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Foulques de Villaret

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Title: Foulques de Villaret  
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Subject: Albert of Schwarzburg, Flag of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Byzantine flags and insignia, Lordship of Chios, 1327
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Foulques de Villaret

Imaginary portrait of Foulques de Villaret by Eugène Goyet, c. 1843. Salle des Croisades, Versailles.

Foulques de Villaret (Occitan: Folco del Vilaret, also Fulk de Villaret) (died 1 September 1327), a native of Languedoc-Roussillon, France, was the 25th Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, succeeding his paternal uncle Guillaume de Villaret in 1305. His uncle had done much to foster his early career in the Order. He was appointed Admiral in 1299, and Grand Commander two years later. By 1303 he was Lieutenant of the Master, and so advanced to Master on his uncle's death.

Under his leadership they launched a successful attempt at the conquest of Rhodes, (1308 to later 1309). Other islands were also taken (Kastellórizo, Bodrum). The Order then moved its headquarters to Rhodes.

However, despite the huge benefits to his Order from the suppression of the Knights Templar (the Templars' assets were assigned to the Hospitallers by the Pope in 1312), de Villaret's campaigns of territorial expansion ran the Order heavily into debt. These debts were not paid off until the mid-1330s. De Villaret seems to have been a difficult and overbearing man, and eventually alienated his Order. Allegations were made of increasingly arrogant, even tyrannical behaviour, although none of the allegations are specific, and one Italian account of the lives of the Grand Masters claimed that he was treated unjustly.

In 1317, the Order attempted a coup against him. A group of knights went to assassinate him at his residence at Rhodini, but his chamberlain aided his escape. He fled to the Hospitaller castle at Lindos, where he was besieged by his own Order. They had, in the meantime, elected Maurice de Pagnac as Grand Master in his place, and wrote to Pope John XXII in July to justify their actions.

The Pope summoned both Grand Masters to his court at Avignon to settle the dispute. Meanwhile, Brother Giraud de Pins administered the order in the Pope's name. The Pope reappointed de Villaret – but only so that he could tender his resignation formally. Brother Hélion de Villeneuve was named as Master on 18 June 1319, the elderly de Pagnac having died in the meantime. The Pope appointed de Villaret Prior of Capua for life on 29 June, but after more problems there, he was transferred to the Priory of Rome in 1325. That, too, seems to have been unsuccessful, and after April that year, he received only a pension. He returned to his homeland, and lived as a mere Brother of the Order at his sister's home in Teyran, near Montpellier. He died on 1 September 1327, and was buried in the former Templar Church in Montpellier.

Sources and Further reading

  • Luttrell, Anthony. "Notes on Foulques de Villaret, Master of the Hospital 1305-1319" in The Hospitallers of Rhodes and the Mediterranean World (Aldershot 1992).
Preceded by
Guillaume de Villaret
Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller
Succeeded by
Hélion de Villeneuve
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