but two pieces of wood lashed together with a rounded edge handle. Pierre enjoyed drilling me on how to step and swing, step and thrust, step and block and on and on for hours. Our major goals were to live a live of monastic poverty, prayer, and stay in physical shape in order to do battle. Everyone that lived in the Templar castle was respectful of others that lived in the castle. Respect and personal honor were at the top of the list of desirable qualities of a page, squire, sergeant or Knight.
As often as I could I would see Father Monde and review with him my progress on writing and reading despite the fact that Master de Molay did not want his knights wasting time reading or writing when they could be preparing for battle.
One night Father Monde shared with a secret of one of the secret codes he had been shown by a Templar priest. It was called the Hebrew Code and it was fairly simple to use. The first letter of the latin alphabet was substituted with the last letter of the latin alphabet. When the Jews first used this code to write secret messages they wrote using the Hebrew alphabet. The Templar priests who could usually read and write substituted the latin alphabet for the Hebrew alphabet but kept the process of how to code. When I had quiet time to myself I loved to write latin code using the Hebrew Code and give it to Father Monde to translate. It was out little game and I became good at it over the years as a page on Cyprus.
1296- Second general meeting of Templars in South France at Aries.
1296, Fall- de Molay back in Cyprus to defend against henry II of Cyprus
1293 to 1300
Chapter Four- Changing Times for Templar Knights 1300-1307
After eight years in the service of Grand Master Jacques de Molay conferred on me the title of Squire. I was fifteen years of age now and five feet ten inches tall after a growing spurt. Finally, after eight long years of learning to care and ride horses, learning the rules of the Templar Knight order, spending hours in prayer each day, serving the other squires, Sergeant, and Knights of the de Molay I was finally going to have a chance to train to become a knight as a Squire. Now it was my chance to learn the skills of a Templar Knight with Sergeant Gui de Basenville. Pierre who was a squire, when I first became a page, had recently become a Templar Knight granted by Grand Master Jacques de Molay.
Now that brother de Molay was elected to be the Grand Master of the Templar Knights in 1293, he was permitted to have more horses, knights, squires, priests and sergeants to work with the new knights. It was strange seeing Pierre, whom I had known for eight years; grow to become a young man at six feet in height from the short person I first knew in 1292. After an imitation ceremony I saw him in the castle courtyard in his shiny new armor and his white tunic with the large Templar Cross on it. He looked quite the figure next to his horse. I was happy for him for he had helped me these past eight years to become a young man in the spirit and tradition of the Holy Templar Knights. It was an honor indeed.
In the year of our Lord 1300, in the month of September, Master de Molay had assembled sixteen ships to raid the Egyptian and Syrian coasts and was planning on making these attacks with the King of Cyprus and some of the nobles of Cyprus. Forces of the Cilician Armenia army would be in support, and hopefully the Mongols of Ilkhanate. It was common knowledge that Master de Molay hoped that the Mongol alliance would make the difference in raiding the Syrian and Egyptian coasts. The ships were ready in the harbor taking on supplies. The knights Templar were in daily battle preparation mode with swords, battle-axes, crossbows, spears, and hand-to-hand combat. The pages and Squires were constantly preparing the warhorses of the knights for daily combat training. I watched from the castle to see the knights practicing charges with lances, and attacking sacks of sand on a stick. The Sergeants drilled the Squires and Knights in hand-to-hand sword combat on horse, and on foot. The Templar Knights knew that they would be looked up to lead the assault in battles, and therefore they had to be at their best. I asked Pierre and it seems all the squires would be going on the attacks along with the Sergeants and Knights Templar. This would be the first time that I would get to see a real battle. I was nervous, however, Sergeant Gui de Basenville assured me I would be well prepared to assist the Knights and Sergeants during the battle. He trained us Squires everyday in sword skills and the duties of supporting the Knights in battle, replacing wounded war-horses, keeping armor available and other support duties. We would always be at the back of the attack since we were not in full armor and could not fight as well as battle-worn Knights and Sergeants.
The time had come and we were leaving for the port of Famagusta on June 15 to arrive sometime in July 1300. We heard that a Mongol ambassador was to sail with us on the raids on the coasts of Egypt and Syria: Rosette, Alexandria, Acre, Tortosa and Maraclea before returning to Cyprus. Grand Master Jacques told all of the Templar knights that King Henry II of Jerusalem, and the King of Cyprus with his brother Amalric, Lord of Tyre, would command us all.
When we got to Famagusta we combined forces with our brothers the Hospitallers who had come from Limassol to join with us. There was a lot of confusion and anxiety as the military leaders figured out what troops and knights were going in what ships. Finally, all supplies, troops, horses, knights, and squires were loaded and we left Famagusta on July 20, 1300. The sea was high and choppy that day and the warhorses were nervous traveling in ships. The squires and Sergeants had to calm them down as best we could. The admiral leading the ships was Bedouin de Picquigny. I heard from Pierre that our first stop would be Ruad where all the troops would meet together and form one attack force. The Hospitallers were supposed to meet us at Ruad also. We sailed around the Cyprus to Ruad, which was only two miles off the coast of Tortosa. There we disembarked with 150 Templar Knights and six hundred troops.
The Hospitallers Banner.
The word was that the Hospitallers would be joining with the Knights Templar in the coastal raids and we would merge our forces at Ruad. I was most excited at the time and worried at the same time as to what battle life would really be like. Sergeant Gui de Basenville had given me a black stallion that used to belong to a Templar Knight that died at Acre. The name of the horse was Solomon and he was an old but strong war-horse. I trained on Solomon daily for he was a most spirited horse with a mind of his own. Pierre, being a Templar Knight now, had two horses, one white horse called Cloud and one dark horse called Honor. We treated our horses like they were family and gave them only the best feed daily with the purest of mountain water.
The Plan of Attack on Tortosa
“What is our plan Sergeant Gui de Basenville,” I asked? “Grand Master de Molay says we are to attack from the sea using Ruad as our base and the Mongols are to attack from land. They are expected to show up by November 1300. The night of the first raid we took small boats from the galleys and came upon the shore near Tortosa. The army of 600 and the 150 Templars leading them quickly swept into the city catching them unaware, but instead of trying to recover the city they plundered it destroying property and taking captives and then they returned back to Ruad. The Mongols never showed up and there were not enough numbers of soldiers to control the city from the Mamluks. Getting the horses of the Templar knights ashore was a difficult task since the galleys could only get within a hundred yards of the shore due to the shallow water. The horses had to be led by small boats and they swam to the shore. After the battle it was even more difficult getting the horses on small boats a few at a time and shuttling them to the waiting Galleys a hundred yards off shore. I was in one of the small boats when I saw Pierre dressed as a Templar Knight in his white tunic and red cross lead his horse to shore and mount up with the other 150 Knights. I wished I could ride with them. Even in the dark of night they looked very impressive leading the 600 soldiers toward the town of Tortosa. I waited on one of the galleys, and watched the explosions and fires of homes in Tortosa during the assault of the city. When the Knights and soldiers return the following morning they had many captives with them both civilian and Mamluk soldiers. They also ransacked the houses and stole gold and silver and anything of value. This was in complete disregard of what Grand Master de Molay told them before the assault of the city. Had the Mongols shown up they would have had enough of an army to hold the entire city against the Mamluks, but with only 600 soldiers and 150 Templar and Hospitallers knights they could not secure the city so they returned to the Galleys then next morning.
By nightfall we were sailing back to Ruad to regroup. The raid has sent a message to the Egyptian Mamluks that we were still a force to recon with. When we made land on Ruad after only hour the troops and knights were unloaded and the horses and servants and followers. I and other squires were busy attending to the Templar knight warhorses and making sure all the knights were not wounded. Grand Master de Molay and Amaury of Lusignan, the King of Cyprus’ brother were most upset at the looting and mass destruction caused by the army which seemed to lack direction and a goal without the Mongols to help take the city from the land. The beginning of a very cold winter was starting to set in that night with a snowstorm. The days were getting colder and colder for a very severe winter on Ruad and Cyprus.
Eventually, the Templar Knights and the Hospitallers returned to Cyprus after a week of waiting for the Mongols. It was good to get back to Cyprus and our Templar headquarters after a march over the mountains from Famagusta harbor. It was not until the next year that the Mongols showed up to join forces with the Armenian King Hethum II. They invaded Syria for the first time. General Kutlushka had only a force of 60,000 troops he was able to do nothing more than make raids as far as Aleppo. When the Mongols announced that they were cancelling their operations for the year the Crusaders decided to return to Cyprus leaving only a small garrison on Ruad.
It was after the failed raids on the coast that Grand Master Jacques de Molay began to take up residence in Limassol at Castle Kolossi. The Hospitallers were not in a position to refuse the Grand Master of the Knights Templar so they allowed Grand Master Jacques de Molay to operate out of Castle Kolossi since some of their Knights were stationed in the garrison at Ruad and half of Castle Kolossi was unoccupied. Grand Master de Molay moved many of his knights stationed in Nicosia to Castle Kolossi were there was more room for his 400 knights and Sergeants, squires, and pages and servants.
I had a room to myself at Castle Kolossi where the depleted Hospitallers occupied less and less as the years went by in the early 1300’s. My friend, Templar Knight Pierre had survived unscathed except for a few minor cuts from the assault of Tortosa. “How did it go Pierre,” I asked. “It was like picking apples,” he said. “We met little or no resistance and the Mamluks were completely unaware of us making a raid on their city of Tortosa,“ Pierre related. “I was nervous at first but when I looked around and saw 150 Templar brothers next to me, I became much more confident,” Pierre said. “We waited an hour for the Mongols to show up but they never did, so we charged the walls of the city ourselves,” Pierre related. “They didn’t even have time to close their gates the surprise attack was so great,” Pierre boasted. “I impaled two Mamluks on my spear in just one charge,” he went on to say. “Wow,” I responded. “It must have been great,” I said? “Not really, I could not pull the spear out so I had to drop it and use my sword instead,” he replied. I was so envious that my friend Pierre was a Knight and able to fight the mukluks. Perhaps in time my day would come? “Did your troops take the city of Tortosa,” I asked? “No, unfortunately the mukluks sent for replacements and their numbers were greater than ours. We had to retreat back to Ruad and eventually back to Cyprus,” Pierre said. “Did the Mongols show up for the battle,” I asked? “No they never showed up even thought they told Grand Master de Molay that they would,” Pierre replied. “We waited and waited for the Mongols to show up, and finally had to besiege the city by ourselves,” Pierre exclaimed. “Oh, I guess we cannot trust the Mongols then,” I replied. “No, I don’t thing so,” Pierre, commented. “Well get some rest and I will see you at Evening prayer,” I said. “Go with God Pierre,” I said. “Thanks and you too,” he replied.
“Geoffrey go and tell Admiral Bedouin de Picquigny, and Lord Amalric, the Lord of Tyre, I want to see them right away,” Grand Master de Molay commanded. “Yes Master, I will seek them out immediately,” I responded.
Fifteen minutes later Admiral de Picquigny and Lord Amalric appeared in Gran Master de Molay’s private quarters. “Damm it Picquigyn and you too Lord Amalric what the hell happened with our assault of Tortosa? All your troops did was burn and pillage the city. They did not attempt to force the Mamluks our of the city or command all the entrances as they were instructed,” de Molay shouted. “My apologies Grand Master but many of our troops were untrained and they reacted out of greed,” said Lord Amalric. “Admiral what do you have to say for yourself, de Molay asked angrily? “I was not aware of their actions Grand Master. My attention was with getting the troops safely in our 16 Galleons to Tortosa and unloading the men and horses safely on shore,” the Admiral commented. “My Templar Knights were embarrassed how the troops reacted after they stormed the city,” de Molay said. “How are we to gain the trust of the Tortosa citizens when instead of killing and pushing the Mamluks out of the city we burn and plunder their houses instead,” de Molay shouted. “We had the element of surprise and gained easy access to the city, only to be turned back by replacement Mamluks that came to the aid of Tortosa,” de Molay exclaimed. “These failures, gentlemen, are going to come back and haunt us when I have to ask the Pope and other Kings for more money and support,” de Molay went on to say. “I am disgusted with the lack of discipline in the ranks of our army compared to the Knights Templar who kept their ranks, succeeded in their charge into the enemies troops and slaughtered many Mamluks,” de Molay commented.
“We will have to regroup and I will need to send a messenger to the Mongol leader Ghazan and ask him why his troops did not show up for the assault of Tortosa,” de Molay exclaimed. “That is all for now. We will meet with our commanders later on and plan our next attack on Tortosa with the purpose of holding the city with our armies, de Molay stated. “You are dismissed for now,” de Molay shouted. “Geoffrey get me a scribe that I may transmit a letter to the Mongol Ghazan,” de Molay shouted. “Yes, master I will seek out the scribe immediately,” I responded as I began to quickly exit the room to seek the scribe who was usually in the chapel.
Later on in November of the year of our Lord 1300, the Cypriots prepared another attack on Tortosa, sending a joint force of soldiers to capture Tortosa, but the Mamluk forces were to large after the initial raid on Tortosa additional Mamluks were sent from Egypt to fortify the city’s defenses. This time the Cypriots were not able to get inside the city walls and were turned away with an overwhelming number of Mamluks. Reports have it that the Cypriots were outnumbered four to one. The Mongols had promised to fight in November but never appeared, leaving the small number of Cypriots to fight on their own against a larger occupational army of the Egyptian Mamluks. The Cypriots retreated to Ruad after 25 days of a siege on the city walls. Grand Master de Molay was greatly disappointed in Ghazan the leader of the Mongols. It was becoming apparent that he could not be depended upon to cooperate with the Cypriot troops, and Templar Knights and Hospitallers on Cyprus and Ruad. The failure to take Tortosa weighed heavily on the spirits of the Templar knights. I heard many a Templar mumbling to other Templars how embarrassed they were in their defeat at Tortosa. Strange it was the Templars that fortified the city in the beginning and put their castle within the fortification, and now here they were attacking their own city walls they built and their well-fortified castle.
