Post-classical history

William of Beaujeu (d. 1291)

The last master of the Order of the Temple (1273-1291) on the Palestinian mainland.

William was born around 1230, the fourth son of Guichard of Beaujeu, lord of Montpensier, and had joined the Templars Order by 1253. He was in the East by 1261, and had become preceptor of Tripoli by 1271, and master of Apulia by 1272. He retained close ties with Charles I of Anjou, king of Sicily, to whom he was related, until Charles’s death in 1285.

William was elected master in 1273 and spent nearly two years traveling through France, England, and Spain, recruiting men and collecting funds, before attending the Second Council of Lyons in May 1274. He returned to the Holy Land in September 1275, and from that time on he was identified with the claim of Charles of Anjou to the kingship of Jerusalem in opposition to Hugh III of Cyprus. This stance contributed significantly to the political divisions within Outremer but also ensured Charles’s continued material support, much needed at this time.

William’s partisan role certainly contributed to his lack of credibility in the years 1289 to 1291, when his warnings of impending Mamlûk attacks, derived from spies in the Egyptian army, were ignored. William was killed during the siege of Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) by the Mamluks on 18 May 1291.

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