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TEMPLARS IN AMERICA
From the Crusades to the New World
By TIM WALLACE-MURPHY, MARILYN HOPKINS
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2004 Tim Wallace-Murphy and Marilyn Hopkins
All rights reserved.
THE LORDLY LINE OF THE HIGH ST. CLAIRS AND THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
In European history, it is a matter of record that royal dynasties come and go; they arise, rule for varying periods of time, and are then replaced by others as a result of coups d'état, acts of war, or as a consequence of simple biological sterility. The fate of certain aristocrats who attain "royal favor" is even more transient and ephemeral, for, the more rapid the rise of such individuals, the faster and harder they fall and, as often as not, end their brief careers in spectacular fashion on the scaffold or at the end of a rope. There is one aristocratic family, however, that proves the exception to the rule—a dynasty who never sought a throne, yet were always close to the seats of power as advisors to kings, and who have wielded virtually unbroken power and influence of a subtle and all-pervasive kind from the last years of the ninth century until the final decade of the second millennium. Their history is one that is of as much interest to students of British or Scottish history as it is to those fascinated by the medieval Knights Templar or to historians of pre-Columbian exploration of America. This distinguished family is known as "the Lordly Line of the High Sinclairs," whose present hereditary Clan Chief, the Earl of Caithness, was a cabinet minister in the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the early 1990s.
The St. Clairs of Roslin are of true Viking stock, descended from Rognvald, the Earl of Möre, in Norway. In the latter part of the ninth century, Earl Rognvald fought alongside the Norwegian King, Harald Fine-Hair, who made him Jarl, or Earl, of North Möre, South Möre, and Romsdale, all of which lay in the vicinity of the modern town of Trondheim, Norway. Rognvald had three legitimate sons: Ivar, Thorir the Silent, and Hrolf. He also had three illegitimate sons: Hallad, Hrollaug, and Einar, who was the youngest of them all. Ivar accompanied Harald Fine-Hair on his campaign to subdue Shetland, orkney, and the Hebrides, and on the massive raid on the Isle of Man that left it in ruins. Ivar was killed during this campaign, and, as compensation, the king gave Rognvald the Earldom of Shetland and Orkney. Rognvald passed the rule of the islands to his brother, Sigurd, who, with Thorstein the Red and Aud the Deep-Minded, conquered all of Caithness, Moray, Ross, and a large part of Argyll in Scotland. After Sigurd's death, his son ruled for one year and then died childless. Rognvald's son, Hallad, became the next earl, but he proved to be an ineffectual ruler and Rognvald had to think again.
Turf Einar, Earl of Orkney
Rognvald's problem lay in deciding which of his surviving sons would now become Earl of Orkney and Shetland. Hrollaug simplified the problem by announcing that he had decided to emigrate to Iceland, possibly to evade the somewhat oppressive rule of Harald Fine-Hair, who was more autocratic than was traditional for Norwegian kings. Hrolf, possibly for similar reasons, declared his wish to carry on the family tradition of raiding and pillaging and announced that he was going to raid the western coast of Europe. This left Einar to inherit the earldom of Orkney. The Orkneyinga Saga puts a rather more diplomatic gloss on the whole episode and describes it in the following terms:
"Do you want me to go, then?" asked Hrollaug.
"You're not destined for the earldom," replied Rognvald, "Your fate will take you to Iceland. You'll have plenty of descendants there, and they'll be brought up as the noblest of men."
After that the Earl's youngest son, Einar, came forward.
"Do you want me to go to the islands?" he asked. "I can promise you the greatest favour you could wish for, and that's never to have to see me again. There's little enough here to hold me, and I don't see myself as being any more of a failure elsewhere."
"Considering the kind of mother you have," said the Earl, "slave-born on each side of her family, you're not likely to make much more of a ruler. But I agree; the sooner you leave and the later you return, the happier I'll be."
Einar ruled Orkney well for many years and was responsible for introducing the custom of digging turf, or peat, for fuel at Tarbat Ness in Scotland, as firewood was in short supply on the islands. As a result, he was henceforth known as Turf Einar. Strangely, for a Viking, he died in his bed leaving three sons: Arnkel, Erlend, and Thorfinn Skull-Splitter.
