The Military Orders of the Temple and the Hospital - and, more recently, the Teutonic Knights - are monks sworn to a life defending Outremer against the Saracens. Their resources, dedication and discipline make them the most reliable forces the King of Jerusalem can command - though their loyalties lie not to him, but to their Grand Masters and to the Church.
Order of the Temple
Unlike the Hospital, the Temple was from its genesis (1119) martial in conception. Founded as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, by the French knights Hugh de Payns and Godfrey de Saint-Omer, with a few others, the Temple was specifically called upon not to pray but to fight in defence of pilgrims, in accordance with the new, bellicose spirit abroad represented by the likes of St Bernard of Clairvaux. Soon the task of guarding pilgrims was regarded by the Templars as inextricable from the task of guarding all Outremer.
During St Bernard’s special enterprise, the Second Crusade, the Templars were just about the only Franks to distinguish themselves, and took advantage of their situation by getting Louis VII into profound debt. Henceforth they served as the Kings of France’s unofficial treasurer, and soon as bankers throughout Europe. The Templars found themselves accused of treason by King Amalric, who accused them of refusing support to his campaign against Egypt and treasonable, murderous interference with the King’s envoy to the Assassins. Amalric’s death improved their standing, especially after their Grand Master, Odo of St Amand, played a critical role at the Battle of Montgisard.
The Temple now on the whole came to support the aggressive policy formed by Reynald de Chatillon, the Lusignans, and other incomers. It was the disaster of the loss of a full third of its Order, at the Springs of Cresson, that commenced the open war between Outremer and Saladin. King Richard commended their discipline during the First Crusade, but criticised their pride. He awarded the island of Cyprus to the Order, only for them, too, to give up on its governance and surrender it in turn to Guy de Lusignan. The Templar Keep facing the sea is the strongest place in Acre. They wear white livery with a red cross; as they are still mainly on the Incomer side, they will be friendly with Lusignans and Henry of Champagne, but at daggers drawn widely elsewhere, and especially with Hospitallers.
For more specific current information, and a list of characters who are past or present members, see Category: Knights Templar.
Order of the Hospital
Oldest of the Military Orders, the Hospital was not initially military in purpose, but a lay and clerical order dedicated to healing sick pilgrims and distributing alms among the poor in the Holy Land. This charitable venture was started by a syndicate of rich merchants from Amalfi, in 1023, thus comfortably predating the First Crusade. But in that expedition’s successful aftermath, the Order began to shape-shift into a fighting force, dedicated to escorting, as well as feeding and caring for, Christian pilgrims.
Alongside their rivals the Templars, the Hospitallers amassed land, riches, and castles, all in the cause of Outremer’s defence. The Knights Hospitaller wear black livery emblazoned with a white cross. They practice a principle of broad equality within their ranks, and though they accept many classes of recruit, the majority are respected and treated evenly. The Hospitallers also permit lay sisters – generally rich and generous noblewomen.
In the civil war between Queen Melisende and her son Baldwin III, the Hospital supported the victorious King, and was well rewarded with lands the King went on to conquer from the Saracens. More recently the Hospital was notably loyal to King Amalric, helped his son Baldwin IV win the Battle of Montgisard, but could not stomach the accession of Guy de Lusignan, instead supporting the Count of Tripoli’s more pacific general policy. During the Third Crusade the Hospital showed disobedience to Richard of England at the Battle of Arsuf, but arguably their impetuous charge helped to secure victory, taking even Saladin unawares.
The Hospitallers gave Richard more difficulty in council, aligning themselves with his French enemies and their candidate for the throne, Conrad of Monferrat. Henry of Champagne’s swift marriage to Queen Isabella leaves them out of favour at court. Hospitaller characters are Poulain at present, apt to quarrel with Templars (as ever) and the English. They are allied to the French by politics and to the Italians by tradition.
For more specific current information, and a list of characters who are past or present members, see Category: Knights Hospitaller.
Though eventually destined to match the two older Orders in fame, at present this German Military Order is not numerous, rich or particularly influential, having being founded only earlier this year.
For more specific current information, and a list of characters who are past or present members, see Category: Teutonic Knights.
Organisation & Vows
Military Orders obey a Grand Master as their supreme commander in council or on the battlefield, but he in turn is elected by a precarious and jealous chapter. The chapter is made up of ‘masters’, officers of the Orders within castles and cities who possess as much authority as the Grand Master himself when within their personal, urban sphere.
Knights of the Military Orders are invariably sworn to celibacy at present, and are considered to be monks of the Benedictine Rule, albeit fighting ones. It was not always so; the early Templars did not have to renounce the marriages they had contracted in the world. But reorganisation and official allegiance to the Papal See has brought with it tightened rules. The Hospitallers permit lay sisters to be associated with their Order, but the Templars consider this procedure to be an incitement to sin. Enemies of the Temple are prone to insinuate that the Templars, though shunning women, exhaust their baser energies in forbidden practices. The Templars are stricter, too, in their personal appearance, keeping their hair cropped or even tonsured while letting their beards grow.