So, today is Friday the Thirteenth, a day which apparently over 21 million Americans still fear. There are numerous explanations for this concern about the date (I actually wrote a paper about this back in junior high, when I was obsessed with superstitions). The number thirteen is widely considered unlucky in Europe–hence the term trisksadekaphobic (for someone afraid of that number), and in France, the position of the quatorzieme, or professional fourteenth guest, who would round out your party numbers if the guest list proved unlucky.
But it is the persecution of the Knights Templar that usually gets the credit for the link of that unlucky number with Friday. When I started out writing the Dark Apostle books, I quickly grew frustrated with trying to find references at the local bookstores. The Templars were a hot topic (ha, ha, I know) and the Medieval History shelves were entirely dominated by books about Templars. I swore I would not write about them.
Then the idea for The Grail Maiden came along. I wanted to write about the historical hinge point from which my timeline of the British monarchy departed, the death of Edward I (Edward Longshanks) in July of 1307. He was ill, and near the Scottish border involved in his attempts to subdue the Scots. In my timeline, I have his son, Edward II, die shortly afterward, leaving the throne vacant, and available for a side-long claimant–which is another story.
So when I followed my usual process and started searching for other things that happened in 1307 and might have an impact on the story I had in mind–involving Duke Randall and his wife Allyson, I discovered that the arrests of the Templars in France began on October 13, 1307, a fact too interesting to avoid.
Founded in 1119 by a French nobleman during the First Crusade, the Templars were originally charged with defending pilgrims on their way to the holy sites in Jerusalem, then as now a highly contentious region. Knights took an oath of poverty, which meant many of them donated their moneys and estates to the Order, and the Templars as a whole began to accumulate an unseemly amount of wealth. Because of their noble character, wide-spread centers and martial discipline, the Templars quickly assumed other roles: most notably, serving as bankers for nobles on the move, or those who needed funds for various wars and projects.
Enter King Phillip of France, AKA, Phillip the Fair. Phillip was already unhappy because the Templars stated a desire to found their own nation (ala the state of Prussia, founded by the Teutonic Knights), and they planned to stake their claim in the Languedoc region of France. Also, like many of the nobles, Phillip was already in debt to the Templars, and it might be awfully convenient not to have to pay back that debt.
Phillip accused the Templars of heresy: spitting on the cross; kissing the lips, navel and posterior of the initiate; and idol-worship, among others. The 138 arrested knights were tortured to elicit confessions of these charges (most of them confessed to at least one of the carges), and some of them were put to death, most notably by burning at the stake.
If you are interested in my fictional take on some of this history, The Grail Maiden is currently on sale as part of this multi-author 99-cent sale, which runs through January 14th. How’s that for a TGIF?