EXT to the Tower, the antiquary and the lover of history will value the Temple; originally the Preceptory of the famous Temple Knights or Templars, and, since the extinction of their order, the abode of lawyers studying or practicing.
Charles Lamb has lightly but effectively sketched the Temple. "What a transition," he writes, "for a countryman visiting London for the first time - the passing from the crowded Strand or Fleet Street, by unexpected avenues, into its magnificent ample squares, its classic green retreats I What a cheerful, liberal look hath that portion of it which from three sides overlooks the greater garden; that goodly pile-
confronting with massy contrast the lighter, older, more fantastically-shrouded one named of Harcourt, with the cheerful Crown Office Row . . . right opposite the stately stream which washes the garden foot with her yet scarcely trade-polluted waters. . . ."
We cannot say this of the Thames of the present day, though it is not perhaps now at its worst. Still, the stately stream is a great adjunct to the beauties of the old buildings and their charming gardens, so famous in our history; though chrysanthemums rather than roses are the present boast of them.
The Temple possesses also a most remarkable and beautiful church - one of the only four circular churches to be found in England. It was supposed to be built in imitation of the Temple Church at Jerusalem, and was undoubtedly erected by the Templar Knights in the reign of Henry III.
Their Grand Master, Heraclius, came to England to consecrate it.
The architecture is between the Romanesque and early English Gothic; the western entrance, the semi-circular arches, and the capitals are richly sculptured.
"Within, Purbeck columns, with boldly-sculptured capitals, support a triforium or gallery of interlaced Norman arches; and the clerestory has six Romanesque windows, one filled with stained glass - a bright ruby ground, with a figure of Christ and the emblems of the Evangelists." - Timbs.
On the gallery well-staircase is a penetential cell, in which any Knight Templar who had disobeyed the Master was confined. It is only four and a half feet long and two and a half broad, so that the unhappy prisoner could not lie down except in a most uncomfortable position. Some were fettered here by order of the Master, and left till they died; in other cases an offender was scourged on the bare shoulders in the hall by the Master's own hands, or whipped in church on Sunday, before the congregation. But these severities must have belonged to the early days of the Order of the Temple, and not to the time when their pride and power is well represented by Brian de Bois Guilbert, in "Ivanhoe." Instituted as a religious order of knighthood, for the purpose of defending Christian pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem, they enlarged their vow by devoting themselves also to the defence of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem, established by Godfrey de Bouillon. They lived at first on alms, and were so poor that one horse served for two, a fact recorded on their seal. Wealth, however, flowed in on them, and Templar establishments were to be found in nearly all European countries, but chiefly in France and England. The Templars grew remarkable for haughty insolence - disdaining other Orders, and arrogating a place with nobles. But in battle they were the bravest of the brave, and Saladin had no more dangerous enemies than the Templars.
The English knights purchased the land on the south of Fleet Street, and erected there their Preceptory and the magnificent Church, which was, as we have said, built after the model of the one at Jerusalem. The effigies of these feudal warriors, sculptured of freestone, are sketched upon the pavement of the Temple Church, all having their legs crossed - the sign of having been a crusader.
In 1841 the ancient lead coffins containing the bodies of the knights were discovered, the dates on them being not earlier than the 13th century.
The fate of the knights was disastrous.
Once models of devotion and humility, they accumulated great riches and became powerful and proud. Their wealth excited the cupidity of the King of France, Philip the Fair. They were persecuted, accused of most ridiculous crimes, such as worshipping an ape's head, etc., condemned and executed. Sixty-eight knights were burnt at Paris, 1310. Their Grand Master, De Molay, was burned at Paris in 1314.
There is an old French tradition that De Molay at the stake protested his innocence, and summoned the King of France and his accomplice Pope Clement V., to meet him at the judgment seat of God that day twelvemonth; both pope and king dying at the same time, in accordance with the prophecy or citation. Pope Clement abolished the Order, 1312. Their property in England was given to the Hospitallers or Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and the head of the English Order died in the Tower.
The Temple was divided into Inner and Middle before the lease was transferred from the Hospitallers to the Crown; and the Middle Temple still bears the arms of the old Knights, "Argent, on a cross gules a paschal lamb or, carrying a banner of the first, charged with a cross of the second"; that is, in ordinary language, a silver shield with a red cross, on which is a gold lamb carrying a banner; on the banner is a red cross.
"The Round" is the nave or vestibule to the oblong portion of the church. The choir is in pure lancet style. It is divided into three aisles by clustered marble columns; the groined roof is richly coloured in arabesque, and adorned with holy emblems.
It was in the gardens of the Temple that the famous dispute took place that gave its emblem to each side in the Civil Wars of the Roses. The fine scene in Shakespeare's Henry VI. gives a vivid picture of it.
SCENE IV. - London. The Temple Garden.
Enter the Earls of Somerset, Suffolk, and Warwick. Richard Plantagenet, Vernon, and another Lawyer.
Great lords and gentlemen, what means this silence?
