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.
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
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
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
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