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The Knights Templar were a military Religious Order, to put it somewhat simplictically 'fighting monks' as there was a vow of chastity. They were founded in 1119AD to protect Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land and in particular the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, hence the name.
They were first established in Scotland by King David 1st. Their main
base in Scotland was at Maryculter in Kincardineshire, founded by one
of their members, Walter Bisset in 1221AD. The place name Temple is of
course a definate indication of their presence and influence in an
area (e.g. Temple, Midlothian)
By the 14th century they were so wealthy and powerful they had
become Europe's bankers, one of history's paradoxes since their
secondary name was The Poor Knights of Christ. Due to this they were
alleged to have become heretics and King Philip 4th of France induced
Pope Clement 5th at Avignon in southern France (another story) to
expel them in 1307.
King Robert 1st of Scots, The Bruce, offered them sanctuary in return for support in his struggle with England. Although primary source material has not been found (Scottish state documents were destroyed by both Edward 1st of England and Cromwell in attempts to eliminate the existence of a Scottish state from human history) there is strong circumstantial evidence that it was they who led the charge of Sma' folk at Bannockburn and it was the Knights in cavalry charge, with their distinctive white crosses on their shields, rather than the Sma' folk per se that led the English troops to finally break and run in terror. Certainly if they were coming in only when Scottish victory seemed likely there was some 'bet hedging' deal with Bruce.
King Edward 2nd of England confiscated all their property in England in
1315AD, another strong circumstantial indication that they were at
Bannockburn. From Bannockburn till the Rerformation in 1560AD they
acted as parish clergy in a number of Scottish parishes including
the collegiate church called Rosslyn Chapel
They also acted as parish clergy at Inchinnan in Renfrewshire and several are buried at the Renfrew end of the runway of Glasgow Airport where All Hallows Church of Scotland had to be demolished when the runway was built, as it was in the direct flight path. Several Templar tombstones were removed at that time to the replacement church, St Conval's Church of Scotland, Inchinnan, and are in the Church grounds.
The present Minister, Rev Marlyn Maclane would I am sure be delighted to
answer any questions that may be asked of her. Entry to the Templar
cemetery requires the permission of Glasgow Airport security and can
only be accessed with security present.
The Knights Templars were formed in 1118 AD (mildly disputed) in Jerusalem, after the crusaders had captured the Holy Land. Ostensibly their task was to protect pilgrims from the still frequent Islamic attacks, however some claim that this was a cover, right from the start. They were a highly secretive organisation and therefore have necessitated and indeed positively invited, much and frequently wild, speculation. Amongst the more famous speculations are those regarding devil worship, worshiping heads and other non-christian practices(Baphomet), the occult, a world control judaic conspiracy, retention of the treasures of Jerusalem, retention of the Holy Grail, knowledge of astonishing secrets (e.g.s Jesus survived the cross and had descendants in Europe. Secret of total power. etc.). All weird and wonderful stuff. Fortunately, the elements of the Templar's story relevant to the voracity of the 'Prince Henry claim' are amongst the least contentious. The following is I believe accepted by certainly the great majority of historians.
The Templars had a rule that they could acquire wealth as a body,
through their Templar activities, but not individually. Over the
years, for services rendered, and possibly with the Jerusalem
treasure as a starting fund, the group became very rich. Rather than
just have the money sit there, since they couldn't split it up amongst
themselves, they loaned it out, at interest of course, to various
people (usually kings) all over Europe. This meant that the fund grew
at an accelerated rate, and the favours granted by grateful monarchs
meant that they became ever more powerful and even richer as a body.
Effectively, they became the World's first international banking
Their services too, developed from the purely marshal and financial,
to things like arbitration in all kinds of disputes.
The Order spread and grew in number, all over Europe.
Eventually, they became extremely arrogant and considered themselves
even superior to monarchy or at least, outside it's control and
anwerable only to the Pope.
Phillipe IV of France (La Belle) became jealous of their power and
riches and conspired by papal manipulation to have the order declared
heretical aided and abetted by the Templars own predeliction for
In 1307 the arrests and burnings began across Europe.