The Duchy of Normandy
Hrolf, known as the Ganger because of his great size, sailed southward to the northern coast of France and into history. He led his raiding party up the River Seine and determined he would settle in this lush and fertile land. After Hrolf's unsuccessful siege of the city of Chartres, King Charles the Simple decided to use him as a buffer against further Viking incursions and made peace with him in 912. The treaty awarding Hrolf the dukedom of the territories that became known as Normandy (the Land of the Northmen) was signed at the castle of St. Clair-sur-Epte. This treaty refers to Hrolf by the Latin version of his name, Rollo, which was used thereafter. Rollo was given the province of Normandy as a vassal of the King of France, conditional on his marriage to the king's daughter, Gisele, and the conversion of him and all his party to Christianity. Part of the ritual of signing this solemn and binding treaty was an act of homage to the king; Rollo was supposed to kiss the king's foot as a sign of allegiance. Feeling that this task was beneath him, he delegated one of his senior lieutenants, a tall strapping man of more than six feet in height, to take his place. The Viking gravely bent double and took the king's foot in his hand. He raised the king's foot to his lips as he stood up to his full height; the king was tipped over backward from his stool and lay floundering like an upturned crab.
According to one tradition, Rollo and his senior officers were solemnly baptized in the miraculous waters of a fountain fed by a spring named in honor of Saint Clair, who was martyred there in 884. Many villages in Normandy were named after this saint, whose cult lasted for over 1000 years. The saint's day was particularly celebrated in the areas associated with him: the present-day towns of Gourney, Carentan, Saint-Roche, Saint-Sylvain, and Saint-Lo. Despite a longheld belief among the St. Clair family, St. Clair-sur-Epte, as important as it was to Norman history, never actually belonged to Rollo or any of his successors. The Chaumont family owned the castle and the land for several centuries, and the lands themselves were part of the Ile de France under the aegis of the king and not part of Normandy. According to L-A de St. Clair, writing in 1905:
It is therefore highly unlikely the any family used the name of St. Clair-sur-Epte as its family name. It is the town of St. Clair near Saint-Lo, near the western limit of the Bessin, that is the true origin of the name of the noble house of St. Clair.
The use of the family name of St. Clair can be traced to the reign of the fourth Duke of Normandy, Richard II, when the names of the territories that they occupied began to be applied to the individuals who ruled them.
The first Dukes of Normandy resided in the town of Caen, and the lands near their seat of government were given to their relatives and trusted companions-in-arms. As Rollo and Gisele had no children, Rollo remarried, choosing Popée, the daughter of the Count of Bayeaux, who gave him a son known as William Long-Sword. William, in turn, was succeeded by Richard I, whose daughter, Emma, married King Ethelred the Unready of England. Another of his daughters married Geoffrey, Count of Brittany, while a third, Mathild, became the wife of Eudes, Count of Chartres. Not content with joining with the royal house of Saxon England and the family of the Count of Brittany, Rollo's family married into the aristocratic families of Chaumont, Gisors, d'Evereaux, and Blois, the family of the Counts of Champagne. They were also linked to the ducal House of Burgundy, the Royal House of France (the Capetians), and later, through the House of Flanders, to Godfroi de Bouillon, the first Christian ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and an ancestor of the Habsburgs.
Aristocratic Allies of the Vikings
When one considers the reputation of the Vikings as fearsome raiders and uncouth barbarians, the readiness of the leading aristocratic families of France and elsewhere to marry into this bunch of piratical warriors is a little difficult to understand. The lands of Normandy, important though they may have been, do not of themselves explain this headlong charge by some of the oldest families in Europe into matrimonial alliances with the Vikings. When you study the genealogies of these families, you find that they made repeated dynastic alliances with one another, and furthermore, you find the same patterns recurring over time. Is there an explanation for this, or were they simply bereft of ideas? When you study the history of the noble houses of emergent Europe in conjunction with a map of the territories they occupy, you find that strategic considerations were only a minor factor. Something else is at work here—something that is difficult, if not impossible, to explain by the accepted standards of history.
The breeding, or should we say interbreeding, of these families resembles the creation of bloodstock in the farming sense more than normal human behavior. Even within the exclusive ranks of the nobility, one particular group of families stands out. All of their marriages are conducted from within a select group, and the same family names repeatedly appear in the genealogies of all of them every third or fourth generation. There is an esoteric legend that has persisted for centuries that, bizarre though it may seem, may give us an insight into the belief structure that spawned such strange behavior—the tale of Rex Deus.
There is a group of families in Europe, known among themselves as Rex Deus, who have a long-held oral tradition that they are all descended from the twenty-four high priests of the Temple of Jerusalem of the time of Jesus. To keep their bloodlines pure, they restricted their matrimonial alliances, wherever possible, to other families claiming the same descent. In this, they are replicating the traditional behavior of the high-priestly families of biblical Israel. Most people are aware that the priestly class at that time was hereditary and drawn from the tribe of Levi. Less commonly known is the existence within the Levites of the Cohens, an even more exclusive group from whom were chosen the high priests. The general Levitical priesthood were allowed by Jewish law and tradition to marry outside the tribe. A Cohen, on the other hand, was not merely forbidden to do so, but was strictly enjoined to marry only within the wider Cohen family, thus preserving, or so it is believed, an unbroken and direct genealogical link to the priesthood instituted by Moses.
