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This article is about the highest rank of the Templar Order. You may be looking for other uses of the title.
Templars

The emblem of the Templar Order

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was the supreme head of the entire order, but evolution of the organization over the centuries led to this status being superseded by newly created authorities such as the Guardians and the General of the Cross.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.[1]

Having previously borne a more public face, most 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 independent leaders but instead by a council of the Order's most prestigious 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 Crosses. 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.

Structure

Training

"It is a requirement when you are raised in the manner that I was. Perception is fundamental to the Order. It guides the feet when running and climbing. Informs the hands when striking and fighting. But most important, it transforms the senses. And we begin to know the world in a different way."
―Haytham discussing his training with Charles Lee.[src]

The Templar Order requires that any member trained to become a Grand Master are to be prepared to make difficult decisions and confident in their own abilities in leadership before being promoted. To uphold the Templar belief of killing for efficiency instead of emotional grounds, they are expected to be resourceful to further the Templars ideals in pursuit of the greater good.[2] The strongest minds among them are meant to bear the responsibility of the people's will for freedom and responsibility;[3] therefore they themselves seek to take the mantle of leadership in a society and expect the people to fall in line because, in their view, humanity was built to serve.[4][5] Additionally, both combat and strategem are part of their training.[3][2] The training itself is under another Grand Master, where it is a chosen Templar being trained,[2] or it is a birthright in a Templar lineage that ruled a Rite.[3][6] After the foundation of the Inner Sanctum, promotions to Grand Master came under their control.[7]

Powers & leadership

"As a Master Templar, you have learned your lessons well, and have earned this opportunity. You are my eyes and ears in the New World now. Do not fail me, Lawrence."
―Birch in his letter to Lawrence, 1738.[src]

A Grand Master controls a specific geographic region and their Rites is named after it.[1] Under their leadership, the other Templars served as Advisors and the second-in-command served as Lieutenant.[3] Despite it being their highest rank of a Rite within the international organization that is the Templar Order, a Grand Master is dependent on the support of their Advisors and other Rites around the world. Because of the responsibilities of being a Grand Master are important, some Templars served as their personal bodyguards, such as Frederick Weatherall for the De la Serre family,[3] and El Tiburón for Laureano de Torres y Ayala.[8]

The power of a Grand Master is also beyond their own Rite to an extent within the Templar Order, as their higher rank allowed to have influence of acting leaders, as well as over Master Templars of other Rites.[4][9][10] It does not mean they can neglect the duties of their own Rite to actively participate in the duties of another Grand Master and their Rite, such as Birch obsession of the Precursor storehouse being researched under Haytham`s Colonial Rite.[2]

The Grand Master would also have meetings with Templars from other Rites to discuss the politics of their nation, domestic and global, and conditions of the Templar Order itself,[3] while also communicating through their various businesses and organizations such as Templar fleets, like Shay Cormac's fleet.[9] An advantage of being Grand Master is also their own network that functions as their eyes and ears everywhere, and they get regularly updates from agents on operations, especially Templars directly under their command.[2] They also lead the initiation of new Templar members[4][9][8] and can exile other Templars.[11]

After the foundation of the Inner Sanctum and their inquisitors, their power were kept under check by any Black Crosses investigating for corruption with the permission to whatever is necessary, including killing Grand Masters found of corruption and therefore guilty of breaking the Templars principles. The operations of a Black Cross are not to be interfered with and all information in regards to encounters with the Black Cross must be kept silent.[7] The number of Grand Masters were kept under strict control by the Inner Sanctum and Grand Masters became answerable to Guardians and the General of the Cross.[11]

Accession

"When our brother Templars see the old institutions crumble, they will adapt."
―Germain telling the nature of Templars to Elise and Arno, 1794.[src]

A rival Templar aiming to become the Grand Master would therefore have to contact other Rites to convince them that overthrowing the current one is necessary, and recruit members within the Rite before initiating a coup d'état.[3][11] Failures to do so have resulted in death of the rival Templars, such as Cavanagh wanting to overthrow Starrick with an Apple of Eden, that was killed on Starrick`s own orders.[12] Rodrigo poisoning Cesare under the de facto leadership of Cesare to maintain the tightened control he established for the Borgia family in Rome.[6] And both Élise de la Serre and Chrétien Lafrenière for the moderates of the Parisian Rite until they and their supporters were purged completely, therefore Germain ensured his opposition couldn't have legitimate claims of the title. As the Parisian Rite ran smoothly under his control and it had the support of other Rites, specifically the American Rite, Roman Rite and Spanish Rite.[3]

And others have had the position as a leader of a Rite because their superiors was assassinated, despite not having the rank of Grand Master themselves and became the de facto leader by circumstance acting in the place of Grand Master, such as James Wardrop after the assassination of Lawrence Washington,[9] and Basilisk after Gerard de Ridefort.[13] There were also those who were chosen by a Rite itself for their own qualities as leaders, like Ahmet becoming Grand Master of the Byzantine Rite while Manuel Palaiologos became his Second-in-command,[1] and Strarrick`s rise in the British Rite until he was chosen as Grand Master.[12]

History

Middle Ages

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.[14]

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.[15][16]

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.[17]

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.[14]

Renaissance

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,[18] 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.[14] 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.[18]

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.[6]

After he killed his own father in August 1503, Cesare became the official Grand Master of the Order,[19] 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,[6] destabilizing the Templars in Europe and causing them to temporarily withdraw.[20]

Colonial era

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.[21]

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.[4]

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.[9]

Shortly after founding the Colonial Rite, Haytham led the rite in an assault against the Assassins.[4] 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.[9] 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.[4]

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.[4]

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.[11]

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.[22]

Modern times

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,[23] 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.[24]

During this period, the Grand Masters are no longer the highest rank among the Templar Order. They were instead answerable to the Guardians, who in turn answered to the General of the Cross.[24]

Known Grand Masters

Trivia

  • Assassin's Creed material occasionally identifies Assassins, including Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, Mario Auditore, Mirabeau and Mujir as Grand Masters of the Assassin Order.

References

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