Two years later my Squire training was improving and Sergeant Gui de Basenville actually complimented me on my sword skills. I was seventeen years of age now and much stronger than I had ever been before. My horse riding skills and use of the lance had greatly improved also. I was given a new horse by Grand Master Jacques de Molay who took a likening to me. The horse was a black Arabian stallion called Thunder and he was a most spirited horse. Sergeant Gui helped me to train Thunder to be a warhorse. Almost every day that Sergeant Gui had time he helped me prepare Thunder for charging the enemy with me holding a lance. Thunder was only two years old but already I could tell he was a smart and very strong horse. From time to time Pierre stopped by to say hello and inquire as to my progress as a Squire. We had just gotten two more pages and I was in charge of them. Johanne de Grey was one page and the other was Sebastian de Champaigne. Johanne was the son of a deceased Templar knight who was killed in the Tortosa raids and Sebastian was from a noble family in France who had been related to several Templar Knights.
For their first day I showed them their quarters in the castle and walked them through their chores. I warned them to stay out of the way of any of the Sergeants especially Gui de Basenville. “Johanne and Sebastian you will report to me and I will be your Squire and will give you all your assignments. You will attend all prayer services in the morning, afternoon and evening and you will remain quiet. At the dinners especially the Templar rule is silence at all meals. You will not eat with the Knights, Squires, and Sergeants, but rather you will have your own page table out of sight. If you disobey any of the rules of the Templars you will be punished. Sometimes you will be asked to fast for a day and mediate and that is what you will do. If and when you turn 15 you may or may not be made a Squire like me. It all depends on how hard you work, how pious you are, and how quickly you learn to carry messengers and keep our secrets all the time. “Do you understand what I have said,” I asked them? “Yes, we understand,” was the response. “Well then let’s get you settled in your room, fetch you some clothing and begin by cleaning the leather on the warhorse saddles,” I remarked. My responsibilities were numerous now as a Squire. I got to work more closely with the Templar Knights assigned to Grand Master Jacques de Molay. All of them were French Templar Knights that came from Grand Master De Molay’s birthplace in France in the Burgundy region. Pierre was one of de Molay’s Templar knights as well as Hughes de Rocofolio, Guillaume de la More and a second sergeant Reimbaud de Hugo. Being a Grand Master had its benefits with a larger contingent of knights, sergeants, Squires, Pages, scribes, and priests.
Father Monde had been appointed a Templar Priest now after a few years of service as an assistant. He had been sworn into the order of Templars and had pledged secrecy and obedience to the rules of the Templars. I was happy for him. We did not get to talk often because he was always in the chapel or serving during services all day long.
Ruad was being guarded with a small contingent of Templar knights in 1302. The Knights Hospitallers had departed for Malta, and The Knights Templar had taken over the castle at Kolossi with the departure of the Knights Hospitallers from Cyprus and Ruad. On September 26, 1302 the Mamluks staged a raid on Arwad Castle. They sent a fleet of 16 ships from Egypt to Tripoli from which they besieged the island of Ruad. There were 120 Templar Knights, 400 bowman and several hundred infantrymen. Our brother Templars fought the Mamluks but were eventually starved out. Without food Brother Hugh of Dampierre negotiated surrender to the Mamluks on Sept. 26, 1302. The conditions of surrender were that the Templars could safely escape to a Christian land of their choice. When the Templars began to emerge the Mamluks attacked the Templars and Barthelemy de Qunicy was killed in the battle and the Mamluks executed all the bowmen and Syrian Christians. About forty surviving Templar knights were taken captive and taken to Cairo and thrown into prison. We did not know what happened to the forty Templars at the time. Grand Master Jacques de Molay was most upset and he blamed the Hospitallers for leaving Ruad to defend itself. He also blamed the Mongols for making promises to support the Templars which they never did.
After the siege by the Mamluks Grand Master de Molay changed his strategy and decided to stop using a small raid approach and decided to get support for an all out Crusade.
Chapter Five- The Great Plan (1305-1307)
In the summer of 1305 a few years after the fall of Ruad, Pope Clement V sent letters to Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, and Grand Master of the Hospitallers, Fuld de Billaret to discuss a new Crusade and the merging of the orders of Templar and Hospitallers. I remember the day I went down to the boat dock to see if there were any letters for Grand Master de Molay. The one letter that stood out with the fancy wax seal was from Pope Clement V himself. This must be an important letter I said to myself and I ran back to Kolossi Castle. “Have some important letters for Grand Master Jacques de Molay,” I shouted when I entered the great hall. Sergeant Gui asked for the letters and said he would deliver them to Grand Master de Molay who was in conference. Later that day a general meeting was called of all Knights, Sergeants, and Squires. This was a secret meeting and all pages, and servants were requested to leave the great hall.
Grand Master de Molay called the meeting to discuss this letter from Pope Clement with the knights of Templar at Kolossi Castle on Cyprus. “Brothers I have called you together to discuss a letter I just received from Pope Clement V. He wants to discuss the merging of the Templar Knights with the Hospitallers knights. It seems convenient that he would mention this after we have heard requests the King Phillip IV of France had proposed the idea of merging the Templars and Hospitallers also and that he the King should be put in charge of the combined orders. Grand Master Fulk de Villaret and I disagree and do not wish to see the two orders merged. It King Phillip’s situation it is more about tapping into the Templar treasure in the Templar in Paris and in other Templar castles then in combining the orders. Pope Clement is a puppet of the French King and has moved the papacy from Rome to Avignon, France. We must fight these men and show the monarchs and Pope that the Knights Templar still has a major mission in our world today. We have many greedy enemies who would love to get their hands on our treasures, which we have spread out in various castles and Templar Temples around the world. I have spoken with my Marshals and councilors, and we feel there is a conspiracy is in the air between Pope Clement V, and King Phillip IV of France. “What should we do Grand Master,” one Templar Knight asked?” “We are going to be cautious and make efforts to move our Templar treasurer to safer vaults, and hide them just in case the Pope and King Phillip become our enemies.
“I will soon depart to southern France in June to meet with Pope Clement and Grand Master Fulk de Villaret of the Hospitallers. Before I leave, however, we will begin the Master Plan that we have developed to move our treasures beyond the reach of King Phillip IV of France, and Pope Clement, or anyone else for that matter. I have send coded messages to all of the Templar Castles, Temples in Paris and England, and other sites warning them to follow the specific instructions where and how to move the Templar treasurers secretly without gathering any attention. While I am in Poitiers in Southern France with the Pope my spies will report to me anything they have learned about what the Pope intends to do as well as King Phillip IV who pretends to be our friend. When I return I will report to all of you what I have found out regarding any plots on behalf of King Phillip and Pope Clement V. God be with you and me on my journey. Meanwhile, I want the entire garrison here at Kolossi on alert, and the Master plan for moving our treasurers from Cyprus to a safer location will begin immediately. When I get to Paris, I will inform the Templars there that the long process of moving our entire wealth in the Paris Templar Temple to other locations will begin immediately. Our spies say time is short and the pressure on behalf of Pope Clement and King Phillip to merge the Hospitallers and the Templars is getting stronger all the time. “God’s speed and the blessings of Mary be with you all this day, Grand Master de Molay prayed.”
I helped pack up Grand Master de Molay’s belongs along with other squires, and pages. I learned at the last minute that I would be accompanying the Grand Master to Southern France along with Knight Templar Pierre. I was excited to take the voyage with my close friend and the Grand Master and several other knights whose names I did not know at the time.
We left with the tide a few days later in May 1306 year of our Lord.
The voyage was without event and we arrived at a port of Marseille in the south of France a few weeks later, near the end of May. Grand Master de Molay was to meet with Pope Clement on or about June 6, 1306 year of our Lord. Sergeant Gui secured some horses for us to travel to Avignon, France where the Pope had taken up his papal residence. The distance was around 60 miles from Marseille to Avignon, which meant a hard one-day’s ride or an easy two day ride depending on the weather. It rained heavily an hour after we began our voyage to Avignon. Grand Master de Molay seeing the mud and rain might continue all day instructed Sergeant Gui to travel ahead and secure lodging around the half-way mark of the trail. We stopped that evening at an inn and rested.
The next day the rain stopped and we were on our way to see Pope Clement V in Avignon. Early that afternoon we arrived in Avignon and Grand Master de Molay informed the guards the he had an appointment with Pope Clement. Sergeant Gui and I took care of the horses while Knights Templar Pierre de Romaine, Clyde de Aban Geoffroi de Charney the Master of Normandy, and Grand Master Jacques de Molay went to meet the Pope.
Several hours later Grand Master de Molay returned with his knights and he was in a bad mood. “Brother Jacques, are we staying for the evening, Sergeant Gui asked? “I think not brother,” Grand Master de Molay grunted. “Saddle up my horse Geoffrey,” he shouted. “Yes, Master I replied and quickly got Grand Master de Molay’s horse Damascus saddled. “Let’s go fellow knights, we shall rest tonight in a friendlier abode,” Grand Master de Molay shouted. Shortly, after the horses were saddled we left the Pope’s castle and head back toward Marseille. Grand Master de Molay was quiet until we got to a small monastery where we decided to stay for the evening. Sergeant Gui knocked on the door of the monastery and shouted, “The Grand Master of the Knights Templar is here seeking shelter for the evening.” When a monk in a long brown robe came to the door he said, “welcome Templars and Grand Master, came and join us in evening prayer.” Shortly after evening prayer we sat down to a meager meal of cheese, bread, and apples. Nothing was said during the entire meal. Grand Master de Molay had a frown on his face and he seemed in deep thought. Finally, when everyone was done eating Father Deomonske asked the knights if they wished to retire to their rooms and he show everyone to a large room with many straw cots on the floor. “We are sorry but these are the best accommodations we can provide,” he said. “These are fine brother Deomonske, and thank you for your hospitality, Grand Master replied. “God go with you Templars and I will take my leave now. Compline is at 8:00 tonight if you wish to join us brothers,” brother Deomonske remarked.
After brother Deomonske left Grand Master de Molay told all the Knights to gather around him. “Brothers I was shocked to learn from Pope Clement that he has had formal complaints from ex-Templars and others regarding our Holy Order. We are being accused of spitting on the Cross, degrading Jesus and meeting in secret contrary to the Rules of the Templars. Wait, there is more… the Pope wants the Templars to merge with the Hospitallers since another Crusade seems to be more and more remote,” he said. “But Brother de Molay we have sacrificed our lives to the good of the order and the Pope,” Templar Pierre responded. “No Matter, we seem to have many greedy enemies that have finally surfaced now that the Holy wars have come to a temporary end,” Jacques said. “It is as I expected, but I never thought we would have to defend ourselves against liars and unworthy ex-Templars whom we threw out of the Order for being thieves or for not following the Rules of the Order Templar,” Jacques went on to say. “Brother de Molay we have been friends for many years and I must tell you this surprises me also, but our spies warned us of the turn of the tide in our support,” Hughes de Pairand, the Master of Normandy said. The Pope has changed me to develop a thesis supporting how we can merge the Hospitallers with the Templars and how if the Mongols every show up we can coordinate battles in the Holy Land with them. He also wants me to answer these false accusations by liars and cheats who want our power and treasurer including the King of France, Phillip IV.
“We leave at dawn tomorrow,” Grand Master de Molay stated. “Let us all pray tonight for a peaceful resolution to the problems facing us now from the Pope and King Phillip IV of France. We return to Cyprus to make sure our master plan has begin. Sergeant Gui make sure you leave some gold with brother Deomonske before we leave tomorrow, Grand Master de Molay commanded.
The following morning we saddled up our horses and left at the light of day for Marseille. Grand Master de Molay wanted to catch a ship to Cyprus right away so that he could share the bad news with the other Brother Templars when he got back. The day was uneventful until we got to Marseille’s port. There Sergeant Gui bargained with a ship’s captain for a voyage back to Cyprus for our horses and following. After considerable bargaining Sergeant Gui gave the ship’s Captain several gold pieces with the promise that if he got us to Cyprus safe and sound a few additional gold pieces would be given him.
“Squire Geoffrey, what think ye of this trip to see the Pope,” Grand Master de Molay asked me. “It was been a wonderful trip to see so much of France and the castle where the Pope lives,” I answered. “How is your knight training coming along Squire, he asked.” “Very well Grand Master,” I said. “That is fine Geoffrey, your father would have been proud of you,” he said. “I am the third generation to be in the Templar Order Grand Master and I hope some day to serve as a Templar Knight,” I responded. “You know that normally we do not knight Templars. They come to us as Knights or nobility, but in your case maybe we can make an exception when you turn 21,” Grand Master exclaimed patting me on the back.
We returned to Limassol late in July 1307 to Kolossi castle. Upon Grand Master de Molay’s return to Cyprus a second secret meeting was held in held in the September of 1306 called by Jacques de Molay with his commanders, Knights, and Sergeants on Cyprus. “Brothers we are gathered here today in the upmost secrecy regarding the future of the Knights Templar. My spies in King Philip’s VI court in France tell me that Phillip has bankrupted the country’s coffers. He has requested more money be brought to Paris for him to borrow. In addition there has been some plotting between him and Pope Clement V about restricting the powers of the Knights Templar. Brothers we own about 9,000 properties in France that all produce revenue or house our castles. Our wealth and treasurers are so great that we cannot keep it in one place. It costs a great deal of money to build cathedrals like the one in Amiens that we helped finance and build with the stone masons. We have become the bank of Europe, and every monarch and nobility has borrowed money from another, or us, at one time. We have also the sacred artifacts from the Temple of Solomon that must remain hidden for their safety. I am charging all of you to come up with a plan within the next month as to what we should do if the Pope or the King of France attacks our order and tries to steal the treasurers from the Temple in Paris. We must defend and preserve two hundred years of trusted tradition of Templars against those that would plot to seem us brought down. These are dark times indeed and the future of the Knights of Templar may well hang in the balance. Without a Crusade to rally against we have lost some of our power and purpose. We no longer control any city in the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem. We have gone backward in defeats to the Mamluks and this has brought much criticism from those that are not part of the Templar order. The Hospitallers have over 19,000 properties, manors and castles in Europe that they receive compensation from, however they are no as rich as the Templars order around the world. I have taken the liberty of leasing some ships in the near future if negotiations with the Pope fail on merging our two orders Templar and Hospitallers. We may have to seek new countries by ship to hide the treasurers of the Paris Templar Temple, and the London Templar Temple, in addition to many other castle vaults in almost every country in Europe. Moving our treasure without attracting attention will be a major challenge for us, but as of this day we will begin planning to protect our riches earned over 200 years. Now I will meet with my commanders and Templar Masters from France, England, Germany and other countries. Meanwhile, I ask you to pray for the souls of our enemies and help us to deliver the treasurers of the Templars into safe hands.
