These were the darkest days in the history of the Templars. In 1314 the Grand Master of the Order, Jacques de Molay, having retracted his forced confession, was burnt to death outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. In England, King Edward II eventually followed the French example and seized all Templar properties for himself although the persecution of the Templars here was not as severe or far-reaching as in France. Only in countries such as Scotland, Switzerland and Portugal did the Templars survive more or less intact and even there they were eventually forced to stop using the Order’s name. Gradually, over the centuries, the Templars disappeared from view. Their beliefs and traditions, however, persisted being introduced over time to other organisations and fraternal societies. Then, in the late 1700s the Order emerged from the shadows once more, and such was the revival of interest in chivalric values and ideals that in 1804, with the approval of the Emperor Napoleon himself, a reconstituted Order of the Temple of Jerusalem was officially inaugurated in Paris the very place where its downfall had been engineered by a greedy and envious king, and where Jacques de Molay had been martyred.

The Modern Era

(abridged from the archives of Maj Gen Sir Roy Redgrave, 2003)

The new Templar Order was founded in 1705 by the Duke of Orleans and was held in succession until the early 1800s where it had become an anachronism. It was rebuilt in 1804 and protected by Napoleon Bonaparte. The Grand Master at that time was Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat, but in France, many did not recognize him. Palaprat died in 1838. In 1840, Sir William Sidney Smith, the English Grand Prior, became Grand Master until his death in 1858. The order was annulled in France in 1892 by the Regent, Joséphin Péladan after serious scandals and all publications and archives of the Knights Templar were placed in the National Archives of France, where they are still to this day. In 1894, a kind of “Templar Secretariat” was founded in Belgium and in 1932, the French moved and founded another Templar organization in Belgium, whose president was Theodore Kovias. In 1935, Emile Clement Joseph Isaac Vandenberg was appointed Regent. It is believed that, to prevent the Nazi intentions of taking the archives, that control of the archives was transferred to the Order of a neutral country. On December 23, 1942, two-and-a-half years later, the archives were transferred by Vandenberg to the Consul of Portugal that was Antonio Campello de Souza Fontes. Antonio de Sousa Fontes records that he was unsure of its own legitimacy, but happy to accept the title of Regent. At the time of his death in 1960, Antonio Campello de Souza Fontes appointed his son, Fernando Campello de Souza Fontes as his successor, but this caused a great rift in the Order as there should have been an election for Grand Master. Several international Convents General (meetings) were convened to discuss this, which resulted in many senior officers resigning and taking their members with them to form breakaway and therefore illegitimate Templar Orders. This became known as the Great Schism. A nucleus, however, decided to remain with Fontes and affect change from within, and he remained Grand Master and Regent until he died in 2018. Under its present Grand Master, His Excellency Chevalier Jacques Dubos, of Switzerland, the Order has Grand Priories and Priories throughout the world with thousands of Members. Full Membership of the Knights Templar of England or Wales is open to Christian men or women, over the age of 18, who can show a firm commitment to Christian Unity and values and who is willing to commit him- or herself to serve the Order to the best of their ability.
© The Grand Priory in England of the Knights Templar, 2023