Roger de Flor was a swashbuckling military adventurer and condottiere (mercenary) leader of the Catalan Company. He was born in the city of Brindisi, Italy, which at the time of his birth was a part of the Kingdom of Sicily. He was the youngest son of Richard von Blum (Blum in German means flower), a German falconer who served Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, and an Italian mother who was the daughter of an honorable and wealthy man (possibly a patrician) from Brindisi. Roger also had an older brother by the name of Jacob.
The Royal Coronation mantel 1133/34 (dyed silk, gold thread and pearls, precious stones) of the Kingdom of Sicily
Not long after Roger’s birth, the Kingdom of Sicily was embroiled in a war between Charles of Anjou, the youngest son of King Louis VIII of France, and King Conradin (Conrad) of Sicily in late summer of 1268. It was during this war that Roger’s father, Richard, joined to aid in the defense of Sicily. According to the Ramon Muntaner Chronicle, Richard was “a man expert in arms and wished to fight in the battle.” On 23 August 1268, the supporters of Conradin and the army of Charles of Anjou meet at Scurcola Marsicana province of L'Aquila, present-day Italy, in what is known as the Battle of Tagliacozzo.
Conradin’s forces consisted of Italian, Spanish, Roman, Arab and German troops, while Charles forces were primarily consisted of French and Italian troops.
Charles of Anjou [left] (Raffaespo/ CC BY-SA 2.5 ), and King Conradin (Conrad) of Sicily [right] ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The Battle of Tagliacozzo
Conradin’s forces initially had the upper hand during the battle. However, the overconfidence of his men got the best of them, for they soon became preoccupied with plunder. Charles took advantage of the situation and defeated the forces of Conradin to become the new king of Sicily.
Map of the Kingdom of Sicily, ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
It was during this battle that Roger, who was not even a year old and Jacob, who was only four, would lose their father. With Sicily now under his control, Charles took it upon himself to enjoy the spoils of war:
And King Charles, when he had seized the Kingdom, took for himself everything belonging to all who had been in the battle, and what had belonged to the family of the Emperor or of King Manfred. There remained no more to those boys than what their mother had brought as her marriage portion, for, of the rest, they were disinherited.
Whatever Richard had accumulated for his children, was now in the hands of the king.
A Young Templar
To suggest that Roger grew up poor would be a stretch, since his grandfather was a patrician. Because of this, it is safe to assume that Roger and his older brother partook in their grandfather’s business and learned a great deal in finance, since they lived in a port city dealing in trade. Given the location and job occupation of his mother’s family, Roger would have been familiar with ships and may have gone on a few voyages himself with his grandfather. The reason for this, is that Roger was caught playing on a ship in port when he was eight. That moment would change Roger’s life forever...
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Grand Catalan Company
…Byzantium employed as mercenaries the Catalan Company, led by Roger de Flor, which soon began attacking and robbing Byzantines and Turks alike. Hoping to get rid of them, Michael arranged the murder of Roger de Flor in the imperial palace in April 1305. The Catalans then rebelled and ravaged the…
…6,500 almogávares known as the Grand Catalan Company, he entered the service of Andronicus II and fought with some success against the Turks. His evident intention, however, to found a principality of his own, combined with the predatory activities of his army, led to his recall at the end of…
…case of the early 14th-century almogaváres, Spanish frontiersmen hired by the Byzantine Empire to fight the Turks. After helping defeat the enemy, the almogaváres turned on their patrons and attacked the Byzantine town of Magnesia (modern Alaşehir, Tur.). After the assassination of their leader they spent two years ravaging Thrace…
Role in history of
…professional army of mercenaries, the Grand Catalan Company. The Catalans made one successful counterattack against the Turks in Anatolia. But they were unruly and unpopular, and when their leader was murdered they turned against their employers. For some years they used the Gallipoli Peninsula as a base from which to…
…in 1309 of the Catalan Grand Company. That band of Spanish mercenaries, who originally had been hired by Andronicus II to fight the Seljuqs in Anatolia turned against imperial authority and established themselves in the Gallipoli peninsula. From there they moved into Greece through Thrace and Macedonia, which they plundered,…
The Catalan Company, a mercenary troop idled by the end of the Sicilian wars, transferred its activities to the Byzantine Empire and in 1311 gained dominion over the duchy of Athens. Although neither Sicily nor Athens came under the direct rule of the king of Aragon,…
De Flor recruited soldiers left unemployed with the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302 by the Crown of Aragon, who opposed the French dynasty of Anjou.
In 1303 de Flor offered the services of his Company to the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus and his son the Basileus Michael IX Palaeologus. The Orthodox Byzantine Empire was under threat by the Turks, who were invading Anatolia and established the mighty Sultanate of Rum, whose name expressed succeeding to the '[Eastern] Roman' empire.
Roger de Flor's offer was accepted by both Byzantium and by the Crown of Aragon, rulers in Sicily and southern Italy, who were quite eager to rid themselves of unemployed and unruly soldiers. Roger de Flor departed with 39 galleys and transports carrying around 1,500 knights and 4,000 Almogavars, special foot soldiers employed mainly serving the kingdom's interests in the Mediterranean Sea, especially from Catalonia, Valencia and Aragon.
Roger de Flor arrived in Constantinople with the help of king Frederick III of Sicily in 1303, and married the niece of Andronicus, daughter of the Tsar of Bulgaria, and was named Megas Doux ('Great Dux', i.e. head of the fleet). Roger de Flor campaigned with his Company in Anatolia, defeating the Turks but also engaging in widespread violence and looting of the Byzantine inhabitants. By this point, the Catalans, were considered by the Byzantines to be little better than brigands and freebooters.
This put him at odds with the Byzantine Emperor, and the indiscipline of the Almogavars marked the end of Roger de Flor. On 30 April 1305, he was slain along with 300 cavalry and 1,000 infantry by the Alans, another group of foreign mercenaries at the service of the Emperor.
The Company proceeded to devastate the Balkanic regions of Thrace and Macedonia for the next two years, including an attack on Thessalonica by land and sea, and raids against the monasteries on Mount Athos. Until recently no Catalans were allowed on the Athos peninsula by the Athonite monks.The struggle ended with the departure of both the Infante and Ferran, and with Bernat de Rocafort becoming leader of the Company.
Bernat de Rocafort offered the Company's services to Charles of Valois to strengthen his claim to the Byzantine Empire and whom the Count of Barcelona had expelled from Sicily before founding the Company in a dynastic war for the Crown of Aragon. In 1309, Charles of Valois' deputy Thibault de Chepoy ended the leadership of Rocafort, arresting him and sending him to Naples where he died of hunger the same year.
In 1318 the Company expanded its power into Thessaly, taking control of the Duchy of Neopatria.
The Catalan rule was to last until 1388–1390, when they were defeated by the Navarrese Company under Pedro de San Superano, Juan de Urtubia, and allied with the Florentines under Nerio I Acciaioli of Corinth. His descendants controlled them until 1456 when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire. By that time, like many military enterprises, the Great Company had faded out of history.
The early history of the Catalan Company was chronicled by Ramon Muntaner, a former member of the company, in his Crònica.
Roger de Flor and His Catalan Company: From Grand Duke to Caesar – Part II
Military adventurer and mercenary for hire, Roger de Flor was as shrewd a businessman as he was a skillful sailor and fighter. Through his rich services to kings and the elite, he established a reputation and became master mercenary of a dangerous force, the Catalan Company.
Roger’s new promotion to vice-admiral by Frederick III (Fadrique), king of Sicily, and being given castles were both tremendous gifts that needed to be repaid in his mind. Roger decided to double his efforts and made his way to Messina where he equipped five galleys “and proceeded to scour all the Principality and the Roman shore, and the strand of Pisa and Genoa and of Provence and of Catalonia and Spain and Barbary. And all he found, belonging to friend or foe, in coin or valuable goods, which he could put on board the galleys, he took.” Roger made sure that any wealth taken from his friends would be repaid once the war was over. Roger also went out of his way to spare the lives and ships of his enemies. When Roger returned to Sicily with gold and grain, “all the soldiers, horse and foot, were awaiting him as the Jews do the Messiah.”
Roger’s plundering along the Italian coasts would soon end, as King Fadrique made peace with Charles II. King Fadrique was able to keep Sicily, thus ending the war between Aragonese kings of Aragon and the French kings of Naples over the control of Sicily on 31 August 1302 in what became known as the Peace of Caltabellotta. Because of this, Roger and his men were out of job. With no money flowing to Roger’s coffers, the king understandably had no use for the mercenaries. Therefore, Roger sought employment elsewhere and found it in Byzantium.
Prologue The Ninth Templar Story Revised for Publication
A Brief History of the Knights Templar 1099-2007
After Jerusalem fell to the crusaders in 1099, most of the crusaders who did not return to their homelands they stayed in the Outremer (the Holy Land) to protect their gains and find all the remaining wealth as payment for their time. The crusaders had also been granted absolution by the Pope for their conquest and capture of Jerusalem. Many of the men that took part in the first crusade were criminals and lowly born pheasants with no noble rank. In addition, they needed to hold their lands so that they did not fall back into Muslim control.
Sir Hugh De Payen was the vassal servant of the Count of Champagne and he was sent to the Holy Land with a contingent of Knights (mostly his family and close friends) to take part in the crusades on behalf of his feudal Lord. Many believe the Count of Champagne, who was a very learned and worldly man, and as such entertained nobles from far away lands. These nobles had told Count Hugh of Champagne many stories of the secret wealth of the Jews being hidden under the old original Temple of Solomon. Thus he sent his best warrior and some men to find the treasure and keep their mission a secret only between himself and Sir Hugh de Payen. He left on the first crusade and fought for over twenty years across the Holy Land until the capture of Jerusalem.
The Knights Templar were formed following the First Crusade, and although they disbanded in the 1300s, they are still the focus of myth and legend. But how much do you know about the history of the mysterious Knights Templar?
