A narrative history of the Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple (to give them their full name). In less than a century the Templars went from nothing, to the most powerful military and commercial order in Europe, and then back to nothing, being destroyed for their money.
That they could disappear so completely is, as Jones points out, one of the reasons why they've given rise to so much fanciful speculation in the eight centuries since: how could an order of warrior knights allow themselves to be rounded up and (in some cases) burned? Wouldn't they have fought, or at least gone underground? Jones makes a convincing case for the fact that the Western half of the Order were mainly farmers and administrators rather than knights per se, and may never have expected to be so thoroughly and ruthlessly persecuted as they in fact were. He supports his case by the fact that the Knights Hospitaller, a contemporary and equally powerful Order, were left unmolested largely because they had a secure military base on Rhodes from which they could have resisted attempts to suppress them (and indeed have survived as a sovereign nation recognised by international law ever since).
The truth is a lot more compelling than any pseudo-history, and illuminates the shifting alliances and power politics of thirteenth century Europe very clearly. It also shows how fragile the whole crusader expedition to the Holy Land (Outremer) was in reality, being constantly in need or reinforcement from a distance and at a constant disadvantage to the Muslim armies fighting closer to home, albeit often with the same degree of internal politics and variable levels of support.
Finished on Sun, 25 Mar 2018 08:15:32 -0700. Rating 4/5.