I remember clearly from the fall of 1306 to February of 1307, weekly meetings were arranged involving movement of the Templar treasury to new locations by only the most trusted few Templar Knights. Some riches were transported by wagon at night from city to city, and from castle to castle. Some of the Paris Treasury had to remain in tack so as not to arose any suspicion, but removed at the last minute when King Phillip IV of France made his first move to arrest or punish any of the Templar knights in Paris, and other castles around France.
I know for a fact that the plans were well written out in code, and sent to all the Templar masters in every country because I had to often bring them down to the ships at the harbor. Meanwhile, it was Jacques de Molay’s job to make everything look like business as usual. Pope Clement summoned him to another meeting. The Master plan was in place. Many of Grand Master’s knights argued with him about returning to southern France and how it might not be safe considering our spies told us that King Phillip IV was conspiring to do something against the Templars for not allowing him to serve as the King of Hospitallers and Templar Knights.
Grand Master de Molay thought he could still trust the Pope despite King Phillip’s plots. After many meeting and much preparation Master de Molay left for Cyprus. Before he left he had a small meeting with Sergeant Gui, Knight Templar Pierre, and myself. I am leaving all of you behind in Cyprus this time because I am concerned about the outcome of my trip to see the Pope again and King Phillip IV. It may be an opportunity for them to betray the Templar Order, and yet, again It may not be so. I leave you with these orders now, if I do not return you are to take one of the Galleys to Spain with our Treasures and go and save yourself. Sergeant Gui I have left written instructions by my scribe as to what you should do with the small portion of the Templar treasure I am leaving all of you. You will be rich men beyond your fondest dreams on the blood of our brothers Templar. The Templar treasurer has been instructed that if I do not return this time, he is to give Sergeant Gui the amount I have designated. When you get to Spain, hide and seek our friends of the Templar Knights and Hospitallers. Trust no one for greed can make some men vipers. “Go with God my family and pray for my safe return,” Grand Master de Molay prayed.
On October 15, 1306, Grand Master Jacques de Molay left Cyprus and arrived in the south of France around December 1306. Before he left Cyprus he instructed all the Templar masters in all the regions in the known world to enact the plan called the “plan d’ensemble, the Master plan.” Some treasures had already been moved, and 12-15 ships would be ready in the port of La Rochelle if needed for transport. An additional 18 ships had been leased from merchants, and Templar ships captains to be ready down river on the Seine from Paris. Some of the original Catalan pirates that sailed under Roger de for since they had worked for the Templars before and could be sworn to secrecy.
Only a few Templar leaders knew when that time would be for the Templar ships to set sail and how or when the Templar treasurer would be loaded on these ships. No one knew at the time what the destination of these Templar ships were headed, but the plan was already in place, and everyone in the Templar Order was on alert.
Grand Master Jacques de Molay stayed in the south of France and visited many Templar castles and manors to encourage them to think positively despite the dread of collusion between Pope Clement and King Phillip IV of France. The Pope had taken ill and the meeting was postponed until late May. This gave Grand Master de Molay to visit as many of the Templar castles and Cathedrals as he could while waiting to see the Pope.
Chapter Six- Escape
The date was October 12, 1307 year of our Lord. Grand Master Jacques de Molay traveled from Poitiers to Paris with several of his knights including Pierre, Sergeant Gui, and myself as Squire. He was invited by King Phillip IV to be a pallbearer at the funeral of King Philip’s sister-in-law, Catherine of Courtenay, the wife of Charles of Valois. Templar spies had forewarned Grand Master DeMolay that King Phillip IV was using the excuse of making Jacques de Molay a pall bearer to get him to come to Paris. It was inevitable that the King planned to arrest Grand Master de Molay on the false charges he has been spreading around over the past year. Templar spies had also intercepted a letter from King Phillip IV to all his marshals in September 1307 to be ready to arrest all Templar knights for heresy and treason. Grand Master de Molay had brought with him to Paris the 60,000 bezants to pay the balance of the money owed King Richard the Lionhearted of England for buying the island of Cyprus from him. Upon his arrival in Paris he sent a knight with the 60,000 bezants on a vessel to England to pay the debt the Templars had incurred.
On the evening of October 12, 1307, Grand Master de Molay met in a private meeting with Templar Knight Pierre de Romaine, Sergeant Gui de Basenville, and myself, Geoffrey de Villars. No other Templar Knights were included in this secret meeting in the Templar Temple in Paris. “Brothers it seems that the hour of fate is soon to come. Our Master plan has worked, and we have moved all the treasurers from our Temple here in Paris and all other locations throughout France, Cyprus, and other countries including England. Now I am going to ask of you a personal favor. I cannot run from King Phillip IV or they will track me down like a dog, and use me as an example that all Templar Knights are evil. My fate is set, and like our Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was arrested, I must pray for strength to endure the tortures of my enemies. The gold, silver and religious artifacts are already loaded in Galleons on the Seine river. I had all the Paris Templar treasurers removed last month in small shipments to various places around France so that when the time came we could load up the ships we needed to have the Templar treasure escape the clutches of King Phillip IV of France. We took special measures to make sure no one but a handful of chosen Templar knights knew of the treasure being removed at night last month,” Jacques said.
“We have taken special measures to remain undetected by blackening our galleon sales with oil and charcoal. The red cross of Christ is covered up with black charcoal. The tide will be high tonight around midnight, and that is when the ships will sail. Pierre, you and Sergeant Gui will take the horses tied up outside the Templar castle, and take Geoffrey with you under the cover of darkness. It is arranged that you three will meet the Captain of one of our Templar galleys on the river Seine. The other few Templars that have agreed to escape and not remain behind are already on the 18 ships on the Seine. The Kings spies are watching the ships in la Rochelle harbor carefully, so they will be decoy ships remaining in the harbor until the last minute. They have no treasurer in them at all. We have loaded the La Rochelle fleet of ships with wine and grain as we normally when shipping to the eastern countries. If the Kings men board the ships they will find nothing but wine and grains.
You will know the ship you are taking by a bell that will sound every few minutes beginning an hour before high tide at midnight. You are to board the Templar Galley, and sail straight to Scotland to join forces with Robert de Bruce, who will provide sanctuary for you, and other Templar knights that will escape this very night. We have planned that out of 18 ships, 9 will sail south to Portugal, and Spain where they will receive sanctuary. You three close and loyal brothers will be personal keepers of my portion of the Templar treasurer. I have included an inventory for Sergeant Gui to hold which is written in Templar code. Geoffrey I understand that you can read, and that Father Monde has taught you some of our code. I am giving you a small parchment with the symbol code so that you can translate the inventory of treasurer you will be taking to Scotland. Templar Knight Pierre, you have a special mission to bring a portion of the treasurer to Robert the Bruce in Scotland to help him fund his battles against the English. I have also instructed our brother Templars in Ireland to provide arms and armor to Robert the Bruce in exchange for some of the treasurer we have already sent to Ireland. I expect that King Phillip IV will arrest me, and brother Geoffroi de Charney, and brother Hughes de Pairand tomorrow at dawn, and throw us in jail for heresy and treason. This is so that Phillip IV can steal the Templar treasurer in the Paris Templar Temple, and around all of France. I had hoped the Pope would stop this insanity and lies, but he is weak and beholding to the King of France. The nine galleys that will sail north to Scotland with you will have my personal horses, and your horses already loaded. We had them slip away in the night last night so they would not be noticed until the last minute. This treasurer is a treasurer worthy of several kings and countries ransom. I have heard from my brother Templar knights that the entire shipment is between 200 and 220 tons of gold, silver, gems, and sacred artifacts. Sergeant Gui, one artifact is the broken remains of the Jewish Arch of the Convent discovered in the sacred 9th vault below the temple of Solomon. We have moved this golden arc around every country disguised as a larger chest of wood. Its value is beyond comprehension and we do not want it to fall into the hands of the Pope or King Phillip IV or any King for that matter. Sergeant Gui, you are to guard this relic with your life and the life of the three of you when you get to Scotland. Tell no one that you have the broken remains of the golden Arc of the Convent. Other artifacts such as Holy scrolls in Hebrew text will go to Spain and Portugal, so the holiest of holy relics will not all be in one place. We Templars have planned this all out in the finest of details so that down through the generations after us we are gone the Templar order in what ever form survives will continue in secret.
Your portion of the treasurer is to secure a future for the knights Templar in Scotland, and to help fund our brother Robert the Bruce to keep the English out of Scotland. Lastly, you will not longer be bound by our Code when you reach Scotland. I expect you will live a good, and prayerful life and go forth and form families in Scotland. I have arranged through our Templar brothers in Scotland to give each and every one of the Templar knights fleeing to Scotland a tract of land that we currently own. We were given these tracts of land a long time ago after the first crusade when our founding brothers visited Scotland. We have collected rents on such lands for many years and these properties are well known to be Templar lands.
If conditions change in Scotland, and you perceive your enemies to great to buy out, then you must look to the New World to go, and conceal our vast treasurer that I believe is to be about 220 tons among the 18 ships. Men will hunt you down if they think you have knowledge of the Templar treasure. Know this, you can never trust anyone except one another from this night forward. I have prayed to the mother Mary, and to our Lord to watch over and protect you as you flee from France. Go in peace and remember Honor above all in your hearts. I give you leave now to quietly mount the horses outside and ride to the river Seine to escape. It is almost 11:30 and the high tide will be up in 30 minutes from now. Go now, God speed brother,” Jacques whispered.
“ King Phillip has many spies waiting to see if we are going to make a mass escape. He will not expect three riders only escaping into the night. Remember it will be your duty to protect and preserve the nine galleons of treasure when you reach Scotland. The other fifty or so Templar knights will assist you in protecting the treasurer with their lives, “ Brother de Molay emphasized.
Conceal the real size or amount of the treasurer by unloading it to hay wagons in Scotland, and cover it all up. Hide the treasurer in several places, so no one can find it. Remember we have promised to fund Robert the Bruce with funds for weapons, and armor from Ireland and to help train his inexperienced farmers and common fold to become true warriors like the Knights Templar. I will try to get word out from prison to keep you, and other refugee Templar knights as to our disposition. May God watch over you and may the blessed mother Mary protect you. Go now and do not look back.
Quietly we secured our weapons and personal effects, and departed the Paris Templar Temple by a side door. The horses were waiting for us tied up in the courtyard outside the Temple. We mounted without saying a word for we all knew the tomorrow, fear would rein France for all Templar Knights. As we approached the river Seine the fog was thick and off in the distance, I could barely see a dark ship with a black sail docked on the shore of the rive Seine. We galloped over the bridge and down along the shore until we got to the ship with the dark sails. We could hear the bell sounding in the fog. That was our signal that this was our Templar galleon that we were to board. As we approached the ship all was quiet, except for the high tide lapping against the sides of the ship. Suddenly, the Captain appeared, “I am Captain Devereau of the Catalan fleet of Templars,” he introduced himself. He wore a scarf around his head, and had a full beard. He was a short stocky man with earrings in each ear, and tattoos on both arms. Sergeant Gui spoke, “we are the three from the temple,” he said. “Good we have been waiting for you since the tide is high, and we are ready to set sail. You three can share a cabin below deck with the other brothers,” He said. We went below dragging our weapons and leaving the horses behind. Our horses and Brother de Molay’s personal warhorses had already been loaded several days before. “Cast off,” the captain shouted and slowly the ship turned about in the river Seine and headed west to the Atlantic ocean about 70 miles away.
Once we got settled down in our cabin, I could not sleep. Sergeant Gui was especially quiet and so was Templar Pierre. We were thinking in our minds that our world had come to an end. We were fearful of being caught and thrown into prison. We wanted to stay with our brother and Grand Master and face the imprisonment together
On deck the creaking of the sail boom and the sounds of the night wind was all that could be heard. The once beautiful red Templar cross on white sails was not covered up with black charcoal. We sailed down the Seine River at full tide and a wind behind our backs. King Phillip’s spies were none the wiser. They were outside the Templar Temple expecting a large group of Templar knights to try and flee into the night. No such group appeared, and no treasure ever was taken out of the temple in wagons, for it had already been moved out of the Templar Temple days before. All was calm in Paris that cold winter night.
The Master plan had worked so far. Eighteen Templar galleys sailed down the river Seine for the Atlantic Ocean all with blacken sails and no evidence of any association with Templars. The knights, sergeants, and Squires aboard were instructed not to wear the white tunic with the Red Cross. Many Templar servants, cooks, stonemasons and other craftsman that had been loyal to the Templars were also aboard the galleys. Several days later when we reached the Atlantic Ocean nine of the galleys headed south to Portugal and Spain where they would seek sanctuary with the Kings and Hospitallers living there. We were headed north to Scotland to meet with Robert the Bruce on the western coast of Scotland.
It was winter on the high seas and it was cold and the seas were rough. The galleys were thrown around like drifting wood. The seas splashed over the bows of the galleons. All nine ships stayed in eyesight of one another as we sailed around Normandy toward England and then around the west coast to Scotland. We could not arrive in any port in Normandy since they were aware of the Templar arrests by King Phillip IV. England would also be dangerous to put in at a port, so we were stuck on our ships for over a month of rough seas.
We had no word about Grand Master Jacques de Molay and whether he was arrested or not, since we were at sea for almost a month. Several times the winter storms had thrown us off course. As we departed the Normandy seas, toward England, we encountered a terrible storm that had everyone sick and the horses most upset. The rain and ice lasted several days. When the storm lifted we had lost three galleons never to be seen again. Many on board were sick from one thing or another. The galleons were not built for travel on winter high seas, but it was all the Templars had or could lease.
“Captain what route do you plan to take to get to Scotland,” I asked while on deck one day? “We will go round Ireland, after we clear the Normandy coast, and stay clear of England so as not to run into any of their ships. We are headed for Argyll in Scotland. Weather permitting that is,” the captain said. That was no consolation for me, because I had no idea where Ireland was or Argyll, Scotland. When it seemed like no one could bear the cold dampness anymore the coast of Argyll, Scotland came into sight. I was never so glad to see land. I knew the greatest burden of the voyage was about to begin when we landed. The Templar knights had orders to above all protect the Templar treasure, and secure hiding places for the remaining five galleons of treasurer. I helped in the lifting the horses out of the below deck storage area. Grand Master Jacques de Molay’s personal warhorses survived the voyage as well as my horse, and all of the other Templar warhorses.
