In the Show
Becoming a Templar requires supreme devotion, and that’s something Tancrede has in spades. A man who sacrificed the comfort and earthly pleasures of married life to join this elite monastic order, Tancrede is fiercely committed to the Templar cause. Devout, honest and straight-down-the-line, he is not the kind of knight who bends the rules or takes advantage of his prestige for his own ends.
Being such a wise and dedicated Templar, Tancrede is a natural choice to lead the Paris contingent, but willingly makes way for his friend Landry, to whom he offers invaluable guidance. Importantly, Tancrede also curbs Landry’s more impulsive and reckless nature – but how will the Grail quest affect their bond?
Look through the mists of history and a warrior named Tancred does present himself. He was active in the bloody era of the First Crusade, when Christian fighters were roused by Pope Urban II to charge into the Holy Land and wrest control from the Muslims. But this Tancred was not a Templar, for the reason that the order didn’t actually exist when he marched off on the First Crusade.
The Templars were formed as a direct result of the First Crusade, when the Christian conquest of Jerusalem led to an influx of pilgrims who were preyed on by droves of roving bandits and killers on the dusty, treacherous roads to the Holy Land. The Templars were essentially created to serve as bodyguards for these pilgrims – it was from this basic necessity that one of the most powerful and influential organisations in history evolved.
The real-life Tancred’s exploits in the Holy Land pre-dated all of this. Getting sword-deep into various key skirmishes during the First Crusade, Tancred later rose to become prince within the newly-founded Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Part of the reason his name has survived through the ages is down to the 16th Century Italian poet Torquato Tasso, who wrote an epic poem about the First Crusade called Jerusalem Delivered.
What the poem lacks in factual accuracy it makes up for in gung-ho action and romantic derring-do. In the same sweeping vein as classic works by Homer and Virgil, the poem stars a heavily fictionalised version of Tancred, depicted as a swoon-worthy hero who falls in love with a backside-kicking warrior woman called Clorinda.
Jerusalem Delivered was a blockbuster of its time, inspiring paintings, plays and operas, although it has faded from literary view today. That said, it has helped cement the knight’s place in history, and indirectly inspired the character of Tancrede in Knightfall,
This Tancrede is, like his historical predecessor, a battlefield veteran who abides by the rigid rules of his social context – the context in his case being the Templar brotherhood. Being a Templar is no easy thing – being an expressly religious order, they are bound by a strict, ritualistic lifestyle guide known as the Latin Rule. Living and working as warrior-monks, they are expected to remain completely celibate, eat meat only three times a week, and abide by certain specific conventions and punishments (pointy shoes are particularly detested, while minor misdemeanours can lead to a knight being made to eat off the floor like a dog).
It is this world Tancrede inhabits, yet the benefits are many. The Templars have been bathed in a halo of virtue throughout their existence, making them respected by all of Christendom. In their early days, a contemporary chronicler hailed the typical Templar as “a fearless knight… for his soul is protected by the armour of faith, just as his body is protected by the armour of steel. He is thus doubly-armed, and need fear neither demons nor men.”
They are also immensely wealthy and influential, having slowly transformed from being pilgrims’ bodyguards to a major financial force on the European stage. The Templars are landowners and bankers, combining political prowess with the iron will of a military organisation. But for Tancrede and his brothers, the era of supremacy is about to come to a dark end.