“Dan Jones is an entertainer, but also a bona fide historian. Seldom does one find serious scholarship so easy to read.” – The Times, Book of the Year
An instant New York Times bestseller, this major new history of the knights Templar is “a fresh, muscular and compelling history of the ultimate military-religious crusading order, combining sensible scholarship with narrative swagger" – Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Jerusalem
A faltering war in the middle east. A band of elite warriors determined to fight to the death to protect Christianity’s holiest sites. A global financial network unaccountable to any government. A sinister plot founded on a web of lies.
Jerusalem 1119. A small group of knights seeking a purpose in the violent aftermath of the First Crusade decides to set up a new order. These are the first Knights Templar, a band of elite warriors prepared to give their lives to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Over the next two hundred years, the Templars would become the most powerful religious order of the medieval world. Their legend has inspired fervent speculation ever since.
In this groundbreaking narrative history, Dan Jones tells the true story of the Templars for the first time in a generation, drawing on extensive original sources to build a gripping account of these Christian holy warriors whose heroism and alleged depravity have been shrouded in myth. The Templars were protected by the pope and sworn to strict vows of celibacy. They fought the forces of Islam in hand-to-hand combat on the sun-baked hills where Jesus lived and died, finding their nemesis in Saladin, who vowed to drive all Christians from the lands of Islam. Experts at channeling money across borders, they established the medieval world’s largest and most innovative banking network and waged private wars against anyone who threatened their interests.
Then, as they faced setbacks at the hands of the ruthless Mamluk sultan Baybars and were forced to retreat to their stronghold in Cyprus, a vindictive and cash-strapped King of France set his sights on their fortune. His administrators quietly mounted a damning case against the Templars, built on deliberate lies and false testimony. Then on Friday October 13, 1307, hundreds of brothers were arrested, imprisoned and tortured, and the order was disbanded amid lurid accusations of sexual misconduct and heresy. They were tried by the Pope in secret proceedings and their last master was brutally tortured and burned at the stake. But were they heretics or victims of a ruthlessly repressive state? Dan Jones goes back to the sources tobring their dramatic tale, so relevant to our own times, in a book that is at once authoritative and compulsively readable.
Dan Jones is the author of The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queen Who Made England, a #1 international bestseller and New York Times bestseller, Wars of the Roses, which charts the story of the fall of the Plantagenets and the improbable rise of the Tudors, Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty and Summer of Blood: England's First Revolution. He writes and presents the popular Netflix series Secrets of Great British Castles and appeared alongside George R.R. Martin in the official HBO film exploring the real history behind Game of Thrones. He was the historical consultant to Knightfall, an A&E drama on the legend of the Templars.
Jones’s narrative history of the Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple (popularly known as the Templars) will have wide appeal among those who appreciate well-sourced history told in an easy, readable fashion. Jones (The Plantagenets), a journalist and historian of medieval and early modern Europe, draws on sources from across Europe and the Middle East to recount how a small group of crusaders formed what began as a charity-dependent protective detail for European pilgrims and Christian holy sites. Earning the patronage of powerful monastic Bernard of Clairvaux, the Templars rapidly became major players across two centuries of Christian Europe’s holy war against the Islamic world. In four thematic sections, the author tells a chronological tale of the Templars’ hardscrabble beginnings (ca. 1102–1144); their rise as military leaders (1144–1187); the consolidation of their economic, military, political, and social power (1189–1260); and finally their fall from grace (1260–1311) as their widespread influence threatened competing European and Christian political and religious authorities. A short epilogue touches on the lasting cultural influence of the Templars—an order, the author observes, that “always existed in two spheres, the real and the imaginary.” This is an engrossing examination of a period whose conflicts are still reverberating today. (Sept.)
“When it comes to rip-roaring medieval narratives, Jones has few peers, and in The Templars he finds the perfect subject. The warrior monks have always appealed to conspiracy theorists, and although Jones strips away the myths, he has great fun recounting their bloodthirsty crusading exploits.” The Sunday Times, History Book of the Year
“Dan Jones gives no credence to the conspiratorial fantasies that have been spun around the Templars over the years. No, they do not guard the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail. No, a surviving remnant does not protect the identities of the descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdelene. No, the order does not secretly run the world — that’s the Trilateral Commission or maybe Skull and Bones. His aim is to present a gripping historical narrative, and in this he succeeds… As he describes it, the order comes across as a combination of Blackwater, Goldman Sachs, Kroll International, FedEx, Fort Knox, Bechtel and the Red Cross. Their financial acumen was considerable…. 'The themes of the Templar story resonate powerfully today,' Jones observes. He draws no specious parallels, but the reader can’t help recognizing familiar territory. There is the preoccupation in the West with what we now call the Middle East. Religions collide and atrocities abound. Cries of 'Allahu akhbar' pierce the din of battle. The power of states is threatened, or seen to be threatened, by unaccountable forces with global tentacles. Information is unreliable and easily manipulated, allowing conspiracy theories to take root and spread.” – Cullen Murphy, The Washington Post
"Dan Jones has created a gripping page-turner out of the dramatic history of the Templars, from their spiritual warrior beginnings until their tragic destruction by the French king and the pope. It is genuinely moving and a chilling contemporary warning about the abuse of power through persecution and lies."