After the success of the First Crusade where Jerusalem was reclaimed from the Muslims, several groups of pilgrims from various places in Western Europe started to journey to the Holy Land. It was not an easy journey as many people were killed while crossing the Muslim-controlled territory. Sometime in the year 1118, Hugues de Payens, a knight from France, together with his eight relatives and friends, founded a military order, which they called the Poor Knights of the Temple of King Solomon, which was later renamed the Knights Templar. They were supported by the king of Jerusalem, Baldwin II and Temple Mount (King Solomon’s Temple Site) became their headquarters. They vowed to protect the Christians visiting the Holy Land. It was here that many believe the secret plan was then implemented. The men would provide safe passage for Pilgrims and guard the routes to and from Jerusalem. In addition, it is believed by some scholars that their excavation of the Original Temple Site began and took approximately eight years to carry out. Then in 1128 Hugh de Payen made some discovery that caused him much concern and he deviated from their original plan and immediately went back to Christendom, but instead of seeking out the Count of Champagne, he went to see Abbot Bernard de Clairvaux. Bernard de Clairvaux was one of the early leaders of the Cistercian order of monks. He was also related to Hugh de Payen and some of his knights.
Bernard de Clairvaux felt that whatever that Hugh de Payen’s showed him created so much intrigue and value to Christianity that it needed to be safe guarded even from his own Vatican. He asked the Pope to allow for the establishment of the Knights Templar to carry out what he saw as a holy mission that God has preordained needed to be brought to fruition. He championed the creation of the Knights Templar Order as the Guardian of that purpose and the protector of the secrets uncovered and discovered. It was rumored that Bernard de Clairvaux was worried that the Vatican would attempt to subvert the true identity and legacy of Christ because it may have been vastly different than the Catholic doctrine that the Papacy had put forth. Bernard de Clairvaux became known as the Doctor of the Church and Pope maker, a very prominent and powerful church scholar and he later was Sainted.
Religious leaders initially criticized the need for such a powerful military order within the church itself. However, by 1129 they were given the formal endorsement by the Catholic Church. The Templars took vows of poverty, their order was allowed to accrue land and wealth and they received not only lavish donations from many regions of Europe but also found new recruits from the nobles that wanted to gain prominence. The knights likewise adopted a more Spartan code of conduct called the Rule of Seventy Two, which stated all conduct and rigorous doctrine for their daily lives. The Knights started wearing what would become their signature garment: white habits decorated with a splayed red cross on their chest. At their height the Templars had more men at arms than any single Monarch and they were the very best warriors on the battlefield. They had a strict military command hierarchy that gave them precise battlefield tactics. They constructed vast castles and established over ten thousand estates across Christendom, each producing yet more wealth for the combined use of the order.
They became known as fierce warriors for the major battles they fought during the Crusades. They were not allowed to retreat from battle unless outnumbered four to one. The Templars were not allowed to be held for ransom, so they held no value as captors. This begun their legend of fighting to the death and with such ferocity that it scared their opponents. The money that the Templars brought in allowed them to furnish their knights with the best heavy armor, weapons and horses of their day. The Templar charge was alleged to have made the earth tremble from the power and weight of their Knights on horseback. This shock and awe power was used to rout many of their opponents. With donations continuing to pour in, they set up a banking system so that religious pilgrims could deposit assets while still in their home country, and withdraw funds when they reached Jerusalem. This was the first known use of lines of credits. The Templars gained huge financial wealth from large donations and several business ventures. During the height of their power, they owned several fleet of ships, were the primary lenders to the nobles and monarchs of Europe and even owned the island of Cyprus. It was estimated that they held more wealth than the Church itself and all the Monarchs of Europe combined. This did create some very serious jealousy and contempt for them from those that owed them vast sums of money.
The Muslim soldiers regained Jerusalem in the latter part of the 12th century and changed the course of the Crusaders’ history. The Muslims were able to force the Knights Templar to relocate a number of times, and with the Europeans’ dwindling support for the military campaigns in Jerusalem, the popularity of the Templars began to wane as well and people questioned the Vatican about the need for their continued existence. They also started to have skirmishes with other Christian military orders, and participated in battles that were unsuccessful. Around 1303, they no longer had a foothold in the Muslim world, and their base of operation was moved to Paris. They faced another adversary in Philip IV (known as Phillip the Fair for his vanity), the king of France, who wanted to bring them down. It could be because the Templars refused to grant him additional loans on top of his other loans or it could be because the Templars were interested in forming their own state somewhere in the southeastern part of France. He feared it would be in the old Cathar region since the Templars had been known supporters of the Cathars in and around Carcassonne France.
The last grand master of the Knights Templar was Jacques de Molay. He was arrested together with approximately sixty other Knights on October 13, 1307. They were charged with numerous offences, such as financial corruption, fraud, homosexuality, spitting on the cross, devil worship and heresy. Most were tortured brutally and questioned under duress, many of the Templars, including de Molay, confessed initially to end their suffering. It is estimated that during this brutal betrayal approximately six hundred knights had been captured across Christendom. Some of the Templars were burned at the stake in Paris because they recanted the confessions they made earlier when they were tried. De Molay was also burned at the stake on March 18, 1314. The Pope at that time was Clement V. Clement was a childhood friend of King Phillip IV and was the Cardinal that King Phillip supported after the death of the earlier Pope under suspicious terms while he was held captive by Guillame de Nogaret (King Phillips Chief advisor). Clement then moved Vatican operations to Avignon France so that the Rome location did not fall to the Ottomans and Muslims that were invading and raiding the Spanish and Italians at the time. He previously raised concern about the secret initiation rites conducted by the Knights Templar and actually ordered an inquiry of his own. In 1312 King Philip convinced the Pope to dissolve the Knights Templar and allow for his forgiveness of any debts owed to himself and all the other Monarchs at the time.
The Knights Templar: Do they still exist today?
The Knights Templar were thought to have been disbanded some 700 years ago officially upon the death of their 23 rd Grand Master Jacques de Molay. However, there are those who believe that the order still exists and has just gone underground. In the 18th century, the Freemasons and some other organizations resurrected some of the traditions and symbols of the medieval knights to keep their legend known. In recent years, stories surfaced, many of which found their way into books and films. Some say that the Knights Templar, while headquartered at Temple Mount, dug up the Holy Grail. Another story said that they have kept a secret that could destroy the Catholic Church.
The Great Diaspora- (scattering of the Knights and their possessions) did take place as most scholars generally agree, that the Templars managed to disperse most of their portable wealth before the King’s henchmen came to confiscate it. The Templars had a vast network of knights and members at the time, approximately 160,000 folks. Indeed, the royal agents found all the monasteries had in large part been abandoned and left desolate… they found the Templar ships had all set sail and not even been recorded by departure or destination. Other smaller Templar fleets in the south and north of France, Flanders, and Portugal also left ports – and sailed into legend. … Also missing from the Templars’ strongholds were the documents and records of the former empire of the Order. Thus the mystery is secured and the conspiracy to both destroy them, loot their treasury and uncover and possibly destroy any evidence that did not benefit the Vatican was avoided by the Templars own failsafe plans for such deceit and treachery.
To provide for their new secret infrastructure of the new form of the Order as a secret society, and with no more Holy wars to wage, the Templars fell back on their second career, finance and trade. In addition, many believe they revisited their original plan to establish their own kingdom in Christendom, but one where they could control their own destiny without regard for the intervention of other Monarchs or the Vatican’s control.
Naturally, most of the Templar wealth was out in the fields as working assets earning them income on crops, trade, and money affairs. This new model of revenue for the order… needed many new forms of secret infrastructure to allow it to continue to flow for them. Much of their revenue was transferred to their new Headquarters in Tomar Portugal, where they had not been persecuted. Also, besides the 18 ships that escaped from the port of La Rochelle in 1307, the vast majority of Templar ships, both merchant vessels and armed galleons… would surely have been doing what the Templars did best – plying the seas of the Mediterranean and Atlantic, earning money to keep the order financially sound by arranging for commerce transactions.
Finally the Conspiracy Mystery is Uncloaked:
On 20 August 1308, Pope Clement V secretly absolved the Knights Templar of the charges brought against them by the Inquisition and supported by King Phillip IV.
The Knights Templar had been one of the largest of the medieval Catholic military orders and had acquired a great deal of political and financial influence in Europe. French King Philip IV, who owed the Templars a significant amount of money, used rumors about the secret rituals of the Templars to bring charges of heresy against them so that his debts could be erased. He wanted to suppress the Templars in Europe and to obtain their wealth for himself, a fortuitous windfall he felt he was worthy of for bringing their Satanic rituals to the attention of the Pope. He brought a good deal of pressure upon the Pope Clement V to support his attacks against them. Many believe since Clement feared if he did not go along he to might meet the same fate as his predecessor. Originally the Pope had hoped to merge the Templars with the Knights Hospitaller Order in order to preserve the military presence that the Vatican could use at their disposal if any Monarchs saw fit to oppose Vatican authority. But the Templars wanted no part in that scenario. The Hospitallers went on to be the muscle that the Vatican and in particular the Jesuit Order utilized to torture, kill and punish those that the Inquisition found guilty during the great inquisition period. This stigma haunted and tainted the Knights Hospitaller Order so much that they changed their name to the Knights of Malta to try to down play the carnage and brutality that their Hospitaller Order came to be known for. The Templars for their part did not trust or regard the Hospitallers very highly and there was a very significant discord between the two orders. The Templar assets that the Vatican did find or control at the time of their disbanding in 1312 were all turned over to the Hospitallers by the Vatican to reward them for their loyalty to the Church.
