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session of the council was held on the 3rd of April, when the decree for the abolition of the order was promulgated in the presence of the French monarch.
But the consummation of these infamous transactions yet remains to be related. The fate of the Grand-Master of the order, and of some of the preceptors, had been expressly reserved for the pontiff's own judgment. Certain dignified ecclesiastics were appointed by him to perform the office of judges, and on the 18th March, 1313, the trial commenced at Paris. Four knights, amongst whom was the Grand-Master, were brought before the commissioners on a scaffold erected for the purpose. Two of the accused renewed their confession of guilt, but the Grand-Master and Guy, the brother of the Prince of Dauphiny, persisting in maintaining their innocence, received the judgment of the commissioners without being allowed to enter into their defence, and immediately afterwards were condemned, by the royal council, to the flames. In the gradual and exquisite tortures which a slow fire inflicted, the Grand-Master expiated his only guilt, a confession of criminality which had been formerly extorted from him. He and his companion perished with the constancy of those who know themselves to be martyrs to the truth. Thus, at length, was the heart of Philip, though capacious of cruelty, glutted with this last act of blood. His subtle malice, however, overleaping itself by the inhumanity of these measures, changed the tide of public feeling, which, at the commencement of the persecution, he had succeeded in turning against the Templars. The ashes of these last victims, over which many tears were shed, were collected and preserved with religious veneration.
The fate of the order in the other countries of Europe we shall have occasion to mention hereafter. We shall now proceed to inquire more minutely into the origin of the proceedings.
In attempting to investigate the causes of great political phenomena, we often undertake a hopeless task. To suppose, that every important event must have had an adequately important cause, is to presume, that men act only on the suggestions of judgment. It is to the thousand accidents of passions, of feelings, and of circumstances, unimportant in themselves, but often of the highest consequence in their results, that we are to look for the springs of human action. It is seldom, indeed, that any extraordinary event can be traced up to one powerful cause. As in the physical system the health is often subdued, while it is impossible to point out the various circumstances which have induced the complaint, so in the moral world we frequently find the most surprising changes occurring without our being able to account for them, by re
ferring them to a satisfactory origin. It ought not therefore to be a matter of astonishment to us, that the true causes which led to the suppression of the order of Knights-Templars, have remained veiled in much obscurity; and that in the absence of all probable cause for so execrable a persecution, if the accused were indeed innocent, historians should frequently, have endeavoured to discover it in the guilt of the victims. Perhaps, however, a strict and impartial investigation into the character of Philip the Fair, and the politics of his court, together with an accurate observation of the influence of his counsels on the measures of the Holy See, might enable us to solve this difficult problem.
The quarrel of the French king with the sovereign pontiff, Boniface VIII., is the first circumstance of his reign which seems in any degree to elucidate the present question. The imperious obstinacy and the unappeaseable rancour of the French monarch, gave this contest a character of personal animosity, which raised in the mind of Philip an insuperable feeling of hatred towards all those who had rendered any assistance to his great enemy.* The Templars, it seems, had been guilty of this offence. Another source of ill-will against the knights arose during the popular commotion, which took place at Paris in consequence of the repeated debasement of the coin, a circumstance which we shall shortly notice more particularly. At that time, the king was residing in the palace of the Temple, and it was by the strenuous exertions of the knights that the tumult was appeased, and the king's person preserved from insult and danger. The essential service thus rendered him only increased the acrimony of Philip's hatred. His jealousy was equally excited, whether he believed, with some historians, that the Templars were the more easily enabled to quell the tumult, from the part which they had taken in exciting it, or, with others, that they accomplished it solely by the influence which they had acquired over the public mind. But it is to the necessitous. avarice of Philip the Fair that we are to look for the chief cause of this persecution. Although possessed of considerable revenues, Philip was always poor; and to supply his wants, he resorted to means alike disgraceful to himself, and destructive
The following was the respectful mode in which one of her most Christian sons addressed the head of the Holy Catholic church. "Philip, by the grace of God, &c. to Boniface, the pretended pope, little greeting or none. Be it known to your Supreme Foolship, &c.' Sciat maxima tua fatuitas. Rayn. vii.
+ Ventura Chron. Astense. c. xxvii. t. xi. p. 192. cited by Sismondi. Rep. Ital. vol. iv. c. 26.
to his subjects. Repeated debasements of the coin were followed by the repeated complaints of his people, and by as frequent promises of restoring it to the antient standard. These promises were broken, and the king resorted to still more infamous expedients for supplying his exchequer. To seize in one day upon all the Jews within his territories, to banish them from France, and to confiscate their goods, was a fit prelude to the unparalleled atrocities which succeeded. It was easy, by the mere exertion of his own tyrannical power, to oppress or to exterminate a body of innocent men, who had few claims on the sympathy of the rest of the world, and who had been for ages the prey of every grasping sovereign in Europe; but to accomplish the destruction of a noble and gallant order, whose riches and influence were alike to be dreaded, and who reckoned amongst their numbers some of the highest and the proudest of the land, was a task which required some more subtle contrivances. The golden reward, however, was sufficient to tempt the avarice of Philip, and his unfeeling and obstinate temper was a guarantee for his success. That this, indeed, was one of the principal causes of Philip's persecution of the order, has been often affirmed by historians. There is no doubt, that he originally intended to confiscate all the riches of the Templars to his own use, to which, according to law, he would have been entitled on their condemnation as heretics; nay, amongst the French records it appears, that this very question was propounded by him. It is singular, that in the letter of Clement V. to the commissioners appointed to proceed against the English Templars, the pontiff should have thought it necessary, on the part of the French king, expressly to disclaim any imputation of his zeal originating in his avarice. This clearly proves what the opinions of men on the subject were, at that time. It is true, that by the decree of the council of Vienne, the estates of the Templars were all conferred on the order of St. John of Jerusalem; but it was nearly ten years before the French king could be prevailed upon entirely to yield them up. Moreover, he appropriated nearly all the moveables of the knights to himself, and retained likewise a large sum of money to defray the
Vide several authors cited by Mr. Mills in his History of the Crusades, ii. 329; and see Fuller's Holy War, b. v. c. 3. "It is quarrel and cause enough to bring a sheep that is fat to the shambles."
