Knights Templar of England - History


Knights Templar in Scotland

Another strand of Templar legend states, in its fullest form, that many Templars escaped to Scotland in 1307 with their treasure and much of their fleet.

Given sanctuary by the excommunicated Robert the Bruce, they played a crucial part in the Battle of Bannockburn, helping defeat the numerically superior English Army of Edward II and ensure Scotland's independence. Their story is encoded in the carvings of Rosslyn Chapel, with a great secret or treasure buried in the foundations, and their legacy is the ritual of Freemasonry.

The tale of the missing Templar fleet originated during the suppression of the Templars, from the interrogation of Jean de Châlons by the Inquisition. He claimed that he had heard that preceptor of the French Templars, Gérard de Villiers, had been warned of his imminent arrest. De Villiers had escaped with 50 horses and eighteen galleys. De Châlons' son, Hugues de Châlons, escaped with him carrying the wealth of his uncle, Hugues de Pairaud.

In Baigent and Leigh's The Temple and the Lodge, the fleet carried the treasure of the Paris preceptory of the Templars.
Scotland became the destination of the fleet over four centuries later, in the claims of George Frederick Johnson, an exiled Jacobite living in Austria. Johnson, however, turned out to be a fraudster who was probably called Johann Samuel Leuchte.

After a chequered career based on alchemy and forgery, "Johnson" convinced a masonic lodge in Jena that he possessed the highest secrets of masonry, and having declared the rest of German masonry irregular, brought a surprising amount of lodges under his control. Exposed as a fraud by Karl Gotthelf von Hund in 1764, he was later apprehended by a previous victim, and spent the rest of his life in prison.

Hund's initial attraction to Johnson was spurred by a need to find his own superiors.
He had been received into the Order of the Temple by high ranking Jacobites in Paris during 1743, being introduced to Charles Edward Stuart himself.

After the failure of the 1745 rebellion, his masters were either in hiding or dead, and had lost interest in maintaining their Templar offshoots, leaving Hund with a depleted ritual book which he had to reconstruct from memory.
As Johnson's collection of lodges now looked to him for leadership, the Rite of Strict Observance was born.
Again, the foundation myth alleged that Freemasonry was started by Templar refugees under the protection of Robert the Bruce.

This time, they had travelled from France through England disguised as stonemasons, and their use of masonic symbols in their allegories paid tribute to this deception. Under Hund's leadership, the Rite of Strict Observance became the most popular branch of Freemasonry in the German states, with lodges all over Continental Europe. However, Hund's continuing inability to produce, or even contact his "Unknown Superiors" led to increasing dissatisfaction.

Six years after his death, a convent meeting in Wilhelmsbad from 1782 to 1783 finally agreed that Freemasonry had no connection to the Templars, and Strict Observance ceased to exist, most lodges being absorbed into the Rectified Scottish Rite. For most of the previous two decades, the most common foundation myth among German masons stated that Freemasonry came from the Knights Templar, protected and allowed to flourish in Scotland.
The legend refused to go away.

In 1815, Claude Thory, a respected French scientist and Freemason, claimed that Robert the Bruce had created the Order of St. Andrew for masons who had supported him at Bannockburn, which was later joined to the Order of Heredom, which he founded at Kilwinning.

In 1837, a Scottish Freemason called James Burnes, in attempting to revive a Scottish order of "Knights Templar", expanded the masonic link to Bannockburn.
He introduced the Knights Templar as the bearers on Freemasonry to Scotland, and had the Templars play a crucial part in the battle. This appears to be the basis of subsequent tales of Templar involvement at Bannockburn. The contemporary Royal Order of Scotland makes use of a similar foundation myth, which is no more intended to be taken as historical fact than any other piece of masonic allegory.




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