The Chinon Parchment reveals that Pope Clement V gave the Grand Master of the Templars and other heads of the Templar Order absolution from the charges of heresy and permission to receive the sacraments. At this time, Clement still hoped to be able to save the Templars from the wrath of Philip IV. However, Philip threatened military action against Clement if he did not dissolve the Templars and at the Council of Vienne in 1312, Pope Clement V issued the bull Vox in excelso – which abolished the Order of Templars on the grounds of the many scandalous accusations which had been brought against them. It was known to the Pope that these charges were not substantiated or truthful but many believe he chose to ignore that so that the Papacy could remain in tact and out of harms way from Phillip IV, the most powerful of the Kings in Christendom. Though, Clement V also noted that his decision to abolish the Templars [was] not without bitterness and sadness of heart. His deceit and complicity none the less were sealed by his act of doing nothing to do what was right and just.
In 2001 the Vatican Secret Archives re-discovered the Chinon Parchment of 1308 AD, in which Pope Clement V absolved the Knights Templar and their last official Grand Master Jacques de Molay of all charges brought against he and the entire Order of the Templars. The Chinon 1308 Papal decree “extended the mercy of pardon from excommunication”, thereby “restoring to unity with the Church and reinstating to the communion of the faithful and the sacraments of the Church”. (Another Chinon Parchment was already known to historians, published in 1693 and 1751 AD, containing the same wording.)
In 1311 AD, the Council of Vienne held in Dauphine further ratified the Chinon Parchment, voting to continue the maintenance of the Templar Order.
In 1312 AD, however, under extreme pressure from French King Philip IV, and after many unsuccessful attempts to merge the Templars with the Order of Hospitalliers to preserve them, Pope Clement V issued the Papal Bull Vox in Excelsis, that is believed to have suspended the Order, and Ad Providam, which redistributed most Templar assets (those that were held by the Vatican) to the Hospitalliers (Knights of Malta) and other orders. Although this has been interpreted as “dissolving” the Order, the Vox in Excelsis Bull explicitly stated that it was “not by definitive sentence”, and it was in fact only a dismantling of the infrastructure of the Knights Templar Order as devised by the Vatican originally. Many feel that this wording allowed for the secret preservation of the order even within the walls of the Vatican, where the Templars still had many Cardinals and supporters that were known close confidants, especially those within the Cistercian Order of Monks.
Post Diaspora Theoretical History of The Knights Templar and their Families
It is relatively impossible for an order with the size, power and wealth of the Knights Templar to just vanish over night, so the conundrum is where did they go and how did they hide so many with so much so well? That remains the question that most scholars cannot answer with certainty.
AD March 18, 1314- The Last known Grand Master Jacques de Molay is burned at the stake on the lle des Juifs a small island in the Seine river across from Notre Dame Cathedral. Some believe that he secretly conveyed his Grand Master rights by official charter of transmission to the Templar priest that heard his last confession, Father Jean-Marc Larmenious, so that the succession of Grand Masters would not be broken.
AD 1314- Rumors that some elements of the Templars have fled to Scotland and were in armed support of King Robert the Bruce in his defense against the English are raised. Legend has been said to bring forward that a group of heavily armed knights charged out of the woods at the battle of Bannockburn and routed the huge English army by shock and awe of their heavy cavalry and fighting ferocity, thus establishing King Robert the Bruce as rightful King of Scotland.
AD 1315- The Battle of Morgarten at Gothard Pass where a small force of 1500 lightly armed peasants defeated the enormous army of some 5,000 heavily armed mounted knights of Austrian Habsburg Duke Leopold I, who was trying to establish a short invasion route to Italy. Legend says the Templars trained and directed the ambush of the far superior Austrian forces. This led to the formal establishment of Switzerland, which is the oldest democracy still in continued existence. Many of the Swiss ideals are directly related to Templar philosophies and symbols yet today. Switzerland was a mountainous region directly adjacent to France and easily accessible to the fleeing Templars and could be resupplied from Italy from their ports. This was what some believe as the establishment of the Templar Kingdom within Christendom that many of them had wanted rather than to try to reconquer the Holy Land as Jacques de Molay had desired. Switzerland was difficult to invade and had rough terrain and was isolated from Rome and the others Monarchs.
AD 1319- The Order of Christ is founded in Tomar Portugal by King Dinis and he allows it be established as the new home of the Templars HQ.
AD 1347- King Magnus Eriksson of Sweden charters the first entity to establish a perpetual ownership of a mining operation, and thus the concept of a Corporation is created. His line was directly connected and in support of the Templars according to history. This concept of a body of anonymous ownership collective was a Templar design. The perfect way to invest money anonymously without giving away identities and thus creating a risk of detection, it allowed them to make money and invest money in many operations around the world and create even larger financial wealth for themselves.
AD 1397- The first modern bank is established in Venice, by Giovanni Medici, a known Templar family in a strong Templar operational base. The Venetians built most of the Templar ships and many believe Venice was the naval port the Swiss Templars utilized for sea access to and from their inland empire in Switzerland. It was from this that the first modern bonds were sold to finance new investments and pay off war debts and paying interest to the bond shareholders was established. This as yet another Templar banking concept.
AD 1446-Rosslyn Chapel is constructed by the Scottish Sinclair family a long-standing Founding member of the Templar order. Many believe the clues to the Templar secret history were etched into the intricate designs and that even some Templar archives were hidden there. Others believe it was the Templar’s plan to create a red herring to throw most anyone off their real trail if they were being sought out for further persecution.
AD 1415- Prince Henry the Navigator born from a Templar led the Portuguese exploration of the Americas and created the first school of exploration by the sea.
AD 1492- Christopher Columbus also believed to have been a Templar was exploring looking for a route to the spice islands but rediscovered North America some say by reading secret Templar maps from earlier voyages taken from their Northern bases of Operation in Scotland and Scandinavia.
AD 1519- Magellan also from a Templar family known as a navigator led the first successful round the world voyage and opened up new discoveries including the cape of Africa and the Indian ocean islands and Asian routes. This gave the Templars vast new unchartered lands to develop and create revenue from by developing infrastructure there and also keeping them out of reach of the Monarchs of Europe.
AD 1602- The Dutch East India Company is formed and stocks are able to be traded or exchanged at varying values within a controlled center of commerce (stock exchange). This is also a Templar Concept so that they can invest their vast sums of monies in multiple commerce operations across many kingdoms eventually and attract new ideas worthy of investment to their awareness. Establishing the first of many stock exchange houses across Europe and eventually the world. The perfect intelligence gathering apparatus for investing anonymously in all types of operations and secretly amassing huge sums of wealth in plain sight.
AD 1609- Royal Bank of Amsterdam is formed and begins to take deposits and make loans with interest, highly linked to the same members that founded the Dutch East India Company alleged to be from Templar families.
AD 1668- The First Central Bank is formed again a major Templar Concept for organizing a vast banking empire that is growing immensely in popularity and profits and creating sway and influence that is unrivaled even by the Vatican and the Rulers of Europe. This bank was again formed in Sweden as the Riksbanken creating a central currency for trade and commerce.
AD 1741- Swiss Private Banking is borne officially with the launch of the Wegelin Private Bank. This is the birth of the secretive Swiss banking system renowned worldwide for their secrecy and security in the most violent and inhospitable of times. All, of these are Templar founding ideals of their order. The Swiss position of maintaining their fierce neutrality and forming a common and mobile means of defense against any invaders is also a Templar concept. The Swiss Redoubt of defense fortifications was the design to protect Switzerland from any invader and provide that all able bodied men under age fifty should have military training and keep weapons at their homes for instant mobilization if the defense of their country was necessary.
AD 1804- Emperor Napoleon restores the Ordre du Temple as a direct rebuke to the French Kings before that had caused the Order’s demise. This has now been utilized as the foundation of the modern Templar Order reconstitution of being publicly visible. Subsequently the Templar’s officially set up operational facilities in Jerusalem, London, Geneva, Portugal and America and now in several other countries expanding the order once again along the original ideals. Including becoming a chartered recognized NON-Governmental Organization holding stature within the United Nations and being the only military and Christian order recognized by all the Royal Houses of Europe and Scandinavia today as men of nobility.
AD October 25, 2007- The Vatican declares the Templars were innocent of all allegations and absolves the Templars of all crimes against the church with a full 700 years too late pardon of their grave mistake and heinous act against the followers of Christ. This is due to a document found by a Vatican Archives researcher, which indicated that the Pope knew of their innocence in 1307-1314 but turned his head as the atrocities that were committed against the order. Thus sealing the fact that their demise was indeed a conspiracy to over throw the Order and defrock them of their wealth, title and honor. The great mystery of what they discovered however remains the whisper of speculation still today.
The secrets have not been made public if they are known to the Modern Order and those that may have survived of the secret families within the original noble order have never broken rank as to the “Great Treasure that the Knights Templar Order was established to preserve and protect for humanity against all that would seek to subvert and/or misuse such knowledge to their own worldly gains.”
The Secrets have created an enormous amount of historical and scholarly Conjecture:
The identity of the ninth founding member of the order has never been established to this day. The name of Hugh de Payen and his seven other named founders are well documented. But the historical records always state that there are nine founding members of which one has been kept anonymous. Why would Hugh de Payen immediately need such secrecy? Many believe the Ninth Templar original member was kept secret to allow for the guardianship of the secrets even from those within the order itself, and that this kinship and lineage of guardianship is another secret that exists within the most secretive and powerful order ever established through out history.
