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JONES, Dan



The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England

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A typical plague victim developed large, tumorlike buboes on the skin; they started the size of almonds and grew to the size of eggs. They were painful to the touch and brought on hideous deformities when they grew large. A bubo under the arm would force the arm to lurch uncontrollably out to the side; sited on the neck, it would force the head into a permanently cocked position. The buboes were frequently accompanied by dark blotches, known as God’s tokens, an unmistakable sign that the sufferer had been touched by the angel of death. Accompanying these violent deformities, the victim often developed a hacking cough that brought up blood and developed into incessant vomiting. He gave off a disgusting stench, which seemed to leak from every part of his body—his saliva, breath, sweat, and excrement stank overpoweringly—and eventually he began to lose his mind, wandering around screaming and collapsing in pain.

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The Templars

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In 1188, having heard the news from Hattin, Henry tasked the Templars with helping to collect a levy known as the Saladin Tithe: a tax to raise emergency funds for a new crusade. With their intimate ties to the cause and their infrastructure all over England, the Templars were perfectly placed to go about collecting this money, and Henry trusted them to do it.

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try every Templar in France, announcing the engagement of his confessor William of Paris, ‘inquisitor of heretical depravity’, to lead the effort and promising to freeze Templar assets until the truth was determined, a close reading of the arrest warrant revealed nothing beyond a hysterically exaggerated account of the Templars’ idiosyncratic induction ceremony, ….

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Once again the Templars had been wrenched out of a stronghold on the promise of safe passage and betrayed. Until a serious expedition could be mounted it would be desperately difficult for the order to extend much beyond Cyprus. James of Molay’s tenure as master had been a struggle from the beginning - and despite regular talk of a new crusade it showed little sign of getting any better.

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During the later decades of the thirteenth century the Templars found they had two deadly enemies ranger against them, both seeking their destruction. The first was the Mamluks, who rose from the banks of the Nile to extend their power across Muslim lands of the Levant... The second was St Louis’ grandson, Philip IV, king of France.

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‘The Order of the Temple was in reality far more than a fighting force: it was an international business network as useful to pilgrims seeking a safe passage to Jerusalem as it was to kings, queens and noble looking for a comprehensive financial service to run their accounts, keep an eye on their valuables and raise loans when they got into trouble.

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It was exactly a century since Hugh of Payns had established the Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. During those 100 years the Templars had transformed from indigent shepherds of the pilgrim roads, dependent on the charity of fellow pilgrims for their food and clothes, into a borderless, self-sustaining paramilitary group funded by large-scale estate management.

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‘Sixth-eight years had passed since Hugh of Payns and his fellow knights had gathered around the Holy Sepulchre to imagine into existence a new order that would defend the Holy City and protect its Christian pilgrims. It had taken Saladin less than fifteen weeks to massacre its members, imprison their master, seize their castles, overrun the holy sites they had sworn to protect

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