Spy Games: Pierre Plantard and the Notarized Documents
By Tracy R. Twyman
Originally written for Dagobert’s Revenge Magazine, Copyright 1998
(Does not necessarily represent author’s current viewpoint.)
In the Dagobert’s Revenge articles “Between the Swastika and the Cross of Lorraine,” and “The United States of Europe and the Merovingian Master Plan,” I established that there was once a network of relationships between the Priory of Sion, the Knights of Malta, British intelligence and the CIA, just as Baigent et. al. had established in The Messianic Legacy. Such relationships were acknowledged by the Priory of Sion Grand Master, Pierre Plantard himself. This would end up creating a very sticky situation for Plantard, and would plunge Baigent, et. al. into the shadowy world of espionage. At the end of 1981, they received a package from Priory spokesperson the Marquis de Cherisey containing a document which elaborated on something mentioned previously. It stated that Berenger Sauniere’s parchments had, after his death, passed to his niece, Madame James of Montazels, who in 1965 sold them to the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. From there, they were taken by two attorneys, Captain Ronald Stansmore Nutting (described as being “of the British Intelligence Service”), and Sir Thomas Frazer (described as the “eminence grise of Buckingham [Palace]),” who placed them in a safe deposit box at “Lloyd’s Bank Europe Unlimited.” Reference was also made to an article that supposedly appeared in Britain’s Daily Express regarding a “demand for the recognition of Merovingian rights,” which had been made in the crucial years of 1955 and 1956 by 23 Englishmen: Sir Alexander Aikman, Sir John Montague Brocklebank, Major Hugh Murchison Clowes, and nineteen other unnamed men. They had purportedly made the “demand” in the office of a “notary by Royal Appointment,” P.F.J. Freeman.
In the same package, they received another peculiar piece of information. It came from the French translation of an article that a BBC researcher and friend of Baigent, et al. had written for France’s Bonne Soiree, in which large portions that she had not written had been mysteriously added by an unknown author. Part of the inserted portion said:
“It is not known who is the present Grand Master [of the Priory], though it is believed that, since Cocteau’s death, power has been exercised by a triumvirate consisting of Gaylord Freeman, Pierre Plantard, and Antonio Merzagora.”
The insert also quoted a “Lord Blackford,” whom, the article claimed, the author had interviewed, even though, in fact, she never had. Blackford purportedly states that a portion of the Priory had split off in 1956 to form its own Priory, which lasted for the next two years. They had been prompted to do so, the quote said, by the passage of the Cocteau statute requiring members to submit a birth certificate and notarized signature, which they perceived to be an “infringement of freedom.”
Another portion of the insert shed further light on the Sauniere parchments that had been deposited at Lloyd’s Bank, stating that they had since been removed and place in a Parisian bank on Place de Mexico. However, this was not the only story regarding the parchments that Baigent, et. al. had heard. Another version claimed that they had been stolen from the library of Emile Hoffet, who had retained them after decoding them for Sauniere in 1946, immediately after Hoffet’s death. From there they were somehow acquired by the Knights of Malta. The version of the parchments that has been reprinted in the books of Gerard de Sede and Henry Lincoln was, according to Pierre Plantard, a copy made by Marquis de Cherisey. The original coded passages had been on the front and back of a single sheet of parchment, and supposedly “interacted” with one another physically when held up to the light. The Marquis had simply copied them onto separate sheets of paper.
In a meeting with Pierre Plantard, the authors of The Messianic Legacy were shown photographs of notarized statements. One was dated October 5, 1995. It was a request to the French Consulate in London for permission to export the Sauniere parchments to England, made by Viscount Leathers, Major Hugh Murchison Clowes, and Captain Ronald Stansmore Nutting. The requests were accompanied by notarized signatures and birth certificates for each of the above-named men. In the request, the parchments were said to have been acquired from Sauniere’s niece and are described as “proof of the direct descent, through the House of Plantard, of the Counts of Rhedae …”
Another request, dated a year later, was made by Roundell Cecil Palmer, Earl of Selborne, asking for permission for he and the above-mentioned men to retain the parchments in England in a strongbox at Lloyd’s Bank Europe Limited. It also stated that, after twenty-five years, the documents would become the property pf “M. Pierre Plantard, Count of Rhedae and Count of Saint-Clair.” This request was accompanied by a notarized birth certificate and signature.
