The rise and fall of the Knights Templar

Dan Jones tells the story of a crack unit of holy hard-men who spent 200 years defending crusaders' interests in the Middle East with unblinking ferocity

"The Knights Templare were able to flight across all terrains. They were the equivalent of the SAS, the Navy SEALS or the French Foreign Legion," says Dan Jones. (Alamy)

On a cripplingly hot day at the start of July 1187, Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria, stood beside his son al-Afdal and peered across the battlefield towards a red tent on a hill. The sultan’s face was pale with worry. The armies before him had been fighting for hours, tortured by near-unbearable heat, dust and smoke, which billowed up from the desert scrub Saladin’s own men had set alight. Thousands of men and horses lay dead. The enemy – a vast force led by the Christian king Guy of Jerusalem – was badly battered and falling back, but until the king’s red pavilion fell, victory would not be complete.

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