Today in Fact, 18 March

The birth of FW de Klerk. Today is a day worth reflecting on loyalty and betrayal.

Some have preferred a torturous death rather than betray their ideals and vows. Today is 1314, the leaders of the Knights Templar were burned at the stake on an Island in Paris by the French King Phillip IV with the approval of Pope Clement V and his French cardinals, largely it seems because the Knights Templar were owed too much money by the King of France. Jacque de Molay, the last grand master of the Knights Templar burned after having recanted his confession under torture.

Others have started with the best of intentions but had a deep change of heart and faith, leading them away from their people. The Ethiopian Emperor Susenyous was crowned king of kings on this day in 1606. He reigned for 26 years but his conversion to Roman Catholicism led to rebellions and strife and he eventually abdicated in favour of his son Fasilades in 1632.

Some have made astute calculations before accepting the inevitable and turning their face from the people they were elected to lead in order to negotiate for a greater good. F.W. de Klerk was born this day in 1936 and he held the last vote by South African whites on this day in 1992. White South Africans voted overwhelmingly in favour of negotiations aimed a new democratic constitution. De Klerk won the Nobel Peace prize with Nelson Mandela in 1993.

Jacque de Molay and the Knights Templar were betrayed by their king and their pope but chose, in the end, to remain loyal to their oaths. Susenyos was betrayed by his son and his own people who could not forgive him his apostasy and conversion to Catholicism. F.W. De Klerk is seen by some sections of South African society as a “Volks veraaier”, betrayer of the people.

Life teaches us that we all will betray, and we all will be loyal, to a greater of lesser extent some time in our lives. The real question is perhaps to what greater good will you be prepared to betray? To what virtue will you be loyal?

– Douglas Racionzer (a full archive of “Today in Fact” can be found at