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The title of Grand Master is one of the highest ranks of the Templar Order. Originally it was the supreme head of the entire order, but evolution of the organization over the centuries led to this status being superseded by newly created authorities such as the Guardians and the General of the Cross. Since the establishment of major branches of the order, the title has designated the heads of the Rites of the order, each corresponding to a specific geographic region, where they serve as the highest authority.
Having previously borne a more public face, more Grand Masters of the Templar Order were better known than their Assassin counterparts. However, as the Templars slipped back into the shadows, the identities of their leaders eventually fell from the public consciousness.
By the early 19th century, the Templars were no longer ruled by a single Grand Master or independant leaders but instead by a council of the Order's brightest members, the Inner Sanctum of the Templar Order. The Sanctum was in charge of creating a globalized plan for the Order and to ensure the cooperation of all the Rites and their leaders, while also preventing any corruption of the Templar ideals.
While still in charge of their respective and autonomous Rites, the Grand Masters were nevertheless accountable to the members of the Inner Sanctum and their inquisitor, the feared Black Cross. Furthermore, the Inner Sanctum was in charge of promoting the Grand Masters, keeping their numbers under strict control.
While it was commonly assumed that all Templar leaders were drawn from the stock of Western nobility, due to the prominence of the front-organization that was the Knights Templar during the Middle Ages, the truth was that as the Order developed, diversified and relocated, many different people of various ethnic backgrounds and cultural heritages had assumed the mantle of Grand Master throughout the Templars' longevity.
The first known Grand Master was the French knight Hugues de Payens. When he and his colleague Bernard de Clairvaux realized they needed the protection of the Church for their endeavors, they transformed the Templars into the publicly recognized military and monastic Order of the Knights Templar, trusted with the protection of pilgrims to the Holy Land, with Hugues becoming its first Grand Master in 1129.
After two years without a Grand Master following Gerard de Ridefort's death, Robert de Sablé entered the Templar Order and reigned as the Grand Master of the Levantine Rite during 1191. During his reign, he sought a Piece of Eden, nominally the Apple of Eden. After having lost the Apple, he launched an attack on the Levantine Assassins' stronghold of Masyaf. Later on, during the Battle of Arsuf, he was killed by his rival, Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad.
After the death of Robert, Armand Bouchart took on the mantle of Grand Master as he and the Templars retreated to Cyprus. However, Altaïr pursued him and the two fought in the Templar Archive, after the Assassin foiled the Grand Master's plans, resulting in Altaïr's victory and the Templars losing another leader.
During the early 14th century, the French King Philip le Bel was unknowingly influenced by the Assassins, and conspired against the Templars. As a result, they were branded heretics and hundreds of them were arrested, with the last official Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, understanding that the Order would not survive as a public organization. With this, he allowed himself to be burned at the stake, saving the lives of his brethren and making his enemies believe that the Templars were finished, though in reality, the Order continued to exist – underground. This aside, before his death, Molay sent nine of his most trusted men out into the world to continue his work.
In 1476, the Roman Rite came under the leadership of the Spanish-born Rodrigo Borgia, cardinal under Pope Sixtus IV. Operating from Rome, Rodrigo's primary objective was to unite Italy under the Templar banner, however, the Italian Templars strayed far from the main Templar ideology and used the Order as a way to achieve and sustain power for themselves. Despite facing complications from the Assassins, mainly Ezio Auditore da Firenze, Rodrigo managed to bribe the other cardinals, and was named Pope in 1492, taking on the name Alexander VI.
Rodrigo then secured the power of the Church for the Templars, and from the Vatican, he oversaw the progress of the other Templars in Europe, including England and Spain. However, by 1500, Rodrigo's resolve had weakened, and control over the order fell to his son Cesare Borgia, who acted as the de facto Grand Master.