+ Raynouard, 24.
"Non typo avaritiæ, cum de bonis Templariorum nihil sibi vindicare vel appropriare intendat * manum suam exinde totaliter amovendo."-Wilkins's Concilia, ii. 329.
expenses of the prosecution. The Templars have been accused of unjustly grasping at the riches of others; but where do we find in their history an instance which can compete with this perfect example of cruelty and avarice, which the history of Philip the Fair displays?
It has been argued by a writer on this subject,* that the persecution of the Templars throughout the whole extent of Europe is a strong proof of their guilt; but a slight attention to the circumstances under which those proceedings were commenced, and with which they were accompanied in every other country except France, might have taught that critic, that so far from establishing their guilt, the termination of those proceedings furnishes a strong presumption of innocence. The origin of all the processes against the Templars may be primarily traced to the influence of Philip the Fair. It is acknowledged, that Clement the Fifth was entirely subservient to his wishes. Whatever credit may be given to the anecdote which Mezerai relates, that previous to the elevation of the Archbishop of Bourdeaux to the chair of St. Peter, the French king imposed six conditions on him as the terms of his support; one of which is supposed to have been, the pontiff's assistance in suppressing the order of Templars; yet the fact of the transfer of the Holy See to the French territories, is an ample proof of the influence which Philip must have exerted over the mind of Clement. That the inquiry into the vices and irreligion of the Templars did not originate, as in fact it ought to have done if there had been any solid ground for inculpating them, with the head of the Christian church, sufficiently appears from all the letters of Clement, who expresses the good opinion which, until that time, he had entertained of the knights, and grounds his proceedings on the information of their iniquities which he had received from Philip the Fair, at the same time declaring how very unwilling he had been to listen to the accusations. In one of his letters, he calls the charges incredible, impossible, and unheard-of. The power of Philip soon induced the pope to countenance his most tyrannical measures, and even to invite the other sovereigns of Europe to partake in the guilt. It required, however, the utmost exertion of their joint influence to induce Edward II., of England, to unite in so foul a conspiracy. Strongly convinced of the innocence of the accused, he applied in their behalf to the pope, urging, that it was impos
See the Edinburgh Review, ix. 199.
luimus inclinare. Letter of Clement V. Wilkins's Concilia, ii. 329.
Raynouard, p. 11.
sible for him to give credit to the charges brought against them, and, at the same time, he bore testimony to the integrity of their faith, and the respect and veneration which their morals and character had secured for them. He even addressed letters to several of the sovereigns of Europe, beseeching them not to give ear to the injurious aspersions which had been cast on the characters of this faithful and valiant soldiery.* But the malignity of Philip would not be thus disappointed. He despatched ambassadors to the court of England, and his son-in-law, yielding at last to his repeated instances, consented to investigate the conduct of the order. The English Templars were cast into prison, but the atrocities which marked the proceedings against the order in France were not committed here, though the pope, in the plenitude of his fatherly affection, mildly censured the English monarch for having forbidden the use of torture. After a confession of heresy and vices from numbers of the English Templars, they were absolved, and again admitted into the bosom of the church, though deprived of their rich possessions.+ With regard to these confessions, we shall shortly endeavour to estimate them at their true value. In Germany and Spain, the order was acquitted, and in Portugal it was only thought necessary to change their name, a punishment which does not savour of any great degree of guilt. What then becomes of "the cry of indignation which resounded from the shores of Asia to the borders of the Baltic,"-and of the "kings, prelates, nobles, and people, who joined in the universal exclamation." So easily can declamation overthrow the humble evidence of historical facts!
There is no doubt that the proceedings in all these countries originated at the instigation of Philip the Fair, and were carried on through his influence with the supreme pontiff. It is singular, however, that, by a grant bearing date during the year 1304, Philip should have bestowed many favours on the Templars, at the same time mentioning the order in terms of the highest commendation. This grant is preserved in the collection of French Charters. It is probable, at that time, his pressing necessities had not compelled him to turn his eyes to the riches which the knights had accumulated.
Another motive has sometimes been mentioned as explanative of the animosity which the French king displayed on this
* Rymer, vol. ii. p. 10, &c.
+ The Archbishop of York was so thoroughly convinced of the innocence of the accused, that he directed many of the knights to be supported at his own expense. Dugdale's Monasticon, i. 184.
+ Edinb. Review, ix. 199.