NOTE: With the possibility that I might be called on to participate on a speakers’ panel, later this year, on the subject of “Templar Treasure in America,” I have written this article as a precursor to that event. I will add news about this presentation as it is made available to me.
Perhaps no other organization in history has had so many legends and theories surrounding it as has the Knights Templar. Among the prevailing mysteries are whether they were the forerunners to the Freemasons and if they buried still-undiscovered treasure in Europe, Scotland and/or North America. Another mystery is whether they took part in the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn, under the forces of Angus Og MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, at which Robert the Bruce defeated the English King Edward, and later became King of Scotland.
Perhaps they even took part in the 1411 Battle of Red Harlaw, in which case they may have been opposing Angus Og’s grandson, Donald MacDonald, Lord of the Isles.
While there is much mystery left to explain, it is also true that there is a wealth of documents, deeds and details concerning the Templar involvement in Scottish history to solve at least part of the puzzle.
A personal friend of this author, Mr. Ronald Henderson, of Perth, Scotland, has been a member of the Order of Scottish Knights Templar, and has provided me with a video of a now-deceased associate of his, Mr. Robert Brydon, who was considered one of the foremost experts on Templars in Scotland. Robert Brydon was a member of the Order of Scottish Knights Templar and was considered by many as an expert on the Knights Templar in Scotland. He passed away in 2014. He has been highly recommended by fellow Knights Templar as a national treasure of Scotland and an expert in his field of research. In November 2002, he addressed a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, on “Peace in the Holy Land,” which is one source for this article.
Another friend from Aberdeen, Scotland, Mr. Albert Thomson, provided an extremely detailed report prepared by Mr. Andy Douglas, entitled “Notes on Military Orders in Scotland,” which includes several pages worth of specific dates and events related to Holy Orders within Scotland, including the Knights Templar, and is drawn from public records dating from the 12th through the 15th centuries.
I am very indebted to these people.
Along with their information, I have sourced the book The Temple and The Lodge, by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, the book Scottish Historical Documents, by Professor Gordon Donaldson, University of Edinburgh, as well as other websites and many books from my own personal collection.
The challenge will not be so much in finding information as it will be in condensing that information into an understandable tale.
After extensive research, this version of the Templar story is meant to simplify as much as I can of their history, while still adding critical or entertaining episodes along the way. Since this history is so old, some of it is not universally accepted, and there are alternative angles to the story. I, however, am telling it in a way that is agreed upon by many.
To begin with, the Knights Templar was principally a military order first founded by two French/Norman knights in 1118, and dedicated to protecting pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. They initially relied on handouts for food and clothing. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem housed them on part of the Temple Mount, thought to be the site of Solomon’s Temple.
The Temple Mount is still involved in great controversy in Jerusalem, today. At least four religious traditions are known to have made use of the Temple Mount: Judaism, Rome’s pagan multi-deity religion, Christianity, and Islam.
According to Jewish tradition and scripture (2 Chronicles 3:1-2), the first temple on the Temple Mount site was built by King Solomon, the son of the Biblical King David, in 957 B.C.
From that time until today, the site has been the center of extreme variations in culture. Consequently, Knights Templar members were exposed to many types of languages, architecture, literature, legends, religious ideas, and some say, to artifacts that were found in the temple. This resulted in the Order becoming quite worldly in their outlook on life.
Granted Papal protection in 1128, Hugh de Payen (also spelled Hugo de Pavens or Hugues de Payens) was named as one of the organization’s two founders. The Order’s full title was given as the “Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon.” They were also known as “The Knights of the Temple” and thus the abbreviated name – “Knights Templar.”
Hugh de Payen quite likely already had ties to the British Isles long before the Templars were organized. He came to, or perhaps back to the British Isles, in 1128, recruiting men, raising funds and collecting endowments for the Order.
The great Scottish author and poet, Sir Walter Scott, mentions de Payen in his book Ivanhoe, where he says, in part, “The souls of our pure founders, the spirits of Hugh de Payen and Godfrey de St. Omer, and of the Blessed Seven who first joined in dedicating their lives to the service of the Temple . . .” – for you see, there were originally nine Knights Templar, as mentioned by Scott and in many documents from as early as the 12th century.
