A Secret History
80 pages. Heavily illustrated with color and black-and-white illustrations, including seven pieces of art by Darren Tan (single-page and double-page). Author and illustrator notes, introduction, conclusion, timeline, bibliography, and index.
This is volume two in the Dark Osprey series, which explores "…the shadowy worlds of fantasy, secret histories, and conspiracy theories…" by starting with the historical facts and then "…goes onto [sic] give the full story."
In the Introduction (two pages), the author explains how he met the late Emile Fouchet, researcher into the Knights Templar, and inherited his papers.
The Origins and Growth chapter (nine pages) provides a history of the religious group from their founding at Jerusalem until the Albigensian Crusade, interspersed with commentary from Fouchet challenging the 'known' facts.
The Holy Grail explains the relationship between the Templars and the Holy Grail (a cup associated in legend with Jesus Christ), and the symbolism of the Grail and the Blood of Christ – does it represent salvation? secret doctrines of Christ? alchemical transmutation? Solomon's treasure? a theocratic state?
Downfall (twelve pages) details how the French broke the Templars in 1307, the accusations and supposed confessions which followed, with occasional comments based on the Fouchet papers (i.e., the Grail escaped).
The Templar Creed (eight pages) explains Fouchet's theory that the Templars intended to create a new religion blending Christian heresies, Jewish and Islamic traditions, and recent archeological discoveries, and to found a theocratic state ruled by the Templars. Addresses whether the Templars practiced magic, attitude toward the cross and the sacraments, and the idol Baphomet.
The Grail's Journey (nine pages) traces the Grail, based on Fouchet's papers, from France to Scotland, then Quebec, to Rhode Island, then Pennsylvania – where Masons gained control of the Grail and used the magic of Solomon to aid Washington during the American Revolution.
The Secret War (ten pages) explains the modern struggle to control the Grail, by the Templars, Freemasons, the Catholic Inquisition, Napoleon, and the Nazis; and how Benjamin Franklin's indiscretion allowed Templars to regain the Grail and move it to Paris. Also explains the Templar belief that the Hapsburgs retain the rights of the Kings of Jerusalem, and the spreading by all parties of false, 'red herring' claims pertaining to the Templars and the Grail.
The Templars Today (twelve pages) covers the last 120 years, explaining historical events (Vatican burglaries, Masonic influence in British government, the Paneuropean Union) in the context of struggles between Templars, Freemasons and the Inquisition.
In the Conclusion (one page), the author asks if the Templars really exist, and if they are close to establishing their goal of a theocratic state. Where is the Grail today? Which groups today are the authentic Templars, which are smokescreens, which are charlatans and frauds?
My major objection to this book is that there is nowhere within it a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction. Emile Fouchet does not exist. It would be terrible if anyone picked up this book and thought it was a serious work of scholarship, particularly as it casts aspersions on real-world Catholics and Masons.
The earlier chapters are a useful introduction to the Knights Templar. The later chapters are simply fiction, entertaining enough if you like that sort of alternate history. The idea that the Templars are transforming modern Europe into a supernation ruled by priest-kings is… implausible.
Can you game it? This could easily be the basis for a gaming campaign involving secret conflicts between Templars, Masons and the Inquisition. The GM would have to determine to which degree any of these groups benefits from supernatural abilities.
I just didn't find the book that interesting. Not recommended.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .