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"The people never have the power. Only the illusion of it. And here’s the real secret: they don’t want it. The responsibility is too great to bear. It’s why they’re so quick to fall in line as soon as someone takes charge. They want to be told what to do. They yearn for it. Little wonder, that, since all mankind was built to serve."
The Templar Order, known also as the Order of the Knights Templar, the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, the Order of Solomon's Temple is a monastic military order-turned-mythical shadow government who in modern times, founded and control a multinational corporate conglomerate called Abstergo Industries. Before its official founding as a knightly order, they were known under various names, including the Children of Cain, and the Order of the Ancients. The Templars seek to create a perfect world, although their interpretation thereof directly contrasts with the ideals of their sworn enemies, the Assassin Brotherhood.
Whereas the Assassins assert that utopia can someday be achieved through a gradual process of learning tolerance and mutual understanding, Templars classically insist that human nature is too prone to corruption for this to be a possibility. Key to their dream is the imposition of a New World Order, and they envision that true peace can only come when all of humanity is shepherded by an enlightened society of people—in their eyes, them.
Because of this conflict in ideology, the Templars became involved in a covert war against the Assassins, spanning millennia and continuing into the modern era. The Templars have also become enemies with the Instruments of the First Will, a cult who have sworn their lives to restore the Isu's rule over humanity.
"We're cruel and desperate creatures, set in our conquering ways. The Saxons and the Franks. The Ottomans and Safavids... I could go on for hours. The whole of human history is but a series of conflicts and subjugation. A desire for more, and more, and more."
―Haytham Kenway, regarding his view on humanity.[src]
The existence of the Templars became known to the public in 1129, when its military order was endorsed by the Holy See as a means of countering the ever-increasing threat against the Holy Land by the Saracens, and to protect the city of Jerusalem. Over time, the Templars began to believe it within their power to unite the world in peace.
Their system of belief changed greatly upon the discovery of the Pieces of Eden; they began to speculate that all religions were probably false and this led the Order to become somewhat agnostic, though mostly deistic due to still retaining belief in a Supreme Being called the Father of Understanding. They publicly maintained the pretense of following the Christian ways so as to not lose the support of the Church.
However, select Templars such as David Brewster were deeply religious, believing the powerful artifacts had come from God himself. Even Maximilien de Robespierre tried to establish a deist religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being, based on the Templar Doctrine. During the persecution of the Templars, the last publicly known Templar Grandmaster, Jacques de Molay, cursed King Phillip IV and Pope Clement V that they would answer for their crimes before God almighty. When the Spanish Templars were cleansing their nation of "heretics", they stated that God will punish their souls. Even Tomas de Torquemada believed that the Templar's work was God's command alone.
The Templar's true goal is to lead and enlighten humanity so as to transform the world into a self-sustaining utopia, cleansed of their barbaric nature. In such a world, human beings would be provided order, purpose, and direction in life by the Templars, rather than seeking these things on their own terms, with all change and progress in society at large being incremental and implemented at the sole discretion of the Templar hierarchy. The Templars view this step as necessary for the world, given the fact that humanity was created to serve and be led by the First Civilization in the first place.
Obsession with the Pieces of Eden
Realizing the power that the Pieces of Eden held over human beings, the Templars began to seek out the artifacts. In 1191, Robert de Sable, then Grand Master of the Order, personally sought the fabled Apple of Eden, buried in the catacombs of Solomon's Temple, beneath the Temple Mount. The theft of this Piece of Eden by the Order of Assassins renewed the sustained conflict between the two powers, ending with the deaths of De Sable at Arsuf, and Armand Bouchart in Limassol. Despite this setback, the Order continued its mission of creating a world of peace, through manipulation of the Pieces of Eden.
As time progressed, the Templars became more focused on the Pieces of Eden, rather than operating to transform and influence society through non-supernatural means. Their goals changed as they sought to control and unify the entire world using the Pieces of Eden to create a "New World Order".
Views on humanity
The Templar Doctrine was based upon an inherently pessimistic view of humanity. As opposed to the Assassins, who believed that free will was an inherent quality and right for all humankind, the Templars insisted that "freedom" caused chaos and upheaval, and ultimately threatens the fabric of civilization itself. Templars hence believe that order, purpose and direction are key in the construction of a perfect world. More moderate Templars would try to influence humanity to have discipline and restraint, as well as opting for tighter and more centralized governmental control. The most fanatical Templars, however, would aim at nothing less than the total destruction of free will, and absolute control over humanity.
