The Grand Master
Like the Priory of Sion itself, Pierre Plantard, who died in 2000 at the age of 80, has been regarded eitheras
one of the most important behind-the-scenes figures in French - or even European - politics or as a fantasist and
Plantard was born in 1920, and made his first public appearance on the esoteric stage at the age of 22, as
the editor of a journal called Vaincre (Conquer) published in Nazi-occupied Paris. Vaincre was
the journal of the Alpha-Galates Order, a patriotic 'neo-chivalric' group of which Plantard (under the name Pierre
de France or Pierre de France-Plantard_ was reportedly named Grand Master in September 1942.
The Plantard family seal
As with much that Plantard was involved in during his long career, it is hard to pin down exactly what
Alpha-Galates and Vaincre were about. Although in the 1980s Plantard described Vaincre as a
journal', it is not that simple. Not only must the magazine have been produced with the knowledge - if not
the approval - of the Nazi occupiers, but in addition its articles and editorials are supportive of the Vichy
regime, the 'puppet' government allowed to govern southern France.
Pierre Plantard in 1942
In 1984, Plantard suggested that Vaincre had been a cover, making overtly pro-Vichy comments that
allowed it to be published while including coded references that were meaningful to the Resistance. There is some
evidence to support this, as the magazine was printed by a company owned by Poirier Murat, a Resistance hero who
was awarded the Legion d'Honneur and who later wrote an endorsement of Plantard.
Vaincre called for the re-establishment of a united France and the creation of a new European chivalry
that would form the basis from
which the Alpha-Galates Order's main objective was to be realised. This was the creation of a 'United
States of the West' or United States of Europe. Similar themes were to appear in the Priory of Sion's writings.
The first edition of Vaincre, September 1942
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Plantard's wartime career is a matter of controversy. He stated that he was imprisoned by the Gestapo for five
months from October 1943, although this has not been confirmed by the available records. He has even claimed that
Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, personally offered him the title of Duke of Burgundy in return for a pledge
of allegiance to the Third Reich.
It was shortly after his involvement with Vaincre that Plantard,
according to his own account, was initiated into the Priory of Sion. This was in July 1943.
Allegorical drawing from Vaincre illustrating the new knighthood and the
quest for the United States of the West
In 1956 the Priory of Sion was officially registered as a society, with Plantard being named as its Secretary
General. (The other officials listed have never been identified, and seem to be either pseudonyms or complete
The 1956 statutes refer to a journal called Circuit published by the Priory of Sion. A few editions of
magazine were circulated in France in that year - although, bizarrely, it was concerned with 'information
and defence of the rights and liberties of low-cost housing'. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln describe it as 'baffling
in its apparent irrelevance'. There is speculation that it was part of a cover for a network of political groups
that were preparing for the return to power of Charles de Gaulle.
General Charles de Gaulle
It was de Gaulle's cause that led to Plantard's next appearance in the public arena, in a role that suggests
that he was indeed a serious player in the shadows of French politics.
In 1958 a political crisis in France, sparked by the independence uprising in Algeria, led to the return to
power of General Charles de Gaulle. Instrumental in orchestrating the events that led to his return was a network
of groups calling themselves the 'Committees of Public Safety' (modelled on a similar network of the French
Revolution_. There was said to be some 120 such committees operating in France during the crisis. After de Gaulle's
return, the committees were disbanded.
The formal handover of power to de Gaulle, May 1958
According to Plantard's first wife, Anne Lea Hisler, writing in 1964, it was he who, using the pseudonym of
'Way' had, with André Malraux and Michel Debré, controlled the Committees of Public Safety. (Malraux and Debré were
given Cabinet positions in de Gaulle's new government._ Indeed, Plantard was personally appointed to this task by
de Gaulle - and, just as importantly, it was Plantard who was given the delicate task of disbanding the Committees
once their job was done.
Hisler's claims are borne out by contemporary documents and news reports. The guiding force behind the
Committees was indeed a 'Captain Way' - and at the time of the dissolving of the network 'Way's' identity was
revealed as Pierre Plantard.
Perhaps significantly, according to later sources the 1956 registration of the Priory of Sion (which makes so
little sense for a genuinely secret society, especially one that had kept its existence secret for nearly 900
years) was the result of internal upheavals within the Order caused by reforms introduced its then Grand Master,
Jean Cocteau. The same sources state that this version of the Priory was dissolved in 1958, an event which they
link – exactly how is not made clear - with de Gaulle's restoration.
Given Plantard's involvement in the organisation of the Committees of Public Safety, and the nebulous nature of
the Priory's stated purpose
(relating to a network of groups concerned with low-cost housing) it is a plausible speculation that the
'original' Priory was in some way concerned with political activities that would later form the basis of de
Gaulle's second term as president. In this light, it is significant that in 1956 the Priory was portrayed simply as
a neo-chivalric organisation (much like the Alpha-Galates Order) and that the claims relating to Merovingian
survival and a pedigree stretching back to the Crusades did not emerge until the 1960s. Was the Priory first set up
as a cover for political objectives, and later revived for a new purpose?
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