It has, at times, been mistakenly thought that the Knights Templar only arrived in Scotland during the 14th century, after being excommunicated from the Catholic Church. In fact, they were there much earlier.
However, considering the fact that Robert the Bruce, who would become the hero-king of Scotland, was excommunicated, along with his entire country, and the fact that the 12th edict of the Knights Templar “Latin Rules” reads, “Where you know excommunicated knights to be gathered, there we command you to go” – a case could be made that some Templars went to Scotland simply to save Bruce’s soul, while others may have gone there upon their own excommunication.
Regardless, these 14th century Templars were predated by many others who were there earlier for a variety of reasons, not the least of which were land ownership and mining rights for gold!
Unknown to many, Scotland once held a bonanza of gold, including one single nugget said to be as large as a horse’s head. Split in half, one part remained in Scotland and has since disappeared. The other half was given to Queen Elizabeth I of England and is rumored to be kept at the British National Museum. This nugget, weighing a reported 2.5 lbs, was found in 1502.
Scottish gold has been called the purest in the world, with an average of 22.8 karats in its raw form. In fact, gold is still being mined in Scotland, with a new flurry of activity in recent years due to its increased value.
It was “monks from Newbattle Abbey” in Midlothian who first discovered gold in the nearby Lowther hills. These monks were almost certainly Knights Templar, or closely allied with them, as we shall see. In medieval times this area became known as “God’s treasure house in Scotland,” so rich were the pickings. It was gold from the Lowthers that was used to fashion the Scottish crown jewels.
Monks from Melrose Abbey founded Newbattle Abbey in 1140. The patron of both Melrose and Newbattle Abbeys was King David I of Scotland. Hugh de Payen, who served in the First Crusade with Henri St. Clair, 2nd Baron of Roslyn, is sometimes connected to Catherine St. Clair, as his wife. He met with King David I in Scotland in 1128. Not long afterwards, the Templars established a seat at Balantrodoch, which is still today part of the Parish of Temple, Midlothian, on the Esk River.
King David I also granted to the Templars land in Ballater and the chapel at Tullich, both located near Aberdeen. In 1179, land in Turriff was gifted to the Order, and in 1187, William I, the Lion of Scotland granted lands of Culter to the Templars.
A papal bull, from 1139, granted the Order permission to build its own chapels and churches, allowing them free movement across any borders and making them tax exempt. They answered to no one save the Pope himself.
A charter signed by Alexander II of Scotland, on March 20, 1236, conferred to the Knights Templar all the rights and liberties which the kings David I, Malcolm, and his own father William the Lion had granted to them.
The estates of the Templars were so extensive in Scotland and Europe that earls, barons and even kings began taking out loans from the Order. In 1260, Henry III of England even pawned the crown jewels to the Templars for cash!
By 1296, the Templars also held lands in the burgh and the Sheriffdom of Nair and the burgh of Ardesier; St. Germains in East Lothian; Inchinnan in Renfrewshire, and Mount Hooly on the burgh-moor in Edinburgh.
A bound volume of land deeds found in the early 19th century by a trusted antiquarian showed over 500 properties in Scotland listed as Terrae Templariae or “Templar Land.”
Further research has found up to 640 potential Templar properties, with at least 620 of them documented well enough to be accepted as authentic. Many Templar properties were actually tenement buildings in Glasgow, Edinburgh and other Scottish cities, as they were very astute businessmen.
In 1189, Alan FitzWalter, the 2nd Lord High “Steward” of Scotland, was a benefactor of the Templar Order. It was a man of FitzWalter’s line who later wed Robert the Bruce’s daughter, creating the Stewart monarchy of Scotland.
William II of England, son of William the Conqueror, propped up King David I. When William II died, he was succeeded by his brother, Henry, who married David’s sister Matlida, uniting the royalty of Scotland and England, at least in this matrimonial way.
