The Game is Afoot!
That is the last spoken word in the epilogue of our book, Mystery at the Thirteen Sycamores. It is a line recognized by Sherlock Holmes fans worldwide. He often said it to his chronicler and friend, Dr. Watson, just before they embarked on a new adventure. And since we are about to embark on a new adventure in our next book, The Seton Secret, it is appropriate for us to delve into the thesis of the game that is afoot.
In 1306, Pope Clement V summoned the Grand Masters of the Knights Templar and Hospitaller Order of Saint John to Europe to discuss the idea that had been floating around the Vatican and Europe about the union of the two crusading Orders that were no longer in the Holy Land, but were ensconced on the island of Cyprus, licking their wounds after the Kingdom of Jerusalem was defeated by Saladin.
After the fall of Acre on the coast of the Holy Land in 1291, the Templars and the Hospitallers moved their headquarters to Limassol on the island of Cyprus. The loss of Acre was soon followed by the loss of Tortosa (Syria) and Atlet (Israel), their last remaining strongholds on the mainland. They tried to maintain a small island—Arwad Island off the coast from Tortosa. When that island was invaded, they lost their last remaining foothold in the Holy Land.
The Templars in the early 1300s then started to move their assets and banking interests to three cantons (states) they controlled in Switzerland for safekeeping while the Hospitallers began planning the conquest of the island of Rhodes. Meanwhile, the Templars started planning another crusade for the conquest of the Holy Land and reestablishment of a greater Kingdom of Jerusalem. What they needed was the blessing and support of the Pope and the whole of Christendom. Unfortunately, Europe was embroiled in the Hundred Years War between England and France and their allies. That war was draining the wealth and morale of the warring kingdoms, especially France, whose King Philip IV (the Fair because of his good looks) had borrowed huge sums from the Knights Templar and was on the verge of bankruptcy.
The grand master of the Hospitallers, Fulk de Villaret, declined the invitation for the moment because of his plans for the imminent invasion of Rhodes, but the grand master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, decided to attend the meeting with the Pope. Neither allied crusading Order had any intention to merge. They were often friendly rivals. King Philip IV was trying to convince the Pope that the two Orders should be joined together and that he should be the grand master of the united Orders! He had dreams of getting rid of his debt to the Templars by the merger and at the same stroke enlarging his fighting forces with the combined strength of the two Orders. He especially feared the economic and military force of the Knights Templar.
When de Molay and the Templars arrived in Marseilles in the spring of 1307 with eighteen warships and a large number of their Knights, army, and high officers along with most of their remaining treasure, they greatly impressed the French and especially the king of France and the Pope. The king knew the Templars had great wealth because he had seen some of it previously when he had taken refuge in the Order's fortress, the Temple, in Paris during an uprising of the population against him for increasing taxes. He had fled his palace, the Louvre, and taken up residence in the Temple until the uprising was quelled. During his stay of nine days at the fortress which Napoleon later destroyed, he had seen their stores of gold, silver, and jewels.
He was now emboldened by the additional treasure that the Order had brought. But his hopes were soon dashed because the fleet with their treasure, troops, and Knights left Marseille after the initial show of force and parade, and their grand master left the king and Marseille and joined the Pope in Poitiers.
What King Philip did not know was that the eighteen ships with their retinue had sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar to La Rochelle harbor on the west coast of France in the Bay of Bissau and that the treasure at the Temple in Paris was being secreted by small obscure wagons to Geneva, Switzerland, to add to the other assets already in the banks and fortresses in three cantons controlled by the Templars. The Duke of Savoy who controlled Geneva was a Templar!
At Poitiers, the Pope related to de Molay the rumors and criminal charges being circulated in Europe and the Vatican by King Philip IV and his cohorts to discredit the Templars and its grand master. This infuriated de Molay who had suspected some evil intentions by Philip who earlier had been denied entrance into the Templar Order. He had anticipated some problems which was why the Order was taking measures to protect themselves and their treasure against jealousies embraced by some of the monarchies in Europe. The Templars enjoyed free passage across all borders and no taxes imposed on them granted long ago by the Popes and the Holy See. They were essentially a state within all states.
The grand master unexpectedly demanded a formal inquiry and hearing before the church to answer these charges and dispel the rumors. King Philip IV was startled by these demands and set about to legally entangle de Molay with a series of charges. His plan was to simultaneously arrest all of the Templars in France early on a morning before they were awake and by torture extract confessions of heresy and criminal intent from his victims to use in a church inquisition court.
Three weeks later, on September 14, 1307, at the Abbey of Maubuisson near Pontoise, King Philip IV secretly issued a mandate to all of his seneschals, baillies, deputies, and other officers throughout his kingdom. The mandates were sealed and distributed with instructions not to be opened until the night of October 12, 1307.
King Philip's sister-in-law, Catharine of Valois, conveniently died early in October and her funeral was declared a state occasion wherein the grand master of the Templars, who was now residing in the Temple in Paris, was afforded the honor of being a pallbearer at her funeral with all of the state pomp and ceremonies on October 12th.
At dawn the next day, Friday the 13th of October 1307, the grand master of the Templars, his officers and 5,000 Templars in France were rousted out of their beds, put in chains, and arrested. They were led off to prisons where the tortures began.
The king's men found no treasure at the Temple in Paris or in any of the Templar's abbeys or fortresses in France. When the king's men arrived at the docks in La Rochelle, the fleet of eighteen ships were not there. The old fox, de Molay had guessed right about Philip Le Bel's evil intent, but thought he and the Templars were immune from arrest by the bulls of previous Popes. He did not know that Pope Clement V had been threatened by King Philip or that his residence in Avignon was surrounded by the king's men.
It was rumored that twelve of the eighteen ships had sailed to Scotland with a wounded Knight named Schoenfeld on board. One of the ships that carried Schoenfeld had lingered in another port before joining the others en route to Scotland. Robert the Bruce, Knights Templar and King of Scotland, all of his nobles, and the entire country had been excommunicated by the Pope and were not subject to the Pope's control. The other six treasure ships and Knights with their men at arms had simply disappeared off the face of the earth! This adventure will be discussed in our third book, Washington's Doubloon.
It was the treasure on the Scotland-bound fleet and the story of his ancestor, the Knight Schoenfeld, which motivated Dietrich. Schoenfeld had been wounded trying to save his bride, Suzanna De Maret, from being kidnapped and later murdered by a rival in the employ of King Philip IV. Dietrich surmised the treasure had been hidden by the Templar family Seton. His ancestor Schoenfeld had later married Judith Seaton as the name was spelled in the 1300s. He believed the treasure or at least a part of it was hidden under Saint Mary Chapel at the Thirteen Sycamores on Mount Lothian next to the Elliott's farm house. The Seton Secret!