To Kill an Order, IV
The arrests and trials of the Templars played out very differently in every kingdom independent from Philip, particularly England. King Edward II of England refused to credit Philip’s claims until a papal bull ordered him to go ahead with the arrests. Edward arrested the Templars in his nation only reluctantly, and in fact wrote to the Pope expressing his disbelief of that charges levelled against them. It was only the threat of excommunication and the need to come to a peace treaty with France that pressured him into acting in January of 1308, and even then he did his best to distance himself from the proceedings.
Templars held in England were treated well, given a daily allowance for their meals, allowed to walk about the towns where they were held, and permitted to keep their property with them. In fact, in comparison to the way other prisoners were being treated in English gaols, the conditions of Templars in captivity in England were rather good until the Pope was coerced into ordering harsher measures. Not only that, English law forbade the torture of the prisoners, a handy bit of legalism behind which Edward stood firm for two years until unrelenting pressure from the Pope finally forced his hand. Even then, the Papal inquisitors complained mightily about the unwillingness of royal gaolers to enthusiastically pursue torture as a means of interrogation and there were strict limits on how harsh their methods were allowed to be.
Nor was English law the only obstacle the inquisitors faced in Britain: out of 157 witnesses called against the Templars in the British Isles, only 16 are recorded as saying anything substantive against them. The situation was even more pronounced in the kingdom of Aragon. The Templars were a major power within the Aragon until their formal dissolution in 1308, and they had forewarning of potential trouble on hearing of Philip IV’s actions in France. James II, the ruler of Aragon, resisted arresting the Templars in Iberia until ordered by papal bull, as like Edward II he did not believe the accusations set against them. Even when commanded by the Pope he moved only slowly, as many of his subjects supported the Templars and believed them innocent of the accusations the French king was bringing to bear. As James was reluctant to take the Templars in by force, he preferred to negotiate them out of their fortified castles, leaving the citadels intact for his own troops to garrison against potential Moorish invaders. In essence, outside France, both rulers and common people were more likely to admit to seeing Philip’s charges against the Templars for what they truly were – fiction.
Unfortunately for the Order of the Temple, the only person with power enough to make their decisions truly matter was still firmly under Philip’s thumb. Pope Clement V, trapped in the French city of Avignon, was faced with the explicit threat of armed force and the implicit threat of a manufactured scandal to end his term in office well ahead of its appointed date, as had happened to his immediate predecessor. Regardless of what the trials found in all of Christendom beyond France, there was only one decision which the Pope was permitted to make. So it was that the Templars were dissolved by papal decree, their order wiped from existence. In one small act of rebellion, Clement worded his order to very carefully not acknowledge the charges brought against the Templars, but rather justify the dissolution based solely on “the scandal” that had recently surrounded them; in a second, he had the bulk of Templar properties and surviving members absorbed into the stronger and more scandal-resiliant Hospitalers.
Whew. Okay, I think that’s exorcised my “but there’s so much more detail!” demons, at least where the fall of the Templars is concerned. More history’s a-comin’, but I might take a gaming nerd break first.