After he killed his own father in August 1503, Cesare became the official Grand Master of the Order, though without his father's power in the Church, he could not maintain the same influence in Europe that his father had. Cesare was soon imprisoned with the ascension of the next Pope, Julius II, and upon escaping, he fled to his brother-in-law John III of Navarre in Navarre, Spain. The Grand Master was ultimately killed during the Siege of Viana in 1507 by Ezio Auditore, destabilizing the Templars in Europe and causing them to temporarily withdraw.
During the time of colonial expansion by the major European empires, the Cuban governor Laureano de Torres y Ayala assumed the role of Grand Master of the West Indies Rite. Operating out of Havana, he sought the fabled Observatory in order to spy upon and thus bend the leaders of the European colonial empires to Templar will, ensuring peace through order. Torres was ultimately assassinated by the pirate-turned-Assassin Edward Kenway.
In Britain, the Grand Master of the British Rite was Reginald Birch, an Englishman who used the pretext of business to cover his affiliations. He was responsible for the growth of Templar influence in the British colonies, sending over Haytham Kenway to lead them. Upon his arrival in the colonies, Haytham gathered his co-conspirators, who had been recruited and located by Birch, and became the first Grand Master of the newly-founded Colonial Rite.
During the French and Indian War, part of the wider Seven Years' War, the Colonial Rite grew in power, acquiring such influence that they soon posed a serious threat to the Colonial Assassins under Achilles Davenport. At the time, the Assassins were more preoccupied with investigating Pieces of Eden and largely ignored the organization's new leadership, an error that proved fatal.
Shortly after founding the Colonial Rite, Haytham led the rite in an assault against the Assassins. Aided by the Assassin turncoat Shay Cormac and lead on the field by Haytham himself, the Templars removed key figures in the Order, greatly reducing the Assassin's presence. This cumulated in an attack on the Davenport Homestead in 1763, where the remaining Assassins were killed and Achilles was exiled on the condition that he never revive the Brotherhood, thus effectively exterminating the Colonial branch.
Near the end of the 18th century, the title of Grand Master had been bestowed upon Charles Lee, following the death of Haytham during the siege of Fort George by Haytham's son, the Assassin Connor. Charles, being the only conspirator left from Haytham's rule, attempted to flee back to England by ship after his initial plan to kill Connor failed. He was unsuccessful though, and Connor assassinated him inside a tavern.
In Europe, François de la Serre had risen to the position of Grand Master of the Parisian Rite. However, he was ultimately deposed in a coup d'etat orchestrated by François-Thomas Germain, who usurped the position of Grand Master following de la Serre's death.
By 1868, the British Rite was controlled by Crawford Starrick, who expanded the Templars' reach to every major corner of industrialized society, from the highest official to the lowest criminal. He was opposed by the few remaining Assassins in London, namely Henry Green and the Frye twins.
By the 20th century, the "Founders" created Abstergo Industries in 1937, which from that point on served as the front for the Templar Order. Though its highest-ranking employees all held some form of leadership in the Templar Order, there were multiple Grand Masters who still maintained control over their operations. As of 2014, there are three known Grand Masters operating respectively in Cuba, Mexico and the United States.
Known Grand Masters
- Assassin's Creed material occasionally identifies Assassins, including Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, Mario Auditore, Mirabeau and Mujir as Grand Masters of the Assassin Order.
- ↑ Assassin's Creed: The Essential Guide
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Assassin's Creed Encyclopedia
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Assassin's Creed
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Assassin's Creed: The Essential Guide
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Assassin's Creed II
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood novel
- ↑ Assassin's Creed: Revelations
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 Assassin's Creed III
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Assassin's Creed: Rogue
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 Assassin's Creed: Unity
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
- ↑ Assassin's Creed: Revelations – Abstergo Files
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 Assassin's Creed: Unity – Helix Database: 10. Reconnaissance Memo
- ↑ Assassin's Creed: Project Legacy
- ↑ Assassin's Creed: The Essential Guide
- ↑ Assassin's Creed: Last Descendants
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 20.2 Assassin's Creed: Templars
- ↑ Assassin's Creed: The Official Movie Novelization