The Piebald Standard: The Story of the Knights Templars by Edith Simon (White Lion Publishers £5.95)
This book was first published in 1959, and it is a sign of the times that the beautifully coloured frontispiece in the original edition has been replaced with a dull black-andwhite one. It has also become slightly American as "ardour" now appears as "ardor."
It is not easy for a Knight of Malta to be entirely unbiased when looking at a history of the other great military religious Order. Eventually. after all the trials and tribulations, the Pope ordered all the property of the Templars to be handed over to the Order of St John. This was a take-over which did not succeed as many of the European kings had given the possessions to their friends.
The Author describes the Crusades and life in the Holy Land in great clarity so that the reader can feel the atmosphere of the time. The Templars received enormous grants of lands from the aristocracy of Europe.
Often it was an alternative to taking up the Cross and going in the Crusades: sometimes it was to endow a younger son into the Order, and on occasion it was a
genuinp gift. This aggregation of property combined with Papal exemptions from diocesan control sowed the seeds of the downfall of the Tempters.
They became proud, and sometimes made treaties with the Saracens regardless of the situation of the other Orders and the European rules of Jerusalem. Also their properties at home were freed from normal taxation.
Thus the vintners of Champagne protested that the Templars undersold them as they were permitted to sell their wine free of tax. It seems familiar now with the French winegrowers complaining of Italian undercutting.
The machinations of King Philip the Fair against the Templars again have their place in modern times with the false charges against dissidents in Soviet Russia. The same means were used fantastic charges, and torture combined with false promises of freedom. Most of the charges were unjustified, but with the end of the dream of a Christian Palestine, the Templars had few defenders. They died as they had lived, with great bravery.
It is interesting that the publishers have decided to republish this book. Is it, perhaps, because the A level history this year includes the military religious Orders?