The Templars Expulsion
In 1303, King Philip sent a force of French soldiers to Rome with the intention of kidnapping Pope Boniface VIII. The charges against the pope were unfathomable, ranging from heresy and sodomy to the murder of the previous pope, Celestine V. The mission failed, thanks largely to the presence of Hospitallers and Templars, but the pope died shortly after, allegedly in shock at the French king’s slanders.
Boniface’s successor, Benedict XI, lasted less than a year, following which he was replaced by Raymond Bertrand de Got, a childhood friend of Philip, who took up the name Clement V. Following his investiture in 1305, the new pope wrote to the heads of both the Templars and the Hospitallers of their views regarding a further crusade and the possibility of merging the orders. De Molay replied in the summer of 1306, stating his negativity regarding the merger and that any further crusade should number at least 20,000. In June, Clement summoned both men to council at Poitiers, though the meeting was delayed on several occasions, eventually taking place in May 1307. Leader of the Hospitallers, Fulk de Villaret was even further delayed, making it impossible to resolve any matters. As a result, talk moved onto other matters, including accusations by former Templars regarding the order’s initiation ceremony. De Molay had already spoken with Philip about the charges, and had been partially reassured.
Clement’s health had deteriorated early in 1307 and was suffering again later in the year, delaying his investigations into charges against the order. While Clement maintained any investigations should wait until his health picked up, Philip acted to the contrary. In September he sent out instructions to secret agents that mass scale arrests of the order would take place on 13 October. The day earlier, de Molay was in Paris, attending the funeral of the king’s sister in law, Catherine of Courtenay, and even served as pallbearer. Based on indications given, de Molay was unprepared for what came next. The following dawn, a series of raids throughout Paris saw de Molay and sixty fellow Templars arrested on charges of sodomy, heresy, defacing the cross, and denying the crucifixion. The beginning of the warrant read
Dieu n’est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans la Royaume: effectively translating: God is not content, there are enemies in the kingdom.
Throughout Europe the reaction was of utter shock, though partial scepticism due to the similarity of the charges given to Boniface VIII. The Italians, writing at the time of the arrests, were perfectly convinced the charges were concocted for Philip’s personal gain, particularly at a time when he was severely indebted to the Templars to fund his wars. Philip confiscated what was found at the Paris Temple but interestingly little of value was found. The lack of wealth has convinced many authors and historians that the Templars were aware of the arrests in advance and that the ageing de Molay was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the order.