By Malcolm Barber
Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series, Vol. 34 (1984)
Introduction: Replying, on 13 January 1308, to letters of Philip IV of France describing the arrest of the Templars, Albert of Habsburg, King of the Germans, after expressing the customary sadness at the turn of events and extolling his own role as the leading prince in defence of the faith, remarked that ‘although a crime of such evil infamy ought to be reprehensible and damnable in all persons, nevertheless it is known to be more reprehensible among the religious, who ought by the splendour of their life to be mirror for others and an example’. Throughout the 193 years of its history the Order had indeed been in a position where it was ‘a mirror for others and an example’, a position which made it a particularly sensitive indicator and, in its turn, promoter, of social change. This paper is an attempt to trace this interrelationship.