Baigent, et. al. did some checking into the backgrounds of these gentlemen, as well as the other men whose names were, according to their sources, involved in the export of these documents, including Sir Alexander Aikman, Sir John Brockelbank, and Sir Thomas Frazer. Nutting appeared to indeed be a British Intelligence agent, as one of his business associates affirmed that he had worked for MI5. He had served as a Captain in the Irish Guards, and had worked for a number of banking, shipping, and insurance companies, including one called “Guardian Assurance,” where he served on the board of directors. Aikman had been on the board of EMI, and had also been a director for Guardian Assurance. Brocklebank too had been involved in shipping and insurance, including two companies that were subsidiaries of Guardian Assurance. Major Clowes owned a printing company and was a director of Guardian Assurance. Viscount Leathers was a shipping mogul, and had once been Minister of War Transport under Winston Churchill, with whom he was very close. He was also a director of Guardian Assurance. Baron Blackford had served in Parliament and had been Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords. He was the chairman of the board of Guardian Assurance. Sir Thomas Frazer was a director of North British and Mercantile Insurance. The Earl of Selborne was the Minister of Economic warfare under Winston Churchill, and as such was the head of the Special Operations Executive, an intelligence organization that interacted with the OSS and the French Resistance intelligence groups during WWII. He was also a religious conservative of the Anglican Church, and a dedicated monarchist, even supporting a resurgence of monarchy in Europe. He studied genealogy and regularly visited the Pyrenees. He served as a director of North British and Mercantile Insurance, along with Sir Thomas Frazer.
In the end, Baigent, et. al. were able to confirm that Patrick Freeman’s notary firm was the one used by Lloyd’s Bank International as a matter of policy, and that in 1979, the year that the Marquis de Cherisey says the parchments were removed from London and transferred to Paris, was the year in which Lloyd’s Bank International had ceased maintaining safe deposit boxes altogether. All of this lent credence to the story presented by Pierre Plantard and the Marquis de Cherisey.
Furthermore, the authors interviewed a close associate of Lord Blackford at the Guardian Assurance, who recalled Blackford having spoken thirty years earlier of, as they described it, “certain extremely important documents or parchments arriving from France,” and “of the need to put them in a safe deposit box.” The informant also told them that two other directors of Guardian Assurance maintained interest in antiquarian subjects, including one man who “owned a chateau in the South of France and was an ardent collector of antiques and precious manuscripts.” The informant, Ernest Bigland, told them that Ronald Stansmore Nutting, Alexander Aikman, Major Hugh Clowes, and Sir John Montague Brocklebank had all been best friends, and that Nutting had been an MI5 agent. He further stated that another of the company’s departmental chairmen had worked for the agency as well, and that thirty years earlier the company’s representative in France had been an agent of the SOE.
At about this stage in the investigation, it was learned that at least one of the notarized documents in question, the one signed by Lord Selborne, was a forgery. They notary, Mr. Freeman, recalled that “Lloyd’s Bank Europe” had been called “Lloyd’s Bank Foreign” until 1964, eight years after the document was supposedly notarized stating that Sauniere’s parchments had been deposited in “Lloyd’s Bank Europe.” When Baigent, et. al. pointed this out to Pierre Plantard, he was surprised and very unhappy. He begged them to look further into the matter, and after conducting an investigation of his own, acknowledged that that document was indeed a fake, but that he had not known in advance. Someone, it seemed, was playing a trick on him — someone either within or outside of the Priory of Sion.
