What could possibly link the Knights Templar, a particularly controversial medieval aristocrat and the Nazis? Well, more than you might think!
First let’s start with the medieval aristocrat. Geoffrey de Mandeville was a serial rebel and of a violent disposition. Well suited to his times you might think as the early 12th century in England was referred to as the Great Anarchy.
This was following the death of King Henry I in 1135 after eating a “surfeit of lampreys”. His daughter Matilda expected to take the crown but medieval lords weren’t up for giving power to a woman. Her cousin Stephen knew this and declared himself king.
DISCOVER: The gory history of Temple Bar
That led to a vicious civil war between Matilda and Stephen where each gained the upper hand at different times. Geoffrey nimbly swapped sides repeatedly but managed to annoy both Matilda and Stephen in the process.
Eventually, a victorious Stephen ordered the arrest of Geoffrey, who was the first Earl of Essex, and the seizure of his castles. Geoffrey responded by becoming a bandit and holing up in the marshes of East Anglia.
Eventually, the king’s forces surrounded the troublesome earl and he was shot through with arrows. A traitor to his king and rejected by the church for raiding Ramsey Abbey – Geoffrey’s body couldn’t be buried in consecrated ground.
In fact, nobody knew what to do with his remains. Until the Knights Templar stepped in. They took his carcass to their London headquarters – the Temple church still standing – in a lead coffin and hung it from the branches of an apple tree. That way it was in their protection without being placed in the ground.
At some point, a burial was made possible and his son arranged for an effigy of his father to be placed in the Templar church. It can still be seen today. But it’s taken a bit of a bashing.
Up until the 10th March, 1941, the effigy was in almost pristine condition. But this was the Second World War and the Blitz meant Nazi bombs were raining down on the city. One exploded in the circular church bringing the roof crashing down on top of the effigy. As you can see – he took quite a pounding.
Even in death – Geoffrey had a rough time.