Another major point of curiosity is exactly what did Sir Hugh de Payen find under King Solomon’s Temple that changed him and his purpose so radically? Whatever it was had such significant worth and merit that he immediately raced back to Europe to meet with the most knowledgeable clergyman of his time, Abbott Bernard de Clairvaux, and the Abbott was so moved he wrote to the Pope asking and beseeching the Vatican to provide special protection and commissioning endorsement for Sir Hugh de Payen and his knights. No order had ever been granted so much autonomy by the Vatican ever before. They did not pay taxes to any monarch and did not tithe to the church. In addition the Templars could cross borders without any permission required from Feudal lords and owed no fealty to any monarch. They were allowed to have their own priests that did not come under the auspices of the other orders within the church. This gave the Templars complete autonomy from any outside influence and thus the ability to conduct their operations and duty without prejudice, which Abbott Bernard de Clairvaux maintained was paramount to their ability to fulfill their destiny. The major question then is so just what did Hugh de Payen discover under King Solomon’s Temple that created so much necessity that it should create so much responsibility and independence so much so that the Vatican allowed for these special rules? Many speculate that the significance was so vast that it swayed the most powerful organization of those days on the planet, the Vatican to give them never before special privileges. The list of beliefs and legends include the identity of Christ and his special relationship to Mary and his supernatural status with God. Some belief it was alien artifacts used by Solomon to control magical powers such as alchemy, wisdom and knowledge of universal significance and immortality. The most popular are the actual Holy Grail or chalice that Christ drank from and blessed the Disciples with at the Last Supper and the very Ark of the Covenant itself. Another very interesting legend is that Christ himself wrote a gospel explaining everything that man needed to know about God, the Afterlife, the Universe and our existence that would allow mankind to become more understanding of God and his actual designs and desires for humanity. This Lost Gospel of Christ may contradict many of the religious views of current religions including the Vatican, so it would not necessarily be viewed as being something that would lead to the furtherance of the Catholic Church’s doctrine. The Knights became very wealthy very quickly so some believe that they found the hidden treasury of the Jews and possibly the Phoenicians. The speculation of what was found if anything at all is far reaching. The truth is it could be all of the above, some of the above or none of the above. That is the foundation to the intrigue behind the great conspiracy theorists views. The thirst for this information by society is almost insatiable. Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code sold over 5,000,000 copies, Raymond Kourey’s The Last Templar sold over 5,000,000 copies, Steve Berry’s book the Last Templar has sold over 2,000,000 copies and the list goes on. The tale of the Knights Templar has spawned numerous books, legends, documentaries and feature movies. The Fan blogs dedicated to this subject get regular unique visitors of between 15,000 to 100,000 per year. So, in spite the antiquity to the tale the modern public has continued to remain fascinated with it.
The tale of what they found and why they were forced to hide it is a story of great fascination because it includes murder, conspiracy, deceit, betrayal and secrecy that has evaded mankind for nearly nine hundred years, until now. What if the story came out today and had real merit? How would those in power react to such new knowledge and how would such powers be used if they were indeed supernatural and so powerful as many have speculated? Where is the guardian the Ninth Templar today does he still exist and if so, what role does he play in protecting these secrets and treasures today? The clash between good and evil is a classic tale of biblical proportions but if given this additional twist this could be the actual preliminary warning of the days just before Armageddon. Only God until now knows the actual truth, but all of that is about to possibly change. This is the tale of the Ninth Templar and his legacy in our modern times.
In 1204 Constantinople fell to an attack by the Christian army of the Fourth Crusade. The empire was apportioned between Venice and the crusade's leaders, and the Latin Empire of Constantinople was established. Numerous Greek states sprang up in Byzantine lands each having a claim to the throne.
The Palaiologoi dynasty of the Empire of Nicaea was the strongest of the contenders. In 1261, while the bulk of the Latin Empire's military forces were absent from Constantinople, Byzantine General Alexios Strategopoulos used the opportunity to seize the city with 600 troops. Thrace, Macedonia and Thessalonica had already been taken by Nicaea in 1246.
The Empire was now restored under Michael VIII Palaiologos.
The Nicaean Empire had been successful in holding its own against its Latin and Seljuk Turk opponents. But because most of Anatolia was lost to Islam, the restored Empire was chronically short of money, food and men for the army.
|Roger de Flor |
Leader of the Catalan Company
With a smaller and smaller population base to draw upon, hiring mercenaries became the only answer.
The Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos hired the 6,500 strong "Catalan Company" of Almogavars, led by Roger de Flor.
The Catalan Company
The origin of the Catalan Company goes back to the Muslim invasion of the Iberian peninsula.
The Almogavars - Their name is the transformation into Catalan of an Arab word, al-mogauar, which means “one who devastates”.
They were mountain shepherds from the Pyrenees mountains of Northern Spain or forest-dwellers. These were the men who carried war to the Arab taïfa, a war made up of raids, pillaging and unstable frontiers.
Because of the wars of the Reconquista the Christian shepherds of the Pyrenean valleys were left unable to use the valleys in winter because they had been occupied. In order to continue to survive, these shepherds had to organize themselves into bands of outlaws and penetrate the enemy domain in search of what their people needed to survive. During these raids, which usually lasted only a few days, the Almogavars could live off the land and sleep in the open.
They were remarkable in that they were both fierce and disciplined in combat (outside combat, not so much). They could move fast through very rugged terrain, attack a Muslim settlement, and then flee before reinforcements arrived. Although they could stand against heavy cavalry, they proved very effective troops in running down the lighter Berber-style horsemen of the Iberian Muslim kingdoms.
The average Almughavar wore little to no armor, growing his hair and beards long. He carried a spear, 2 heavy javelins (called azconas), and short stabbing sword. They were the literal descendents of the Iberians that followed Hannibal into Rome, their weapons unchanged since the Romans copied them (naming them Pila and Gladius Hispaniensis).
After many generations of leading this new kind of life that they had been pushed into by the invaders, it seems clear that a genuine warrior spirit formed in these shepherd communities, so that they ended up not knowing how to live by any other means than making war. In addition, it was much easier to make a living through attacks lasting a few days than by working hard for the whole year.
The Catalan Company may have been the first true mercenary company in Western Europe.
The Catalan Company was raised in 1281 to fight as mercenaries in the War of the Sicilian Vespers, where the Angevin and Aragonese dynasties fought over the Kingdom of Sicily. When the war ended 20 years later its commander was Rutger von Blum, better known as Roger de Flor.
De Flor was originally a Templar sergeant. At the fall of Acre in 1291 he became rich using one of the Templar galleys to shuttle fugitives from Acre to Cyprus for enormous fees later he was a pirate before he joined the Catalan Company and worked his way up to command it.
|An Ottoman Cavalry Charge|
An Ottoman Turk Victory
The Battle of Bapheus occurred on 27 July 1302 between a Muslim Ottoman army under Osman I and a Byzantine army under George Mouzalon. The battle ended in a crucial Ottoman victory, cementing the Ottoman state and heralding the final capture of Byzantine Bithynia by the Turks.
Bapheus was the first major victory for the nascent Ottoman emirate, and of major significance for its future expansion: the Byzantines effectively lost control of the countryside of Bithynia, withdrawing to their forts, which, isolated, fell one by one.
The Byzantine defeat also sparked a massive exodus of the Christian population from the area into the European parts of the Empire, further altering the region’s demographic balance. Coupled with the disaster of Magnesia, which allowed the Turks to reach and establish themselves on the coasts of the Aegean Sea, Bapheus thus heralded the final loss of Asia Minor for Byzantium.
The Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus had to do something about the rising threat of the Ottoman Turks.
When peace broke out in Sicily the Catalan Company was surplus, and Sicily was strongly interested in seeing the last of them. De Flor negotiated a good deal with the Byzantine Emperor, Andronikos II, who desperately needed mercenaries to fight the Turks after the Byzantine at Nicomedia in July 1302.
Roger de Flor's offer was accepted by both Byzantium and by the Aragonese, rulers in Sicily and southern Italy, who were quite eager to rid themselves of unemployed and unruly soldiers. Roger de Flor departed with 39 galleys and transports carrying around 1,500 knights and 4,000 Almogavars infantry.
| Emperor Andronikos II |
The Emperor on a wall fresco in a monastery in Serres . He was acclaimed co-emperor in 1261, after his father Michael VIII recovered Constantinople from the Latin Empire, but he was crowned only in 1272. Was sole emperor from 1282. The Emperor hired 6,500 Catalan mercenaries under Roger de Flor to campaign against the Turks.
|The Catalan Company campaigned against the Turks in western Anatolia |
in an attempt to recover the lands for the Eastern Roman Empire.
The Company arrived at Constantinople in September 1303 and were truly welcome by the Greeks. They had no sooner arrived in Constantinople than they got involved in a bloody melee in the street with the local Genoese community.
Roger de Flor married the niece of Andronicus, daughter of the Tsar of Bulgaria, and was named Grand Duke (head of the fleet). Roger was created Caesar, perhaps in December 1304.
Soon afterwards Andronikos asked the Catalans to go to Anatolia to reinforce Philadelphia, a Byzantine city entirely surrounded by the Turks for some years. In less than 8 days, Roger de Flor and his army destroyed the Turkish site and left nobody alive older than 10 years old. In the next 3 years the Catalans cleaned Greece from Turkish presence and Andronic was celebrating he had recovered full power on his territory.
Michael IX Palaiologos, son of Andronikos II, took over the Byzantium empire at his father's death, so Roger was concerned his lack of character and experience would cause the Turkish to be back to Greece thus, he claimed to become Ceasar of Byzantium to be able to protect the Cristian territory from the Ottomans.
But the new emperor did not like it, he was fearful and envious of the power of the Almogàvers. Due to the victories and successes along the years, the Greek population started to praise Roger de Flor, now duke of Byzantium. So the young emperor felt threaten by the Catalan general's popularity, as they were heroes who had freed them from the Turkish. So he planned to betray the Catalans.
From the Byzantine point of view, the Company in Anatolia may have defeated the Turks, but it also engaged in widespread violence and looting of the Byzantine inhabitants. By this point, the Catalans, who had recruited nearly 3000 Turkic horse into their ranks, were considered by the Byzantines to be little better than brigands and freebooters. The successes had inflated the already arrogant De Flor, leading him to entertain plans of establishing his own dominion in Anatolia.
Before leaving for a new campaign in the region of Anatolia, Roger de Flor and some of his best men were invited to the court for a farewell dinner. There they were brutally assassinated: the Emperor had contracted Albanese assassins to kill them.
Roger was slain along with 300 cavalry and 1,000 infantry by the Alans, another group of mercenaries at the service of the Emperor.