The families of Rex Deus claim to preserve the true teachings of Jesus for future generations and are dedicated to bringing about "the Kingdom of Heaven upon Earth." They knew that Jesus came to reveal and not to redeem, and as their version of the "true teaching of Jesus" was considerably at variance with the dogma of Holy Mother the Church, they had to keep their traditions secret in order to avoid persecution. The Church, as the self-appointed guardian of divinely revealed truth, instituted a regime of intolerance and repression against all who had the temerity to disagree with its teaching; those who did not swallow Church dogma hook, line, and sinker were deemed heretical.
The Council of Nicea in 325 promulgated the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which declared that Jesus was divine and coequal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Books written by heretics were burned immediately afterward, and it was not long before the burning of heretical books was followed by the incineration of their authors. Therefore, in order to survive, the Rex Deus families outwardly followed the prevailing religion of the district within which they lived, but kept their hidden teaching alive by passing it down orally through the generations to selected children as they became mature enough to be initiated.
Richard II, the fourth Duke of Normandy, had three sons: Richard III, who became the fifth duke, Robert the Devil, and Mauger the Young. He also had two daughters who made important dynastic marriages: Alix became the wife of the Count of Burgundy and Eleanore, the wife of Baudouin, the Count of Flanders. As neither Richard III nor Robert the Devil left any legitimate children, most of the Norman barons would have preferred the succession to pass to the son of the duke's younger brother, Mauger. However, a party led by Raoul, the Constable of Normandy, was formed that supported the claims of William, the bastard son of Robert the Devil; this man became known to history as William the Conqueror.
Mauger had three sons: Hamon, Walderne, and Hubert. Hamon and Walderne were both killed at the battle of Val-des-Dunes, where the succession of William the Bastard was ensured. Two of Walderne's children, Richard and Britel, became reconciled with William the Conqueror and played a part in the conquest of England, where they were later given estates. This left two other children, William and Agnes. They were both quite young when their father was killed at the battle of Val-des-Dunes, for which William never forgave William the Conqueror. His sister, Agnes, married Philip Bruce, who was also of Norman origin and an ancestor of Robert the Bruce who became King of Scotland after the Battle of Bannockburn in the early fourteenth century.
The First St. Clair Lord of Roslin
William attached himself to a branch of the royal family of the Saxons and accompanied the Atheling and his daughter, Margaret, from Normandy to Hungary. Known as William the Seemly because of his courage and courtesy, he was chosen, along with Bartholomew Ladislaus Leslyn, to escort Princess Margaret to Scotland, where she was to marry Malcolm Canmore, King of the Scots. As a reward for his services, he was granted the barony of Roslin in "life rent." He later commanded the Scots army when they fought against William the Conqueror, who was by now the King of England. William the Seemly was killed in a skirmish with the English in Northumberland.
The first St. Clair born in Scotland, Henri de St. Clair, was confirmed by King Malcolm as Baron of Roslin and also Baron of Pentland. He too carried on the family enmity with the Royal House of England and took the side of the deposed brother of King Henry I of England, Robert Courte-Heuze, whom he accompanied on the First Crusade to the Holy Land in 10 95. They traveled across Europe with a crusading army led by one of William's relatives, Godfroi de Bouillon, the head of the Royal House of Flanders. After the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, Godfroi de Bouillon, whose family were Rex Deus, was offered the crown of the Holy Land, but refused the honor and chose to rule as Protector of the Holy Sepulchre. Godfroi died childless and was succeeded by his brother, Baudouin (Baldwin), who showed no reluctance in accepting the crown and reigning as King Baudouin I of Jerusalem. He was succeeded by Baudouin II, who was king at the time of the foundation of one of the most controversial and maligned orders in the history of Christianity—the order of the Knights Templar.
The Knights Templar
The cofounder of the Knights Templar and its first grandmaster, Hughes de Payen, reputedly traveled to the Holy Land with yet another Henri de St. Clair from Normandy. Another cofounder of the order, André de Montbard, was a relative of the Duke of Burgundy and the uncle of one of the most influential people in medieval history, Bernard of Clairvaux. Both cofounders were vassals of the Count of Champagne, who played a strange and mysterious role in both Templar tradition and the generation of the stories of the Holy Grail.
Excerpted from TEMPLARS IN AMERICA by TIM WALLACE-MURPHY, MARILYN HOPKINS. Copyright © 2004 Tim Wallace-Murphy and Marilyn Hopkins. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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