THE TEMPLARS IN SCOTLAND

One of the first places Hugh de Payens visited after the Council of Troyes sanctioned the Templar Order was Scotland, and there were many Templars and their holdings in that country throughout the history of the Order.  Robert the Bruce, who became King of Scotland in 1314, had already been excommunicated  and the Scottish nation interdicted by Pope Clement V.  The Scots had no reason to honor the Papal Bull ordering all Christian rulers to arrest the Templars; in fact, the Papal Bull was never proclaimed in Scotland so that legally, the Order was never dissolved there.  The Scots would have welcomed the help of such a force in winning and keeping their sovereignty, and in turn, would have seemed a welcome refuge from the persecutions of Templars elsewhere.  There are persistent stories that the Order as such continued there for several hundred years, although it would probably have changed with circumstances.   All this, of course, is circumstantial and the factual evidence is less compelling.  I am repeating those things that seem to be the most widely reported and/or the most reasonably probable; as always, I welcome any additions, corrections or comments on the material.

The Templars had a large fleet which was used for transporting men and materials to the Holy Land, and as their financial empire grew, for trade as well.  A large part of this fleet escaped from European ports after the suppression and eventually sailed to Argyll where Robert the Bruce had strong support.  At the Battle of Bannockburn when things were going badly for the Scots, a reserve force suddenly engaged the English and turned the tide of battle so that the Scots triumphed.  There are stories that this reserve force carried the Baucent - the battle standard of the Templars.  In appreciation, King Robert protected the Templars and their holdings in his kingdom.

Over the next 300-400 years, the Order maintained its coherence and developed an extensive trading network, possibly financed in part by such treasure as they had managed to escape with originally.  There are even reports of voyages as far as Nova Scotia in the New World.  Supposedly, the Templar properties were administered by the Knights Hospitallers, to whom much Templar wealth had been given elsewhere, but were in fact still controlled by the Templars.  They are also reported to have fought for several other kingdoms, including France!

Several sources report that John Graham of Claverhouse (Bonnie Dundee) was wearing the Grand Cross of the Order when he fell at the Battle of Killicrankie in 1689.  While this is not well confirmed, it seems consistent with what we know of Dundee's general character, assuming a Templar organization still existed.

Possibly the most interesting and controversial artifact of the Templars in Scotland is Rosslyn Chapel, an uncompleted church in the Lothian hills south of Edinburgh.  It was ordered by Sir William St. Clair, the last St. Clair Jarl or Prince of Orkney before that title passed to the Crown.  The St. Clair (Sinclair) family was said to be associated with the Templars, and was historically involved with Freemasonry, which has strong Templar elements. The St. Clair domain at Rosslyn was fairly near the original headquarters of the Order.  Rosslyn Chapel  was begun in 1446 and construction continued until 1484 when Sir William died.  He was buried in the chapel and his son and heir, Sir Oliver St. Clair, finished roofing it but otherwise abandoned Sir William's plans and the project was never completed.  The interior of the building is heavily decorated with carvings and inscriptions, some of which have been attributed to the Templars.  Freemasons and followers of other mystical traditions believe these decorations contain esoteric knowledge if it can be deciphered.  (There is also a more profane interest in the possibility that the inscriptions contain directions to the Templars' material treasure.)  There is an official Rosslyn Chapel web site which contains a lot of information as well as pictures of the Chapel and its decorations.
 

December 30, 1999