Compromising for peace
It is easy to mistake the Templar pursuit for control as a pursuit for power. Whilst many Templars were indeed after power, the Order's base ideology itself is about attaining control in order to enable humanity to transcend beyond their animal roots, and become a species perfectly in harmony and in peace. That is why Templars tend to agree with Assassins when it comes to pursuing peace, but detest their pursuit of freedom. On rare occasions when there is peace between the Assassins and the Templars, such as during François de la Serre's reign as Grand Master, radical elements on both sides may attempt to resume the conflict. Francois de la Serre and his Assassin counterpart, Honoré Mirabeau, both agreed to unite the Two Orders in the sole pursuit of peace using both control and freedom. However, before they could enact this partnership, they were both murdered by their more radical and fanatical subordinates for prioritizing peace over their ideology.
Ethical and unethical practices
Despite the noble ideals of the Order, the Templars were often consequentialists when it came to their methods, which included subterfuge, manipulation of individuals as well as events, murder and even warfare. The Templars' treatment of individuals such as Desmond Miles, Daniel Cross, and Clay Kaczmarek may be perceived as unethical from an isolated standpoint, though the Templars would argue that their many atrocities throughout history have been committed in the name of the greater good. The Templars are liberal in their methods used in the name of the greater good, and are perceived by many to be 'evil' or 'corrupted', or at least bent on domination in many instances. However, while some Templars commit those atrocities are fully aware of the magnitude of their actions, others are simply unaware of the atrocities committed in the name of the greater good. Some, such as Maria Thorpe, choose to leave the Templar Order in disagreement with the Order's methods. However, for those who were steeped in the Order's plans and secrets, leaving the Order was nearly an impossible task as they would usually have been killed to stop them from revealing any information they were party to. The Templars also had no problem with suppressing knowledge, such as when they tried to eliminate Nicolaus Copernicus and murdered Alan Turing, if it suited their purposes, despite their claims that they sought to uplift mankind.
At various points in history, such as during the 18th century, the Templars opposed the unethical treatment and unnecessary killing of innocents, though their definition of an 'innocent' was less broad than that of the Assassin brotherhood. By the early 18th century the Templars had come to view slavery as an unnecessary and questionable practice; Laureano de Torres y Ayala for one believed that "a body enslaved inspires the mind to revolt. But enslave a man's mind and his body will follow on naturally." So strong was the Templars' distaste for the practice that at least one member, Woodes Rogers, was forced out of the Order for continuing to trade in slaves. Many Templars throughout history have shown extremely little issue with harming innocent people for the supposed greater good; Edward Braddock notably slaughtered countless innocent people simply because they either got in the way or because of his belief that random killing would result in people becoming too fearful to disobey. Even children have been shown to not be immune to Templar cruelty; the British Rite extensively used (and promoted) child labour without regard for the dangers such workers faced, the modern purge of the Assassin Order had children mercilessly gunned down in an attempt to eradicate the Assassins and several Inner Sanctum members showed little qualms if children were caught in the crossfire (or in the case of one, dissected for research) of their operations.
Vulnerability to corruption
The nature of the Order, which involves the acquisition and the exercise of power, makes the Templars highly susceptible to arrogance and corruption. Many have used the Templar cause as a shield or stepping-stone to further their own selfish and cruel desires, attaining power not for the benefit of mankind as was the decree of the order, but for power's own sake. Others like Thomas Hickey or Juan Borgia, likewise, used the Order's considerable connections, wealth and power to attain wealth and luxury of their own.
Dedicated Templar visionaries, who are fully convinced of the Order's righteousness of cause and who lived in service to such an ideal, such as Haytham Kenway and prince Ahmet, are few and far between. Some Templars such as Colonel George Monro saw themselves and their fellow Templars as benevolent protectors and providers of humanity, an act which caused the assassin turncoat Shay Cormac to defect to the Templar Order. The modern-day Templar Juhani Otso Berg took these benevolent Templars as his influential and inspirational examples as to what a Templar should really be.
During the Italian Renaissance, Templar goals were corrupted by Rodrigo Borgia and his son Cesare into seeking power and domination at all costs, which is far removed from their more noble original motive. Modern Templars view the Borgias as debauched tyrants and consider their reign to be a Dark Age of the Order.
"Uphold the principles of our order and all that for which we stand."