But more tricks were yet in store. One involved the previously-mentioned journalist Jean-Luc Chaumeil, who had been employed as the Priory of Sion’s “emissary” until he had a falling out with the order in the early 1980s. At the end of 1983, an anonymous tract was published and circulated throughout France purporting to announce the imminent publication of a five-volume opus by Jean-Luc Chaumeil called The Doctrine of the Priory of Sion. The tract sported the symbol of the French socialist party, a hand holding a rose. It quoted Chaumeil as purportedly stating that, “I was manipulated by the Prieure de Sion into writing my work, The Treasure of the Golden Triangle, and I am now going to reveal the whole truth of this affair.” The tract labeled Holy Blood, Holy Grail as “nothing but a vast hoax resting on no serious foundation.” It said that Pierre Plantard was no longer the Grand Master, and that the post had been filled by “Ann Evans” — who, it turned out, was Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln’s literary agent. She had been mentioned at the beginning of their book, and her role in its publication had obviously been misunderstood by the tract’s author. The tract went on to say that, “in 1952, Pierre Plantard illicitly effected the transfer from France to Switzerland (to the Union de Banques Suisses) of gold ingots worth one hundred million [francs]… This affair, like the others, was swept under the carpet because Pierre Plantard was, at the beginning of 1958, a secret agent of De Gaulle… .” Finally, the tract reveals:
“In 1980, a certain J.P. Deloux and Bretigny set up [the magazines] Inexplique, Atlas and Nostra under the aegis of a member of the Prieure de Sion, Gergory Pons, and launched Rennes-le-Chateau: Capitale SecrÃ¨te, a booklet in color published in 220,000 copies. Then with that job done, it was for Nostra to proclaim Plantard future Grand Monarque, and now Hebdo-Magazine supports Jacques Chirac, who accommodates himself very well indeed to the resonant appeal of the Prieure.”
When contacted, M. Chaumeil denied having written the tract, a denial that Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln were inclined to believe. But the Priory of Sion, apparently, was not. They sent a package to Baigent, et. al. containing a self-published newsletter called La Camisole Bullitin — Torchon-Reponse No. 1, written by Priory of Sion member Louis Vazart, which repudiated the claims supposedly made by Chaumeil and which made a number of accusations against him. Reprinted therein was a letter from Pierre Plantard accusing Chaumeil of writing and distributing the tract. Plantard demanded that Chaumeil make a formal retraction or face a lawsuit for defamation of character from Plantard, Cherisey and Vazart.
A few weeks later, Baigent et. al. received yet another package from the Priory containing a supposedly ‘confidential’ internal Priory document called a “Mise en Garde,” consisting of more accusations against Chaumeil. This included photocopies of the text of the infamous tract that, it was said, were written in Chaumeil’s own handwriting. The “Mise en Garde” also accused Chaumeil of stealing two boxes of Priory archives from the years 1935-1955 from Philippe de Cherisey’s house. It said that Chaumeil had tried to “palm off” these boxes “on our friend Henry Lincoln.” This, of course, Lincoln emphatically denies.
Most interestingly, however, the “Mise en Garde” was signed by Pierre Plantard and three other men: John E. Drick, Gaylord Freeman, and Robert Abboud. Although Baigent, et. al. did not know who Drick or Abboud were, Freeman was one of the men who had been named in the French translation of the Bonne Soiree article as having been part of a “triumvirate” which held control of the Priory after Jean Cocteau’s death.
Shortly afterward, the authors met with Plantard at the Parisian spy/mafia hangout, La Tipia. He refused to elaborate on who the three men were, but spoke of a schism brewing within the Priory that was being caused by an “Anglo-American contingent” within the order who were trying to move the Priory’s focus away from restoring monarchy in Europe and towards more practical and immediate goals. Then he appeared to — almost — make an astounding proposition. As they described it:
“…M. Plantard paused and began to muse. There were, at present, two vacancies in the Order, he said reflectively. It would be a great advantage to have those vacancies occupied by ‘foreigners’ who would be sympathetic to the French and continental position. That would serve to counterbalance the influence of the ‘Anglo-American contingent.’ There was a long and pregnant pause. We said nothing. The conversation drifted to a different topic. But for a moment, it actually appeared as if M. Plantard had been about to offer us membership in the Order.”
After this, Plantard explained the story behind his shadowy financial transaction involving gold and a Swiss bank account in 1952. He told them that, while currently illegal, such a transaction had not been back then. Furthermore, he had done this on the behalf of the Committees of Public Safety, under the direction of General Charles de Gaulle. But Plantard had no idea how the author of the mysterious tract could have learned about the transaction except from sources within the French government. Furthermore, in the last few months, 30 years after the initial transaction, more money had begun to mysteriously appear in that very Swiss bank account. Plantard concluded that someone was trying to frame him.