As often happens in Scottish history, many important people were related to each other in a country comparable in size to South Carolina. For reference, Colorado is three times as large as Scotland, and Alaska (commonly thought of as THE gold rush state) is 20 times larger than Scotland, and yet Scotland was the hotbed of gold mining during the “golden years” of the Knights Templar.
The monastic order of Cistercian monks, who founded Melrose Abbey, and the Knights Templar were closely associated, with some believing that they were indeed of the same order. Bernard de Clairvaux, an important figure in the founding of Templarism and co-author of the “Latin Rules,” along with Hugh de Payen, followed the Cistercian way of life. He was a leading influence in the church’s endorsement of the Knights Templar, and a powerful advocate of that monastic order.
The evidence stacks up
The heart of Robert the Bruce, a legendary beneficiary of Templar support, was buried at Melrose Abbey. The monks of Melrose oversaw the building of Newbattle Abbey, whose own monks first discovered the Scottish Lowther hill’s gold. Newbattle Abbey, also a beneficiary of King David I, sits in the Parish of Temple very near to the ancient seat of the Knights Templar of Scotland, at Balantrodoch.
While there are about 640 records of land ownership in Scotland by Templars , this connected series of clues stands out – of Melrose Abbey and Newbattle Abbey; the Templar seat at nearby Balantrodoch; the associations between Hugh de Payen, Bernard de Clairvaux, Henri St. Clair (Sinclair) and King David I of Scotland, along with intermarriage of the Stewart and Bruce families, and possibly of the de Payen and St. Clair families; plus the burial of the heart of Robert the Bruce at Melrose, and the mining of nearly pure gold from the Lowther region. These proven, related events all add up to one major and undeniable proof of substantial presence and power of the Knights Templar in Scotland long before their 14th century persecution.
There is a theory, in fact, that Hugh de Payen was the son of Payen or Pagen, a knight of William the Conqueror. William’s invasion of the British Isles, in 1066, led to much of the first recording of land ownership, specific surnames being used, and the organization of fighting men to join in the first Crusade (whose official start date was set as August 15, 1096).
Just ten years earlier, William the Conqueror commissioned the Domesday Book, which documented land ownership and surnames throughout most of his new kingdom. Within the Domesday Book one will find a man named Pagen who was one of William the Conqueror’s chief barons, on whom he especially bestowed his favors. In addition, one would find Robert, a younger son of William the Conqueror, under whom Hugh de Payen went to the Crusades, thus placing the sons (if sons they were) of both William and his chief baron in direct communication and association with each other. The conclusion is at least very natural and certainly very probable, that Hugh de Payen (the son of Payen or Pagen) was really the son of the baron mentioned in the Domesday Book, with Edmund being the older son and heir.
That Hugh was “poor” and yet the son of a rich father is readily explainable by the fact that the prevailing law of primogeniture gave the whole inheritance to the oldest son and left the younger son poor – a fact of such importance that it led, in the world of heraldry, to the adoption of a particular feature on the Paine, Payne or Payen Coat of Arms to express this. The feature placed on the shield was a Martlet, or footless bird, to indicate that the holder of the arms had no land to stand on, and hence no use for feet.
One of the extracts from Domesday is the following, “Edmund, the son of Pagen, holds of the King, and Hugh holds of him.” That this Hugh spoken of was Hugh de Payen cannot certainly be determined, but the fact that his surname is not given, but simply his Christian name, implies that his surname was the same as the person he “held of” as being “the son of Pagen.” The conclusion can hardly be resisted that the great Crusader was the son of the knight on whom King William abundantly showered his favors, and that it was this favor with King William which opened the palace doors of King Baldwin, in Jerusalem, and gave to the “poor” son, Hugh de Payen, a home and the prestige of his influence and his power – that door being the Temple Mount – along with the Order name of “Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon.”
The next phase of Templar activity in Scotland comes after the Order is condemned in France and eventually excommunicated.
