The run-up to the Templars' arrest, October 13, 1307

"On October 13, 1307, in the early morning, throughout the kingdom of France, the Templars were arrested and transferred to royal prisons. (...) During most of the reign of Philip the Fair, practically until the year 1305, relations between the Order of the Temple and the royalty, without being warm, were not conflictual. What had happened? 

Financial affairs, often suggested as the major trigger for the arrests, can only be a marginal occasion for conflict between the Templars and the King of France. The reality of the intense conflict regarding a loan that the treasurer of the Temple of Paris would have made to the king without referring, as the rule of the order obliged him to do, to the master, is doubtful. This event is ignored by all the French chronicles of the moment, including those which reflect the royal point of view. This incident is all the more improbable as the sum that would have been lent far exceeds the financial capacities of the Temple. The riches of the Templars are real, but they are not in hard cash. Even if the Templars always had money, it was to buy landed holdings.

By landing in Marseille at the end of 1306, coming from the Templar headquarter at Cyprus, Jacques de Molay undoubtedly became aware of the unfortunate rumors being spread about the Order of the Temple. Esquieu de Floyran or Floyrac, if not necessarily the originator of these rumors, was the main propagator. He is perhaps a cleric, prior of Montfaucon, a Benedictine establishment in Périgord. In 1305 he met the king of Aragon James II, to denounce the Templars. The king did not believe him and made fun of him. (...) Esquieu then turned to the King of Frank who was much more receptive and listened to him. (...) In 1308 he qualifies as valet of the king.

When Philip the Fair attended, in November 1305 in Lyon, the coronation of Pope Clement V (the Archbishop of Bordeaux Bertrand de Got), he was informed of these charges and spoke about them to the Pope. It does not matter whether the king then believes these accusations. He entrusted the matter to one of his close advisors, Guillaume de Nogaret. The man who, on behalf of the French king, had been to Anagni, Italy, in 1303 to subpoena Pope Boniface VIII to appear before a universal council to respond to crimes of heresy. Boniface, held prisoner for a time (this is what historians call the Anagni attack), died a month later. Guillaume de Nogaret norishes the story, looks for proofs, testimonies. He brings "moles" into the order, most often renegade Templars having left the order or having been expelled for their faults.

In May 1307, Jacques de Molay arrived in Poitiers, shortly after the king left there. Nogaret's investigation has progressed well. The man is also present when the masters of the Temple and the Hospital discuss with the pope. They were in fact summoned to speak with the pontiff about two questions: the crusade and the union of the two Orders. (...) The failures of the Latins in the Holy Land (the Fall of Acre, 1291) are attributed to the rivalry and competition of the Temple and the Hospital. It is believed that their effectiveness would be enhanced if they were united in the same institute. (...) Jacques de Molay is not in favor and he intends to develop his arguments before the Pope. In doing so, Jacques de Molay went against the wishes of Clement V and undoubtedly the wishes of the King of France. (...)

We do not know what the result of the Poitiers discussions on this subject was. The issue of accusations against the Temple took center stage. The king, then Nogaret, urged the pope to act. De Molay, who must also have been informed of the situation by the Templars who held a function with the Pope (that of cubicular, or chamberman, for example) protested against these rumors which damaged the reputation of the order, his family. He went to Paris to hold the chapter of the province of France at the end of June 1307 and probably met the king who revealed nothing of his opinion or his intentions. The master then returned to Poitiers where he spent the summer resolving internal problems within the order. (...)

It was during this period that, increasingly worried, De Molay formally asked the Pope to open an investigation into the charges weighing on the order. It is clear that in his mind the investigation can only lead to absolving the Order of the Temple. The Pope granted his request and informed the King of France of his decision by a letter dated August 24, 1307. He tells him that no decision concerning the order must be taken before the conclusion of the investigation. And he adds that, being very ill, he must undertake restrictive medical treatment in September and that the investigation can only be carried out when he has recovered. "

Things went differently.

This blog quotes English translations by TN of occasionally slightly edited or rearranged quotes from p 91-97 of Les Templiers by Alain Demurger (2018), 127 pp, Editions Jean-Paul Gisserot. Illustration Fresco depicting Clement V, picture Sailko, source Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0.

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