The 8th of January 1308 AD
From the reign of Henry II onwards the Knights Templar built a power-base in both England and Scotland, benefactors giving the order land in many regions – Hertfordshire and Yorkshire particularly well known for their Templar connections. The Templars existed to guide and protect pilgrims in the Holy Lands, as a result of those duties evolving a system of money transfer that made them early bankers, that role combined with their wealth making them useful to Europe’s monarchs: King John in return for their financial help gave them among other possessions the Island of Lundy .
Financial strength was largely the order’s downfall. In 1307 Philip IV of France used rumours of Templar heresy as an excuse to seize its members in his country, and their wealth – handy given he was deeply in debt to them. He leant on the Pope to pressure other monarchs to follow suit, and on January 8 1308 Edward II rather reluctantly did so. But unlike the campaign of torture and burnings in France, Edward only had a score or so of the Knights arrested in his lands, and at their trial what looks like a deal had been done – most agreed to admit one major point of heresy and were released, though at least one of their number refused and was kept in the Tower for the rest of his life. The order was dissolved and its lands given largely to the Hospitallers – though legends about hidden Templar treasure still fuel pot-boiler thrillers. Rather more substantial reminders exist in the form of churches like The Temple near Fleet Street, Temple Church in Bristol, Royston Cave in Hertfordshire, and the whole town of Baldock , which the order founded.
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