John Knox, Jacques de Molay and the French Monarchy

Speculators have wondered why the French monarchy fell in 1789. Could it have been the curse of Jacques de Molay and the judgement of John Knox? The former was Grand Master of the Templars who was burned at the stake, along with the Order’s other leaders, at the instigation of the King of France, Philippe le Bell in 1314. It is said that De Molay cursed the king for his injustice, along with Pope Clement, though historians believe this has been muddled with the curse of an anonymous Neapolitan Templar.

In the event Philip and Clement V both died within a year of de Molay's execution: Clement finally dying a long illness on 20 April 1314, and Philip having to a stroke while hunting. Then followed the rapid succession of the last direct Capetian kings of France between 1314 and 1328, the three sons and a grandson of Philip IV. Within fourteen years of the death of de Molay, the ancient House of Capet collapsed.

The Templars were an order of Roman Catholic warrior monks who played a critical role in the crusades. I’m not convinced that the God of heaven approved of the Order or its aims, yet I do think He recoiled at the injustice of its termination.

The Capetian dynasty was replaced by the Valois family. Charles IX of France, a Valois, ordered the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572, during which thousands of French Protestants were murdered in Paris; the government viciously persecuted the rest. Another voice of judgment was heard denouncing this king- not from a Parisian stake- but from Scotland. The aged John Knox, the great Scottish reformer, now an elderly man suffering poor health, summoned the strength to thunder forth against this great evil. He called forth heaven’s justice against “that cruel murderer the king of France”, ordering the French ambassador to inform his master that ‘sentence was pronounced upon him in Scotland and that divine vengeance would never depart from him or his house unless they repented’. The king died aged 23, the screams of the murdered protestants ringing in his ears. Frantically, he kept crying out "What bloodshed! What murders!"

The House of Valois fell within 17 years. It was replaced by the Bourbon dynasty, and its first king was a Protestant, who has escaped with his life from St Bartholomew’s Massacre. God will judge all men on the great and terrible Day of Reckoning. Some, especially kings and those in authority, often receive a foretaste of that judgement in the here and now. English kings and queens were often a motley crew, yet perhaps the French monarchs’ many injustices crossed a line.

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

For wisdom and might are His.

And He changes the times and the seasons;

He removes kings and raises up kings;

He gives wisdom to the wise

And knowledge to those who have understanding.

Daniel 2:20-21