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by Philip Coppens In the 16th century, the Sinclairs of Rosslyn were close advisors to the Scottish kings, and thus to Marie de Guise, the French Regent. In 1546, Marie de Guise wrote one of her letters to William St Clair. The letter included this remarkable passage: “Likewise that we shall be Leal and trew Maistres to him, his Counsill and Secret shewn to us we sall keep secret.” “Likewise that we shall be loyal and a true Mistress to him, his Council and the Secret shown to us, which we shall keep secret.” In 1556, she sent William St Clair to France, to find more support for her daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots. It underlines the close relationship Marie de Guise and the Sinclairs had in the defence of the Scottish monarchy, a cause which was always close to the heart of the Sinclairs. The question is what “The Secret” might be. There is some speculation that this included jewellery, which had gone missing and of which the Sinclairs were suspected for being involved in. However, it seems that such a secret would not be referred to as “The Secret”, nor would it require a letter from the Queen Regent, pledging her cause to Sinclair. Rather than Sinclair pledging his loyalty to the Queen Regent, it is the Queen Regent saying she will obey the Sinclairs and not betray him. What could it be? Abbé Augustin Barruel (February 10, 1741 – May 10, 1820) was a Jesuit priest mostly known for creating a conspiracy theory involving the Knights Templars, the Bavarian Illuminati and the Jacobinians in his book Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism (original title: Mémoires pour servir l’Histoire du Jacobinisme) published in 1797. He wrote the book while living in London. Among other things he called Adam Weishaupt, the leader of the Illuminati, “a human devil”. His basic idea was that a conspiracy dating back through time existed, with the aim of overthrowing Christianity. Of interest is Barruel’s reference to a Scottish-Templar and Masonic connection. Barruel wrote in 1797, when all these subjects were popular – and as such not too much credence should be given to coming up with such a suggestion; it was not novel. But what is interesting is that he wrote that the Templars had discovered three stones in Temple of Solomon, one of which carried the Name of God. He argued that the three stones were secretly moved to Scotland after the Templar’s dissolution in 1312. “The Knights of the Temple made them the foundation for their Lodge. Their successors, heirs of the Secret, are currently the perfect Masters of Freemasonry, the High Priests of Jehova.” The three stones were a slab carrying the name of God, a cover stone which gave access to a hidden room and which displayed a four-headed cherub. The third stone was a square, white stone on which the Ark of the Covenant had originally been placed. Barruel’s book is believed to have been a reaction against the French Revolution. Originally, he felt the freemasons were behind this. Barruel had returned to Paris in 1802, where he now had a great reputation as a witch-hunter. In 1806, Barruel circulated a forged letter, probably sent to him by members of the state police opposed to Napoleon Bonaparte’s liberal policy toward the Jews, calling attention to the alleged part of the Jews in the conspiracy he had earlier attributed to the freemasons. It opened the way for books such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, another conspiracy tome from the early 20th century, detailing the Jews were involved in a massive conspiracy. It was coincidental that another book, John Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Government of Europe carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati and Reading Societies, was published at about the same time as Barruel’s book. Professor John Robison was a secretary of the Royal Society and academic at the University of Edinburgh. The two men were not acquainted and their respective works were written independently.
By contemporary standards Barruel’s Memoires and Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy were best-sellers. Robison’s book was soon forgotten, but Barruel’s became known all over Europe and was still available more than a century after its original publication in E. Perrenet’s abridged edition (Paris, 1912). Barruel and Robison influenced public opinion because, then as now, there was a ready market for “sensational disclosures”. In his old age, shortly before his death in October 1821, Barruel was obsessed with the idea that Europe was covered by a network of Masonic Lodges which was controlled by a supreme council of twenty-one members which included no less than nine Jews. This supreme council, in its turn, was supposed to be governed by an inner council of three. The latter appointed a Grand Master who was supposed to be the secret head of a vast conspiratorial organisation whose hidden aim was to produce revolutions. Professor Norman Cohn remarked that “clearly the supreme council, even although partly Jewish, already possessed that superhuman capacity for organising vast and invisible manoeuvres that later generations were to attribute to the Elders of Zion”. It is clear that Barruel made a lot of noise, and a lot of unfounded allegations. Like David Icke in the late 20th century, his message of a conspiracy became more and more wild, reaching a point of ridicule, whereupon the original promise and cry of a conspiracy were completely lost amidst the stupendous and ridiculous allegations that would follow afterwards – in Icke’s case that the Queen of Britain, as well as many members of the British royalty, were reptilian aliens in disguise. What to think therefore of his allegation of a connection linking the Templars with Scotland, and it being linked with “The Secret”?
A century after William St Clair’s display of “The Secret” to Marie de Guise, French royal circles would be alive with rumours of another secret. This was a secret held by the Compagnie du Saint Sacrement, a French secret society that included the entourage of the French King Louis XIV, including his mother, Anne of Austria, and some of his ministers, including Nicolas Fouquet. In 1656, Fouquet had received a letter from his brother Louis, in Rome, in which he referred to an important secret which Nicolas Fouquet would be informed of next time they met. Louis Fouquet added that he had attained the secret from the French artist Nicolas Poussin, and that the secret itself was something that would move royals. It seems that in the previous decades, the French king himself had asked Poussin to confide in him – unsuccessfully, it seems. We are thus left with three references to “The Secret” – capitals. The first reference is in Rosslyn, involving Marie de Guise, in 1546. The next reference is in a letter between the Fouquet family, in 1656. The next references are in the documents of the Compagnie de Saint-Sacrement, whose purpose was the “protection of the Secret”. The vital question is whether or not “The Secret” is of course the same secret. Nevertheless, it is clear that there is an intriguing parallel within these references: all involve a great Secret, affecting specifically French royalty. The approaches of William St Clair to Marie de Guise might indeed mean that it was of specific interest to the French throne. If we were to believe Barruel, then it is clear that treasures of the Knights Templar taken from the Temple of Solomon at the time of the Crusades, specifically involving the First Temple of Solomon and including stones connected with the Ark of the Covenant do warrant a classification of a secret with a capital S. Whether or not this is the case, it definitely inspired Umberto Eco to incorporate Barruel and the Secret – transformed into “The Plan” – in his novel, Foucault’s Pendulum.