French Templar Escapees…

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The French Monarchy was in debt to the Order of the Knights Templar, and King Philip IV saw French assets dwindling away.

Philip had to come up with a plan of action, one which would destroy the Order of the Knights Templar, and see their wealth confiscated by the French Monarchy.

Any plan of action; had to be undertaken by legal means, and that is where his puppet; Pope Clement V, came in.  Philip convinced Pope Clement that these Knights Templar were committing acts of heresy.

With the Knights Templar disbanded, and many put to death, burnt at the stake on trumped up charges of heresy.  King Philip IV believed the Order of the Knights Templar was destined to come to an end, however that was not to be…  For some leading members of the Order of the French Templar Knights were to escape…

One Humbert Blanc (Humbertus Blancus) an old knight of forty years.  He had seen active duty in the Holy Land, returned to his homeland of France, where he received the appointment of Lieutenant to the master of Auvergne, and in 1299 appointed to the post of Master of Auvergne.  By the time the trials of the Knights Templar had started in France, Humbert Blanc was in England.  In 1308 he was arrested according to Canterbury records, and in 1309 was brought forward to testify at the trials against Templar’s in London.  Depositions made by French Templars in Clermont, reached English shores, and Humbert Blanc was accused of Blasphemy, a charge he denied, but the Judges didn’t believe his claim to innocence.  His sentence saw him sent to prison and clapped in irons.

Knights Templar; Pierre de Boucle (Pierre de Bouch) brother of Petrus de Bocli, who had escaped justice.  This young twenty-five-year-old knight, attempted to evade capture by French forces, by changing his clothes, removing his beard, yet his pursuers caught and arrested this Lieutenant of the Order.

One Renaud de la Folie, a Knight Templar was brought to trial in 1309.  We know little of him, other than he be a member of the Templar Order, who had initially escaped large round ups, and was captured shortly thereafter.

Guillaume de Lins (Gillierm de Lurs), and it is believed he fled the order in 1307, before the roundup of members of the Templar Order in 1308.  It is believed he opposed the action of spitting on the cross.  Once he held the position of Lieutenant of the Visitor Hugues de Pairaud, and if captured could be a valuable witness, if turned by the French against the Knights Templar.

Hugues Daray (Dares) an official within the Temple, who in 1306 was responsible for the acceptance of new recruits into the Order at La Fuilhouse (Fulhosa), Auvergne.

His name was not mentioned in the trials of the French Templars, and as such we have to assume his flight from capture had been a success.

Templar Knight Barral de Gauzignan, Preceptor of Le Puy in Provence.  As Daray and Lurs, played their part in the recruitment of new members, and unlike them he held an important position within the order.  In 1296 he held the post of Preceptor in Saint-Giles, and from 1298 was Lieutenant to the Master of Provence.  The presence of the Provence Templars aroused much interest, for this region was under the reign and jurisdiction of Charles II of Anjou and Count of Provence… and arrests followed Gauzignan flight to safety.  Like others who tried to escape he was caught and arrested and brought to trial, where he admitted that questionable rituals took place within the Temple, and denied taking part in said rituals.

Templar Knight one Hugues de Chalon (Hugo de Cabilone), Preceptor of commandery at Thors, Champagne.  His trial records revealed that he took it upon himself to reduce the alms for the poor.  He was a knight with power, for his uncle was Hugues de Pairaud and as such this contributed to his political career.  In 1302 the Pope summoned leading clerics and religious leaders, and Hugues de Chalon went in place of Hugues de Pairaud.

Hugues de Chalon brother of Gerard de Montclair, together with other accomplices had planned to kill the King of France, an anointed sovereign.

Questions have been asked through history, who is Gerard de Montclair, for his name amongst the Templars does not exist, but one Richard de Montclair, who was in Cyprus around 1304 does.  So could it be, that Richard and Gerard de Montclair be one and the same person.

One of the key figures, a known villain amongst the Knights Templar, is Gerard de Villiers, who in 1297 became Lieutenant to the Master of France, a post held by Hugues de Pairaud.  In 1300 Villiers was appointed Master of France.  He held the second rank in the hierarchy of French Templars, and was often called upon to take the leading role of the ‘Order’ in France.

According to trial records of the Knights Templar, Gerard de Villiers was described as a devil within the Order.  Accusations made under threat of death, demanded that newcomers would deny God and spit upon the cross, as also testified under interrogation by Templat; Nicolas d’Amiens.  Another accusation concerned a mysterious head, which was kept in a leather sack by Hugues de Besancon, Villier’s personal assistant.  Raul de Gizy Preceptor in Lagny-le-Sec, made his deposition in November 1307 concerning this head.  Villiers was accused that in 1302, he fled the island of Rouad with other Templars, which had come under attack by the Mameluks.