The emperor later attacked Gallipoli attempting to conquer the city from the remnants of the Company under the command of Berenguer d'Entença who had arrived with 9 Catalan galleys. The attack was unsuccessful, but it largely decimated the Company. Berenguer d'Entença was captured by the Genoese shortly after, and later liberated. The Company had only 206 horsemen, 1,256 foot soldiers left and no clear leader when Emperor Michael attacked, trusting in his numerical superiority, only to be defeated in Battle of Apros in July 1305.
|Consisting primarily of Almogavars, Catalan soldiers from the |
Pyrennes Mountains between Spain and France, they were
lightly armed but hardened in the wars.
Thus began the Catalan Vengeance. For two years, the Catalan Company raided and ravaged the regions of Thrace and Macedonia for the next two years, including an attack on Mount Athos. They sacked Rodosto, brutally hacking apart every man, woman, and child in revenge for what was done to their brothers and their leader. Although they had no siege works and so could not sack the walled cities, no Greek army could stand against them.
The Emperor was forced to watch as the Catalans burnt the undefended outskirts of Constantinople. So thorough was their domination that the two year pillage of Thrace ended not because they were forced out, but because there simply was not enough places that they could pillage for food.
The Catalan Company in Athens
On the 15 March 1311 an army of 700 Frankish Knights, 2,300 cavalry and 12,000 foot soldiers led by Walter V of Brienne, met the Catalan Company of 3,000 of which 500 cavalry. There was also a contingent of 2,000 Turks standing by, to take the side of the winners.
The day before the battle, the Company flooded the battle field with the waters of Cephissus (Kiffissos) river, and made it very difficult for the heavy knights’ cavalry to move, thus becoming prey to the agile and light cavalry of the Company.
The Catalans won a devastating victory, killing Walter and almost all of his cavalry, and seizing his Duchy of Athens, excepting only the Lordship of Argos and Nauplia.
The battle marks the beginning of the Catalan domination of Athens (1311-1388).
In 1312, the Catalan Company appealed to Frederick III of Sicily to take over the duchy and he complied by appointing his second born son, Manfred of Sicily as Duke of Athens and Neopatria. The arms seen above are those of the Aragonese Kings of Sicily under which the Duchy of Athens came. (The Duchy of Athens)
The Catalan rule was to last until 1388 when they were defeated by the Navarrese Company under Pedro de San Superano, Juan de Urtubia, and allied with the Florentines under Nerio I Acciaioli of Corinth. His descendants controlled them until 1456 when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire.
By that time, like many military enterprises, the Great Company had faded out of history.
The Catalan Company and How They Weakened the Byzantine Empire for Ottoman Conquest
No doubt that the restoration of 1261 significantly weakened Byzantine defensive power in Asia Minor. This weakened period of the Byzantine empire will be well used by the Turks. The Mongol invasion which shocked Europe caused mass migrations of Turkic Tribes towards Asia Minor and the Byzantine border. The Turks drowned Asia Minor without encountering any resistance except in major cities. By the year 1300 all of Asia Minor was under Turkish rule. In this Turkish storm only major fortresses like Nicaea, Nicomedia, Bursa, Sardis, Philadelphia, Magnesia survived. The conquered country was divided amongst the Turkic leaders. Thus, in western Asia Minor occurred several Turkish principalities. Old Bithynia was held by Osman, the father of the Ottoman dynasty, which later united under his scepter all Turkish tribes and Conquered Byzantium and South Slavic countries. Byzantium stood helpless and confused before the catastrophe that collapsed over her.
The Catalan Company
In this hopeless situation suddenly a shining new ray of hope. Roger de Flor, captain of the famous Catalan Company or officially known as Magna Societas Catalanorum, had offered to the emperor their services in the fight against the Turks. The Catalan Company helped the Sicilian king Frederik in his battle with the house of Anjou. After the peace of Caltabellotta, which ended the war in favor of the Aragonese dynasty left the Catalan mercenaries without jobs and seeking new service. The Byzantine Emperor accepted their service with great joy and in late 1303 Roger De Flor arrived in Constantinople with 6,500 soldiers. Placing all his hope in the Catalans, Andronicus II gave the agreed salary for four months in advance, engaged Roger de Flor to his niece Maria Asen, appointed him Megas Dux, and later even the title of Caesar.
The Catalan Company under the service of the Emperor
In early 1304 the Catalan company went to Asia Minor attacking the city of Philadelphia (Φιλαδέλφεια), which was under siege by the Turks. With a swift attack, they easily defeated the Turks. Roger de Flor entered the liberated city as a victor. This victory showed that a small but powerful army could change the outcome of the battle. The tragedy for the Byzantine Empire was that she had no longer an army like this and she had to hire foreign mercenaries. But the foreign mercenary army was a dangerous weapon, especially when it constituted an autonomous body and it could refuse to obey the weak government.
The death of Roger de Flor
After their victory the Catalan Company started to ravage the surrounding countries, robbing them, regardless if they were Turks or Byzantines and finally instead of fighting the Turks they invaded Byzantine Magnesia. The government in Constantinople was relieved that they managed to convince them to return. The Catalan Company spent the winter of 1304/5 in Gallipoli in preparation for another spring invasion of Asia Minor. However, tensions between the mercenaries and the Empire constantly increased. In Constantinople there was growing indignation against the boldness of the mercenaries, especially angry towards them was the heir to the throne Michael IX. Meanwhile the Catalan Company was embittered because they weren’t receiving their regular agreed salary and they used this as justification for their ravages and transgressions. The clash intensified to such an extent that in April 1305 Roger de Flor was killed in the Place of Michael IX. The Byzantines believed that with this they will get rid of the turbulent mercenaries when in fact the worst was yet to take place.
The Revenge of the Catalan Company
The Indignant Catalans took up arms in revenge for the death of their leader and now there was open war. In Trace during the battle of Apros the motley army of Michael IX suffered a heavy defeat and Michail IX himself was wounded and barely escaped with his life. For two years the Catalan company reinforced by fresh forces coming from the motherland and the recruitment of Turkish troops, ruthlessly ravaged and plundered throughout Thrace. After they ravaged all of Trace they went through the Rhodope Mountains and in the autumn of 1307 they settled in Kassandreia. From here they continued their looting everywhere, not sparing even the monasteries on Mount Athos, They even tried an attack on Thessalonica by land and sea but they failed to capture the City.
The Catalan Principality
In 1310 Roger Deslaur then offered the service of the Catalan Company to Walter V of Brienne Duke of Athens and within a year the experienced and unbeatable mercenaries freed the duchy of its enemies, only to be betrayed by Brienne, who refused to pay them their salaries. The Company once again avenged itself, defeating and killing Brienne in the Battle of Halmyros on 15 March 1311, taking control of the duchy of Athens and creating their own Catalan principality. Around this time, the Company also conquered the city of Thebes. In 1318 the Company expanded its power into Thessaly, taking control of the Duchy of Neopatria. The Catalan rule was to last until 1388–1390, when they were defeated by the Navarrese Company under Pedro de San Superano, Juan de Urtubia, and allied with the Florentines under Nerio I Acciaioli of Corinth. His descendants controlled them until 1456 when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire. By that time, like many military enterprises, the Great Company had faded out of history.
Roger de Flor and His Catalan Company: From Knight Templar to Pirate – Part I - History
by Friar Thomas Bacon (David Moreno)
Orignally published in the April 2003, A.S. XXXVII issue of the Dragonflyre, a publication of the Barony of Vatavia.
One of the songs frequently heard in the bardic circles at events is the &ldquoCatalan Vengeance&rdquo. It tells the story of Spanish troops in a battle with French knights. What might not be so well known is that is basically a true story. But like an artistically done story, it doesn&rsquot tell the whole story. This is the rest of the story.
The story does not begin in Catalonia, a region in Spain centered around Barcelona, and then connected to the Kingdom of Aragon. Nor does it begin in Greece, though much of the action occurs there. The story begins in Sicily. The uprising known as the Sicilian Vespers resulted in the Sicilian crown being given to the Aragon king. This, of course, did not sit well with the family of the previous ruler, so war was waged for twenty years. Among the Aragonese troops were a group of light infantry known as Almugavar.
Three years into the war, the original claimant, Pedro III, died. His eldest got the Aragon throne, while his second son, James, got the Sicilian throne. Six years later, the eldest died and James gained the Aragon throne, who then placed his brother Frederick as regent. But after four years, for peace, James exchanged Corsica and Sardinia for Sicily. The Sicilian did not appreciate this maneuver and so promoted Frederick to king. The Almugavar chose to fight for Frederick, and thus were branded traitors to the Aragon throne. Thus when the war finally ended in 1302 they could not go home.
Peace in Sicily did not agree with the Almugavar. But as it so happened, the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II had need of mercenaries to hold back the Turkish flood which had just taken out his latest army. Thus he readily accepted of the company&rsquos leader Roger de Flor to come fight for him. Sailing in 39 ships were 4000 Almugavar, 1500 horseman, 1000 other infantry, and their women and children.
Upon their arrival they quickly got into fights with the local Genoese merchants and Alan mercenaries&mdashfights that set up later tragedies, and were a constant feature of their presence. The following spring, in a series of fights relieved several cities being besieged by the Turks and chased them from the western part of the Anatolian plateau. The next year, they marched against the remaining Turkish presence and destroyed them. This occurred in front of the pass that separates the plateau from the lowlands of upper Mesopotamia, the Iron Gate of the song.
At this point, the company was recalled and they set up camp at Gallipoli. It was now that the political intrigues that had been festering made their mark. On Roger de Flor&rsquos part, to all appearances, was attempting to claim Anatolia as a nearly independent feudal fief. Moreover, he allied himself with the Empress Irene to put her son from her first marriage on the throne of Bulgaria. These two moves would have given him almost de facto control of the empire. The emperor&rsquos son and co-emperor, Michael, was ill-disposed to the company as it was his military failure that resulted in the company&rsquos coming. And for the emperor&rsquos part, he was not only dealing with an uppity subordinate, but he had no money to finish paying off the company, and had no further need for it.
