The Knights Templar

Richard Bland is a retired Army Officer who has made a study of guerilla warfare and of the British Special Forces in World War II.

Richard explained that the Knights Templar existed for around 200 years between 1118 and 1311, they were an elite force of fighting monks, carefully selected and trained. Their full title was The Knights of the Temple of Solomon, they were Catholic and they fought during the Crusades. He emphasized that It was not a secret organization at all.

He said that Hugh de Payen, a French nobleman, started the movement. The criteria for joining the Knights Templar was that you had to be a knight and therefore had some military training already, they would not take young or untrained men. The monks took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, they needed to be free from debt and from a wife, or if married, the wife would be in a convent. In Charnwood in Leicester the monks still wear the same garb as the Knights Templar. New Knights gave away to the order all their worldly goods. Their day was divided into 3 equal parts of 8 hours each of prayer, rest and training. From the records that were methodically kept, we know that around 2,000 Templars were killed in battle.

The Templar Knights were very well trained and were given the best equipment money could buy and this included 3 horses each, padded clothing and chain mail. The first military manual came from the Knights Templar.

In the Middle Ages, Christians believed in death, judgement, heaven and hell. Most could not read so the message was put across via wall paintings, Little Missenden church still has an example. They believed in grace and there were various ways of achieving this, pilgrimage was one and the Templars started up an army to protect pilgrims from the pirates and bandits on the route. They built around 800 Abbeys in Europe and a chain of castles in Syria. Richard said to bear in mind that the average life span at this time was only 33 years.

Many local names using the word “Templar” show the influence the Order had in the country. Their method of attack was to march in total silence, they were recognized as an elite fighting force and even Saladin said that each Templar was worth 10 men. Unlike other Knights, the Templar Order would not ransom its Templar if they were captured in battle.

Suddenly around 1307 all the Templars in France were taken into prison and their goods confiscated. They were accused on trumped up charges, mainly because the King of France needed money. This was the beginning of the end of the Templars and the Pope eventually disbanded the order. The document which would have explained the Pope’s verdict was lost for years.

Richard explained that there are many myths surrounding this intriguing order, but most of them are untrue. What is true is that they were a “crack” team of dedicated, focused fighters.

In October 2007, the Vatican announced the release of a document about the Templars which had not been seen for almost 700 years. Found by Professor Barbara Frale, the document is a record of the trial of the Templars and ends with a Papal Absolution from all charges! The document will be published and will restore the reputation of the Templars.

Richard kindly answered our many questions at the end of his fascinating talk which really brought the Knights Templar to life.

You may be interested to know that Richard is running a course in Marlow for the WEA in Liston Hall on “Special Forces in World War II”, commencing 23rd September 2008.

Richard Bland
Richard Bland
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