Once we were on shore the task of removing the treasure began. We put together some carts we had dismantled on the ships, and began to load all the barrels of gold coins and silver coins as well as religious artifacts, candelabras and ancient Jewish scrolls. We cut some grass and placed hay over the tops of the treasure wagons to disguise their true contents. After several days of unloading some of the ships headed back to France. One ship remained in case we had use of it in the harbor. Our journey to meet Robert the Bruce had begun with many wagons of treasurer and about 40 or 50 Templar knights 35 squires, 25 sergeants, 10 pages, 2 priests, 1 scribe, and numerous cooks and servants in the service of one of the knights.
Chapter Seven- Torture
A small Scottish boy with flaming red hair came running toward me one day shouting “Squire Geoffrey come quick we have news of Master de Molay.” I turned and ran behind him back to the church on the river called St. Stephens. Several other Templars, and servants had gathered in the church to hear news of the Grand Master Jacques de Molay, after he was arrested by the French King Phillip IV. A Scottish man name Anges MacDonald, who wore a green kilt, stood in front of the group and said, “we have news of our brother Grand Master de Molay from England via pigeon from France,” he shouted so all could hear. Several messages came from different pigeons, and all were written in Templar code that was used in the Holy Land. It was in symbols, and Latin and several of the Templar priests had to decode it, and here is what we learned.”
Message one from one of the first pigeons to arrive in England from France and a second pigeon was sent to Scotland with the same message follows:
“Jacques de Molay was arrested and imprisoned in Paris on March 13, 1314 year of our Lord. The arrest warrant began saying, Dieu n’est pas content, nous avons des enemies de la foi dans le Royaume,” meaning “God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom.”
In prison the Grand Inquisitor of the King Guillaume Imbert, could not get Master de Molay to confess so he tortured him almost to death. Jacques was stripped of his clothes and a rope noose was placed around his neck. The Master’s was crucified like Jesus but kept alive since the Inquisitor was forbidden to kill the Grand Master.
“The second message from another carrier pigeon from our Temple in London England says in code, “The Master’s arms were pinioned high on a wall and his naked back was scourged by two assistants using horsewhips with twin metal balls. A crown of thorns was thrust on his head in imitation of Jesus suffering. He was nailed to a cross by his wrists and a nail driven through both feet through the sole of the one foot and then the other.”
“The third coded message says the Master was pushed upward on the cross until it was almost standing. The pain was so great that he confessed to the false accusations and they lowered him to the floor. The torturers laid him face upwards on a cloth and the excess section was thrown over his head to cover the front of his body. His body wounds continued to drain on the white shroud. Templar Knight De Charney’s family was called in and told to care for both men. Master de Molay almost died from the torture but was nursed back almost to normal health over a month. More messages will follow.
Anges MacDonald went on to say that more carrier pigeons would be sent. Several may have perished flying over the English Channel, and we will never know. For now, we are aware the King Phillip IV of France will go to any lengths to seize the Templar properties and treasurer. This means my brothers we must make more than a determine effort to hide the bulk of the treasure we unloaded from the ships when we arrived. Eventually, the Scots will help hide remaining Templar knights from the English King Edward II, and any greedy Scottish Chiefs. We will all meet soon with Robert the Bruce, and seek his advice and council.
Three ships have already returned to Denmark to pick up more Templar Treasure that was transported in wagons overland from various castles, and temples in northern Europe. We also have word that our brother Templars that fled to Portugal and Spain were safe, and have converted to the Order of the Knights of Christ. The King of Portugal, and the King of Spain have reached out to the Templar knights to protect them from the French king Phillip IV. An undisclosed amount of treasure was given to the monarchs to insure their loyalty from the Templar treasures.
“Meanwhile, let’s us all pray for Jacques de Molay and the other fifty knights in Paris that are in jail,” William exclaimed. “We have heard through the English, that hundreds of Knights were imprisoned all around France and surrounding countries. The only countries that remained true to the Templars are Spain, and Portugal. The Templar brothers in Portugal have become the Knights of Christ, never to use the red cross on white background ever again. The Portuguese King will protect them, and their following, as will the Spanish King,” William explained.
“Go home now laddies, and wait for word that we will again meet in secret to plan our futures in Scotland and elsewhere,” Agnes exclaimed. So it was that we returned to our manor houses knowing full well that our stay in Scotland might not be forever because of the greed of men. Meanwhile, Robert the Bruce continued his rapid attacks on Scottish castles around England that were loyal to Edward I, and Edward II of England.
Sergeant Gui, and Templar Pierre, and I were disgusted how the French king allowed his torturers to treat the Grand Master de Molay in such a degrading manner. We talked about our future in Scotland, and that all hinged on whether the English got to take over Scotland or not, and whether the local Scottish farmers and nobility allowed us to blend in with their society. We could not speak the Scottish language, and that was an obstacle, and we were French in every way aside from speaking French, we ate a French style of cooking, and were still dedicated to the Templar Code, even though we were supposed to forget the Code. We agreed that we would have to learn to adapt or perish.
Spring had begun and it was time for planting crops. Many of the fifty knights were not farmers so we had to hire local Scottish farmers to help us plant our fields. We purchased livestock from Scottish farmers, chickens, pigs and workhorses. The hay and horse grain was also purchased from the local Scottish farmers. The farmers were glad to know someone who had the funds to buy their products and were quick to show us how to create farms on our estates.
While some of the fifty Knights and their servants remained on their manors that summer of 1308, some offered their services to Robert the Bruce in his was against the English. Once a warrior always a warrior as they say and many of the French Templar knights were more comfortable fighting an army rather than resting at home getting old.
Behind the scenes there were many secret Templar meetings as to how and when we should move some of the Templar treasure. The riches of Grand Master de Molay were passed onto Templar Pierre de Romaine, Sergeant Gui de Basenville and myself, Squire Geoffrey de Villars according to the Grand Master’s wishes before he was arrested if it looked like he might never be free. We used this gold and silver to expand our manors, and purchased more surrounding farmlands for our horses and cattle to graze on. We buried some of the treasure we had received under an oak tree near our manor house, and another cache in a local unnamed cave. The fifty knights elected William de Clinton as the Grand Master of Scotland at Balantrodoch. It was his duty to provide for all the French Templars in Scotland and to keep the locations of the French Templar treasure secret until pain of death. Having so many riches was a burden as well as a benefit. All of the Templar knights were paranoid that someone would discover one or more of the treasurers of the knights. Our mason friend’s help to construct building on top of the treasurers and to device booby-traps to protect the hidden treasure in the ground and in hidden caves around Scotland and Ireland.
As the summer neared, we hired local farmers to help us cut the grain and wheat in our fields and pick the crops that had grown and ripened. The Scottish ladies and cooks showed our servant how to preserve food to last through the winter until the next growing season. Deer were abundant in the Scottish forests and were a main source of meat other than cattle. Potatoes were a main crop grown in Scotland, so we followed suit and planted as many potatoes as we had land for so doing. During the summer months we hired Templar masons to help expand our manor homes and our barns for our horses. There was plenty of fieldstone and granite available in Scotland for building to help strengthen and expand our modest manor homes. Some Templar knights secretly hoped to someday build Castles in Scotland in the gothic architecture that they had learned in Jerusalem. Eventually, Robert the Bruce gave away castles of his enemies to many of the French Templar Knights that served with him in his many battles. Some of the destroyed castles were rebuilt for a time, and French Templar knights moved into them. Robert the Bruce had all but wiped out the family of the Comyns and the MacDougalls of Argyll in Scotland, his sworn enemies.
Templar William de Clinton has a long range and a short-range plan for the French Templar knights in Scotland. The short range goal was to financially support Robert the Bruce in equipping his arm with modern swords, lances, shields and armor made by our brother Templars in Ireland and paid by a small portion of our treasure. We would await the disposition of the imprisonment of our brother Templars in France and other countries and then make a decision then how best to proceed. In Spain and Portugal, we heard that they became the Knights of Christ and changed their cross to become a Maltese cross merging with the Hospitallers knights who were living on Malta. Our long-range goal was a little more radical. If anyone attempted to arrest Templar knights in Scotland or pursue us for the Templar treasure then we might sail west from Scotland to Iceland or possibly the new world reported by Scots and Vikings before us. We might have to sail to someplace where the power of the Pope would not reach or the power of the King of England and the King of France and that would be the new world.
Our immediate problem was we had only two galleys left, having sent other ships to Denmark to recover more of the Templar treasure. We might have to consider building our own ships in the future or buying or leasing them from merchants now controlled by the French or English government. William de Clinton appointed a personal guard to rotate assignments in guarding the hidden treasurers on a year-round basis. Caves, graves, buildings and deep ground pits had become the hiding places for the immense treasure that the French Templar knights had escaped France with, not to mention the religious artifacts that were in fact priceless and should never fall into the hands of the Pope or King Phillip of France.
Quality warhorses were difficult to find in Scotland because they raised a different breed of horses to work the farms, not to fight wars. The warhorses had to be imported from France or the Mediterranean by boat.
Chapter 8- Exile Years (1307-1314)
It wasn’t easy fading into the Scottish heather and moss. All of us Templar Paige’s, squires, sergeants, priests, Knights, cooks and servants were in a strange land, with strange ways of doing things. Many of us Templar families were able to live on some of the 500 Templar owned properties that were owned by the order as Grand Master Jacques de Molay had promised. Some places were small cottages, and others were manor houses, and still some of the Knights were able to take refuge in old castles scattered around the west side of Scotland. The weather here in Scotland was much colder than France, and the terrain was more mountainous with many lochs in the valleys in between. The Scottish people were very friendly, but they hated the English who have always tried to rule them from afar. Robert the Bruce was leading many small battles against the English when we arrived in the winter of 1307.
I remained with my Templar sergeant Gui de Basenville as squire of the remainder of Grand Master Jacques de Molay’s family, along with Templar Knight Pierre de Romaine, and our servants. After traveling several days over land, our caravan of wagons, servants, sergeants, squires, pages, and Templar knights were an impressive site. The Knights were riding in their white tunics with the red crosses in the front of the long line of wagons and horses to advertise to anyone thinking of attacking our caravan to think twice when they realized it was Templar knights guarding the caravan. It seemed to work because all of the local tribes, and Scots stayed clear of our caravan. Later on however, we made contact with a representative of Robert the Bruce we were advised not to announce the fact that French Templar Knights were in Scotland. Robert’s messenger advised us to be as secretive as possible so as not to arouse the interest of Scots that were loyal to England and enemies of Robert the Bruce.
On the fourth day of our journey overland, a messenger appeared from Robert the Bruce. He had arranged a meeting of all the Templar knights in an abandoned castle ruins nearby with Sir James Douglas, who would speak for Robert the Bruce because Robert had suddenly taken ill. It was December on the west coast of Scotland, and it was colder than cold with some snow on the frozen ground. We were all suffering from the cold, including the horses because; we did not have the right kind of clothing for Scotland weather. What we needed was wool shirts, and pants to ward off the damp cold of Scotland, and the strong winds that swept over the lowlands.
All of the Templar knights had a gathering before meeting with Sir James Douglas. We needed to get our priorities straightened out regarding places to hide our treasure, warmer clothing, food, and shelter. Robert the Bruce had promised to the Scottish Templars, refuge from the Pope and the Kings of England and France. In exchange for the Templars from France funding Robert the Bruce every knight of our fifty knights, and Sergeants would receive a manor, and a tract of land that had belonged to the Scottish Templars for almost a hundred years.
Our greatest worry was where to hide the treasure and still keep it a secret from the Scottish and others. Much deliberation went on and some Templars were upset and thought that Robert the Bruce would renege on his promises. “Let us trust our Templar Brothers in Scotland and Robert the Bruce in return for our training the Scottish troops and importing weapons and armor from our Templar brothers in Ireland,” Pierre spoke out in the meeting. So, with some reluctance we headed for the foundation of an old castle to meet with Sir James Douglas. As we came over a ridge of Scottish heather we noticed in the distance a small group of men on horseback with the Scottish banner flying in the air. As we approached the men our Templars got down off their horses and walked to meet the Scottish strangers.
Some of the men were wearing Scottish kilts, a dress of some type that I had never seen before. What strange people these Scots were from French people I thought to myself.
As the two groups of men approached one man stepped forward and spoke in the Scottish language, but none of our French Templar knights understood him. Finally, with sign language we asked if one of them could speak French and they nodded and a friar came forward in a brown robe. “I am father McMann of Royster,” he said in French. Templar knight Pierre de Villars asked father McMann if he could translate for us to the Scottish lords. “He replied that he would.” “Who is Sir James Douglas,” Pierre asked? Father McMann turned and motioned to one of the Scottish lords. “May I introduce Sir James Douglas,” Father McMann said. Having fifty Templar knights in one meeting with six Scottish lords was a little difficult to manage so a small group of Templar knights was selected to speak for everyone. Pierre spoke to father McMann and Sir James Douglas regarding the list of needs the Templars had discussed. Sir James Douglas had personally spoken with Robert the Bruce who had taken ill and Robert gave him a list of the 500 tracts of land owned by the Scottish Knights of Templar that will be given to the 50 French Templar Knights, Sergeants, Squires, priests, and servants. In addition the promise to train and support Robert the Bruce’s Scottish troops was discussed. The most immediate problem was giving Robert the Bruce our payment to him to purchase weapons and armor from our Irish Templar brothers and have them ship these weapons to Scotland immediately. Sir James Douglas, Father McMann, and Templar Pierre de Villars took a short walk to discuss some secret hiding places where the Templars could store their treasure. Sir James Douglas agreed to take the small portion as payment to Robert the Bruce to be able to pay for the weapons. Secretly Sir Douglas mentioned several hiding caves to temporarily hide the Templar treasure. On was on Rathlin Island in Northern Island where Robert the Bruce hid in 1306 from the British. The second cave called Oweynogolman cave was also on Rathlin island. Sir Douglas said Robert the Bruce would provide ships to take some of the treasure to Rathlin island within a day or two. They were on their way from northern Scotland. Another secret cave was King’s cave in Drumadoon, near Blackwaterfoot on Arran Island. Yet another cave was in Kirkpatrick Fleming, Dumfriesshire. Robert the Bruce promised according to Sir Douglas to help the French Templar knights hid the treasure so that it could be used to help the French Templars purchase live stock, chickens, and feed to tend to their land parcels. Uamh-an-Right cave among the rocks of Craigruie was also mentioned. Later on the plans would be to move some of the treasure to Scottish castles that were favorable to Robert the Bruce. A plan was discussed and written down by Father McMann in French and Scottish language to later on be rewritten in Templar code.
