The English Scholar's Ring

The Prophecy and the Templar Scroll

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The arrest of the Templars in Europe changes the status quo, and the Templars on the island of Cyprus bury some of their possessions, drawing maps with their exact location.

Seven hundred years later, one such map resurfaces in Covent Garden and a treasure hunt begins.

Author: Lina Ellina more info

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On the eve of a new crusade, Cyprus, the last Christian stronghold in the Levant, is torn apart when the Templars connive against King Henry in favor of his brother Amaury.

The enigmatic Lois, with the assistance of the Seneschal’s scribe, Nicholas, undertakes to spy on Amaury
while a serfs’ rebellion is underway.

The arrest of the Templars in Europe changes the status quo, and the Templars on the island bury some of their possessions, drawing maps with their exact location.

Seven hundred years later, one such map resurfaces in Covent Garden and a treasure hunt begins.

Cyprus 2013. The banks raid their clients’ deposits in the ‘bail-in’. Michael Costa goes to bed a millionaire and wakes up struggling to make ends meet. Unexpected help comes when Lucy Hernandez buys his house. Unbeknownst to them, the location of the house is the X-location on the Templar map.

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Introduction by 

Dr Nicholas Coureas, a Senior Researcher at the Cyprus Research Centre, works on the history of Lusignan Cyprus and has published various books and articles on the subject.

This book consists of two parallel stories, set in the same place but in different centuries. Nevertheless, once one gets into the book one soon realises that despite the differences in time as well as in the characters figuring in each story, it is the similarities rather than the differences that spring to mind.

Anyone familiar with the medieval and modern history of Cyprus, even in a general fashion, cannot be but struck by the historical parallels between both periods. In the early fourteenth century Cyprus, a western kingdom ruled by a Frankish royal dynasty originating from Poitou in France and with a largely Greek population, was developing rapidly in economic terms, having become a major trading entrepôt after the loss of the Holy Land to the Saracens, was nonetheless bedevilled by war overseas and unrest at home. Expeditions from Cyprus attempted, albeit without success, to recover parts of the lost territory, with the failure to do so creating internal unrest and providing opportunities for the enemies of its ruler, King Henry II. The most ambitious and unscrupulous of them was none other than his own brother Amaury, who eventually usurped the throne in 1306 with the support of a section of the Frankish nobility and of the Templars, who themselves were to suffer arrest throughout Europe just one year later, in 1307 on the orders of King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V, who had the Templar Order abolished in 1312. As for the usurper Amaury, he was murdered in 1310, with his brother restored as king shortly afterwards.

Likewise, Cyprus in the 1960s and early 1970s was also enjoying rapid economic development, largely through tourism, but this took place against a backdrop of internal unrest. Many Greek Cypriots desired enosis or union with Greece, despite British and Turkish opposition, and blamed Archbishop Makarios, the island’s president, for the failure to achieve this aim. Like King Henry II in 1306, Makarios was overthrown by a Greek-inspired coup in July 1974. This coup, followed by a Turkish invasion of the island and the occupation of over one third of its territory, led to his restoration by the end of 1974, just as King Henry II had been restored. Furthermore, both before and after 1974 Cyprus was regarded as and indeed used as a springboard for Western intervention in the Middle East. It was seen for decades as a strategic asset within the context of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries and the United States and its allies.

In this respect the parallels with the wider political context of the medieval Lusignan kingdom of Cyprus are remarkable. The kingdom of Cyprus was itself a product of the Third Crusade that set out from Western Europe to reconquer Jerusalem, that had fallen to the Saracens under the leadership of Saladin. One of its leaders, King Richard I of England, conquered Cyprus in the summer of 1191 on his way to the Holy Land from Isaac Komnenos, a Byzantine rebel who in 1184 had proclaimed himself emperor, and then sold it, firstly to the Templars and then when they returned it to King Guy de Lusignan, the dispossessed king of Jerusalem. Guy founded a dynasty that would rule Cyprus for over three hundred years. During this period, as well as during the one hundred years of Venetian dominion that followed it, Cyprus was likewise a strategic asset in the long drawn out conflict between Western Christendom and Islam. Pope John XXII (1316-1334) described it as being located ‘on the confines of the Hagarene nation’, while one century later the Cypriot chronicler Leontios Makhairas depicted it, with a touch of melancholy, as ‘an orphaned realm’ placed between Turks and Saracens. In the early fourteenth century as in the late twentieth Cyprus was a borderland but also a meeting place, not simply between rival political blocs but also between different cultures.

This is brought out very skilfully in the book. The romance blossoming in the early fourteenth century is between the Frank Nicholas and the Greek Lois. In a similar vein, the romance maturing in post-1974 Cyprus is between the Greek Michael Costa and the Englishwoman Lucy Hernandez. Political upheavals and personal tragedies impact on the lives of ordinary people, and the heroes and heroines of this story are no exception. Nicholas is the adoptive son of the fief-holder Ramon of Provence, for his own father, a bosom friend of Ramon, was killed in warfare. Lois, who loves him loses both her parents to the bloody flux and so is raised by her maternal grandfather George Contostephanos. Michael Costa likewise becomes an orphan, raised by his own grandfather after his parents are killed during the Turkish invasion. The tragedies scarring their lives reflect the greater tragedies and upheavals scarring Cyprus. Yet they find love and emotional fulfilment in the end, and so the book ends on a note not of depression, but of optimism, underpinned by a conviction that even the most fearsome odds can be overcome. On a final note I cannot refrain from remarking that Lina Ellina, besides producing a gripping and suspense filled story, has placed it in its wider historical context(s) in a truly masterly fashion, in the details as well as in general. Having recently written a paper on the production and export of soap in medieval Cyprus I was touched to see that Nicholas and Lois at the end of the story engage themselves in exactly the same enterprise to make a living. Readers of this book will find that the melding of romance and history herein is a very felicitous one.

 

 

The Prophecy And The Templar Scroll

By Lina Ellina, author of

 

The English Scholar’s Ring has been LISTED for the EUROPEAN BOOK PRIZE 2016

 

and

The Venetian

a novel also LISTED FOR THE EUROPEAN BOOK PRIZE 2012

thevenetian-front