The Order, having amassed vast wealth in Scottish gold and other sources, became the first international bankers of the world. Organized according to Cistercian rule, the Templars included knights and chaplains, both noble, but also sergeants and servants, and eventually clerks and bookkeepers. In fact, it has been said that by the time of their dissolution in France, there were more Templars serving in clerical roles than as military knights. It was their very success at banking that led to their eventual downfall.
King Philip of France was an extravagant ruler, spending far more than his subjects could provide, though he taxed his people heavily. As the story goes, at one point, Philip was being chased by angry Frenchmen and took shelter in a Knights Templar chapel. There he learned of the vast wealth and power of this Order. On one hand he desired and received massive loans from the Templars. On the other hand, he realized their power, and that his indebtedness to them could result in the Templars taking over France and also controlling the Pope, who was firmly in the hands of Philip.
On “Friday the 13th” of October, 1307, Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master, along with sixty Templars were arrested and accused of heresy and monstrous crimes (profanation, idolatry, and more). Tortured severely, the accused men confessed to everything. Pope Clement V, shaken by these confessions, ordered other kings of the Catholic world to arrest Templars in their realms, in early 1308. Later, the Pope changed his mind and appointed ecclesiastical commissions to conduct their own investigations, during which time the Templars retracted their confessions.
But the weak Clement V did not have the capacity to resist for long the very king of France who had made him Pope. In May 1310, after their conviction as “relapsed heretics,” fifty-four Templars, who had retracted their confessions, were burned at the stake.
The Council of Vienne, in October 1311, refused to recognize the guilt of the Templars, but Philip pressured Clement V, who, in a papal bull dated April 3, 1312, officially declared the dissolution of the Order.
The Templars who kept to their confessions were freed. But on March 19, 1314, the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and the head of the province of Normandy, Geoffroi de Charnay, were led to a great scaffold in front of Notre-Dame de Paris, and were called upon to repeat the tale of their crimes before the assembled crowd. They courageously protested, denouncing the absurdity of the accusations against them and proclaiming the purity and holiness of their order. A furious Philip had them burned at the stake that very evening, again as relapsed heretics. The innocence of the Knights Templar is today almost unanimously recognized.
In steps Scotland!
On February 10, 1306, Robert the Bruce and John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, met at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries. There was no love lost between them as each was an heir to the recently-vacated Scottish throne. Bruce had called the meeting and the two left their swords outside as they entered the church. A fight broke out before the high altar and Bruce stabbed “Red Comyn,” as John was also known. When Bruce stepped from the church and told his men what had happened, Roger de Kirkpatrick said “You doubt. I will make sure.” Kirkpatrick walked into the kirk to make sure that the Red Comyn was dead. Comyn’s uncle was also slain by Bruce’s supporter, Sir Christopher Seton.
Years later, David Seton would become Grand Prior of the Knights in Scotland. Also, a Seton knight accompanied Bruce’s heart to the Holy Land, along with a Sinclair and other recognizable names.
It is impossible to know what really happened in Greyfriars Kirk that day. Even chroniclers of the time disagree, and for hundreds of years historians have argued about what really took place. Had Bruce planned to murder Comyn and seize the throne? Did Red Comyn draw his dagger first?
A letter from the English court to the Pope states, “Bruce rose against King Edward as a traitor, and murdered Sir John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, in the church of the Friars Minor in the town of Dumfries, at the high altar, because John would not assent to the treason which Bruce planned... to resume war.. and make himself king of Scotland.”
Regardless of his intent, Bruce’s murder of John Comyn resulted in his excommunication from the Catholic Church. The Pope pressured the aristocracy of Scotland to reject Bruce, but when they refused, they too were excommunicated. The Pope then turned to the clergy of Scotland, who also refused, and who also were excommunicated. Finally, he turned to the people of Scotland, a majority of whom still swore allegiance to Bruce. With this final insult, the Pope excommunicated the entire country of Scotland, the only country this has ever happened to. The Pope also turned to rulers in many other countries to join in persecuting the Knights Templar. It is probably not a coincidence that the rise of the knight, Sir Robert the Bruce, coincided with the dissolution of the Templars. Many historians feel that a group of Templars escaped to Scotland and propped up Robert the Bruce, while he, in turn, allowed them freedom to roam throughout Scotland.
