The Knights Templars were an order of military monks founded during the First Crusade. Their name comes from the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, on the site of which they built their headquarters. Their function was nominally to protect Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem.
They were essentially Cistercian monks following the rule of St Benedict, and also warrior knights – the combination was not regarded as odd during the Middle Ages – or indeed until the advent of the secular age. They were famed throughout Christendom for many reasons. Their independence from the normal Church hierarchy invited the hostility of bishops. Their fighting prowess attracted ambitious noblemen and wealthy patrons. Their ever growing wealth invited the envy of kings. Their friendship with Moslem hashashin created a scandal. Their military record was exceptional.
The Order was the first bankers who set up the basis of the system that is still in use today. Their banking activities included, loans to Monarchs of both England and France to finance the Crusades, transporting money and valuables between Palestine and Europe, lending money to pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land and setting up a system whereby a landowner leaving to travel to the Crusades or on a Pilgrimage, could deposit their assets with the Knights Templar in their home country, and travel with a form of a Letter of Credit, which enabled them to make withdrawals from their account at other locations.
Ultimately the fate of the Templars would be decided within France. Philip IV, King of France, made the move to challenge the continued existence of the Templars. Taking advantage of rumors of Templar corruption (no doubt exaggerated) and of a weak and compliant Pope, in 1307, Philip IV ordered the arrest of all Templars in France, including the Master of the Temple, Jacques de Molay. Pope Clement V ordered an investigation into the charges leveled against the Templars. Under immense political pressure, the Pope ordered the arrest of all Templars within Christian Europe and the seizure of their property.
Following the declared end of the Templars in 1312, the Order continued in secret, with Jean-Marc Larmenius the first Grand Master of the now-secret organization, and the Order continued with an uninterrupted line of Grand Masters. In 1705, a convention of Templars at Versailles elected Philip, Duke of Orleans, as Grand Master. This Philip (le Régent) became Regent of France in 1715. With a combined Regent and Grand Master, the Order of the Temple was renewed and legitimized as a Secular Military Order of Chivalry.