One of the most crushing accusations against Gerard de Villier’s was made by Jean de Chalon, Precepto of Namur.  He confirmed total corruption within the Order and blasphemous rites, many of which took place at the Chambers of the French Templars in Paris.  Those who resisted these godless acts would find themselves in the Templar prison in Merlen.  Jean de Chalon, prison guard at Merlon prison witnessed the deaths of nine Templar prisoners.

He further stated that leaders of the Order, feared trouble was at hand, and Gerard de Villiers put to sea with eighteen ships and fifty horses.  One Hugues de Chalon also fled taking with him Hugues de Pairaud’s treasure, which more than likely was the Knights Templar treasure stored at the Templar Temple in Paris.

The Villiers family, noblest within the “Knights Templar.”  Jean de Villiers was Grand Master of the Hospital, who heroically stood by his brothers in defence of Acre in 1291.  Pierce de Villiers another member of the family, held the post of Templar Commander in Aquitaine from 1292-1300.

According to trial records, Templar priest one Guillaume de Villiers, refused to defend the ‘Order of the Knights Templar’ before the papal commission, referring to his old age.  Whilst Bernard de Villiers, Preceptor in Sent-Paul-la-Roche testified against the Knights Templar in 1309 and 1311.

One question one has to ask based on Jean de Chalon’s depositions; How many high-ranking officials of the French Order of the Knights Templar escaped interrogation, prosecution and death?

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Knights Templar: Richard the Lionheart

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King Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart

St.Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux had preached in France and Germany, calling for a third crusade upon the request of his Pope.

Wiliam the Archbishop of Tyre, spoke to the English and French, describing to those who would listen, the miserable conditions that existed in Palestine.  He would go on to paint in vivid colours, the horrors which were being committed in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

The result being, English and French Monarchs, would lay aside their animosities and fight under the same flag.

King Richard avenged himself on Isaac Comnenus, ruler of Cyprus for insulting his bride to be: Berengaria Princess of Navarre. English troops stormed the town of Limassol, and in 1190 upon their arrival at Acre, sold it to the Templars.

Richard I married Berengaria, daughter of Sancho VI of Navarre on the 12thMay 1191 at Limassol in Cyprus.

In the second year of the third crusade and the siege of Acre.  Philip August and Richard Coeur de Lion led their royal fleets into the Bay of Acre.

With the arrival of King Richard I of England, the Templars let it be known, they had lost their Grand Master and Brother; Robert de Sable, he who had led part of the English fleet.

Proud and valiant knights were eager to pick up their sword, in the name of their God, and fight under the Knights Templar flag. Secular knights took their position, fighting side by side with military friars, and wore the red cross, emblazoned on their breasts.

The Templars performed acts of valour as their reputation and fame spread, undertaking acts of bravery for their God.  Saints would recount their battles as triumphs over Christ’s enemies.  Knights, Dukes and Princes are known to have cast off their worldly shackles, renounce vanities of life and lust, and join the crusade and follow Christ.

On the 12thJuly 1191 some six weeks after the British fleet arrived, the English and French Kings, Christian chieftains and Turks assembled at the Knights Templar Grand Masters tent for the signing of the treaty, marking the surrender of Acre.

King Richard I, the fiery monarch of England tore down the Duke of Austria’s banner and thrust it into the muddy ditch.  It was left up to the Templar’s to interpose between Germans and Britons, to preserve peace within the Christian army.

King Richard I captured Palestine and defeated Saladin at Arsuuf.

Richard Coeur de Lion and his troops marched from Acre to Ascalon.  Templars led the Christian army with the Hospitalliers bringing up the rear. Saladin forces opposed their progress, on the great plains around Jaffa and Ramleh.  It is said, as far as the eye could see, nothing could be seen but a forest of spears, in the hands of wild Bedouins.  They made rapid movement and assaults upon Christian warriors, but victory was to be the crusaders and Templar Knights led into battle by King Richard I of England.

The Templar’s whilst foraging local areas became surrounded by a force of four-thousand Moslem’s on horse-back. The Earl of Leicester went to their assistance on the orders of Coeur de Lion, but were quickly overpowered and in danger of being cut down, when King Richard I hurried to the scene.

