London’s Knights of the Living Dead
The Knights of St Lazarus were an ancient order of fighting lepers, whose rotting flesh and self-belief they couldn’t be killed gave them the reputation as “the undead”. JON KANEKO-JAMES reports.
Everyone knows that London was once home to the Knights Templar, and the Knights of St. John, but many don’t know that some of the Maltese Crosses you see around London represent something quite different. Both the Green Maltese Cross and the symbol of a lion with a scarred face are the emblem of another order of Knights who came to London: the Living Dead.
Let’s imagine a scene: you’re a soldier in the army of Saladin, and things are going pretty well. You’re about to kick the Crusaders (i.e. invaders) out of the Holy Land. You’ve boxed in their King and the genius tactician Saladin (your boss) has managed to execute a series of inspired feints that means you’re about to attack a Christian stronghold and basically get them with their trousers down.
Then it happens: you see a force on horseback. It’s tiny and moving slowly. Some of the riders are slumped over the saddles of their horses, others hold their swords limply. At the head of the army rides a knight, bandaged head to foot in bloody rags, barely able to hold his weapon above his head. Your forces turn and send off a volley of arrows. They hit. They hit dead on.
But the riders keep coming. They get hit. Some of their horses are killed … but the riders just get back up again and keep coming. Wave after wave of arrows and they keep coming, the only ones who stop are literally so hacked to pieces that their bodies don’t function anymore. There are just 500 of them at the start, and your forces outnumber them five to one, but that only matters when you’re facing men who can die.