Dare no man answer in a case of truth?
|Within the Temple hall we were too loud;
The garden here is more convenient.
|Then say at once, if I maintain'd the truth;
Or else was wrangling Somerset in the error?
|Faith, I have been a truant in the law,
And never yet could frame my will to it;
And, therefore, frame the law unto my will.
|Judge you, my lord of Warwick, then, between us.
|Between two hawks, which flies the higher pitch;
Between two dogs, which hath the deeper mouth;
Between two blades, which bears the better temper;
Between two horses, which doth bear him best;
Between two girls, which hath the merriest eye;-
I have, perhaps, some shallow spirit of judgment:
But in these nice sharp quillets of the law,
Good faith, I am no wiser than a daw.
|Tut, tut! here is a mannerly forbearance
The truth appears so naked on my side,
That any purblind eye may find it out.
|And on my side it is so well apparell'd,
So clear, so shining, and so evident,
That it will glimmer through a blind man's eye.
|Since you are tongue-tied, and so loth to speak,
In dumb significants proclaim your thoughts:
Let him that is a true born gentleman,
And stands upon the honour of his birth,
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth,
From off this briar pluck a white rose with me.
|Let him that is no coward, nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me.
|I love no colours; and, without all colour
Of base insinuating flattery,
I pluck this white rose with Plantagenet.
|I pluck this red rose with young Somerset;
And say withal, I think he held the right.
|Stay, lords and gentlemen, and pluck no more,
Till you conclude, that he, upon whose side
The fewest roses are cropp'd from the tree,
Shall yield the other in the right opinion.
|Good master Vernon, it is well objected:
If I have fewest, I subscribe in silence.
|Then, for the truth and plainness of the care,
I pluck this pale and maiden blossom here,
Giving my verdict on the white rose side.
|Prick not your finger as you pluck it off,
Lest, bleeding, you do paint the white rose red,
And fall on my side so, against your will.
|If I, my lord, for my opinion bleed,
Opinion shall be surgeon to my hurt,
And keep me on the side where still I am.
|Well, well, come on; who else?
|Unless my study and my books be false,
The argument you held was wrong in you.
In sign whereof, I pluck a white rose too.
|Now, Somerset, where is your argument?
|Here, in my scabbard; meditating that
Shall dye your white rose in a bloody red.
|Meantime, your cheeks do counterfeit our roses;
For pale they look with fear, as witnessing
The truth on our side.
'Tis not for fear, but anger, that thy checks
Blush for pure shame to counterfeit our roses,
And yet thy tongue will not confess thy error.
|Hath not thy rose a canker, Somerset?
|Hath not thy rose a thorn, Plantagenet?
|Ay, sharp and piercing, to maintain his troth;
Whiles thy consuming canker eats his falsehood.
|I'll find friends to wear my bleeding roses,
That shall maintain what I have said is true.
Where false Plantagenet dare not be seen.
|Now, by this maiden blossom in my hand,
I scorn thee and thy fashion, peevish boy.
|Turn not thy scorns this way, Plantagenet.
|Proud Poole, I will; and scorn both him and thee.
|I'll turn my part thereof into thy throat.
|Away, away, good William De-la-Poole!
We grace the yeoman, by conversing with him
|Now by God's will, thou wrong'st him, Somerset;
His grandfather was Lionel, duke of Clarence,
Third son to the third Edward, king of England.
Spring crestless yeomen from so deep a root ?
|He hears him on the place's privilege,
Or durst not, for his craven heart, say thus.
|By Him that made me, I'll maintain my words
On any plot of ground in Christendom,
Was not thy father, Richard earl of Cambridge,
For treason executed in our late king's days?
And, by his treason, stand'st not thou attainted,
Corrupted, and exempt from ancient gentry?
His trespass yet lives guilty in thy blood;
And, till thou be restor'd, thou art a yeoman.
|My father was attached, not attainted;
Condemn'd to die for treason, but no traitor;
And that I'll prove on better men than Somerset,
Were growing time once ripen'd to my will,
For your partaker Poole, and you yourself,
I'll note you in my book of memory,
To scourge you for this apprehension;
Look to it well, and say you are well warn'd.
|Ay, thou shalt find us ready for thee still;
And know us, by these colours, for thy foes;
For these my friends, in spite of thee, shall wear.
|And, by my soul, this pale and angry rose,
As cognizance of my blood-drinking hate,
Will I for ever, and my faction, wear,
Until it wither with me to my grave,
Or flourish to the height of my degree.
|Go forward, and be chok'd with thy ambition
And so, farewell, until I meet thee next, [Exit.]
|Have with thee, Poole.
- Farewell, ambitious Richard. [Exit.]
|How I am brav'd, and must perforce endure it!
|This blot, that they object against your house,
Shall be wip'd out in the next Parliament,
Call'd for the truce of Winchester and Gloster;
And if thou be not then created York,
I will not live to be accounted Warwick.
Meantime, in signal of my love to thee,
Against proud Somerset, and William Poole,
Will I upon thy party wear this rose:
And here I prophesy, - thus brawl today,
Grown to this faction, in the Temple garden,
Shall send, between the red rose and the white,
A thousand souls to death and deadly night.
|Good master Vernon, I am bound to you,
That you on my behalf would pluck a flower.
|In your behalf still would I wear the same.
|And so will I.
|Thanks, gentle sir.
Come, let us four to dinner: I dare say
This quarrel will drink blood another day. [Exuent.]
The Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem were a very worthy Order, who fought for, and also nursed and attended on sick and wounded pilgrims or warriors in the Holy I and. They in 1346 demised the magnificent buildings, church, and gardens to law students then residing at Holborn, and from this time the lawyers have studied in quiet in the lovely and still abode of the ancient Templars. Once, it is true, Wat Tyler's mob plundered the students and destroyed their books, but since that time all has been peace.