It was nothing short of valour, when the lion-hearted King retook the city of Gaza, the ancient fortress of the order, repaired its fortifications, as the Knights Templar were garrisoned here.

Saladin’s forces retreated to Jerusalem as Crusaders and Templars bore down upon it.

When the Christian forces entered winter quarters, the Templars set themselves at “Gaza” and King Richard at Ascalon.  An arrangement was made between Templars, King Richard and Guy de Lusignan; “here stood a King without a Kingdom.

When winter rains all but subsided, Christian forces consisting of Templars and Hospitalliers advised Coeur de Lion, not to march on Jerusalem.  The English monarchs declared they be guided upon advice from Templars and Hospitalliers, they who knew the country well.

The mighty force headed for the Holy City of Jerusalem, and when they be one day’s journey from their target.  A council would be created consisting of five knights, Hospitalliers, Eastern Christians and Western Crusaders.  It was here, it was decided to abandon their expedition.

Templars attacked the great Egyptian convoy and captured 4070 camels, 500 horses, gold, silver and provisions and then retreated to Acre.

Saladin was hot on their tail as they retraced their steps to the safety of Acre, and opted to lay siege against Jaffa.  The Templars marched by land, with Coeur de Lion travelling by sea.  The town was relieved as the campaign was concluded by the 1192 treaty; Christians were granted access to Jerusalem as pilgrims.

With the treaty concluded, King Richard I left for England on the 25thOctober accompanied by four trusted Templar Knights and attendants.

On route back to England, bad weather forced them to take shelter in Austria.  King Leopold V of Austria, with whom he had fiercely argued with in the Holy Land, took the English King prisoner.  He saw his chance for revenge and handed him over to the Holy Roman Emperor; Henry VI of Germany.

Questions were asked, where is King Richard I, and it wasn’t long before England received the news, he was being held at Trifels Castle in Germany.  The ransom for his release was 100,000 marks, equal to three tons of silver.

On the 20thMarch 1194, King Richard I of England landed at Sandwich, and on the 23rdMarch rode through the streets of London, on route to St.Paul’s Cathedral, lined by many of his subjects who had given generously to free their King.

On the 26thMarch 1199, King Richard I died in battle at Chalus in France, from a crossbow arrow, and was buried at Fontevrault Abbey in France.

Baltic Crusades: Converting Pagan Forces

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Prince Nyklot the Abodrite prince, had lost southern lands along the western frontier, attacked Wagria, the lands of Adolph II in the June of 1147.  The region fell to Wendish forces, and German villages came under attack.

Late summer of 1147, two Danish fleets, two Saxon armies, attacked the Wends.  Danes attacked northern shores.  Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony attacked Nyklot’s outpost at Dobin.

Nyklot had chosen wisely to make his stand at Dobin, the only ground surrounded by marshland and lake.  Nyklot sailed from Dobin, mauled the Danes, cutting off Danish and Saxon forces as the Wendish fleet attacked the Danish shipping in their northern harbours.

Two Danish Kings; Canute V and Sweyn III fed up with combined defeats, blamed each other for their losses, returned to Denmark and their Civil-War.  Whilst, Henry the Lion and Archbishop Adelbero laid siege to Dobin.  Battle weary and starving Wends, had no option but be baptized in the Christian faith.

Southern armies of Conrad, Albert the Bear and other forces began falling apart.  They should have attacked the Wends, but marched upon the Christian city of Stettin, and laid siege to the town… They left empty handed as religious leaders won in a parley.  For the city met within the Pope’s requirements.

The first year of the Baltic Crusade was more show than conquest.  Pagan shrines and idols were left intact.  Wends returned home, once Saxon banners were out of sight.  Saxon, Danes and Poles united through the church, but didn’t take long to fall apart.  The Saxons believed the Danes were weak, and an alliance would not work.  Strong and weak forces, would not mix well.

Baltic Crusades: Warfare

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The best-known aspect of the Baltic Crusades, is the century long war against the Lithuanians, ending in 1410 with the defeat of the Teutonic Order at Tannenberg.

Heathens and Greek Orthodox Christians of Russia, referred to as “schismatics” by the Roman Catholic Church, became targets for the crusades.  The inner part of the Gulf of Finland, this is where Swedes battled with the Novgorodian state for control of trade routes.  The Livonian sector of the Teutonic Order attempted to expand its territory at the expense of Novgorod, but were defeated in 1242.