A few hours after the meeting the French Templars broke up into smaller groups each with a portion of the French Templar treasure. Hiding the treasure would be the first priority with some being taken to local islands and hid and others hidden in caves on the mainland. One section of the group with ten French Templar knights was to follow another Scottish noble, the Earl of Lennox and he would take each and every knight to a tract of land that belonged to the Scottish Templars. With 500 available tracts of land with manor houses and in some castles it would be easy to find land for every knight, sergeant, and squire and their following in servants, priests, scribes and craftsman. When Robert the Bruce recovered from his illness he promised to visit with as many of the French Templar knights as possible. It was agreed in the meeting that twenty or so French Templar knights and ten sergeants with squires would accompany Sir Douglas nobles to a small gathering of Robert the Bruce’s army so that the French Templar training could begin immediately since the English were bearing down on the Scottish rebels on a daily basis. In return for their services as Templar knights training Scottish forces Robert de Bruce promised to personally reward all of the French Templar knights and hide them from the Pope, French and English kings and any enemies in Scotland. So the wagon train split up at that moment and headed in the four directions of the compass. Those who were going to Ireland would head to the coast that was west of their location. Others would head east, inland to settle down on tracts of land. Still others would head north to meet with and train the Scottish forces how to fight like a Templar knight. The last group was heading south to secret caves on the mainland to hide the treasure. By night fall the fifty French Templar knights, sergeants, Squires and followings were gone and the beginning the French Templar knight exile in Scotland and the islands of Ireland had begun. For each buried treasure it was agreed that one or two of the older Templar knights would remain nearby the hidden caves to protect them from thieves.
Pierre, Sergeant Gui, and myself were happy that we were heading north to bury some treasure and find ourselves some tracts of land to live on. We had cooks, bakers, stonemasons and many people in our following to feed and find shelter. We came upon our first Scottish Templar land tracts the following day. The Scots that had been living on the land and paying rent to the Scottish Templars had been forced to move with no reason given. When we arrived the manor house was vacant but some chickens remained. In addition to the manor house there were some servant cottages and several barns. We claimed this property for ourselves. Sergeant Giles wanted to settle in and then return to the Scottish army to help train them in the Templar Knight method of warfare. I was not sure what I wanted to do, but I felt that if Pierre wanted to go with Sergeant Gui to train the Scottish troops than I would have to join them. It was my desire to one day, become a knight, even if it might be a knight in a foreign country like Scotland. Pierre being still young was thirsty for warfare to prove the superiority of French Knights Templar to the Scottish and English troops.
Winter had settle in in the land of Scotland and the week after we settled in at our new tract of land it snowed two feet making it impossible to go anywhere other than the farm we live on. In mid-January Sergeant Gui, Templar Pierre and myself, Squire Geoffrey, headed northwest to find the Scottish troops and offer our services to help train them in the art of War. We left our land in the capable hands of our servants, cooks, scribes, and masons. We had a rough drawn map to help us find the forest when Robert the Bruce’s army was hiding while he was sick. Rumor had it that as soon as he recovered there was going to be more attacks on the English in the spring of 1308. As we rode over a mountain glen we could see a long loch in the distance. This was the first time we did not wear Templar white tunics with the red cross. We packed our tunics, but did not wear them. Pierre, Sergeant Gui, and myself all were carrying lances, swords, and battle-axes to prepared the Scottish troops for war. In the forest along the long loch smoke rose through the trees giving evidence of many fires cooking Scottish meals in the forest. As we arrived at the troop’s campsite a Scottish chieftain came forward and asked us our names. This Scottish nobleman was Edward the brother of Robert the Bruce. Edward was most gracious and he could speak a little French. We told him a shipment of swords and armor was coming by ship from our brother Templars in Ireland. Jacques de Molay had ordered and paid for swords, lances, and shields in advance. We expected the ships to come from Ireland any day now. About 1,000 poorly equipped Scots were at the encampment in the forest. They had everything from pitchforks, shovels, and pointed sticks to swords. Very few Scots had armor that was up to date. Much of their armor was rusted and old. We were a little shocked at first to see such a disarray of soldiers. “Unless they get modern weapons and armor, the British are going to butcher them all,” Sergeant Gui said to Templar Pierre. “They don’t seem to have any cross-bows either,” I remarked. “Now I understand how Robert the Bruce was defeated by the British in his first few battles, “ Sergeant Gui shouted. “We really have our work cut out for us,” Pierre stated. Sir Neil Campbell was one of the men in charge of the Bruce army. Fortunately, he knew some French.
We all sat down around a warm fire as Sir Neil Campbell explained how Robert the Bruce suddenly took sick and how at one of the battles he forgot to provide sentries and the British made a surprise attack on the Scottish troops killing thousands. Only 500 escaped including Robert the Bruce. Robert was learning quickly that there is no justice in the battle. He ended up realizing he would have to change his 1306 tactics or the English who outnumbered him would crush him and his armies.
After a good night’s rest we began to drill the Scottish soldiers in horse and lance drills, and how to use a long sword versa a short sword. A priest who spoke French interpreted our commands to the Scots. What the Scottish army lacked in January of 1307 was real swords and modern armor. It would take several months for the weapons to come from our brother Templars in Ireland, so in the meantime we would have to make do. We had heard from the Scottish warriors through translation that their hero William Wallace who fought against the England and won some conclusive battles used an schiltron method of defense against the English light horse Calvary. This method of battle involved 10 or 12-foot lances. The Scottish would form a circle shoulder to shoulder and dig in the back of the 12-foot lances so that they would hold when a horse impaled on the lances. It was a brilliant defensive method of combat. We Templar knights studied this method of warfare and decided it could be improved by having the Scots move in unison forward slowly, stopping to set the circle of lances when the English charged. We drilled this use of the schiltron again and again because we had plenty of lances at the time, but not enough swords. Once the horse and rider were impaled they were killed by battle-axe or sword.
Templar Knight and Sergeant Gui de Basenville showed the Scottish light Calvary how the Knights Templar form a charge on horses using lances in a pointed formation. The Scottish warriors had never seen Templar knights charging in a tight knit attack formation. We spent several weeks working on military formations and the use of archers, lancers, foot soldiers, and Calvary and the Scots show great improvement. One thing can be said for the Scots they were fearless fighters, despite the fact they were underequipped for modern warfare. A pitchfork is no match for a 12-foot lance. The romans perfected the method of fighting in close order with shields protecting them as they advanced in a triangle formation when fighting against the hoards of enemies. They used short swords, whereas the English and Scottish used a long two handed sword.
By the end of the month of January 1308, our job was done for immediate future until Robert the Bruce recovered from his illness. “Well brothers it is time for us to return to our homes make sure all is well,” Sergeant Gui said to me one day. “What do you think Geoffrey,” Pierre asked? “I am weary and tired of living in a forest with no roof over our heads in freezing cold,” I said. “Then I will inform the commanders that we are taking our leave for now with our Templar knights and they are to call upon us when they need our services,” he said.
We left at the end of January on a cold winter day and returned to our tract of land and manor houses. The was much to be done on our land, chopping of wood to get through the brutal Scottish winters, hunting for some deer for meat for the winter stews and the purchase of potatoes from local farmers. A day later when we returned, our servants were glad to see us. Some Scottish men had come by while we were gone to inquire whom our servants were. They did not tell the Scottish men that they served Templar knights. The Scottish realized that all of the servants were French speaking but did not connect the ideas that perhaps these foreigners were related to the Templar knights of France.
The next month of February 1308 the Templar knights that left to bury the treasurer on island and hidden caves around Scotland returned and were given huge tracts of land and large manor houses. Some were promised Scottish castles by Robert the Bruce when and if he succeeded in pushing the English out of Scotland. This was a major incentive for some of the fifty Templar knights to fight for Robert the Bruce. About ten of our Templar knights were in the fifties and sixties and really to old to fight in combat, so they were in charge of protecting the hidden treasures of the Templars. We had an ample amount of Sergeants to back up the forty Templar knights and Squires to make a substantial contribution to Robert the Bruce’s campaign against the English under King Edward II.
Robert the Bruce’s Return
Less than a month after we trained with the Scottish army hiding in the forest, Robert the Bruce returned to fight the English and disloyal Scottish even thought he was still a little sick. He returned from the Island of Rathlin that was owned by Ireland. His Irish mother had lived there many years before. Upon his return we heard that he divided his troops into two groups. Robert the Bruce and his brother Edward Bruce landed at Turnberry Castle and began a series of battles in the southwest portion of Scotland. His brothers Thomas and Alexander Bruce, who landed further south in Loch Ryan, led the other divisions of his troops. They had 1,000 men and eighteen galleys. They were quickly overwhelmed by local forces led by Dungal MacDouall who was a supporter of King Edward I of England and the Scottish Comyns. Only two galleys escaped. All the leaders were captured and executed including his brothers Alexander and Thomas and their heads were sent to King Edward I.
Robert the Bruce attacked Balvenie, Duffus and Tarradale Castles and succeed in taking all three castles. As was his strategy he had the castles burnt to the ground and destroyed to prevent anyone else from using them.
On May 22, 1308, Robert the Bruce met the Comyn Earl of Buchan near Inverurie. It was not much of a battle because the supporters of the Earl of Buchan ran away rather than fight Robert the Bruce. The Earl of Buchan was defenseless. We heard that Robert burned every village and killed every member of the Comyn family he encountered since they were his mortal enemies.
Sergeant Gui de Basenville, and a handful of Knights Templar, including Pierre de Romaine, and myself, decided to join Robert the Bruce, who was rumored to be headed to Aberdeen on the east coast of Scotland. Robert the Bruce’s approach was to avoid major battles and depend on swift attacks and destruction of castles and his enemies the Comyns, and then continue onto other unsuspecting castles in Scotland. We made sure not to wear our Templar knight white tunics or any Templar Knight red-cross shields. We had our shields blackened out and had the red cross-removed. We did not wish the world to know, or anyone in Scotland, that we were French Templar Knights.
After the Aberdeen battle, Robert moved onto attach the major stronghold of the Comyns that was Dunstaffnage Castle. This castle was the home of John Mcdougall of Lorn with whom Robert had made a truce the previous year. As Robert the Bruce marched west, John Macdougall set ambush for him in the Pass of Brander near the northeast tip of Loch Awe. Robert learned of the ambush from a spy and instead outflanked the ambush by having some of his men climb over the mountain behind Macdougall. When Bruce’s soldiers appeared in the pass Macdougall’s army threw stones and boulders down the mountain on them. Suddenly, Bruce’s men who had climbed the mountain behind Macdougall appeared and were able to attack from behind. Macdougall’s men found themselves being attacked on the front and the back of their ranks and fled.
Defeating Macdougall uplifted Bruce’s men, and shortly thereafter, they took Dunstaffnage Castle. Much of what the Templar Knights used in battle in the Holy land did not apply in Scotland. The mountainous terrain and wet environment made muddy roads difficult to travel on. Many of the castles were on the tops of mountains of the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean making an assault very difficult. We found out the Scots did not have any assault machines like the Templars had in the Holy Land. “What did you think of the flanking assault Bruce used again Macdougall’s men,” I asked Sergeant Gui? “I was surprised the Scots were strong enough to climb up that very high mountain and still have enough strength left to attack Macdougall’s troops,” Sergeant Gui commented. “How about you Pierre, how did you do in the attack,” I asked? “Well we could not use our lances since there was no army to charge. Our crossbows were the weapon of the day since Macdougall’s troops were high up on the mountain with the advantage of the high ground when they attempted to ambush us,” Pierre exclaimed. “It was a good thing Bruce knows the land so well to be able to anticipate that Macdougall might try to spring an ambush from the mountain overlooking the pass,” I remarked. “Aye you are right about that Squire,” Sergeant Gui replied. “Come on lads we have routed Macdougall’s troops, take no prisoners,” Robert the Bruce shouted to his men. Many of the Scots seemed happy to have French Templar Knights as part of their army. Everyone seemed to have the highest respect for the reputation of the Templar Knights from the tales of the Crusades, which put us in a position of honor riding at the front of the column with Robert the Bruce.
Our strategy was to take a castle and then burn it to the ground, and knock the stones down in the walls and building so that the English could not use the castle afterward or the Scots. Robert the Bruce did not have enough troops to leave some in the defeated castles as garrisons. We attacked swiftly before the Scots loyal to Edward II of England could respond.
By the end of 1308 Robert the Bruce controlled all of northern Scotland except the castles at Stirling, Dundee, and Perth. By the end of 1309, Robert the Bruce controlled all of Scotland north of the river Tay.
In the spring of 1309, Robert the Bruce held his first parliament in 150 years at St. Andrews. The English King Edward I and II, and the Pope wanted all the Templar knights arrested, but Robert the Bruce refused to cooperate. Only two Scottish Templar knights were arrested in Scotland, tried and released. Robert informed his loyal Scottish supporters that the French Templar knights were fighting on his side, and that he had honored the Templar tracts of land and allowed the French Templar knights to settle in Scotland. There was a loud sound of applause and whistling of approval from the Scottish men.
What they did not know that in exchange for our financial support of Robert’s troops, and for serving in his armies, and training his troops how to do battle as one unit we were to be protected against the English, French or the Pope no matter what. This promise could only have meaning if Robert the Bruce was successful in chasing England out of Scotland forever. This was to be kept an utmost secret Robert told all of the Scots present at the parliament that the French Templar knights were fighting on the side of the Scots against the English. He did not want the English or his Scottish enemies to know that he had the advantage of Templar knight training and arms. “The weapons from Ireland and the armor had arrived and been distributed to our troops,” he told the Scots at the two day parliament meeting. Everyone was amazed that the Templars were rich enough to pay for weapons from Ireland. The secrecy of the Templar Knights and their hidden treasure was most important to the success of Robert the Bruce’s campaign. All of the Scottish men in attendance agreed. It was for us Templars the beginning of a new era of hiding, and merging into the Scottish society and terrain. It was the beginning of our true exile from France and other European Templar castles.
Robert the Bruce sent a letter to Edward II, King of England in 1310, asking him to stop persecuting the Scots. The letter was written in Latin and stated, “ To the most serene prince the lord Edward by God’s grace illustrious King of England.