Here is where Scotland takes centre stage in the story. Because
Robert the Bruce was currently excommunicated, Scotland became one of
the very few havens in Europe for Templar Knights. The Templars were
never proscribed in Scotland, even after the excommunication was
lifted. It is believed that refugee Templars even fought at
Bannockburn (as of course did Scotland's resident Templars like the
Sinclairs), but the number and extent is once more clouded by the
secrecy that so characterises Templar history.
Some Templars in Scotland are believed to have joined with the Hospitallers there and formed a proto-freemason association [11.22].
So in the 1390's it is highly likely, indeed consensually so, that
there would still be a significant number of 'foreign' Templars
in Scotland (or at least 1st and 2nd descendants thereof).
Furthermore, although some of them may have acquired a degree of
wealth and status by dint of marshal rewards, it is probable that,
due to their own code, their treasure(which eluded Phillipe's men)
could still not be used to deliver them from penury on an individual
So what does this have to do with the Prince Henry story?
If you recall, I said that the more astute may have noticed a couple
of genuine problems with the Prince Henry claim. These are best
illustrated by the following questions.
Why would Henry undergo the expense and hazard of such a venture?
Why, if he had found America, did he not make his fame and fortune by
bringing back maize, potatoes, tobacco etc. and seek funding for mass
Why, did he go to all that trouble and not even return there himself?
Remember, the Sinclairs were Templars. Amongst the other things
discussed above, they had a vow to help other Templars.
They also provided two of the Grand Masters of the Templars during
their near 200 years of 'legality'. (there is only one at any one
In Scotland, there were probably still many Templar refugees, although
they may have had access to certain funds on a communal basis, many
of them were likely to be less well off personally than they would
like, neither could they return to their homeland.
I think it should be fairly immediately obvious from the above that Templar involvement, in the motivation, the funding and the secrecy of the entire operation, would answer all of the above questions.
Henry may well have had a strong desire to help his fellow Templars.
They could easily have called upon their communal funding.(12 ships
don't come cheap) and he didn't return to the New World because the
Sinclairs were quite happily situated in Scotland, he in fact had done
it on behalf of others.
In fact the Henry expedition may well have been establishing the
escape route for what was to be the first of many flights from
religious persecution in Europe, to the New World, albeit of a
particularily secretive nature.
It is not difficult to imagine that Henry was also aware, via his Scandinavian ancestory and the folklore of his principality, of the legend of previous visitations to Vinland (Greenland).
Once again, I hasten to add that, the above theory is not of my construction, and the Rosslyn guidebook refers to this fact.
For those acquainted with Templar history, the lack of hype, or
secrecy surrounding the Prince Henry expedition, is no more than would
The story of Robert I offering sanctuary to Templars and their role
at the battle of Bannockburn is not supported in any way by evidence.
Augustin Hay, a writer of romances, invented the tale. By the mid-1200s
the Temple order had ceased to have any real military function and had
become an international property conglomerate. There is no evidence
whatsoever for the arrival of a Templar fleet in Scotland at any time.
Also, due to his need for foreign recognition, Robert I would not
have done anything to provoke either the king of France or the Pope;
he was hardly likely to give succor to an organization that they
had gone to such lengths to suppress. These tales have gained a
currency in recent years through being re-hashed by unscrupulous
people publishing conspiracy novels and pretending that they are
history. Absolutely no one with any grounding in medieval history
has, or would, accept such offerings as being valid research
for the good reason that they are NOT valid research. One of
the reasons that Baigent, Leigh, Knight, Lomas, Lincoln and
Sinclair have been able to get away with their claims - and
make lots of money - is that Scottish people are badly served
when it comes to history in our schools. Nobody would get
away with such rubbish if it were set in medieval England
because English people have a much better grasp of their
history. Grail/Templar/Roslin mythologizing does nothing to
help, but it does undermine scholarship. There are many fine
pieces of work that further our understanding of medieval
Readers should be pointed in the direction of Professors Nichols, Duncan and Barrow and Drs Reid, Boardman, Watson, Penman and Ewan.
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