chapter  2
12 Pages

The Templars, the Syrian Assassins and King Amalric of Jerusalem

ByBernard Hamilton

William of Tyre reports that the Master of the Syrian Assassins sent an ambassador to Jerusalem who told King Amalric that the Master had diligently read the New Testament and had become convinced that the Muslim faith was erroneous. He had therefore banned its practice in his dominions, and he and his subjects wished to receive Christian baptism. He made only one condition: that he should be freed from the annual payment of 2,000 bezants in tribute to the Knights Templar. The king was overjoyed. He agreed to this condition and offered to compensate the Templars for their loss of revenue. The Assassin ambassador was given a royal safe-conduct, but as he was about to enter his own territory he was ambushed by a group of Templars, one of whom, Walter of Mesnil, killed him. This led to a confrontation between the Order and the crown. Odo of St Amand, the Master of the Temple, claimed that judgment in this case was reserved to the pope, but despite this Amalric seized Walter of Mesnil and imprisoned him in chains in the royal fortress of Tyre. William of Tyre places these events between Saladin’s attack on Transjordan in September 1173 and the death of Nur ad-Din in May 1174.1 He was in a position to be well informed about them: at the time he was tutor to the king’s son and had been commissioned by Amalric to write the history of the kingdom. By the time he wrote this part of it, he had become chancellor and had charge of the royal archive.2