Hugues de Payens was born in 1070, to Theobald of Blois, who had conspired against King Henry I of France, and was defeated in 1044. Once a noble family, who lost its importance in France, because they chose the wrong side, and were forced to relinquish much of their lands and power, surrendering their titles and accepting a lower noble rank in Champagne.
In 1085, Hugues de Payens was dubbed a French Knight, and in 1096 joined the forces of Godfrey de Bouillon in the First Crusade to the Holy Land, as his vassal. In 1099, Jerusalem had been captured, and Godfrey de Bouillon was made its first King. In 1100, Baldwin of Boulogne became the new King of Jerusalem upon the death of Godfrey de Bouillon.
In 1101, Hugues returned home to France, and in 1104 accompanied the Count of Champagne on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, returning home in 1105. In 1114 travelled once again to the Holy Land, accompanied by the Count of Champagne.
Hugues de Payens was granted an audience with King Balwin of Jerusalem in 1118, where it was agreed, protection for pilgrims on route to Jerusalem was much needed. They named themselves the “Order of the Temple” commonly known as “Knights Templar” after Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Jerusalem, which had been gifted to them by King Baldwin.
The Order of the Knights Templar, consisted of: Hugues de Payens (Grand Master), Geoffrey de St,Omer, Geoffrey Bisol, Payen de Montdidier, Archambaud de St.Agnat, Andre de Montbard, Hugh Conte de Champagne, Gondamer and Rossal.
Hugues de Payens and his knights offered protection by patrolling the lands of the Middle East, between Haifa and Jerusalem, watching and waiting for those who would prey upon defenceless pilgrims from Europe.
One man had created a Holy Order offering protection, but the task set before them was massive for a handful of knights.
In 1128, the Knights Templar, were officially recognised by the papacy, and this led to sizeable donations and the resources to expand the order.
Hugues de Payens visited England, Scotland and France, to raise men and money for the order. Whilst in Scotland took his second wife; Catherine St.Clair, daughter of Henry St.Clair.
He laid down the foundations of a great monastic and military institution, which was destined to spread to the remotest quarters of Christendom. He returned to Palestine, leading a valiant band of Templars, gathered from England and France.
On the 24th May 1136, Hugues de Payens, the First Grand Master of the Knights Templar died in Israel.