At age 70, pale, gaunt and emaciated by years of torture, Jacques de Molay the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar was burned at the stake on March 19th, 1314. Although there are many accounts, most Templar scholars say his last words were, "Let evil swiftly befall those who have wrongly condemned us - God will avenge us." Others claim that he called upon the King and Pope to join him in judgment before God. Either way, Pope Clement died a month later, and Philip the Fair, King of France died seven months later. The two men who unjustly condemned him and all the Knights Templar Order to death to gain control of their wealth and lands, made true his curse. King Philip did allow him the one request to leave his hands unbound, so that he could pray in his final moments.
The Knights Templar had been created in 1128 by the Roman Catholic church, to guard the road between Jerusalem and Acre, an important city on the Mediterranean Sea for the faithful to make the pilgrimage. During those two hundred years they earned a name for valor and heroism, and they also participated in the Crusades. The Order became a favored charity across Europe and grew rapidly in wealth, membership and power.
Before Jacques de Molay was named Grand Master, his predecessor, Theobald Gaudin had held a position of tolerance towards the Mamlukes, who occupied the Holy Land, and had been failing to advance the Crusades in a series of battle losses to the Saracens. Jacques, who had been spending most of his time in England, quickly relocated to Cyprus after Theobald's death. This is important because it is said a secret sect of the Knights Templar escaped to Scotland after Jacques death and kept the order alive for another four centuries. The relocation came too late, and the losses of the Order kept mounting until the Holy Land was lost entirely. With those losses the popularity and "untouchable" status of the Templar faded. King Philip was deeply in debt to the Order. Seeing this opportunity to escape his debt, usurp their power, and take their wealth was too much to resist.
By escape, I mean the infamous persecution of The Order of Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307. King Philip IV, ordered the arrest of all members of the Order of Knights Templar in France. Of those 138 who were arrested, 36 died and 123 confessed to various sins under torture. The date Friday the 13th is sometimes credited as being a date of "ill omen" because of this event. To recant a confession, was a crime punishable by death. For seven years the the French King had Jacques de Molay tortured. Finally he had confessed under torture expecting absolution later. When he found that the common practice of absolution wasn't to be given to him, he recanted is confession, and the King could be free of him and the Order forever, or so he thought.
The night before the Order was arrested in mass, a single covered wagon and a few knights were seen leaving the city. The remaining knights did not resist their arrest and even their deaths. This seemed highly unusual, and under torture of the worst kind, not one of the knights disclosed the contents of the missing wagon. That over a hundred of the most heroic knights would meekly meet their death for someone's gold or jewels seemed impossible. What treasure did that wagon hold? Some say it was the Holy Grail, others the Ark of the Covenant, or some other artifact of incalculable holy worth.
Signs of the Templar's and their order showed up for the next four hundred years in Scotland. It is said the Order assisted Robert the Bruce, and William Wallace in their fight against England led by Sir William St. Clair. It is believed that this Scottish branch of the Templar's evolved into what is now known as the Order of Freemasons. Some of these men migrated to the land known as America to found a new country. Some of the more famous ones are, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Marquis de LaFayette, Arthur St. Clair and 46% of the Generals in the new Continental Army.