Philippa Gregory, author of The White Queen
“They combined the warrior code of aristocratic knights with the poverty and religious devotion of monks. …In Jones’s bravura account, this tension between aristocratic killer and humble monk shadows the Templar story. Jones’s fast-paced history is laced with tales of blood and bravery, disaster and victory. . . . Drawing on Christian and Muslim sources, he carries the Templars through the crusades with clarity and verve. This is unabashed narrative history, fast-paced and full of incident.” – The Sunday Times
“Gripping… Jones tells the story of the Templars with energy and verve, regalling readers with well-chosen details and anecdotes. The Templars became poster boys of the early middle ages, famed for their piety and their military prowess. It was an intoxicating combination... The author’s ambition, he says, is 'to write a book that will entertain as well as inform.' He has done precisely that.” – Peter Frankopan, The Telegraph
"Business chiefs listen up, especially in the world of big tech where egos are becoming rather inflated . . . There's a vital message for those who get too powerful tucked into this new book: One day you'll draw the ire of someone more powerful, and they will attempt to destroy you. The caution, although not explicit, comes in the epic story of the warrior monks known as the Knights Templar whose activities have given rise to much speculation and theories, some reasonable and some absurd. Expert history writer Dan Jones digs deep for the facts and chronicles their history… Jones recounts the gruesome battles in the Holy Land where the warriors fought to either take or hold key positions. If you have any illusion that war was ever glamorous, then these passages should be a quick antidote.” – Simon Constable, Forbes
“The story of the Templars, the ultimate holy warriors, is an extraordinary saga of fanaticism, bravery, treachery and betrayal, and in Dan Jones they have a worthy chronicler. Templars is a wonderful book!”
— Bernard Cornwell, author of The Last Kingdom
"This is a fascinating story of fanaticism, set in a land still known for its brutality and strife. Jones is an entertainer, but also a fine historian who knows how to render serious scholarship into accessible prose. Seldom does one find serious history that is so easy to read." The Times (London)
“A fresh, muscular and compelling history of the ultimate military-religious crusading order, combining sensible scholarship with narrative swagger, featuring a cast of exuberantly monstrous sword swingers spattering Christian and Islamic blood from Spain to Jerusalem.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore author of Jerusalem: The Biography
"In this thrillingly lucid account, Dan Jones demystifies the Templars in a story spanning hundreds of years and countless rulers, knights and archbishops, a seemingly disproportionate number of whom ended up beheaded . . . Anyone who has read Jones’s earlier medieval chronicles will know what to expect here: fast-paced narrative history depicted with irresistible verve, bloody battle scenes and moments of laugh-out-loud wit. There are contemporary parallels, too, with the Templars eventually being laid low by the medieval equivalent of a kind of 'fake news': anti-Templar propaganda spread by the church. This is another triumphant tale from a historian who writes as addictively as any page-turning novelist."
“Thank God this book is sane… Jones tells the engrossing story of an ascetic order of warrior knights chiefly dedicated to the defense of pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem… Templars is based on a wide-ranging and thorough research and relies overwhelmingly on primary sources… It reads like a morality tale.”
– Robert Irwin, Literary Review
“An up-close look at the legendary band of Crusaders. Jones examines the storied Templars, an organization of quasi-monastic warriors who rose to fame and power in the midst of the Crusades, only to rapidly collapse in questionable scandals . . . A meaty, well-researched history replete with primary source quotes [and] accessible to general readers. An exceptional introduction to the Templars.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“With engaging liveliness . . . Jones chronicles the Templars’ actual record of great military achievement, fiduciary responsibility, exceptional faithfulness, and lasting cultural significance.”
