The Templar’s had defended Christendom against Islam in the Holy Land, protected pilgrims on route to Jerusalem and other holy sites.
In October of 1307, Templar’s in France were arrested on mass, and charged with acts of heresy.
French Templar’s, admitted charges of heresy under torture. Pope Clement V, is said to have tried to block said trials, but was outmanoeuvred by King Philip IV of France, who stated if they admitted their guilt, they were guilty. Any Templar who recounted his confession, claiming they gave a false statement under torture, found it mattered not, as they were still burned at the stake as relapsed heretics.
For British Templar’s they had King Edward II on their side, he being reluctant to arrest these individuals, questioning the legality of being told by France, what to do.
Edward found himself in a difficult position, his father Edward I had left him a kingdom in debt, he could not oppose his French counterpart.
Edward needed all the support he could muster, and as such had to comply by Pope Clement’s decree, if he wanted papal support.
Edward instructed his sheriffs in England, and officials in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, to arrest Templar’s on site, but made it known, that they were to be treated well, and comfortably housed, not imprisoned as urged by Pope Clement V.
Templar land became Edward’s lands. He granted Templar’s a daily allowance of four pence, and two shillings for William de la More, chief official in Britain. Allowances came from Templar revenue, and any surplus found its way to the royal treasury. Edward used his windfall, paying off his father’s debts, rewarding his followers, with gifts to his supporters.
In September of 1309, two inquisitors appointed by the Pope; Abbot Dieudonne and Sicard of Vaur arrived in England, to carry out interrogations on the Templar’s.
On the 23rd October 1309, interrogations started in London. What had been clear cut cases in France, proved anything but in England? The Templar’s in London denied all charges of heresy. The inquisitors wanted to use torture as they had done in France, but English common law did not allow the use of torture.
Procedures against possible heretics, allowed for church officials, to seek out those who were employed by the Templar’s. Some seventeen non-Templar witnesses in November 1309 through to January 1310, came forward, and spoke in their support.
Robert the Dorturer, notary public figure of London, showed hostility towards the Templar’s accusing a former grand commander of sodomy… he was unable to produce any proof of his so called charges.
On the 23rd October 1309, the trial of the Templar’s commenced in London.
The initial interrogations by inquisitors taking place in London revealed some Templar’s had limited understanding. They were unable to understand the differences; sins against God and infringement of rules as laid down by the order. Only a priest could absolve a Templar of Sin. Only a Grand Master could absolve one of infringing regulations.
On the 17th November 1309, Templar interrogations commenced in Scotland, but were cut short by the Anglo-Scottish war. Those Templar’s who resided in Scotland, were of English origin, and confessed to nothing of a heretical nature.
Lord Henry Sinclair and Lord Hugh of Rydale, whose lands bordered the Templar estates of Midlothian, stated they believed the Scottish Templar’s were good Christians. However, they could not speak for European Templar’s.
Irish Friar’s believed their Templar’s could be guilty of acts of heresy, but they had no proof to the fact. It was based on here say.
When inquisitors reached Lincoln in March of 1310, they found similar confusion as in London, limited understanding of the order’s beliefs. Similar confusion existed in York as well.
Templar Yorkshire priest; Ralph of Ruston declared to all those present, an Abbot can absolve persons of their convent, because he is a priest.
By June of 1310, papal inquisitors were becoming frustrated; for they had found no evidence of heresy among British Templar’s. They believed torture was the only way, to get answers.
The papal inquisitors contacted Robert Winchelsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, asking for assistance. They complained King’s ministers were bribing the King, not to assist inquisitors. Even to the point of buying off officials, who would be called upon to carry out acts of torture.
In the August of 1310, King Edward II agreed that all Templar’s held in Lincoln Castle, would be moved to London, arriving in the March of 1311, for imprisonment and torture.
In the July of 1311, Church Councils of London and York absolved Templar’s who agreed to swear off all heresy… any who refused, would remain in prison.
In the October of 1311, the Pope summoned a Church Council at Vienne in the south of France, to discuss British Templar’s. Papal inquisitors only evidence was based on gear say evidence, second or third hand stories.
Only three British Templar’s were ever tortured; Stephen of Stapelbrugge, who had fled to Ireland during the troubles and returned home in June 1311, Thomas Totty who had infuriated Abbot Dieudonne and John of Stoke a priest. They confessed to some charges, and it was enough to bring the work of the inquisitors to an end. The Templar’s claim of innocence and evidence in their favour was ignored. So it was in July of 1311 the Church Council in London, agreed to dissolve the Order of the Temple.
Not a single Templar in Britain was condemned on charges of heresy; no one was burnt at the stake.