"Never share our secrets nor divulge in the true nature of our work."
"Do so until death, whatever the cost."
The Templars are expected to uphold these three sacred tenets at all times, and breaking these tenets has always resulted in negative consequences for the one who does so. For example, Haytham Kenway (a Templar) assassinated Edward Braddock (another Templar) due to Braddock's actions compromising the Templars' beliefs with his actions, beliefs, and bloodlust.
Originally, the title of Grand Master officially denoted the head of the Templar Order. Indeed, during the Middle Ages when the order's existence was public knowledge, the Grand Master was projected as their sole supreme commander. However, as the organization spread across the globe, establishing branches in virtually every country, the title of Grand Master came to designate only the leader of regional factions called Rites.
Beneath the Grand Master of each Rite are nine ranks, with immediate subordinates being the high-ranking Master Templars. In order following the Masters are the Seneschals, Advisors, Commanders, Preceptors, Knights, Warriors, Clerics, and finally, the Disciples. These ranks parallel a similar system of hierarchy among their mortal adversaries, the Assassins.
To maintain cohesion of the Rites as components of a centralized entity, the Inner Sanctum was formed. Consisting of an elite group of nine Templars, the Inner Sanctum harbors direct knowledge of all of the order's plans and is the nucleus from which orders are relayed to the other Rites. Their number, nine, reflects a convention that dates back to at least the Third Crusade, when nine leading Templars coordinated closely to seek after the Apple of Eden in Solomon's Temple. In modern times, since the foundation of Abstergo Industries as a public front for the order, the Inner Sanctum simultaneously serves as Abstergo's Board of Directors.
The Inner Sanctum, in turn, is classified as one of two parts of the order, the other being the Outer Temple. Whereas the Inner Sanctum is privy to all the affairs of the order, being responsible for them, the Outer Temple comprises all other Templars, all of whom are kept in the dark of the full details and extent of the order's operations.
Guardians and General of the Cross
Although the Inner Sanctum acts as the executive arm of the Templar Order, even they are not its paramount leaders, for they are ultimately subservient to the Guardians and the General of the Cross, the latter of whom is the true head of the Templar Order. Every major decision of the Inner Sanctum must be passed to the Guardians for review, who in turn relay them to the General of the Cross for the ultimate grant of approval. Accordingly, the General possesses the sole power to veto any significant action or plan the Inner Sanctum seeks to undertake.
Under normal circumstances, even the Inner Sanctum does not know the identity of the General of the Cross, a secret so strictly guarded that only the Guardians are permitted knowledge of it. As a result, the Guardians are the bridge between the Inner Sanctum and the General of the Cross, the medium through which communication between the two exists. There are three Guardians, and as witnessed in the case of the Guardian Alan Rikkin who also served as Chief Executive Officer of Abstergo Industries and chairman of the Inner Sanctum, a Guardian may hold another office at the same time.
Council of Elders
Apart from the Inner Sanctum and the Guardians, there exists a Council of Elders which wielded some authority over even the Guardian Alan Rikkin. Among the Council's functions is the power to dissolve Abstergo Foundation based on whether they believe the subsidiary is a worthy investment or a waste of resources.
The Black Cross is a title bestowed upon the members of a branch within the Templar Order tasked with keeping the Grand Masters of the various Rites in line with the Templar Code and ideals.
Secret inquisitors only answering to the Inner Sanctum's orders, the agents were authorized to use any means necessary, even deadly force, to take down corrupted members of the Order. A Black Cross' secondary mission was to track Pieces of Eden for the Inner Sanctum.
Deadly enforcers acting as an independent morality police force of one man, very few individuals wore the title of Black Cross across the centuries though the Bolden family line counted many among their number.
In the database entry for "The Assassin Brotherhood" in Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, Rebecca Crane raises for the first time the question of the Assassin and Templars' respective names prior to their reformation in the 11th century when their current names were conceived. The next installment, Assassin's Creed: Origins, addresses this by revealing that the Templars were known as the Order of the Ancients and the Assassins the Hidden Ones in the 1st century BCE.
In real history, the demonym "Templar" was derived from the order's official name Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, with the Temple of Solomon referring to their base, the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Historically, after the fall of Acre at 1291, the Templars became bankers rather than actual knights. In fact, it was their banking business that led King Philip IV of France to force Clement V to disband the order and take its wealth for the failing economy of Philip's kingdom.