With the exceptions of the Lithuanians, heathen tribes in the Baltic had as yet begun any process of building a nation, which is why early and successful expansion of Christians was possible. Crusaders profited from rivalry and hostility between tribes, using the technique of divide and rule to secure victory. Alliances took place with some tribes, whilst others were easily defeated.  Soon after allies were prepared to accept Christian protection and domination, and conversion to a new faith.  It was within the sphere of influence, that military religious orders spread Christianity by force, the so-called mission of the sword.

Any peaceful co-existence with heathen tribes in Baltic regions, prior to the Crusaders arrival, was the exception rather than the rule.  Christians in the Baltic regions were hardly united, for tensions and conflicts with each other reigned.  In 1233 there was a fierce battle between the “Order of the Sword Brethren” and papal troops who were victorious in Reval.

According to the Charter of Kulm in 1233, nobles who held more than 672 hectares of land from the Teutonic Order would be called upon to serve; a shielded stallion and rider with two horsemen as escorts.  A form of service known as “Ross-dienst.”

The Teutonic Order strove to unite its territories by conquest of the Western territories, but this goal was never reached. The Polish-Lithuanian Union of 1385 and Christianisation of Lithuanian in 1387 changed the political map of Europe. The Teutonic Order’s defeat at Tannenberg in 1410 ended forays against heathens.  The Teutonic knights found the situation had changed; no longer carrying out raids, they had to defend themselves within and beyond their borders… Crusaders and knightly warfare of the Baltics, now belonged in the past.

Baltic Crusades: Finland’s Medieval Times

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The latter part of the medieval period was marked by enlarged settlements along the coast and inland.  The Finn’s conquered the wilderness to the north, moved inland and cleared the forest, establishing agricultural communities.  This settling within the wilderness caused much conflict between Finnish farmers and Lapp reindeer herdsmen, forcing the Lapp’s to move northwards.  Towards the end of the 15thcentury a settlement of 200 x 100 kilometre area had been created along the Gulf of Bothnia.  By the end of the Middle Ages, Finland’s population had grown to 400,000 people.

Finland’s medieval economy was centred around agriculture, for a land with good soil.  Farming was substituted by times of hunting.  The majority of Finn’s lived this way.

The European institution of serfdom (A labourer who could not leave the land on which he worked), did not exist in Finland, for most farmers were freemen, with little political power.  Finland was represented by the Four Estates: Clergy – Nobility – Burghers – Farmers, with advisory powers to the King.  The Finn’s had minimal responsibilities regarding local justice and administration.

Catholicism was part of the medieval Finnish society. The church doubles as the heart of local administration, and played the role of education and development of Finnish language.  The Bishop of Turku was head of the Finnish church.

Turku, the south-western seaport, was the bishopric’s seat and administrative capital of Finland, a city dominated by German merchants.  Viipuri another city of importance, an active trade centre and military bastion, with eastern defences against the Russians.

Baltic Crusades: Finland – Swedish Empire

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King Gustav I Vasa’s reign concentrated on royal power in the dynasty and furthering the aims of the Reformation.  He re-modelled Sweden into a great power, avoid involvement in foreign wars.  His successors sought expansion of Sweden’s power in the Baltics.  This policy produced some success, and led to the creation of a Swedish empire on the eastern and southern shores of the Baltic Sea.

In the mid 16thcentury, Sweden’s foreign policy brought it into conflict with; Denmark, Poland and Russia. These three powers fought many wars with Sweden, which had been at war some eighty years out of the last 300 years it ruled Finland.  Sweden and Russia were at war between 1570 to 1595 a war known as “The Long Wrath.” Sweden fought in the “Thirty Years War (1618-1648) in which Swedes under King Gustavus II Adopphus stopped the advance of the Habsburg Empire, coming ashore in the Baltics and securing Swedish possessions.  Finish troops were conscripted into the Swedish army, and Finns distinguished themselves on the battlefield.

1700 was the start of the “Great Northern War,” when Denmark, Poland and Russia formed an alliance, taking advantage of Sweden’s temporary weakness.  King Charles XII of Sweden surprised the armies bearing down on them, by knocking Denmark and Poland out of the war by 1706.  The Swedish King marched on Russia, where his forces met disaster on the battlefield of Poltava in 1709.  With Sweden in disarray, Denmark and Poland joined the war against Sweden. In 1718 King Charles XII was killed in action, whilst battling in Norway.

On the 30thAugust 1721, the Great Northern War came to an end with the signing of a peace treaty “Peace of Uusikaupunki” and Sweden gave up its territories on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea.  Sweden was forced to pay an indemnity to Russia, and Russian forces fled Finland, whilst retaining some territories along Finland’s south-eastern border.  As a result of years of war, Sweden’s power was reduced and Russia replaced Sweden as the main power in the Baltics.

