The Knights Templar in England

The Knights Templar in England

The history of the Knights Templar in England began when the French nobleman Hugues de Payens, founder and Grand Master of the Order, visited the country in 1128 to raise men and money for the Crusades.

King Henry II (1154–1189) granted the Templars land across England, including some territory near Castle Baynard on the River Fleet, where they built a round church, patterned after the Knights Templar headquarters on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Templar estate at Cressing Temple in Essex was one of the very earliest and largest Templar estates in England.

The Order was also given the advowson of St Clement Danes.

In 1184, the Templars' headquarters was transferred to the New Temple (Temple Church) in London where once again they built a round church, this one patterned after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was consecrated in 1185, and became the location for initiation rituals.

An inventory by Geoffrey Fitz Stephen reveals that by 1185, the Order of the Knights Templar had extensive holdings in London, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Salop, Oxfordshire, Cornwall, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. The involvement of Templars in financial matters is highlighted by Walter of Coventry's story of Gilbert de Ogrestan, the Knight Templar accused of embezzling taxes collected in the Saladin tithe of 1188. He was severely punished by his contemporary Master.

He was severely punished by his contemporary Master.

In 1200, Pope Innocent III issued a papal bull declaring the immunity of persons and goods within the houses of the Knights Templar from local laws. This ensured that the New Temple became a royal treasury as well as the repository for the order's accumulated revenues. These financial resources provided the basis for the development of the Templar's local banking facilities.

King Richard I (1189–1199) confirmed the Templars' land holdings and granted them immunity from all pleas, suits danegeld and from murdrum and latrocinium.

King John (1199–1216) had substantial financial dealings with the Knights Templar. At the time of Runnymede, not only was Aymeric de St Maur present, but King John was also resident at the Temple when the Barons first presented their demands. He awarded them the island of Lundy as well as land at Huntspill, Cameley, Harewood, Radnage and Northampton.

King Henry III (1207–1272) also had substantial dealing with Templars, the king's Wardrobe being located there in 1225. He entrusted Templar knights with military, financial and diplomatic commissions, and even considered being buried in the Temple. He did in fact establish a chantry there in 1231.

The first Templar House in England was in London. Early patrons included Robert de Ferrers, 2nd Earl of Derby, Bernard de Balliol, King Stephen of England and Queen Matilda.

King Edward I (1239–1307) had accorded the Knights Templar a slighter role in public affairs, financial issues often being handled by Italian merchants and diplomacy by mendicant orders. Indeed, Edward I raided the treasury in 1283.

When Philip IV, King of France suppressed the order in 1307, King Edward II of England at first refused to believe the accusations. But after the intercession of Pope Clement V, King Edward ordered the seizure of members of the order in England on 8 January 1308. Only handfuls of Templars were duly arrested, however. Their trial ran from 22 October 1309 until 18 March 1310 in front of Deodatus, Abbot of Lagny and Sicard de Vaur. Most of the Templars acknowledged their belief that the Order's Master could give absolution was heretical, and were then reconciled with the church. However, Willian de la More refused to do so and remained a prisoner in the Tower of London until his death.

In 1312, under further pressure from King Philip IV of France, Pope Clement V officially disbanded the Order at the Council of Vienne. In 1314, the remaining Templar leaders in France were executed, some by being burned at the stake.