From, Robert by the same grace King of Scots.” A copy of the letter was sent to many Scottish and Templar knights that summer of 1310. His letter went on to say: “Our humbleness has led us, now and at other times, to beseech your highness more devoutly so that, having God and public decency in sight, you would take pains to cease from our persecution and the disturbance of the people of our kingdom in order that devastation and the spilling of a neighbor’s blood may henceforth stop.” We never learned what Edward II’s response was but the fact that the English invaded Scotland that spring of 1314 indicates that Edward ignored Robert’s letter. Edward II did not know that all of the Scottish forces were now well equipped thanks to the Templar knights financing Robert the Bruce’s armies. Each Scotsman had a 12 foot lance, a shield, battle axe, sword, and new armor and were well trained by Templar knights how to do battle in a coordinated Templar knight approach. Robert the Bruce was more confident now that almost fifty Templar knights and about thirty sergeants and squires would be at Sterling castle when the English arrived in June 1310.
Chapter Nine- The Martyr
After seven and ½ years in Scotland we had begun to adapt to the harsh winters and the kindness of the Scottish people in taking us into their fold. I was even beginning to learn some of their Scottish sayings. Our manor and farm had grown and many successful harvests allow us to trade with the local Scots for bread and other supplies.
It was near the end of March in the year 1314 of our Lord. The cold winter days had not gone away yet in Scotland and we were getting ready to plant our crops when the ground thawed. The local church bell began to ring, which meant there was a special meeting at the church for the French Templar Knights. It was sure to be bad news to have a meeting in the middle of the day like this. William de Clinton special assistant to Robert the Bruce was standing in the front of the little church dressed in his green and black kilt. He had a full beard as most Scottish man had and long reddish hair. He was a stocky man about 5 feet 9 inches tall.
“Laddies we have just received some bad news from France via pigeon. The messages were in Templar code and had to be translated by a Templar priest. We had just learned that our Grand Master Jacques de Molay, and Geoffroi de Charney were burned at the stake by King Phillip IV on the small island called Jle-des Juifs on March 18 of this month. I am sorry for your loss, he said. “Your master suffered along with Geoffroi de Charney and fifty other imprisoned Templar Knights. We pray for their souls,” he said. Immediately there was some weeping by the woman and sounds of shock by the men. This ends the chapter of the Knights of Templar in France,” William de Clinton declared. “Never let it get you down brothers, for it will take more than the loss of our beloved leader to stop us and put us down,” William declared. The men shouted approval to William’s words. “We will pray for Jacques and Geoffroi at evening prayer tonight and all are invited,” William commented.
“Laddies there is one more thing. In a second pigeon message we learned that our Grand Master cursed King Phillip IV and the Pope as he was dying in the fire,” William exclaimed. Jacques called upon King Phillip and the Pope to meet him before the throne of God in one year’s time where they would all be judged together, “ William exclaimed.
As it came to pass, we learned the summer of 1314 the Pope Clement died and just as Jacques de Molay’s curse predicted. In November of 1314, King Phillip IV fell off his horse while hunting and died. The Grand Master Jacques de Molay will always be in our hearts with the sacrifice of his life and other Templar knights so that others might escape free and the massive Templar treasure was protected from the Pope and King Phillip IV of France, as well as the King of England and other enemies of the Templar knights.
“Sergeant Gui, what do you think our future will be now,” I asked on day while we were working the fields? “God only knows Squire Villars,” he said. “What do you think our Grand Master wants us to do now that he has passed onto heaven,” I inquired. “I cannot say for sure, but if we are hard pressed by the English or French spies, then our first priority is to protect the treasure and that might mean leaving Scotland, and sailing west to the new world the Vikings discovered hundreds of years ago,” Sergeant Gui commented. “I am getting old and not continue to do battle in Scotland much longer,” he said. “I hear that Robert the Bruce may call us again to fight the English at Sterling castle,” I said. “Yes, you may be right. I have heard the same rumors. We will see,” he said.
When the warmth of May arrived we began to plant our crops with the ground having thawed. Toward the end of May we received work that Robert the Bruce was going to take on King Edward II on or near Sterling Castle. We were asked to join him to fight once more against the English. The following day, Sergeant Gui de Basenville, Templar Knight Pierre de Romaine and myself, Squire Geoffrey de Villars packed up our armor, battle-axes, lances, and swords. As a special request we were asked to bring the Templar black and white banner to let the English know they were fighting Templar Knights as well as Scottish warriors. Our white tunics were long since destroyed but all of the Templar Knights kept their Templar banner, our beauseant. So we rode off toward the east coast of Scotland where Robert the Bruce was to engage the English.
Chapter Ten- The Battle of Bannonburn
In the spring of 1314 Robert the Bruce recalled the French Templar Knights to assist him, and his brother Edward in the assault, and capture of Edinburgh castle. Edward the Bruce had been attacking Sterling castle since February 1314 with no success. Sir Philip de Mowbray, who was loyal to King Edward II of England, held the castle. It was May 1314, and the remaining French Templar Knights, which numbered around forty, after some had died from natural causes, and the remaining sergeants, around thirty, and their squires, headed to Sterling Castle to assist Robert the Bruce, and his brother Edward the Bruce.
We had several days of travel across Scotland to get the east coast of Scotland where Sterling Castle was located. We were instructed to bring our white tunics with the red cross signifying the Knights Templars but to keep them folded up and out of sight. We were not to fly the Templar beauseant of black and white so as not to attract attention from the local scots that may or may not be loyal to England. “You know that Robert the Bruce does not have more than a few hundred cavalry,” Sergeant Gui commented to me as we were riding. “Really” I said? “Yes, the English will have thousands of heavy cavalry against the Scottish cavalry of a few hundred light horseman with the smaller Scottish ponies,” Sergeant Gui remarked. “How can Robert the Bruce expect to defeat such a large force of heavy cavalry and foot soldiers,” I asked. “Damm if I know,” Sergeant Gui replied. Knight Templar Pierre was riding on my right side when I asked him what do you think Brother Pierre?” “Well Robert the Bruce has learned to be tricky and not meet the English where and when they want. He knows he is outnumbered, yet he takes on the English anyway,” Pierre said. “We Templars are trained to use horses to charge the enemy and that is not the strategy that Robert the Bruce wants to use since we and the Scots are greatly outnumbered,” Pierre pointed out. “I pray God is behind us,” I commented.
We arrived at the encampment of Robert and Edward’s troops in the forest south of Sterling Castle near Bannon burn stream late in the afternoon. The sun was beginning to recede as was normal in the short Scottish days. I noticed a horseman on a Scottish pony galloping back and forth in front of a division of foot soldiers with spears or pikes. He wore light armor with a feather crest coming out of his helmet. “Is that Robert the Bruce, I asked Sergeant Gui, and we rode into camp? “Yes I think the man with the long beard is Robert the Bruce,” Sergeant Gui commented. All forty of the French Templar Knights rode into the camp were not wearing the Templar white tunic with the red cross across the chest. The Sergeants and squires, likewise, wore black tunics, which is what they normally wore in battle. We were an impressive group with our battle horses that were a head higher than the Scottish ponies. Many years before we decided that our secrecy was paramount in Scotland, and displaying the Templar white tunics would draw the attention of the King of England, and the King of France, as well as the Pope. The only banner we brought was our black and white beauseant, which we did not show the red cross. The beauseant banners were folded up in our bags out of sight.
Edward the Bruce, the brother of Robert the Bruce came out of a tent to welcome us. “Welcome brothers Templar,” Edward announced. We dismounted our warhorses, and stood around in a large group listening to Edward as to the situation regarding Sterling Castle. “As you probably know brothers Templar, we have been in siege of Stirling Castle since February of this year 1314,” Edward went on to say. “Commanders and Brother Templars, I have called you together to tell you that Stirling Castle will surrender by June 24th, if the English do not relieve them. Unfortunately, we have news from our spies that Edward II is forming his troops for an invasion of Scotland to defend Sterling Castle, and he will be here by June 24,” Robert shouted out to the group assembled. “Now we must change our strategy, and use some of the Templar war tactics for land battles rather than worrying about assaulting the walls of Stirling Castle. Robert and I have decided to make a stand against the English near Bannonbock, where we can confine the English between the Forth River, and the Bannonburn,” Robert commented. “We will divide our troops into four divisions, well actually three divisions and one surprise division of Templar knights and small folk will stand in the rear. Randolph you will lead one of the shiltrons, and James Douglas will join with me, and Robert the Bruce will lead the last shiltron guarding the rear. The Templar knights on warhorses will be hidden from sight until we need them for a surprise attack on the flanks of the English,” Edward the Bruce commanded. Sir Robert Keith will lead another small group of mounted Knights to further harry the English foot soldiers and archers. Some of the Templars with light armor will help Sir Robert using our smaller Scottish ponies that can maneuver more easily than the English heavy warhorses.
Robert and I will take you up the road to see Sterling Castle on the edge of a steep ravine, so you can see it is a most difficult castle to assault,” Edward pointed out. “Robert, the Templar brothers are here,” he shouted back into the large tent. “I am coming brother, be patient,” Robert shouted back from inside the tent. “Good morn, brothers. I am glad you answered my call to arms to support and train our troops how to fight the English troops of King Edward II,” Robert said. “We have news the Edward II intends to invade Scotland next month in June 1314 to defend Sterling Castle,” Robert went on to say. “We will need your Templar experience to win a battle against superior numbers of English soldiers, archers, and heavy Calvary,” Robert said. “Come lets us ride up the road to see Sterling Castle, and how well it commands the valley below,” Robert said. “Mount up,” Edward called out. We all remounted our horses, and followed the two brothers Bruce out of the forest. Just a few miles up the road from the forest and the Bannockburn was Sterling Castle. It sat on a high rock point with a sheer cliff on one side protecting the castle and it commanded the high ground from all directions. Edward pointed out the strengths of the castle, and explained that previous attempts to siege the castle had failed. “We shall go back to our encampment and discuss what you think wise as to a successful strategy against the English at Bannockburn,” Robert said to all the Templar knights present.
We rode back to the forest encampment, and dismounted our horses so that we might sit with Robert and Edward the Bruce and discuss our evaluation of the area surrounding Bannockburn. Sergeant Gui was quick to point out that the encampment in the forest only had a handful of pickets watching the perimeter of the encampment. He told Pierre that he thought Robert and Edward should take steps to further protect their encampment in the forest. “Sir Robert,” Sergeant Gui called out. “Yes Sergeant, what is it? Robert asked? “Sir I would like to point out that your pickets on the perimeter of your encampment are not enough to protect your army should you be charged by the English through the forest,” Sergeant Gui pointed out. “That is a good observation Sergeant, what would you recommend,” Robert the Bruce asked? “Dig some holes and plant sharp stakes in the bottom of the pits to cause horses and riders in an assault on the encampment to fall and become impaled on the spikes? Sergeant Gui suggested. “That is an excellent idea Sergeant,” Robert commented. “I will have some of our men begin digging some pits around the edge of the forest to protect our encampment as you suggest,” Robert replied. The meeting went on for an hour with the discussion of how many lights Calvary Robert had, and how many foot soldiers with 12 foot lances. The smallest number seemed to be archers in Robert and Edward’s Scottish army. Some of the Templars suggested they charge first into the English heavy cavalry to break their charge in two. Robert the Bruce said that was exactly what the English wanted since they would outnumber the Templars by 3 to 1 or even as high as 6 to 1. The shear size of the English army was the problem Robert pointed out. “We want to force the English to attack between the Bannockbock and the
River Forth so that they will have difficulty maneuvering, Our schiltroms will force their charge back making it difficult for them to turn around with their foot soldiers crossing the Bannockbock directly behind them,” Robert explained.
Brothers Templar some of you will ride with Sir Robert Keith who will be in charge of my only Calvary unit of about 500 light Calvary, and the 100 or so Templar knights and sergeants and squires. “These Templars will use light armor and not the usual lances, because we want to be able to ride swiftly and be able to maneuver around the English if necessary. The rest of the Templars will be my little surprise for the English that I will explain to you later. These Templars will remain at the small hill behind the forest in full Templar white tunics and beauseant banners. When the time comes I want these reserve Templars to surprise the English and attack them from the west flank of their army. Even though we have only a hundred Templars, the town folk behind them will be making noise to make it seem that we have hundreds of Templar knights instead of just one hundred, it is the surprise element that may help us to force the English to break run from shear fear of being speared by Templar knights whose reputation is known world-wide,” Robert stated. “Let me introduce Sir Robert Keith to you brothers Templar,” Robert said.
“Welcome brothers Templar today. We are most grateful for your support in ridding Scotland of English rule,” Sir Robert Keith shouted out to all present. “Aye Sir Robert will be able to attack with more speed and change direction more easily than the thousands of English heavy cavalry,” Robert pointed out. “Our four divisions of foot soldiers with spikes will act as separate armies against the English using spears against the charging heavy cavalry which is what the English always use before their foot soldiers,” Robert stated.
For the last week in May 1314 the French Templar Knights drilled the Scottish troops in the use of the 12-foot lances as an offensive weapon by slowly moving forward against the English heavy Cavalry as Robert had directed. The use of the shield was also important to protect against the English archers, and their deadly arrows. Each Scottish soldier had a 12-foot pike or spear, a sword, battle-axe, and a shield with light armor.
The month before May, de Mowbray offered to surrender Sterling Castle to Robert and Edward the Bruce. The offer from de Mowbray was that if Stirling Castle were not relieved by midsummer’s day, June 24, 1314 by the English, then he would surrender the castle. When Robert heard of this settlement that his brother Edward agreed to he was most upset. “What agreement have you made with de Mowbray,” Robert shouted at Edward? “De Mowbray has agreed to surrender Stirling Castle if the English do not come to his aid by June 24th,” Edward exclaimed. “You fool that means you have forced King Edward II’s hand, and given him a reason for invading Scotland to save Sterling Castle,” Robert shouted and cursed in Gallic. “Now we no longer are engaged in a siege of a Castle, but in a land battle with a superior number of English troops,” Robert exclaimed. “I am sorry brother, I thought it was a good solution. I never realized that Edward II would actually invade Scotland to defend Stirling Castle. “Call a meeting of our Scottish commanders immediately, and the Templar Knights, and Sergeants,” Robert shouted to Edward. “Yes, brother,” Edward remarked as he walked away to call the commanders and Templars together from across Scotland.
Edward the Bruce’s whole strategy changed from a castle siege to a land battle after that. Robert’s spies informed him that Edward’s began his advance into Scotland on June 17, 1314. We began to dig pits with spikes at the bottom of them on the land just before Bannonbock, where the English would be charging with their cavalry. This would help to break the charge by horses and riders being impaled on the spikes. The holes were covered up with grass and twigs and marked with flowers so that the Scottish army would steer clear of the pitfalls. William Wallace and Robert the Bruce has used these pits before successfully in battle with the English to break the charge of the heavy English Cavalry.