Famine struck down one-third of Finland’s population in 1696.  The wars greatest impact being the Russian occupation (1714-1722), a time known as the Great Wrath.  Hardships of being conquered and Charles XII’s insistence that Finn’s carry on a partisan warfare against the Russians did not help.  Large areas of countryside had been destroyed by Russian forces, to deny Finland’s resources being passed to Sweden.  Some 60,000 Finns served in the Swedish army, and only 10,000 survived the Great Northern War.  At the start of the war Finland’s population numbered 400,000 and by the end of the war only 330,000 survived.

Charles II’s policies led to absolute monarchy in Sweden and half-century of parliamentary supremacy, known as the Age of Freedom.

One major strife of this era involved two political parties.  The “Hats” represented the “Upper Class” and the “Caps” represented the “Lower Class.” In 1741 the Hats led Sweden into war against Russia.  Russian forces responded by invading Finland and taking up occupation.  In accordance with the 1743 Peace Treaty, Russia vacated Finland, taking a slice of Finnish territory from the south-eastern frontier.

In 1788, Sweden declared war against Russia, an attempt ta take territory from Finland’s eastern frontier.  A mutiny took place led by Goran Sprenglporten a former Swedish Colonel, hoping to stop Russia taking revenge on Finland by taking land.  In 1790 the “Treaty of Varala” was signed, and with it the war ended.  Finland lost no land to Russia.

Sweden’s frequent wars were expensive, and led to the taxation of its people.  A system of government controls on the economy, was imposed on Sweden and Finland’s people.  The Finnish economy was exploited and favoured the Swedes.  Sweden’s wars enabled Swedish aristocrats and military officers to seize large estates in Finland.  They might have been free of serfdom, but its peasants had high taxes imposed upon them, and retained limited political power… Sweden’s nobility held much political and power in Finland.

Finland’s frontier was being pushed northwards as new stretches of wilderness were settled upon.  In the 1730’s the potato was introduced, creating a stable food supply.

During the Napoleonic wars, the union that had existed for centuries between Sweden and Finland came to an end.  France and Russia became allies in 1807, and Napoleon pushed Russia into getting Sweden to join with them against Britain.  Tsar Alexander I invaded Finland in 1808 and conquered Finland in 1809.  Sweden ceded Finland to Russia in the “Treaty of Hamina,” signed on the 17thSeptember 1809.

Teutonic Castle: Kowalewo Pomorskie

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Teutonic Castle Ruins of Kowalewo Pomorskie

The Teutonic Castle of Kowalewo Pomorskie in Poland, was built around 1231 of wooden construction, and enhanced by an earth stronghold.  In 1262 and again in 1269-73, this wooden castle stood up and was successful in repelling; Lithuanians, Bartians and Yotvingian invasion forces.  In 1275 the castle and adjoining settlement, received town rights from the Teutonic Knights.  In 1278 Kowalewo became the seat of Rudolf, the Teutonic Commander.  In 1286 the Castle and Town was totally destroyed by the Tatars.  In 1288 Arnold Kropf became the next Teutonic Comander, and he is remembered for the building of a new castle, built out of stone.  Surrounded on three sides; east, west and south by a walled moat, and a lake on its north side.  On the eastern side, was the city whose fortifications were linked to the castle. It was completed for the Grand Master, one Gotfryd Hohenlohe.

In the year 1330, during the Polish Teutonic war, the castle was besieged by Polish knights under the command of king Wladyslaw Lokietek.  As much as they tried, the siege proved to be a fruitless attack.  In the years 1410 and 1422, was occupied by king Wladyshaw II Jagiello, but always fell back into the hands of the Teutonic knights.

In the year 1454 the city was invaded by armies of the Prussian States, they who went on to form a rebellion against the Teutonic Knights.

Following the “Thirteen Years War” the castle found itself within Poland’s borders, becoming the seat of the starosts, and municipal courts of the Chelmno Province.

It was damaged and plundered during the 17thcentury Swedish wars.  In the 18thcentury Russian forces laid siege upon the city, and by 1772 few houses remained standing, with city walls, castle and church barely standing, it had become a scene of much destruction.  In the mid 19thcentury, Prussian Authorities ordered it be pulled down, before it fell down.

Wikipedia Image: Teutonic Castle of Kowalewo Pomorskie