Knights Templar: A Secret History by Graeme Davis (book review).

May 28, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘Knights Templar: A Secret History’ is Osprey Publishing’s second volume in their ‘Dark Osprey’ series of guides to conspiracy theories and dark fantasies, following on from ‘Zombies: A Hunter’s Guide’, which I reviewed here a couple of months ago. It is written by Graeme Davis, who also authored ‘Thor: Viking God of Thunder’, the other Osprey book I have reviewed for SFCrowsnest this year. The striking cover image, along with seven gorgeous full page interior paintings, is by Malaysian artist Darren Tan.


As with other books of this kind from the ‘Osprey Adventures’ imprint, this slim volume is intended to be a short but comprehensive guide to its subject matter. However, to fit in with the theme of the ‘Dark Osprey’ series, Davis has set the historical material within the context of a fictional conspiracy similar to the one made famous by Dan Brown’s bestseller ‘The Da Vinci Code’. In this case, Davis starts the book by saying that what he recounts in it comes from the secret researches of a French academic, Dr. Émile Fouchet, who sent his papers to Davis shortly before dying in an unexplained car crash. Fouchet’s covering letter indicated that he thought his research might have got too close to the truth for some powerful people and he worried that his life might be in danger. It appears he was right. So what has he found out that’s so dangerous?

The Knights Templar originated in the twelfth century during the Crusades. They were founded in 1119 as ‘The Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon’, the latter part of this name referring to the Temple built, according to the Bible, in ancient Jerusalem by King Solomon and housing the Ark of the Covenant. Their full name was a bit of a mouthful so was shortened to the Knights Templar. Their purpose was to protect European pilgrims as they travelled to and from Jerusalem, now that it was again in Christian hands after 450 years when the Holy lands had been under Muslim rule.

The Order of the Knights Templar lasted less than two hundred years, officially ceasing to exist in 1314. In its early years the Order enjoyed the full support of the Roman Catholic Church and successfully gained many followers and huge amounts of money and land. However, the failure of the later Crusades, following Saladin’s victory at Hattin in 1187, created one source of criticism while concerns over their growing political power led to opposition from King Phillippe IV of France. When the Pope didn’t agree with him, Phillippe allegedly had him killed and replaced. Twice! When Phillippe’s puppet, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, became Pope Clement V in 1305, Phillippe finally gained his opportunity to tackle the Knights Templar. Many of the Order’s members were arrested, accused of heresy, tortured and killed, while their money and lands were confiscated by the cash-strapped monarch. Finally, in 1314, Phillippe had the Head of the Order killed. Notably, Grand Master Jacques de Molay is supposed to have cursed the King and the Pope from the stake. Both died within a year. The conspiracy at the heart of this book concerns the Holy Grail. There are competing ideas about the nature of the Grail. It was historically believed to be the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper but later theories, made famous in Dan Brown’s novels and elsewhere, suggest that the Grail is actually the living descendants of a union between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Whatever the nature of the Grail, though, this book suggests that the Knights Templar have protected it since their formation and right up to the present day. Although they were apparently disbanded in 1314, they have continued their mission for seven more centuries, moving the Grail every time it came under threat from Kings, Popes or Nazis.

The book’s final chapter proposes a three way fight for the Grail in recent years between the modern descendants of the Knights Templar, the Freemasons and the Catholic Church, involving thefts from the Vatican, murders and suicides and a public relations offensive spearheaded by Dan Brown and Hollywood. There is even room here for a European conspiracy, with the suggestion that there are shadowy bodies allied to the European Union and dedicated to Templar ideals of a global State which unites the three great world religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

There’s a lot to enjoy here. The book is chock full of detailed information about the Templars, the Grail and the historical background to both and the conspiracy theories that make these topics eternally popular. In addition to Darren Tan’s paintings, the text is accompanied by over 40 illustrations which really help to bring the words to life.

I’ve got two complaints, both minor. The first is that it feels at times as if there is actually too much information packed into this slim volume, with fact following fact at an alarming rate. It would have been nice to have a moment to breathe once in a while. The second is that the framing device that Davis uses, suggesting that the book’s material came to him from a deceased fictional academic who was killed because of what he’d found out, makes it difficult for a non-expert like me to be able to distinguish those aspects of the book that are genuine historical truth from those that belong to one or other conspiracy theory. Given the premise of the ‘Dark Osprey’ series, this is entirely understandable but I found it a little frustrating at times.

‘Knights Templar: A Secret History’ may only be 80 pages long but it fits a lot of interesting information into that space. If you’ve read ‘The Da Vinci Code’, watched ‘Indiana Jones And The Lost Ark’ or just want to know more about the history of the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail, you’ll thank yourself for getting hold of this slim volume at the earliest opportunity.

Patrick Mahon

May 2015

(pub: Osprey Adventures. 80 page illustrated softcover. Price: £10.99 (UK), $17.95 (US), $19.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78200-409-7)

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Category: Books, MEDIA

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