These intrigues climaxed on April 5, 1305 at Adrianople. Roger had been lured there to Michael&rsquos palace with a minimal escort. The rest of the leaders of the company smelled a trap, but Roger insisted on going. Why is one of those mysteries of history. After several days of feasting and discussions, trap was sprung. After the Byzantines had retired, the Alans burst in killing Roger and the Catalans there. This was done to revenge the Alan&rsquos leader&rsquos son, who was killed in that first clash with the company. Byzantine soldiers killed most of the rest of the escort, though some were captured, but later died in a dramatic attempt to escape.
The Byzantines misjudged the Catalans in thinking that this dramatic stroke would cause them to slink away. It had the opposite effect. They began a campaign of revenge whose memory would last for centuries. Among the Greeks, the word Catalan holds as much horror as the word Nazi does today. And to call down the &ldquoCatalan vengeance&rdquo was the worst possible curse.
For two years the company scourged the area around the Bosporus. Only in the walled cities did the Greeks had a modicum of safety as the Catalans had no siege equipment. The Byzantine army sent against them was wiped out. They tracked down the Alans and virtually killed every last one of them. Finally, driven by the fact that they had made the area a virtual desert, they moved west to Thessaly where they continued their vengeance. It was here that they met with a general that could check and they were compelled to move south, where they found a new employer.
The Duke of Athens, Gautier de Brienne, was the descendant of the Burgundian leader of the Fourth Crusade. He saw the chaos created by the Catalan company as an opportunity to expand his holdings, and the company as the means. So the summer of 1310 saw the company help capture some 30 castles in central Greece for the duke. But at the end of the campaign, the duke saw no reason to give the company the rest of its pay or allow it settle in the area. The company spent a miserable winter in the mountains. In the spring, they came down for a reckoning.
The Battle of Kephissos, fought on March 15, 1311, should be listed along with Falkirk, Courtrai, Bannockburn, and to a lesser extent Crecy and Agincourt. Heavy armored cavalry charging undersized infantry whose front was protected by a morass. All with the same results: the cavalry was slaughtered. The battle site is in a basin drained only by the limestone caverns beneath. The night before the battle, the company reopened the channels that regularly flooded the plain. The duke gathered all his feudal forces, some 700 knights, 2300 other cavalry, and 12000 infantry. The company numbered 3000 with 500 cavalry. Another 2000 Turkish auxiliaries stood nearby, unsure if the battle was really a trap for them. As the French forces began to be slaughter, they joined in.
The song implies that there was a line of spearmen in front of the main line at the edge of the marsh, and that the French made at least two charges. This is unsupported by the period descriptions of the battle. These reports put a single charge in which the horses quickly floundered and the French resistance collapsed. While the company casualties go unmentioned, they do not appear to by heavy. The five gold rings of the song were bought cheaply.
While the song ends with the battle, the story of the company continues. Kephissos can be compared with yet another battle that of Hattan which ended the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In each, the leadership and fighting force was completely eliminated, and further resistance was impossible. The Catalan Company found themselves the rulers of the Duchy of Athens.
The story immediately takes a strange twist. In the years since the murder of Roger de Flor, the company gradually lost, usually through death or betrayal, all its gentlemen leaders. Realizing that a leader from the peasant class would not be recognized, they cast around for a leader with the proper statue. Not all the French knights were killed, several had been saved because they had dealt fairly with the company in the past. So they set one of these knights as their leader. They then appealed to Frederick of Sicily to be the sovereign lord and grant them a proper ruler. Thus Greece became an Aragonese possession.
There is no happy ending though. While the son of the duke made an attempt to gain back his inheritance, as well as the Byzantines, these were easily beaten back. The collapsed of the Duchy of Athens came from a different quarter. The prosperity of the Duchy came from trade, particularly of textiles. After the company captured Athens, many of the weavers moved to Sicily or Aragon. More critically, Frederick gave no measurable support to his new holding, nor did nominal dukes make even a token appearance in the duchy. Worse, in a treaty signed in 1319, to appease the Venetians for the acts of piracy by the company, mothballed the Catalan trading fleet. By 1380 the Duchy was a shell, and the company in disarray. A new mercenary group, the Navarrese Company entered the scene in 1378. And in the employ of the son of a Florentine banker, Nerio Acciajuoli, began to wear down the company. On May 2, 1388, the last Catalan stronghold, Athens, fell. And the story of the Catalan Company comes to a close.
The story of the Catalan Company is a dreary tale of violence, barbarity, and self aggregation. There were no heroes, no winners, and everybody acted badly. And their impression on history transitory. The time they gained for the Byzantine Empire in pushing the Turks off the Anatolian plateau was taken back with their vengeance. The fearlessness and aggression that served them so well on the battlefield, made enemies of those whom they lived with off that field. In the end the only legacy of the Catalan Company is the memory of destruction.
Lowe, Alfonso. The Catalan Vengeance. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972.
Setton, Kenneth M. Catalan Domination of Athens, 1311-1388. 2nd ed. London: Variorum, 1975.
Copyright © 2003 - present His Lordship Friar Thomas Bacon (David Moreno). All rights reserved.
You can read the original prologue now on my blog. This version was edited and not used in the new soon to be released commercial novel. I thought you all might like to read the original version I did. I really like it. Perhaps someday I will do an entire novel about the time from the Templar diaspora up to modern day. For now this will have to do. Cheers, Don
Satisfying his carnal desires for the night, Roger De Flor swaggered out of Madame Coulet’s house of ill repute. He turned his head back, removed his black chaperone hat, smiled and bowed at the ladies whose company he had enjoyed for the past hour. He turned back toward the street with dirt packed heavily from trodden hoofs, slicked back his long wavy hair, and placed his hat back on his head, though he preferred to wear his metal battle helmet. He wiped his long fingers on his thick black tunic stitched with a red cross down the center, and made his way out into the darkness of the docks of La Rochelle, a waterfront town in the south western part of France, a stronghold where the Knights Templar’s housed their fleet of ships.
From every coast up and down Europe and the Middle East, De Flor relished his visits with the ladies, a perk being away from his Grand Master’s religious grip. He feasted heavily knowing that tonight would be the last time, perhaps years before he’d have the opportunity to enjoy their company again, for Roger De Flor had a hedonistic appetite that he’d yet been able to quench.
He took a deep breath and sucked in the thick cold winds that blew off of the ocean, filling his lungs with the salty air. He loved the smell of the sea, the taste of the salt on his tongue, and the rogues that flocked to the docks like seagulls after the latest chum. The open water had been his life, they knew each other well. It was there on the ocean he’d felt most at home.
Through the darkness, lit only by a handful of lanterns that hung on various taverns that dotted the waterfront, De Flor continued down the docks, where boats slapped white cap water against the sides of the mooring. He passed three highwaymen in their tattered outfits and heavy boots, who eyeballed him up and down. De Flor knew of these men, and that they were sizing him up, figuring if he’s more trouble than the money he might be carrying.
But they couldn’t help but to notice the large red cross on his black overcoat, he was not a man to test, besides everyone in La Rochelle knew of Roger De Flor.
Ahead De Flor could see the foreboding outline of the Templars Castle with their own private docks and quays at the tip of the bay. His pleasures included to venture from the taverns down to the waterfront back to his private quarters at the castle each night. Thugs, brigands and rogues were his favorite people. He felt at home amongst them, yet he had been equally honored and fervent about his kinship to the Templar knights, the order he’d sworn his loyalty.
De Flor’s angst for his love to two worlds, the life of a privateer and his duty to his God and Templars. He loved them both and had found it impossible to leave one for the other.
Eighteen ships were docked in the templar’s private harbor, all under his command as Admiral of the Templar fleet. De Flor eyeballed the vessels up and down, as he walked along the stone walled pathway, each time nodding at his men who stood guard. Then he turned away from the water, following the stone wall toward the tower keep.
He stopped halfway between the stone castle with its square walls that rose above the city and its round tower keep that afforded a view of all boats coming and going. On the corner sat the Dancing Flame tavern, which, allowed for a clear view on the boats in the harbor. As he opened the heavy wooden door he felt the warmth of a roaring fire and his nose immediately filled with the aroma of sweet roasted meats. He shook the mist from the sea off his coat and nodded to two men who stood by the door.
These two men belonged to the sea, with weather beaten faces, and heavy muscular shoulders. Their beards were long, purposely uncut, and their head shaved at the crown, a tonsure renouncing the worldly fashions. De Flor chuckled to himself at the sight of these brothers of the order, and how silly they looked never shaving their beards and cutting their hair into tonsures. He would never make himself look so ridiculous and unattractive on purpose.
“At a whore house I assume!” The third man called out from the far end of the tavern. The man appeared to be much leaner than the other two, no weak, not a man of the dirt or the sea either, he was clearly out of place. His attire had been spun from a finer fabric, all in black except for a white stitching along the lapel of his jacket, which hid his silk shirt. His name was Sir Robert St. Claire.
De Flor crossed the room and sat with St. Claire while the other two men stayed their position. You look well for a dead man.” St. Claire shook his head and cut into the last pieces of his meat. “Can I assume you are not hungry.”
“I already ate. But a spot of ale never hurt.”
“And help take the taste of the whorehouse out of your mouth.” St Claire showed he had not been amused with De Flor’s antics.
“I see my fame with the ladies is well known and now even you have noticed me. I am flattered St. Claire.”
“And if you weren’t such a good pirate Grand Master De Molay would have thrown you out of the order years ago.”
“I’m no pirate.” He leaned in with a toothy grin. “I’m not even a profiteer. I’m just taking what is rightfully ours. There’s interest to pay, and if they don’t pay it, it’s my God given duty to collect it one way or another. “God Wills It. And Sir St. Claire you seem to have amassed a decent amount of capitol due to my adventures.”