Robert the Bruce made sure every Scottish warrior had a 12-foot spear, a new sword, battle-axe, shield, and armor. This Scottish army was the best-equipped army the Scots had ever produced thanks to the Templar’s paying for the spears, swords, battle-axes, shields, and armor to their Irish Templar brothers. Practically, every Scot armor maker in Scotland was making armor for Robert the Bruce’s army. It takes a lot of swords, lances, battle-axes, armor and shields to equip the Scottish army of 6,000 at Bannockbock.
There was still time to drill the Scottish army so that they were familiar with the terrain at Bannonbock with the Forth river to the right, and the bog areas beyond the stream. The Scottish had mastered the use of the cluster of spearman, called schiltrons, to thwart the charge of the English horsemen. The hidden pits would also help break the charge by impaling the horses when they stumbled into the pits with spikes. The Scottish soldiers would then finish off the riders as they fell with their swords and battle-axes.
I was nervous and anxious, at the same time about the English having superior numbers over the Scottish troops. Word came from the spies that Edward II had reached Edinburg, and was headed toward Stirling castle on the old roman road that travels through the forest of Torwood also known in French as Les Torres.
The English arrived at Bannonbock the evening of June 23rd after marching twenty miles that day. Robert the Bruce’s four divisions were already in place waiting for the English on the opposite ridge in the area knows as New Park across the stream from the English. I looked from our hill across the Bannonbock that night to see thousands of campfires of the English as far as I could see. This would be my first battle as a squire and it was a scary sight to see so many thousands of troops
Sergeant Gui de Basenville, Templar Knight Pierre de Romaine and myself, Geoffrey de Villars joined with our brother Templar knights out of sight of the English behind the Scottish troops on a small hill called Gillies hill. The blind Abbot of Inchaffray blessed the Scots soldiers before the battle on the first day. The English King Edward II saw this and thought they were praying for mercy, but that was not the case. Robert the Bruce addressed the troops and said,” any of you lads that do not have the stomach for a fight should leave now.” The Scots let out with a great cry, and no one left the battlefield. Meanwhile, Sir James Keith led a mounted patrol to watch the arrival of the English army and he found it a terrifying site with the English formed into ten divisions each led by a Knight.
On Sunday, June 23, 1314, Edward II’s army began its final march up to the Bannockburn. Suddenly, Sir Philip de Mowbray had ridden out of Stirling castle with a body of horseman taking a path through the boggy ground by the Forth river and then to the Carse and over the Bannockburn to meet with Edward II. All we know from our spies is that they talked and Sir Philip de Mowbray and Sir Robert Clifford rode back to Stirling castle with 300 horsemen to reinforce the castle without the Scots realizing what happened. Robert the Bruce was most upset when he realized that 300 horseman managed to ride Randolph’s position without Randolph realizing it. Robert called Randolph out for making this mistake and Randolph quickly rushed his foot soldiers down to the path to block the route of Clifford and de Beaumont’s horseman. A savage fight took place out of view of our hill. Afterward, Sir Thomas Grey was captured after being knocked from his horse, and Sir William d”Eyncourt was killed. The English split in two we heard and one group fled to the castle and the other half rode back to the English lines. So the battle had begun and we saw nothing the entire time. We had to be patient and wait for the signal from Robert the Bruce to charge the flank of the English.
Meanwhile, the English troops had begun to advance with the Earls of Hereford and Gloucester riding in the lead to cross the Bannockburn, and attack the Scots near the forest. We could see what seemed like thousands of English troops crossing the Bannockburn and standing in line behind them. It was an amazing site that put a shutter of fear in my neck. Suddenly, a knight in full battle armor charged the Scottish line with Robert the Bruce in plain site. It turned out to be a Sir Henry de Bohun who galloped ahead of the advancing English troops to challenge Robert the Bruce with lance and shield. Robert was only armed with a sword and a short axe. De Bohun rode at Robert the Bruce with lance couched. Robert evaded the lance point and as De Bohun thundered past him, he struck him a deadly blow on the head, nearly splitting his head in two. De Bohun fell dead in front of all the Scottish troops.
Robert gave the word to the Scottish to attack and they rushed the English army struggling to cross the Bannockburn. The ford across the stream has caused the mass of horseman to pack into a narrow column. I and the other Templar knights watched from the hill behind the Scottish troops as the slaughter ensued. The English fell victim to the pits with the spikes in them. The Earl of Gloucester was wounded and unhorsed, and had to be rescued by his personal bodyguard. After that engagement the Scots returned to the edge of the forest of New Park. The English troops had been forced back for the present.
Afterward, Robert the Bruce and his commanders and some of the knights Templar had a meeting to assess the battle and what to do. Retreating was discussed because of the overwhelming number of English troops. Robert’s commanders and the Templar knights would have nothing of retreating. They all urged a resumption of the battle on the next day.
Later on that night a Scottish Knight with an English shield galloped into camp and was unseated and almost killed by Robert the Bruce’s men. This Knight was actually Scottish, his name was Alexander Seton and he had come from the English camp and defected. He told Robert the Bruce while he was being restrained that the English morale was low and now was the time to strike. Robert and Edward were not sure whether to believe him or not. “It could be a trap Brother Robert,” Edward said. Alexander Seton also said that the English foot soldiers had ransacked the supply wagons and drank all night long believing they had won the day. Later, the night a spy confirmed that the English troops seemed to all be drunk in their camps.
The second day of the battle began in the morning with the English crossing the Bannockburn nearer to the River Forth to avoid the spike pits. The English knights would then deploy and charge the Scottish army positioned in the New Park area near the forest. The English formed up along the edge of the Carse of Balquiderock ready to charge the Scottish army. The Pelstream hemmed in the left of the English line with the Bannockburn boxing them in, and the right line. There were too many English troops for the narrow area.
Randolph and Douglas’s schiltrons came up on the left flank and attacked the unengaged English cavalry who were waiting to support the front line. On the extreme English right flank the Welsh archers caused the Scot’s attack to pause. Robert the Bruce sent in Sir Keith’s light horsemen to scatter the archers.
We watched from the hill behind the forest as the Scottish archers supported the Schiltrons moving forward into the English cavalry line as it was pushed back into the broken area of the Carse. Robert sent a messenger to our division of Templar Knights, and small folk behind us with many Templar banners flying high to attack the English unprotected flank. We galloped over the crest of the hill and emerged to the right of the forest and then came into view of the Bannockburn and the English being forced back into the bog area. We charged down the hill shouting and yelling with our Templar banner held high. Our charge so frightened the English that they routed, and turned and fled into the bog, and forth river that was at high tide at noon of that day. Many drowned trying to cross the deep river and others were tracked down and killed as they fell victim to the bogs surrounding the rivers and streams of the area. The others fell and piled up on one another while trying to climb back up the gorge that they had descended on to cross the Bannonbock.
My lance was level, and Sergeant Gui and Templar knight Pierre were close by as we charged down the hill impaling horseman, and foot soldiers alike. It was the first time I had killed someone. My 12-foot lance went clean through an English footman on first charge. I took out my sword, and hacked the arm off of another English rider. The rider turned and fell into the mud and was trampled by horses. I pulled my lance out of the impaled English foot soldier and together with the other Templar knights near me we formed a wedge again to charge back toward the fleeing foot soldiers. We chased the fleeing English foot soldiers, archers and cavalry into the bogs and killed every one of them. I had blood in my eyes and all over my tunic. I felt deep within myself a sense of courage at the same time the lust to kill every Englishman in sight. I could feel the blood pounding hard in my neck. My whole body was tensed as I impaled or stabbed English soldier after soldier. It was a blood bath with bodies lying everywhere as our horses trampled over them squashing them like raisins on the ground. After an hour of so the battlefield was cleared and the English troops were routed. The Scottish divisions had pushed the English back to that many drown in the river, or fell or stumbled in the wet muddy bog areas. It was a complete rout of the thousands of cavalry and foot soldiers. Sir Robert Keith even managed to scatter the English archers who were trying to attack the Scottish arm from the right flank.
Edward II fled with his personal guard to Stirling Castle where we heard later on that he was refused protection. The Earl of Pembroke saved King Edward’s life by leading him away from the battle. Edward II was forced to ride to Linlithgow and then onto Dunbar where he took a boat to Berwick. This was reported to Robert the Bruce after the battle by some English foot soldiers that surrendered. Roberts light cavalry chased the King from Stirling castle to Linlithgow and onto Dunbar where he escaped in a boat.
The Templars had saved the day and our honor for the moment had been restored. I was covered in blood, as was Templar Pierre. Sergeant Gui was unhorsed, but managed to get on another knight’s horse, and evaded being killed by the English.
After the battle was over the next day Robert the Bruce thanked his troops for their bravery and knighted Walter Stewart and James Douglas and, yes, I Geoffrey de Villiars was Knighted in the Order of the Rose of Scotland. In the forest area where the
Scottish had camped all of the Templar knights assembled with the surviving Scottish cavalry and army. “Kneel Squire Geoffrey de Villars,” Robert said. “I knight thee as a Knight of the Scottish Order of the Thistle, who will be forever faithful to Scotland, defender of the poor and weak, noble to the end and faithful to God. Amen,” Robert exclaimed. Then he took his sword and tapped me on the left shoulder and lifted the sword over my head and tapped me on the right shoulder. As I stood up, all of the Templar knights and Scottish warriors clapped loudly for me, Walter Stewart and James Douglas. I was standing shoulder to shoulder with the hero’s of Scotland and I was truly proud. “Good work lad,” Sergeant Gui slapped me on the shoulder. Templar Knight Pierre said, “well now you are truly part of Scotland and I wish you well Geoffrey. You fought bravely today.”
Finally, at the age of 29, I had become a Knight. My lifelong dream had become a reality. Robert the Bruce to protect them, and their families in Scotland awarded Pierre de Romaine and Sergeant Gui Basenville.
THE BATTLE OF BANNONBURN, JUNE 23, 1314, SCOTLAND
First Day of Battle at Bannonburn, June 23, 1314, Scotland. Notice how
Bruce had the high ground on the other side of Bannonbock.
Chapter Eleven- The First Voyage to Iceland and Back
It was late that summer of 1314, after the Battle of Bannonburn a crisis occurred on Rathlin island, where some of the Templar treasure had been concealed in a cave from Robert the Bruce’s recommendation. Two Templar knights were placed on the island to protect the small portion of the treasure in 1307 when we first arrived in Scotland. Every year these knights, who were sworn to secrecy, were rotated out of their position as guardians of the Templar treasure on Rathlin island. Templar knights Malcomb of Champaigne, and Jerar de Poitous were assigned in January of the year 1314 to guard the Templar treasure hidden in a cave on the island. On July 4, 1314 several unknown men who seemed of English origin arrived on Ratlin island in search of Templar treasure. Templar knights Malcomb of Champaigne, and Jerar de Poitous saw them arrive in the harbor in a small boat. The three strangers were observed searching the seashore, and inland area of the island.
Some of the local residents sounded the alarm to the Templar Knights Malcomb, and Jerar, who had already seen the strangers arrive. A day or two later Malcomb and Jerar confronted the strangers while they were searching the seashore. “Good morning lads, what are you looking for,” Malcomb asked. “None of your business old man,” the stranger responded. “Did ye not know that this is Irish land, since you seem to be English,” Malcomb went on to explain. “We don’t care,” the stranger responded. “Really, what then is your business here strangers,” Malcomb asked? The strangers drew their swords and a fight ensued. Malcomb knocked one of the strangers down while Jerar stabbed the other stranger with his sword and impaled him through the chest. He fell to the ground dead. Malcomb shouted to Jerar, “look out, behind you.” Just then Jerar swung around with his sword and cut the leg of the stranger coming at him from behind. The stranger fell to the ground and Jerar held a sword to his throat. “Now tell us what are you doing here, Jerar asked? “We were looking for Templar treasure,” the stranger replied. “Who told you about Templar treasure on this Irish island, Malcomb asked? We heard rumors from a drunken sailor in London,” the stranger replied. “Kill him “Malcomb cried out. Without hesitation Jerar ran his sword through the strangers throat. All three strangers lie dead on the ground and they would have to be buried to prevent anyone asking questions. “Jerar we are going to have to ask some trusted town folk to help us bury and hide the graves of these English strangers,” Malcomb replied. “Aye and now we must send a messenger to the mainland in Scotland to tell Robert the Bruce and some of our Templar leaders that there has been a breach of secrecy regarding the hiding place of treasure on Ratlin island,” Jerar commented. “I will seek out a messenger that can be trusted,” Malcomb answered. “Jerar go and get a cart and two towns people to help you bury these English scum,” Malcomb commanded.
The local people helped to bury the strangers in unmarked graves so that no one would find that they had been on the island, especially the English. Malcomb of Champaigne sent word to Robert the Bruce immediately by a messenger that three men had tried to discover whether a Templar treasure was concealed on the island and where it might be hidden. He reported that they were killed when they refused to admit their intentions and since they were English, they were suspect on an island belonging to Ireland. When Robert the Bruce received the message from a courier he passed the story onto several of the knights of Templar leaders.
Sergeant Gui heard of the story in a secret meeting with other Templar knights and Sergeants. Discussion was as to whether to remove the treasure, or keep it where it was in a cave on Rathlin island. It was decided to remove the Templar treasure, because somehow the secrecy had been breached, and even the English suspected that Templar treasure was buried on the island where Robert the Bruce had hidden back in 1306. A coded message was sent back to Malcomb of Champaigne that a small contingent of Templar knights, sergeants and squires would be leasing a galley, and sailing to Rathlin island within the month. Malcomb was instructed to be on guard for any more visitors to the island and not to touch the Templar treasure until the contingent of Templar knights and following could get to the island to remove the treasure to a more secure hiding place.
Several other Templar treasure-hiding places in Scotland were warned to be on guard at Kirkpatrick Fleming (Dumfries and Galloway caves, Drumadoon Blackwaterfoot on the Isle of Arran, and Craigruie (near Stirling castle). Extra Templar guards were sent to support those already on treasure guard duty.