In fact, throughout Europe, banished Knights Templar were roaming the countryside as they blended in with the local community and various orders.
In Alsace-Lorraine, where an ancient Celtic race once held sway, the area had at times changed hands between France and Germany. At this point in history, this area was in the hands of Germany, and the Duke of Lorraine supported the Knights Templar. A few were tried and quickly set free, just for show. Most appear to have shaved their beards, donned secular garb and melted into the local population. In Germany, Knights were found not guilty in court and many were accepted into the Knights of St. John and the Teutonic Knights. In Spain, they joined other orders, especially the Calatrava, and a new order established just for former Templars, called the Montessa. In Portugal, the Knights were found not guilty and many became Knights of Christ.
Prince Henry Sinclair, often called Henry the Navigator, was Grand Master of the Knights of Christ. Ships of this order sailed under the familiar Knights Templar white sail with a red cross. Christopher Columbus was married to the daughter of a Grand Master of the Knights of Christ, and he sailed to America under the same white sails adorned with the red cross.
The King of England was very slow to arrest knights, and those he did convict were let off with light sentences. On December 14, 1309, more than two years after the first French arrests, King Edward of England wrote to his sheriffs to say that Templars were still, “wandering about in secular habits . . .”
The Knights continued to “wander about” and many believe that, in Scotland, their choice of who to blend in with were mason guilds. The skills of building great castles and cathedrals were well-kept secrets among the stone masons. This air of secrecy suited the Templars.
Evidence exists that some Templars trained as stone masons and that, together, the Templar remnants and the stone mason guilds formed the Freemasons. Two sites have been identified as places that have Templar-styled gravestones, and that were thought to be training grounds for masons. One is on the west coast of Scotland at Kilmartin, where about 80 Templar-style grave markers are found, and where it is said a group of stone masons carried on their work through the 14th and 15th centuries. To have a “group” of masons remaining in one area for so long indicates either a school or a stone mason’s guild headquarters.
Another place that appears as though it may have been a school for apprentice masons is the famous Rosslyn Chapel, owned and built by the Sinclair family. Some argue that the Sinclairs could not have been involved with the Templars and/or Freemasonry because two Sinclair lawmen testified against the Templars when the Church sent its prosecutors to Scotland. However, during the trial no evidence was presented that was strong enough to convict the Templars. The testimony of the two Sinclair men was simply that they agreed with all that was said. How much more vague can a testimony be, and what better way to protect your government job, and possibly your life, than to be this vague?
The variety of symbols, Christian, pagan, Templar, Masonic, etc. that appear in Rosslyn Chapel lead one to believe that there was no master plan. Also, many projects are referred to as “apprentice carvings,” including the incredible Apprentice Pillar. The most logical and mundane reason for the variety of unconnected symbols, and for the inclusion of Templar, Masonic, Christian and pagan sculptures is that it was a training ground where apprentices could carve whatever they wished, to learn their trade. There are, of course, Templar-style graves near Rosslyn, too.
Kilmartin also ties in with the Templar story in another way. It is located on the Scottish mainland directly across from the Isle of Mull. One old, extensive Freemason history tells of escaping Templars landing on the Isle of Mull in 1313. This would have been in the territory of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles. Roughly speaking, the Lords of the Isles controlled the western islands of Scotland and a considerable chunk of the highlands all the way over to Ross. The Sinclair family controlled the Orkney Islands and eventually the Caithness portion of northwest Scotland. The Stewart monarchy, of course, controlled the rest of the country as best they could.
Five Templar graves are found in a small area at the Mull of Kintyre, at the time controlled by the MacDonalds. At least two, if not three more are found on an island located just off the Isles of Skye, also in control of the Lords of the Isles. In fact, the Bishop of the Isles had headquarters near these graves for 500 years, until 1498.
