The transept crossing, at Seton Collegiate Church.By the early middle-ages, Jerusalem had become a major place of pilgrimage, although the difficulties that would be encountered by travelers passing through lands constantly in turmoil, divided by wars and quarreling princes, coupled with a long trip by sail across seas devastated by pirates and marauders, made the venture extremely risky.

On reaching the Holy Land there were few Christian organizations able to provide assistance to travelers, who were harassed and sometimes captured and held for ransom by the local inhabitants. The original Order of Saint John, surviving today as the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (the Sovereign Military Order of Malta), could be traced back to a hospital probably founded in about 1080 by the brothers of the Benedictine Monastery of Saint Mary Latina.

This Order may be regarded as the first of the Chivalric Orders of Knighthood that were imitated across Europe, both as Religious Military foundations, and later as Princely awards for their allies and supporters, and it is to this beginning that we identify the Knights Templar, and with the beginnings of the Banking system.

The largest, and most powerful of the Christian military orders, the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, originally named The Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple, which is in Jerusalem, is widely known as the Knights Templar. It was founded in 1118, in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096 to help the new Kingdom of Jerusalem maintain itself against its hostile Muslim neighbors, and to ensure the safety of the large numbers of European pilgrims who flowed towards Jerusalem after its conquest.

For Knights traveling from the northern countries to Jerusalem, a system of financing and the transfer of finances was created from Scotland, through Flanders, Paris and Rome, and Malta, and which proved not only effective, but which became the system we now know as banking.  It also became the means whereby families of significant wealth could travel or render their services as Ambassadors or for military or educational pursuits, across much of the continent.

The fall of the Templars started over the matter of a loan, King Philip IV of France needed cash for his wars and asked the Templars for the loan, who of course refused out of principle. In retaliation, Philip petitioned the Pope to excommunicate the Templars for the refusal, but Pope Boniface VIII refused. Philip sent his councillor, Guillaume de Nogaret in a plot to kidnap the Pope in retaliation, which Pope excommunicated him as a result and who died only a month later from shock due to the attempt and ill treatment. The next Pope, Benedict XI, lifted the excommunication of Philip IV but refused to absolve de Nogaret. It is suspected that the Pope's death was from poisoning through an agent of Nogaret. The next Pope, Clement V, agreed to Philip IV's demands about the Templars, and later moved the papacy to Avignon.

On October 13 (the unlucky Friday the 13th), 1307, the Knights Templar in France were simultaneously arrested by agents of Philip the Fair, later to be tortured into admitting heresy in the Order. The dominant view is that Philip, who seized the treasury and broke up the monastic banking system, was jealous of the Templars' wealth and power, and sought to control it. These events, and the Templars' original banking of assets for suddenly mobile depositors, were two of many shifts towards a system of military fiat to back European money, removing this power from Church orders.

Seeing the fate of the Templars, the Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem and of Rhodes and of Malta were also convinced to give up banking at this time. Much of the Templar property outside of France was transferred by the Pope to the Knights Hospitaller, and many surviving Templars were also accepted into the Hospitallers.  Many kings and nobles, however, still supported the Knights at that time, and only dissolved the order in their fiefs when so commanded by Pope Clement V. Robert the Bruce, the King of Scotland, had already been excommunicated for other reasons, and was therefore not disposed to pay heed to Papal commands, and it was he who invited the order to seek overall asylum in Scotland.

The Scottish Order of the Knights Templar was one of Royal appointment, an Honour presented to select individuals by the Scottish Royal Court.  Only limited families were accepted into the Order and at the head of the organization were the heads of three families, seen to be of senior representation of the original Scottish Knights.  These three families were: the House of Stewart; The House of Sinclair; and The House of Seton; the which families were also recognized as representatives of the Carolingian bloodline.

Lord Seton's Tomb at Seton Collegiate Church.As such, the Scottish Knights Templar assert that not only did the Seton's serve Scotland's cause, but also they did so as members of the Order. The family had already been on several crusades, and were noted as members of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in Edinburgh.  Alexander Seton, of the Governor of Berwick fame, ended his years at the Hospital in Edinburgh, and it had been Christopher Seton in 1306 who was the loyal adherent of King Robert Bruce and saved Bruce's life at the Battle of Methven, while one of his sons, Alexander, played not only a prominent role at Bannockburn, but was one of the signatories to the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.

(Christopher Seton, in common with succeeding generations of his family, was to pay dearly for his unstinting devotion to the cause of Scotland. Captured after Methven, he was executed in Dumfries ‑ hung, beheaded, and his body cut into quarters).

In later years, the Scottish Knights Templar formed a Regiment for foreign service, into what became known as the Scots Guard, or "le Garde Ecossais en France".  One of the families which were prominent in this Scots Guard, were the Seton family.  The Scots Guard were the Guard of the French kings and fought with honour for that country in the wars across Europe and against England.  “It contained within its ranks the great names of Scotland, such as the Setons, the Montgomeries, the Hays, the Hamiltons, the Sinclairs, the Douglases, and the Stuarts and was subse­quently a supporter of the Stuart cause."

In recognition of the Seton family's contribution to Scotland's cause and their close links to the Order, the Scottish Knights Templar of today hold an annual service of dedication in the Seton Collegiate Church.  The Order says: “The Scottish Knights Templar have held several services in Seton Collegiate Church to commemorate the lives of the Seton family who maintained, above all else, unswerving loyalty to the Crown of Scotland; 'One God, one na­tion, one king, one loyalty' was the motto carved in stone in gilded letters over the portals of the ancient palace that Seton Church once served as a chapel".



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