Sergeant Gui, Knight Templar Pierre de Romaine, and myself Geoffrey de Villars Knight of the Scottish Order of the Thistle, and two other knights left our manor houses, and began to ride to the west coast of Scotland where we would be met by two galleys, we had leased to take us to Rathlin island to retrieve and remove the entire Templar treasure there as soon as possible before more English arrived on Rathlin island. There was a general feeling of paranoia among all of the forty remaining French Templar knights regarding the various hiding places of the huge Templar treasure consisting of tons of gold and silver, gems and religious artifacts spread out all over Scotland in caves and castles.
The only way the Scottish or French Templar Order was going to survive in secret in generations to come was to guard the enormous wealth that had been removed from France. We all knew it was just a matter of time before the English would try to invade Scotland again, and if they knew the truth about the billions of dollars of gold, and silver the Templars had hidden in Scotland, they would invade with even greater strength than they had before. Only a handful of Templar knights living in Scotland knew the real value of all the Templar treasure in Scotland, and it was a secret guarded by their sworn oath until death.
The merchant ships were waiting for us off the coast of Western Scotland when we arrived on the coast. Our horses and wagons were loaded on the ships, and we set sail for Rathlin island at high tide. “Welcome Templar brothers,” the captain of first ship shouted as we arrived in small boats to board the galleon. The captain’s name of the ship, “The Seeker,” was Captain Donald McAlbaster who was of Scottish and English origin. The second vessel called, “The Virgin Mary,” was captained by Francois Battleoist a pirate from the Mediterranean whom the Templars had done business with in the past. “We set sail at first high tide,” Captain McAlbaster shouted out to us when we boarded. Pierre de Romaine introduced himself and Sergeant Gui de Basenville and myself, Geoffrey de Villars Scottish Knight of the Order of the Thistle. “Aye you were in the battle of Bannockbock, were ye,” the captain inquired of me when he heard I was a Scottish Knight of the Order of the Thistle by Robert the Bruce. “Yes, I was in the battle of Bannockbock as well as my brothers Pierre and Sergeant Gui and ninety other Templar knights, sergeants and Squires,” I replied. “Good job lad. I heard you had the English running all the way back to England,” he commented. “Where are our quarters Captain,” I asked? “You will be quartered below mate,” the Captain stated.
Two days later, we were approaching the harbor at Ratherin island. We docked off the shore, and send small boats with men, horses and wagons ashore. After arriving on shore we met with our brothers Templar knights Malcomb of Champaigne, and Jerar de Poitous. “Welcome brothers,” Malcomb exclaimed. “How goes it brother Malcomb,” Pierre asked? “We buried the three Englishman in unmarked graves with the help of some of the local residents,” Malcomb replied. “We will have to be very cautious not to alarm the locals or to let them know the treasure is hidden in the cave Robert the Bruce hid in back in 1306, Malcomb commented. “Aye, good observation,” Pierre replied. “Sergeant Gui, take the other Templar brothers, and let us set up camp until night fall when we will approach the cave on the sea shore with wagons and torches.” We will remove the treasure at night, and before the sun comes up we will be loading it on the galleons we came on,” Pierre commanded.
So the plan was set, and camp was set up near the shore away from the town residents. As night began to fall, the Templars hitched up their horses with the wagons, and headed for the secret cave below the cliffs on the edge of the ocean. When they arrived at the cave they realized that the opening to the cave was below water at high tide. Fortunately, the tide was heading out, and low tide would be in a few hours. The Templars enter the cave and saw nothing until Malcomb pointed out that the treasure was hidden behind a pile of rocks at the back of the cave. “It’s at the back of the cave,” Malcomb exclaimed. “Under a pile of rocks is an entrance to a second cave at the rear of this cave, Malcomb commented. The Templars lit up torches to be able to see in the darkness of the cave. Malcomb began with others to remove the pile of rocks at the back of the cave. It took a few hours to remove all the rocks. Finally, when the piles of rocks were removed a second cave was visible. The Templars entered to see dozens of wine barrels full of gold and silver coin. Golden swords, candleholders, crosses, loose gems, and diamonds were stacked on top of the wine barrels. “Oh, my God,” Pierre exclaimed. “I did not realize that there was so much gold and silver hidden in this cave. Can you imagine how much is stored in the other caves and castles across Scotland,” Pierre pointed out. “Let’s get started brothers for time is fleeting.” The Templars then began to remove barrels of gold coins and silver coins and load them on the wagons. Some gold candelabras were found among the treasure as well as ancient Hebrew scrolls in tubes probably taken from the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem? As we hauled the treasure out of the cave into the wagons we had no idea there was so much wealth hidden in just one cave. It took all night for us to remove all the treasure, and put it in the small boats and take it to the galleons waiting in the harbor. Even the Captains of the ships were amazed how much gold, and silver there was in huge wine barrels. Everyone knew we were sworn to secrecy for the survival of the Templar order, now and in the future, depended on all of us protecting the wealth stolen from our Temple in Paris and elsewhere.
When the sun came up we were exhausted and fell asleep the galleons as the ships set sail for the western coast of Scotland to find a new hiding place. Jerar de Poitous, and Malcomb de Champaign returned with us leaving the cave on Rathlin island empty. We sailed up the western coast of Scotland to yet another island called Skye.
After a week we were sailing down Loch Snizort Beag toward Dunvegan castle, which was located on Loch Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye. We were told by Robert the Bruce that Lord Malcomb Macleod could be trusted, since Sir Neil Malcomb and Lord Mar had married the sisters of Robert the Bruce, Mary Bruce and Christina Bruce. Sadly, Mary Bruce was captured by the English and imprisoned in a cage at Roxburgh Castle for the past four years. Robert told us that the Macleod clan were loyal to him and could be trusted with our secret treasure.
I learned from one of the Templar brothers that Christina Bruce was also captured by the English, and met a better fate of being sent to the convent at Sixhills in Lincolnshire, England. Robert the Bruce had promised the Templar knights that this distant Dunvegan castle had many secret vaults and caves in which to hid our treasure and he personally guaranteed the protection of our treasure.
As we sailed down Loch Dunvegan from the sea, Castle Dunvegan was on the rocky shoreline at the end of the Loch. This was the ancestral home of the clan Macleods. When we put ashore, young Malcolm Macleod, who was about eighteen year of age at the time, met us at the dock. “Welcome brothers Templar,” he shouted as we approached. Sergeant Gui responded back, “good day to you.” “Robert the Bruce has sent us on this mission to place in secret storage some of the Templar knights treasure,” Sergeant Gui exclaimed. “Aye, I know, King Robert the Bruce has already sent us a messenger to expect you within a month or so with two ships full of Templar knight treasure.” Sergeant Gui made it a point to tell me that it was the knights Templar that financed all of the new armor, swords, helmets, cross-bows, battle axes, spears and shields for the Scottish armies. The Templars in Scotland used their treasure to buy all of these war items from their brother Templars in Ireland. “We are sworn to secrecy as are you in this affair by both Robert the Bruce and Templar code,” Malcolm explained.
Sergeant Gui inquired as to where the treasure could be hidden and what kind of traps could be used to further protect the treasure. “Where shall we unload our cargo to Sir Malcolm,” Sergeant Gui inquired. “Come let me show you some of the hidden vaults below the castle that few people have ever seen or are aware of, Malcolm stated. Sergeant Gui and Malcolm Macleod headed off toward the castle as we unloaded the barrels of gold and silver coins and other valuable artifacts. We loaded up the wagons, and the horses, and pulled the treasure toward the castle on the hill. When we got to the castle all of the servants and residents were taken to the great hall within so as not to see what was coming into the castle proper, and where the treasure was being hidden. This was a vital step to making sure no one but the Templars and Malcolm Macleod knew where the treasure was hidden.
We had to unload the barrels of treasure and carry them down a steep set of stairs to another level below the first. Here is the dungeon area of the castle was some prison cells, one of which had a false wall at the back of the cell which led into a hidden room 20 feet high with no outlets. Torches had to be lit on the walls to see the hidden room carved out of solid rock hundreds of years old. We stacked the treasure in that hidden room, and after we finished with all the treasure we had a mason brick up the back wall of the prison cell to hide the secret entrance to the hidden room. The whole process took two days to complete. A counter weight was suspended in the ceiling in front of the bricked up wall to descend on anyone who tried to remove the brick wall. Cables ran under the floor and up the sidewalls and would release the huge cement block hung in the ceiling. It would be tripped if the bricks were removed causing the cable to break out from behind the wall and release the counter weight in the ceiling.
After our service was completed we departed on our vessels to return to the mainland of Scotland and back to our manors. Robert the Bruce was informed of our successful mission of hiding one portion of the Templar treasure, and he was pleased it went well. Only a handful of the Templar knights were informed as to when, and where the treasure was hidden. For the time being, one portion of the vast Templar treasure seemed safe from the English, and greedy local Scotsman.
Soon after we returned to our manors a secret meeting of all the Templar knights, Sergeants, and Squires in Scotland was called at a small chapel in Scotland. The fear of the English again invading Scotland loomed the minds of the Templar leaders, despite the victory at Bannonburn. Some of the leaders of the forty remaining French Templar Knights were in favor of purchasing three galleons from some merchants and using these ships to explore the lands to the west of Scotland known as the new world. They were old ships, but sea worthy enough to cross the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. Rumor had it that the Vikings had sent ships hundreds of years before to settle and explore a land called Iceland and another beyond it called the New World. The paranoia that existed came from the burden of knowing we had the responsibility of protecting the many hidden treasure sites around Scotland to provide a future for the descendants of the Templar Knights elsewhere in neither the world where the Pope could not reach to nor the French or English kings. Some of the older Templar knights expressed the fear that they were getting too old to protect the many hidden and buried Templar treasure. Even Robert the Bruce worried about the continued financing of his battles against the English, and the financing from the Templars. Even Robert had no idea how really large the surviving Templar treasure was, and how much it weighed in gold and silver alone, not to mention the priceless gems, and diamonds and religious artifacts.
It was resolved that a small group of Templar knights, sergeants, and Squires would travel with masons and other skilled building craftsman in mid-September of 1314 to explore these lands to the west and return with information as to the suitability of burying the Templar treasure there, and living there out of range of the Pope, and the King of France, and England. The three ships were paid for and secured in a matter of days and it was imperative that we leave before the winter seas begin to stir up storms and big waves.
Sergeant Gui volunteered to go, and Templar Knight Pierre also volunteered which put the pressure on me to join with them. So I, Scottish Knight of the Order of the Thistle, joined with my Templar brothers, and twenty other knights, masons, and skilled craftsman in search of new land to live out our lives with the vast Templar treasure in peace.
We departed the west coast of Scotland on September 15, 1314 in search of the lands to the west of Scotland that was not known to most Scots or English. The seas were rough that day, and it was just a hint of the winter seas of the northern ocean that we had to endure. We hit a storm just three days out, and were forced to seek an island to find shelter on. We discovered a deserted Viking settlement on a vast icy continent, and we hid in the harbor there until the storm passed by.
We went ashore to see many crumbling wooden buildings built in the Viking style of old. There was no one living there except some wild goats. There were no trees in sight, so one could only conclude that the wood for the buildings had to be imported from somewhere else. We decided that this island or continent with its frozen ground would not be suitable to live on or bury treasure in the frozen ground. After two days of taking shelter on land, we again embarked on our journey west.
A few weeks out of Scotland, a second major continent was spotted, and we decided this must be known as the land known as Iceland. As we approached the shore in small boats, violent local natives with many bows and arrows repelled us. We were forced to retreat since we did not want to engage any local natives in combat. Instead we sailed out of range and anchored to rest and fish for some food. We did some fishing locally and caught many fish to fill our coffers.
After a week at anchorage, we decided to call the trip a failure, and turn around and set sail to return to the new world perhaps in the next spring season? Everyone was very disappointed that the lands we had discovered were not suitable to grow crops or hunt for deer and other wild game. The weather was too harsh and cold on the new continent, and very few trees grew on the new continent, meaning all wood would have to be imported by ship. Our voyage was a failure, but we were determined to return soon after the winter season.
Chapter Thirteen- Desperation
It was in the spring of 1315 that more and more thieves attempted to raid or discover where the various Templar treasures were hidden in Scotland. In a secret meeting of all the remaining Templar Knights in Scotland expressed their concern that in time word would get out that treasure was hidden caves or castles in Scotland somewhere, and cause treasure hunters everywhere to converge on Scotland. More and more the many Templar treasure sites were becoming a burden to protect, and keep secret. It was agreed that almost all of the treasure sites would have to be moved, and eventually, all treasure would have to be moved beyond the reach of the Pope and the Kings of England and France. We discussed our recent voyage to the lands west of Scotland, and the need to explore further to what was called the new world beyond Iceland and Greenland. Larger ships had to be built to handle all the treasure, and to survive a longer trip to this unknown land called the “new World,” discovered by the Vikings hundreds of years before. All of the Knights and sergeants agreed to begin building new galleons to sail to the new world. Some ships could be leased from merchants if enough ships could not be built in a reasonable amount of time.
So the ship building began with all of the Templar knights craftsman busy at work cutting down trees and shaping new galleons to carry the treasure far away. Months passed by quickly and 8 months later the first of the galleons were fished and ready to set sail. Some merchants had offered to lease their smaller vessels for a steep fee that was promptly paid.
On a bright morning in the fall of 1316 twelve galleons and smaller sailing vessels were loaded and set sail on the high tide. Many mansions and estates provided by Robert the Bruce were being left behind because the Templar knights felt their major purpose was to protect the treasure of the Templars and to seek new lands beyond the reach and power of the Pope and Kings of Europe. The larger galleons caught the wind first and led the fleet of ships to the west of Scotland. The plan was to stop for supplies if necessary at Iceland or Greenland and then continue on to the New World.
Four days out on the voyage a severe storm hit the fleet of ships scattering them to all directions. Only eight ships made it safely to anchor at Iceland. Small boats were sent ashore to get water and food supplies. The other ships were either lost at sea or sunk. The remaining eight ships continued onto Greenland. Large glaciers began to appear in the ocean waters as we approached Greenland. Here the landscape was barren of trees. We put ashore for a day for water again and supplies if any were to be had. No villages or people were spotted the whole time we anchored in the harbor.
The next day we set sail for the New World with great expectation. Hopefully, we would not encounter another sea storm and reach our destination safely? The days began to drag on as we sailed day after day over the vast ocean. A few weeks later land was sighted. It was a rugged landscape with many rocks and rivers. We sailed south down the coast of the New Land searching for forests. After a day of search we came across a huge bay line with trees as far as the eye could see.