The buxom barmaid, with redish blond hair and pink cheeks, set down a warm ale, his favorite mead brewed by Trappist monks over in Flanders. He imported it just for his own consumption. Their eyes caught, and he flashed his famous smile she’d become accustomed to. She spun giving him a perfect view of her backside.
“Thank you my dear.” He patted her on her well proportioned fanny and sent her away but thinking perhaps to tilt with her one last time. He had a thing for young barmaids, especially her.
The two men at the door grew pensive as they continued to check the windows for any uninvited visitors. Finally the taller of the two quickly stepped to the table and leaned in.
“We should hurry, King Phillip of France, and his henchman Gremillo Nogarret have operatives everywhere from Rome to the smallest enclaves in France and surely they have some here in La Rochelle as well.”
De Flor did not look up as his templar brother though he shared his concern. He merely raised his hand and sent him back to his post. St. Claire reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a piece of parchment and set it on the table.
“I met with Grand Master De Molay yesterday in Paris. These are his final instructions”, St. Claire said as he laid out the parchments.
They stared at the coded lettering. They were in neither French, Spanish, English, German, Latin, or any familiar written language. De Flor pulled a small black leather code book from his pocket and laid it for the two to see. They each read the orders with the code book breaking down the words on De Molay’s letters.
“Sometimes I wish I had not take such an oath,” De Flor looked up from the note. “He is our Grand Master and we must do his bidding. He is meeting tomorrow with King Phillip, the Fair. He believes he can work out their differences. I fear he is being led into a trap.”
“King Phillip is an evil and self absorbed man when it comes to his own kingdom.”
“King Philip does hate you St. Clair, as much as he does Molay.”
“I don’t know why, you black balled him from our order too.”
“He never learned that I was at the council.” De Flor grinned. “Remember, I was dead by then.”
“The king’s hatred for our order is not his driving force. He also desires to rule all of Christendom with the pope as his puppet.” St. Claire pointed out.
“I am disturbed that with all the problems we are having with the King, and the Pope being toothless to help, De Molay’s plan for a new crusade to the Holy land is unwise, if not suicide. We barely made it out of Acre with our lives.”
“And look how it decimated our order. Our current Templar prince dead, the future Templar Prince almost impaled.”
“You know we are not supposed to speak of the Black Prince. It is forbidden lest a foreign ear hears our secret.”
“Some secret,” De Flor rolled his eyes. “He was almost killed in Acre.”
“Maybe that is why the Grand Master likes you so much, De Flor. Your fleet saved the boy from death.”
“Don’t be so modest St. Claire. I think you’re an arrogant aristocrat, but you do fight like you have six arms. It was you who kept the boy from being skewered. To good times,” De Flor raised his cup of ale and laughed breaking the tension. “But you know the Grand Master as I, re-conquering the holy land is all he thinks about.”
“Clearly he must question whether he will survive his meeting with King Phillip or he wouldn’t have given us such orders..”
“Personally I think the grand master should stay clear of Paris until the King calms himself. We’re making so much money our way, we run the banking system, we control debt, why jeopardize our wealth.”
“The Grand Master sees it differently, and it is our jobs to follow him.” St. Claire answered with little expression.
De Flor picked up the paper and read the print for a third time. He shook his head, frustrated with the grand master’s decisions.
“He’s on your flagship the Sophia, waiting to set sail.”
“He won’t be happy when I tell him he’s not going.” De Flor pointed to the letter.
“You don’t sound too happy about it either.” St. Claire answered. “Remember we do the Grand Master’s bidding. Our happiness is not the issue.”
De Flor ignored St. Clair and turned to the two men who stood guard. “Are my ships ready?”
“We’ll have all ships loaded and ready to sail before daybreak.”
“Make it sooner.” Roger stood. He looked over at St. Claire. “Walk with me.”
The two exited the tavern leaving their brethren to finish their own tasks. Outside they made their way back into the dark and wind biting cold of the winds that blew from the sea across the waterfront. The two followed the ancient stone wall till they came to an overhead lantern that afforded them enough light to complete their discussion.
“De Flor, I know it matters not today, but I thought your maritime plan for a Templar kingdom made great sense. We would bode well outside of the reach of these rulers and the church. ”
“If events happen in Paris as I fear they will, I will search for a new Templar Kingdom.” De Flor face turned stern as he stared strongly at St. Claire. “St. Claire, the boy is like a son to me. If any harm comes to him, I will hunt you down and disembowel you.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. If the boy is harmed it will mean I am already dead, remember I took the same oath as you. The boy and his bloodline are our greatest secret and treasure, without question we cannot let the King or his puppet Pope Clement V get their hands on him.”
“I will truly miss him,” De Flor sighed sullenly.
“Grand Master Molay once sat me down and explained why our order exists. Grand Master Hugh De Payens while excavating under the Temple in Jerusalem came across something that was in a small gold box. We do not know what it is but when he held it, it burned into his palm, but he had no scaring or burn marks. He said that whatever it was he held became part of Hugh De Payens and flowed through his own blood. They say he was touched by the hand of God and that he had an epiphany on the spot. In a flash of an instant he had knowledge, and it changed how he viewed not just man but the world, the planets and stars above. This object flowed in his blood, as it does in the blood of his heirs, as it does in young Henry De Payens. That is why the boy is one of our treasures, and needs to be safeguarded, that is our life’s mission.”
The two brother Templars who were at the bar approached quickly and their faces showed a sense of urgency.
“We received word that the King’s army is near.”
“How far away?” De Flor asked.
“Our worst fears are upon us. We must proceed fast. Go, make ready.”
As the two men hurried back down the docks St. Claire leaned in to De Flor and changed the subject.
“I’ve secured the Templar treasury on the ships. It will be out of the reach of both King and Church.”
“Good, and I assume the three copies of the templar books are hidden on the ships and that only you know of them?”
“Of course. Let’s just hope those three ships don’t sink.” De Flor grinned.
“The code book itself stays with me. In case any of the three templar books falls in the wrong hands, not a soul will be able to read any of them without the code book. There is a second piece of our treasure that the Grand Master wants you to guard with your life.” St Claire reached into his jacket and pulled out a leather pouch.
The pouch held a small gold box. St. Clair opened the tiny crate and held in his palm a stone, it was the size of horse’s eye, and as smooth as cue ball. The rock was as black as, and as black as the heavens with a small round milky white circle that split the center from one end to the other. “Hugh De Payen had found under the temple of King Solomon.”
“And what is it?” De Flor held the stone in the palm of his hand.
“There are many things in this world we don’t understand. Somehow when this box is opened and the contents held by the Templar Prince, miracles occur.”
“Have you seen such miracles?” De Flor asked.
“No. The Grand Master has kept this box from the Prince, as have the Grand Masters before him. But he did test the boy with the stone when he was an infant and it confirmed that the boy does indeed have the blood. He wanted to keep the stone separate till the boy was ready. That is why you must keep the stone on your person at all time. It must never fall into the church’s hands, it will disappear forever.”
De Flor studied the rock for a moment, then he reached down to the hilt of his sword and opened a pouch that was tied closed with a strip of leather. He placed the stone in the pouch and tied the opening closed. “As you know, this sword never leaves my side.”
“The ships are ready. I have given the word to load our knights?” Across the quay De Flor studied the 200 hundred knights and their destrier mounts being loaded along with their provisions, along with squires and sergeants, cooks and attendant staff, a complete heavy cavalry unit and the legion of support staff.
Eighteen ships in all, but not all going in the same direction. De Flor’s four ships would spread out to the corners of the world in search of new lands for the Templars.
De Flor paused for a moment. He turned to a young man, barely seventeen, who stood by the vessels watching with great anticipation of his next adventure. He put his long fingers over the young man’s shoulder.
“Are we ready to sail?” The lad asked.
“You are not joining at this time.”
“What do you mean? I was to join, you said.”
“I know what I said. But I am not the final decision maker. Grand Master De Molay has other plans for me. And he has other plans for you. Tomorrow he sees King Phillip. I don’t share his optimism with this meeting. Sir Robert St. Claire, your own kinsman, is waiting down the docks for you. You will stay with him and his templar knights, until events have settled. He will keep you in the shadows, safe. You will do as you were taught and you will survive. Our order must survive.”
“I don’t wish to go with Master St. Claire. I wish to stay here with you.”
“It is not our choice young Knight, the decision has been made. There will be no more discussion.” De Flor pointed to the direction of Sir Robert St. Claire. “Go.”
And with that the young lad, Sir Henry De Payens, the future templar prince of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, and the only living heir of the founder of the order Hugh De Payens, sucked in an angry breath of air, then turned and walked into the darkness toward the distant lantern.
De Flor motioned for two Knights to shadow the lad till he reached St. Claire, he knew the docks well and was taking no chances. He took one last look toward the town with its walled castle that seemed to be eyeing him and his ships, then turned his attention toward his task. He climbed the walkway and stood on the deck of his frigate, the Sophia.
A Knight stepped to De Flor with two freshly severed heads still dripping blood. He held one in each hand for De Flor to see. “I found the spies. What should I do with these?”
“Nail them to the mooring with a note that reads, “He who betrays Christ’s Knights shall lose their soul and life. It will be a warning to others who took an oath of loyalty to our order not to betray us.”
“One last thing” he said to his young yeoman, “When you’re done nailing the heads to the mooring make your way back to the tavern and fetch the young redish blond barmaid to the ship. You know the one I speak do ya Lad?
“Aye Admiral, the one I would choose myself.” They both laughed.
“Tell her Sir Roger is keeping his promise to show her the world.” He smiled, thinking a man can’t be expected to give up all his vices in one night. Then he turned to his men. “Raise the flag!”
The knights on the Sophia tied the flag to the rope and hauled it up the tall mast. There in the night wind Roger DeFlor’s own personal flag stood mightily over the ships in the harbor, the black fabric with a white skull above two crossed swords. Sailors who had seen the flag knew it could only be Roger DeFlor’s calling card, the Jolly Roger.
“Let’s move out.” He called, and the sailing bell rang through the eighteen ships as they one by one set sail into the Atlantic never to be seen again.