There is an oft-told legend that Knights Templar were at the Battle of Bannockburn at which Robert the Bruce defeated the English, and drove them out of Scotland. It is known that Angus Og MacDonald, the Lord of the Isles from that period, did in fact support Bruce at Bannockburn, and was granted the honor to always fight at the king’s right hand side thereafter. Since it seems Templars landed in Lord of the Isles territory, possibly held lands there, were buried there, and perhaps studied masonry there, it is quite possible that some of them joined with Angus Og in a last-minute arrival at Bannockburn to strike fear in the hearts of the English, whether they wore the white mantel and red cross, or not. They could have been there in support of their fellow knight and future king, Robert the Bruce.
That the MacDonald and Sinclair families were often associated is shown in a few examples described here.
First, each had a vague claim to be of the “true blood,” whatever that was meant to imply.
Secondly, both were supporters of King James I of Scotland. When James was a lad, the Sinclairs were, for a time, his guardians. Unfortunately, he was captured and imprisoned in England. His father, King Robert III, died of a broken heart, thus leaving the throne of Scotland unattended. Both James I and Robert III were direct descendants of Robert the Bruce. One of James’s relatives – his Uncle Robert Stewart – took over as Guardian of Scotland and stalled in ransoming his nephew so that he could enjoy the fruits of the kingship.
Donald, Lord of the Isles, and grandson of Angus Og, in support of his true king, tried to take over Scotland. Some historians say it was for his own sake, but his representatives had met a few times with either the imprisoned James or one of his emissaries, and even with emissaries of the King of England. In fact, Donald’s own mother was a Stewart, the great-granddaughter of Robert the Bruce, and aunt of James I, making James I and Lord Donald first cousins.
Donald’s forces from the Highlands and Isles met with Lowland forces (based primarily in Aberdeen) at a place called Harlaw. The battle fought there has been called the bloodiest battle ever fought on Scottish soil. Members of many clans died that day in 1411. Some of the warriors were thought to be Templars. It was close to this area that Templars had long-held land and mining rights and perhaps, like many historians, they mistakenly thought Donald, Lord of the Isles, was attempting to capture Scotland for himself, when the detailed history shows he was in communication with his cousin James shortly before the battle, and was most likely fighting for his king and cousin.
Further proof of this lies in the fact that, when James was later released, he chose Donald’s son, Alexander, as one of the jurors on the court that condemned his uncle and other traitors to death. Alexander went on to become Lord of the Isles, Earl of Ross and Justiciar of Scotland, meaning the chief law enforcement officer.
At one point Lord MacDonald and Earl Sinclair found themselves in Edinburgh, drinking late into the evening. Sinclair boasted that he would be up earlier than MacDonald and have breakfast waiting. As MacDonald left, Sinclair had twelve men go out into the community to make sure MacDonald could purchase no food or firewood. One of MacDonald’s men shot a Highland stag, found some firewood, and had breakfast waiting for Earl Sinclair of Orkney.
Sinclair was furious, and when next he saw MacDonald he said, “Do you think to equal or cope with me in power and authority?”
MacDonald countered that he had a young son at home, who could, in fact, equal the earl in power, and would someday prove it.
Now several years passed until 1460, when MacDonald’s boast came to fruition. This is the year we first hear, historically, of Hugh of Sleat (slate), which is a peninsula on the Isle of Skye. Hugh is the progenitor of the Scottish Clan Uisdean, and represented a continuance of Clan Donald. Hugh, in Gaelic, was Uisdean (pronounced Ooshdn). The current Chief of the McDonalds of Sleat (Clan Uisdean) still carries the patronymic of MacUisdean. He also, quite interestingly, happens to hold the oldest barony title in Nova Scotia, dating from 1622. This is especially interesting since Nova Scotia is often thought of as the final resting place of some of the Knights Templar treasure. The current Chief of Sleat and the current Chief of all Clan Donald are both descended from Hugh of Sleat.
William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness (1455–1476), 3rd Earl of Orkney (1455–1470), and Baron of Rosslyn, was a Scottish nobleman and the builder of the famed Rosslyn Chapel, in Midlothian, with possible ties to the Knights Templar. He was the grandson of Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney and son of Henry Sinclair, 2nd Earl of Orkney. In addition, he was Lord High Admiral and Lord Chancellor of Scotland.
