An interesting introduction to the Crusades, told through the history of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Jesus Christ.
Read (The Patriot, 1995, etc.) writes a meticulously researched tome intended as a popular introduction to the history of the Knights Templar. A monastic order created in the 11th century to protect travelers and pilgrims to the recently reclaimed Holy Land of Jerusalem, the Templars were a force to be reckoned with, answerable only to the Pope. They rose to the heights of glory, serving as a unifying force among the perpetually bickering Western Europeans, and were respected by both Christian and Infidel as honest and courageous warriors. The author spends some time examining their curiously modern status as one of the first true multinational corporations, with prodigious European and Asian holdings, tax-exempt status, and extensive political influence. In spite of unquestioned military acumen and many great and impressive military victories, the order dissipated in a cloud of controversy. After less than 200 years, secular and canonical conspirators combined to bring down the Templars under charges of avarice, heresy, sodomy, and blasphemy. Unfortunately for this account, the Templars are only supporting characters in what is really a chronicle of Crusader politics; they take center stage only sporadically until their eventual trial and dissolution at the hands of King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V. Unlike their brothers-in-arms the Hospitalers (who survive to this day as the Knights of Malta), the Templars quickly faded into the role of a historical curiosity.
An entertaining and even-handed introduction to the Crusades and medieval politics, this will disappoint those desiring an in-depth focus on the Knights themselves. (Seven maps, 16 pp. photos, not seen)