Praise for Dan Jones’s The Plantagenets:
“A real life Game of Thrones, as dramatic and blood-soaked as any work of fantasy . . . Fast-paced and accessible, The Plantagenets is old-fashioned storytelling and will be particularly appreciated by those who like their history red in tooth and claw.” —The Wall Street Journal
“The Plantagenets is rich in detail and scene-setting. . . . The Plantagenets’ saga is the story of how English monarchs learned, or failed to learn, how to be kings, and how the English people, commoners and barons alike, learned how to limit their powers.” —USA Today
“Jones has brought the Plantagenets out of the shadows, revealing them in all their epic heroism and depravity. His is an engaging and readable account . . . researched with exacting standards. [A] compelling reading.” —The Washington Post
“Outstanding. Majestic in its sweep, compelling in its storytelling, this is narrative history at its best. A thrilling dynastic history of royal intrigues, violent skullduggery, and brutal warfare across two centuries of British history.”
—Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Young Stalin
“Some of the greatest stories in all of English history . . . rich in pageantry and soaked in blood.”
—Lewis Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly
“Dan Jones’s epic portrait of the medieval royals is a timely reminder that things haven’t always been so rosy for those on the throne.” —GQ
Praise for Dan Jones’s The Wars of the Roses:
“Exhilarating, epic, blood-and-roses history . . . Thrilling. There is fine scholarly intuition on display here and a mastery of the grand narrative; it is a supremely skillful piece of storytelling.” —The Sunday Telegraph
“An engrossing read and thoroughly enjoyable.” —The Spectator
“If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or The Tudors, then Dan Jones’ swashbucklingly entertaining slice of medieval history will be right up your alley. . . . Every bit as entertaining and readable as his previous blockbuster The Plantagenets.” —Daily Express
“Jones is a born storyteller, peopling the terrifying uncertainties of each moment with a superbly drawn cast of characters and powerfully evoking the brutal realities of civil war.” —The Evening Standard
“Jones tells a good story. That is a good thing, since storytelling has gone out of favor among so many historians. . . . His delightful wit is as ferocious as the dreadful violence he describes.”—The Times (London)
Praise for Dan Jones’s Magna Carta:
“Lively and excellent.”
—The New York Times
“Excellent and very well crafted.”
—The New York Review of Books
“Dan Jones has an enviable gift for telling a dramatic story while at the same time inviting us to consider serious topics like liberty and the seeds of representative government.”From the Publisher
Jones (The Plantagenets; War of the Roses) brings his well-tuned narrative style to the subject of the Templars, who played a critical role in the Crusades from their beginnings in 1119 through the early 14th century, acting as knights and financiers, and whose castles dotted the Holy Land of Jerusalem. Jones divides the book into four parts: "Pilgrims," which discusses the order's founding; "Soldiers," covering campaigns in the Holy Land and in Spain; "Bankers," highlighting growing financial and landed interests; and "Heretics," detailing the Templars' dramatic end by arrest and inquisition in the early 1300s. Readers will discover important figures in Crusade history, including Richard the Lionheart, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Saladin, the Baldwin dynasty, and many others. Critical events, including the Battle of Hattin (1187) and the capture of Acre (1191) are well detailed. The book reads well, but it is information rich; a general background of the Crusades is recommended. VERDICT Both seasoned medievalists and lay readers wanting a detailed account of the Crusades will find food for thought here. Highly relevant to current events. [See Prepub Alert, 3/27/17.]—Jeffrey Meyer, Mt. Pleasant P.L., IA
★ 2017-08-16Kirkus Reviews
An up-close look at the legendary band of Crusaders.Jones (Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty, 2015, etc.) examines the storied Templars, an organization of quasi-monastic warriors who rose to fame and power in the midst of the Crusades,only to rapidly collapse in questionable scandals. The author realizes that the allure of the Templars, then and now, is related to their otherworldly ideal. "In a sense," he writes, "the Order had always existed in two spheres, the real and the imaginary." The Templars uniquely combined the rigid discipline of a monastic order with the seemingly secular profession of soldier. This unusual pairing, along with the epic backdrop of the Crusades, made them popular among their contemporaries and has kept them in the public imagination since. Starting in 1119 as a band of soldiers committed to protecting Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land, the Templars soon received the spiritual patronage of 12th-century divine Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard wrote the "rule" by which the Templars were to live and work and advocated for them with the powers that be. The Templars would go on to achieve great fame and eventually become very wealthy landowners. Late in the century, the armies of Saladin would decimate them and reverse their achievements; however, the order would live on and rise to prominence again. Early in the 14th century, Templar leaders were, rightly or wrongly, accused of heresy and many were imprisoned or put to death, putting an end to the order and, most importantly, to its power. Jones provides a meaty, well-researched history replete with primary source quotes. Organized in four distinct parts, the narrative clearly lays out the story of the Templars and their changing fortunes. Though steeped in the facts of medieval history, the book presents as accessible to general readers. An exceptional introduction to the Templars.