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IT IS a franchise that has been a long time coming - more than nine centuries, in fact.
And then, perhaps miraculously and certainly a touch mysteriously, a newspaper advertisement headlined the ''Knights Templar of Australia'' appeared. ''The order is expanding,'' it declared.
Suddenly the medieval darlings of conspiracy theorists and fiction writers worldwide were back and they're looking to bring their strange mix of martial arts, Christian faith, patriotism and philanthropy to 21st-century Australia. But one of the men behind the move for an Australian order says the modern ecumenical knights have little in common with Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code caricatures.
''We're not just whirling dervishes with swords and capes,'' an ex-Australian soldier and war correspondent, Paul Grice, says.
A confessed ''mad monk'', Mr Grice accepts the modern Templars may have some ''novelty value'' but says they are serious about their Christian mission.
They are making wheelchairs for landmine victims, refurbishing computers for indigenous communities and providing care for the aged and infirm, he says.
Comprising mainly current or former members of the military, they teach Western swordplay and a French type of kickboxing, and describe themselves as a ''modern-day esoteric knighthood''
And in what may cause a tingle of excitement down the spine of the conspiracy theorists, the 400-member Washington priory was stacked full of important Washington types.
''Quite a number of the members of this priory were in quite influential positions in business and enterprise after leaving [military] service … chief executives of multinational corporations,'' Mr O'Sullivan says.