Gremello Nogarette, a small mealy faced man, craned his head out over the protective wall that surrounded the King’s castle in Paris. He studied the procession of well-armed Knights, with their white or black tunics and their Templar crosses imbedded across their chests for all to see. They carried their heavy swords by their side and their shields held high. The Knights in the front of the procession held the black and white beausaent rising from their spears for all of the kingdom to see. At the head of the procession rode the old Grand Master, Jacques De Molay, his head with wavy white hair, held high and erect. Clearly he rode with the confidence of the backing of his God.
“He seems so smug, this De Molay. I wonder if the King will grant him his crusade.”
Nogarette turned to his aid, and elderly cardinal, and grunted. “His crusade? King Phillip will grant him his death.”
“Do you really see that as a possibility?”
“De Molay is no friend to the church. For that matter his plan is to destroy our way of life and instill his own Templar style of religion is blasphemous.”
“Destroy the church? I’ve never heard that.”
“Nor has the king, or the pope for that matter. And it is better they don’t know, not yet. The king is in great financial debt to the Templars. Let him just think he’s wiping out his debt. But in reality he’s saving the church.”
“There are truths that for our sake must never see the light of day. The Templars have found those truths and plan on sharing them with the people.”
“Look around. We control all of this, we control the people. Do you really think the kings have the power? They only have what power that we allow them. It is the church that controls the people through their desire for something better in the after life. The Kings and Monarchs do our bidding. If these truths that the Templars discovered came to light it would be the end of our way of life. We’d be one of those pawns you see in the streets that we can not let happen, ever.”
“And how did you find out these truths?”
“I am a man of God. Shouldn’t I know these truths?”
“Not unless you no longer want to be a man of your God.” Nogarrete paused for a moment. “That is why today, as soon as they enter the castle, De Molay and his Templars will be arrested. Our army has swarmed the country and have arrested all their brethren templars. In one full swoop we will rid ourselves of this threat.”
“I must know. What do they have that is so damning?”
Nogarette turned to the Cardinal, his eyes grew deep and his expression blank. “The lost gospel of Christ.”
Nogarette turned and walked down the steps toward the courtyard enjoying what he was observing, the kings guards surrounding the Templars. Then his eye caught two of his riders from his own private army racing toward him. They quickly dismounted.
“Sir, I have news, the Templar fleet has disappeared. By the time our soldiers entered La Rochelle the fleet had left.”
“What? We had spies in the order watching. Where were there eyes?”
“The Castle doors were unlocked and the two spies impaled bodies hung in the courtyard. We found their heads nailed to a parchment at the docks where the ships former moorings were located.”
Nogarette paused and shook his head with disappointment. “What have you done to rectify the situation?”
“We have our fleet searching. Eighteen ships just don’t disappear. Our fleet will find them.”
Find them,” Nogarette snorted. “Even if we do, De Flor will not go without a fight. Our element of surprise has passed. He is cunning beyond our own commanders’ capabilities. How many times is that man going to fake his death only to show up an the most inopportune time!” No I fear their the Templar fleet is lost to us.”
“What do you suggest we do?”
“Perhaps De Molay knows where De Flor and his fleet are headed? I’ll have the inquisitor get the information out of him at any cost. In the mean time it is clear that some Templars have missed our net. Tighten our noose around their order and cut off their resources. I want their treasury found.
As the riders turned to leave, Nogarette grabbed the taller of the two by the shoulder.
“Not you. I have a special job that required your expertise. I want you to amass together a small band of the best-trained mercenaries money can buy, hunt down the Templars and kill every last one of them.”
“Tell any of these men who volunteer the Pope will admonish their sins for life for their service to crown and church. We cannot let the bloodline of Hugh De Payens survive.”
The real life history of Game of Thrones' Golden Company
The Golden Company, en route to Westeros Credit: HBO
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N ote: this column contains multiple spoilers concerning the plot of Game of Thrones seasons 1-8, the broader, legendary history of Westeros, and the actual history of the real world.
The first episode of season eight of Game of Thrones was in character with most other season-openers, in that it consisted chiefly of people meeting or re-meeting, swapping big hugs and catty side-eye, and helping the dear viewer catch up so we all remember what in the seven gods is going on.
But for fans of the historical influences that sit beneath the show’s storylines, the big news was the arrival into King’s Landing of the Golden Company, led by Ser Harry Strickland (played by Marc Rissmann). This expensive band of fiercely drilled mercenaries was hired by Cersei, via a big loan from the Iron Bank of Braavos, to do what the Golden Company does best: slaughtering thousands of people.
And they have their roots very firmly in the real history of the High Middle Ages: in the adventures of freelance military bands like the Catalan Company and White Company, who operated across Europe during the 14th century.
Westeros nuts know plenty about the Golden Company already, for in George RR Martin’s novels and pseudo-history books, they have been fleshed out at length. They’re a band of knights based in Essos, who have either been personally exiled, or raised in renegade, once-noble families cast out of the kingdom for treason or insurrection. (Ser Jorah Mormont once fought for them.) Founded after the Blackfyre rebellion (Google it), their ultimate goal is to restore the Targaryens to the Iron Throne.
B ut along the way they have made themselves available as swords-for-hire. Their motto, “Our Word is Good as Gold”, reflects the fact that they have (almost) never broken a military contract. Sometimes they deploy war elephants, although – much to Cersei’s irritation – someone forgot to pack them this time.
M edieval Europeans were wearily familiar with outfits like the Golden Company, who became important players in various long-running wars of the 14th century, including the late crusades against the Turks of Asia Minor, the Hundred Years War between England and France, and the endless running battles between various Italian city-states and the papacy.
None of them (that I can recall) used elephants on the battlefield that seems to be borrowed from Roman history, bringing to mind both the Carthaginian general Hannibal, who plodded pachyderms over the Alps during the Second Punic War in the third century BC, and Julius Caesar, who supposedly brought an elephant to Britannia nearly two hundred years later. Otherwise, however, the likenesses are striking.
T he Catalan Company, from whom the Golden Company seems to borrow most, was founded in the early 14th century AD and led initially by Roger de Flor, an Italian who had served with the Knights Templar (think: Knights Watch). De Flor, however, ran away, took up a career as a pirate, and fought in the War of the Sicilian Vespers, a complex dispute over the rule of Sicily, which ended in 1302.
Following a truce, several thousand veterans of that war banded together and hired themselves out to the Byzantine Christian emperor of Constantinople (modern Istanbul) to fight Turkic-Oghuz tribes who had overrun his territories.
T ypically, members of the Catalan Company were elite, highly mobile foot-soldiers known as almogávares, who came from the Spanish peninsula and specialised in fighting in light armour. They were dangerous, but very difficult for their clients to control, and eventually became rulers in their own right, seizing the duchy of Athens and holding it until the late 14th century.
I f there’s an omen for Cersei there, it’s that she may eventually lose control of the army she hired – perhaps, if we return to Westerosi history, when they discover that up in the north there is a Targaryen king for them to support, in the form of Jon Snow (aka Aegon).
But as usual in Game of Thrones, history isn’t parroted – it’s blended. From the little we’ve seen of the Golden Company so far, they also seem to hint at other mercenary groups.
The German-dominated Great Company, which could put as many as 12,000 knights in the field at its peak, was first led by Werner von Urslingen. His personal motto was “Enemy of God, Enemy of Pity, Enemy of Piety”. (According to my dictionary of High Valyrian, that loosely translates as: “Qrinuntys hen Jaes, syz, vokedre”.)
Urslingen’s armies were composed of smaller, independent units of trained knights and squires, contractually bound to serve for a cash salary. Their captains were known in Italian as condottieri.
S o, is the Golden Company condottiere Harry Strickland a Westerosi version of von Urslingen? Actually, he has more in common with a couple of Englishmen. His name smacks heavily of that paragon of late medieval chivalry Henry Percy, aka Sir Harry Hotspur, who died at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 while fighting another famous Harry – the future Henry V of England.
B ut I fancy that Strickland is also a cheeky nod towards the most famous English mercenary captain of all: Sir John Hawkwood, an Essex boy who fought in France during the Hundred Years War and stayed on the continent thereafter.
Hawkwood may well have served in the English armies at one or both of the battles of Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) certainly by the 1360s he was a veteran soldier who had decided to make his fortune by bearing arms for the highest bidder. To that end, he joined the White Company (an offshoot of the Great Company), rising to become commander by 1363.
The White Company's services including kidnapping noblemen for ransom, raiding towns and villages, inciting rebellion and fighting as irregular brigades in larger armies. Hawkwood’s men were known for their stamina, their rare ability to ride through the night and their willingness to serve long into the winter. (Which would have served them well in Westeros.)
A s a commander, Hawkwood was a strong believer in espionage, deception and secrecy, and although he emphasised loyalty to military contracts, he was unafraid to abandon his employers if their enemies offered him higher payment. His clients were mostly based in Italy – and from 1380 until his death in 1394, he was retained as a military advisor and general by the Republic of Florence.
H awkwood spent so long in Italy that he inspired the saying, “an Englishman Italianate is the devil incarnate”, and he is commemorated in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) in central Florence, where a 15th-century fresco serves as his funerary monument. Its Latin inscription translates as “John Hawkwood, British knight, most prudent leader of his age and most expert in the art of war”.
Harry Strickland of the Golden Company seems set to be an important player in this final season of Game of Thrones, although quite how much screen-time he’ll get is hard to assess. During casting, the role was advertised as being for just two episodes. So his service to the Lannisters may prove to be short, sharp and spectacular.
What we do know is that Strickland’s chances of ending his days commemorated in a grand cathedral with a note in High Valyrian celebrating his achievements are very remote. The direct Westerosi equivalent of the Duomo – the High Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing – went up in a massive wildfire explosion in the final episode of season six. Thanks for that, Cersei.
D an Jones is a medieval historian and broadcaster. His books include The Plantagenets, The Hollow Crown and The Templars