William was no one to play games with!
Sinclair became the first Lord St. Clair of Scotland in 1449 , the same year his nemesis, Hugh McDonald, son of the Lord of the Isles, was given land on the Isle of Skye and made Chief of Sleat. In 1456, Sinclair began building the legendary Rosslyn Chapel. In 1460, Hugh of Sleat and several other “gentlemen of the Isles” descended upon the Orkneys. They landed opposite of where the Sinclair earl had anticipated, and were quickly able to claim a victory over his men. Some have wrongly reported that the earl was killed. He lived on, long after this event, though he lost his lands on Orkney in favor of lands on the nearby northeast coast of Scotland, in an area called Caithness (kateness). King James III claimed Sinclair’s rights to the Norwegian Earldom of Orkney for the Scottish Crown in 1470, against a promise of compensation. This was due, principally, to the marriage of James III to the daughter of the king of Denmark, who offered the Orkneys as a dowry. William Sinclair was thereafter Earl of Caithness, alone, until he resigned the Earldom in favor of his son William, in 1476.
However, before the transfer of the Orkneys, and directly after the MacDonald/Sinclair battle, Hugh of Sleat had made his way to Caithness possibly to meet with George Gunn, the Crowner or Coroner of Caithness. In those days, a coroner was more interested in getting the king’s share of any estate than in determining the cause of death. His other job was to grant remission to a criminal, particularly someone who had killed another person, by taking his worldly possessions, extracting a confession and apology, and sending the person out of the community with only a monk’s garb.
It is possible that Hugh went to see George Gunn knowing he would be in some trouble for attacking the troops of such a powerful man as Sinclair. Perhaps he just wanted to get supplies or to see what that part of Scotland looked like. Regardless, he fell for Gunn’s daughter and this couple had a son who eventually became Chief of the MacDonalds, following Hugh.
The Gunn family was now a thorn in the side of Sinclair! One of the earl’s vassal clans, the Keith family, harassed the Gunns and finally challenged them to a clan battle with 12 horses on each side.
The Gunns chose their best 12 warriors and arrived mounted on their best steeds. In Templar style, the Keiths arrived with 12 horses, but with two warriors on each horse. The symbol of two riders on a horse is a well-known Templar symbol and appears in Rosslyn Chapel sculpture, and elsewhere in historical documents. The Sinclair vassals, Clan Keith, defeated the Gunns and Sinclair claimed their lands. A Keith knight was also in the entourage that carried Bruce’s heart to the Holy Land.
The MacDonald and Sinclair families don’t seem to have continued the feud. For instance, when John of the Isles, brother to Hugh of Sleat, passed away in Dundee, Scotland, in February 1502, it was Pate or Patrick Sinclair who took care of his burial.
In the Compota Thesaurariorum Regum Scotorum, or Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, for the years 1500 A.D. to 1504 A.D., we read “Item, to Pate Sinclair, to send to Dunde to pay for Johne of the Ilis furthbringing and berying . . .”
This Patrick Sinclair, generally supposed to be of the Rosslyn Sinclairs, was an extremely close confidant of the Scottish King James IV, and later of Queen Margaret of England (sister to Henry VIII), and finally, once again a close confidant and protector of James V of Scotland. Patrick was sent on several secret and/or important missions by the royal families of Scotland and England, including the “berying” of John MacDonald, last Celtic Lord of the Isles, in or near the grave of King Robert II of Scotland, at Paisley Abbey.
There are many other instances of association between the Sinclair, MacDonald and Stewart families, many at very high levels of involvement in the state of affairs of Scotland and England. Also, there are a great number of documents and theories concerning these powerful families, which involve the Knights Templar and the Freemasons.
Even with this many words, I have only briefly touched on the evidence of Templars in Scotland. A complete book could be written on this subject, and in fact, several have been written. There can be no doubt about Templar presence in Scottish history. Where the Knights Templar went from there, is a question I will leave for others to explain.