There was another matter which disturbed the authors of The Messianic Legacy. When he had first shown them the notarized documents pertaining to the Sauniere parchments, Plantard had asked them not to publish them or make any mention of them, as they were confidential. But shortly afterwards, Louis Vazart published a book about Dagobert II in which the documents were reproduced. Plantard told them that he had not been aware that Vazart was going to do this, and that he had not given Vazart any copies of the documents. In an interview, Vazart told them that he had received his copies in a package sent anonymously from Britain.
The authors began looking into the identities of the three men besides Plantard who had signed the “Mise en Garde.” It turned out that they were all Americans who worked or had worked for the First National Bank of Chicago, one as a vice-president, and the other two as chairmen of the board. This bank, they learned, had, until 1983, possessed London headquarters in the same building as Guardian Assurance. But most interesting, John Drick had been dead for two years. An informant for Baigent, et. al. was the fact that a senior officer at the bank, came across an annual report from 1974 which had been signed by Brick, Gaylord, and Abboud, in the exact same sequence as on the “Mise en Garde.” The signatures were absolutely identical, even in size. It appeared that the signatures on the “Mise en Garde” were photocopies of the ones on the annual report.
In their next meeting with Pierre Plantard, he answered each one of these concerns. The signatures, he said, had been made by a rubber stamp, such as bankers often use to sign checks. That was why they appeared identical. As for why the signature of John Drick, who had been dead for two years, would appear on one of the Priory’s internal documents, he stated, according to The Messianic Legacy that, “as a matter of routine… the Prieure continued to use his signature on internal documents until the vacancy created in the Order by his death had been filled.” Plantard also told them that in December of the previous year, Article XXII of the Priory’s statutes, the one that had caused the schism of 1956, had been not only revoked, but reversed. Instead of being required to acknowledge membership in the order when asked, Priory members were now required to deny all knowledge of the order. This rendered an interview their informant had had with Gaylord Freeman, in which he denied any involvement with the Priory, effectively meaningless.
In this same meeting, Pierre Plantard expanded upon the Priory of Sion’s political goals for the immediate future. He remarked, according to The Messianic Legacy, that “Mitterand … had been a necessary stepping stone,” but, “had served his purpose, and was expendable. The time had come to move on, and nothing could now stop ‘it’ from doing so.” He said that for some of the Priory’s members, their ultimate aim was a United States of Europe, to balance the power exercised by the Soviet Union and the United States. They also desired a larger “common market” of the Occident, which would include both Europe and the United States. About the involvement of the Vatican in this grand plan, Plantard said that Rome was “cooperating” in accordance with their “ongoing policy” on such matters, “to which individual popes were bound.” Without elaborating much on what this meant, he admitted that, “Certain concessions had been necessary in return, but they were essentially nominal.” Also, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, he said, had “caused quite a few ripples” within the Vatican.
Compared to the carefully-scripted trickles of information that they had received from the Priory thus far, Plantard was practically spilling his guts. A few weeks later, they learned why. They received a letter from him, addressed to the membership of the Priory, and dated two and a half months prior to the authors’ last meeting with him, stating that he was resigning not only his Grand Mastership, but his membership in the order. This was done “for reasons of health,” and “for reasons of personal and family independence.” Furthermore, his resignation was prompted by “certain maneuvers” made by “our English and American brethren,” and because of the numerous “false or falsified documents” about him that had been published “in the press, in books, and in duplicated pamphlets deposited in the Bibliotheque Nationale,” including, as paraphrased in The Messianic Legacy, “birth certificates, reproductions of Prieure de Sion papers bearing signatures more than ten years old, and defamations of his person which had lead him to file a complaint at Nanterre on 16 December 1983.”
His resignation, it said, would take effect 60 days from the date of the letter, “in accordance with the internal regulations of the order.” That meant that at the time of their last interview with him, Plantard has just ceased to be a member of the order, and was no longer obliged to keep their secrets. But with the revocation of Article XXII, the whole “resignation letter” could have been a ruse orchestrated to keep him in compliance with the new statute while giving him, and the Priory, an excuse to fade back into obscurity. And that is exactly what the Priory of Sion proceeded to do from that moment forward.