The Order of the Knights Templar (Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon) was founded in 1118 to protect Christians on pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Blacktorne, 2011). The Order was sanctioned by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and he quartered the nine original knights in the old stables at the Temple of Solomon. All members had to give over all of their wealth and goods to the Order and take vows of poverty, chastity, piety, and obedience just like other monks (Langue, 2011). A majority of the members joined for life, although a select few were also allowed to join for specific duration.
The Templars' were considered the first international banking organizations. Although this wasn't there specific title they charge a fee (interest) for issuing letters of deposits (checks). Some also view them as a multinational corporation; however the banking reference seems to hold more credibility. There financial crimes dealt primarily with usury (Middle Ages, N.d.). Usury can be defined as the practice of enriching yourself by lending money and charging either interest or a fixed fee to do so. Though this is common today, at the time it was deeply frowned upon. The Knights Templars eventually amassed such an enormous fortune with their international operations that they were charged with treason by the king, Philip IV of France. Once the French army turned on the Order, the members were either killed or fled.
2- The Fuggers
The Fuggers were a German merchant and banking family. In the 16th century, they were the reigning masters of the universe (Stadler, 2011). The Fuggers bankrolled some of Europe's greatest empires. Some analysts rate their political influence as comparable to the Medici in Italy, but their wealth was matched only by the Rothschilds' over a century later. Originally, they were merchants of fine clothing. But they also diversified into banking in the 15th century. Their closest dealings were with the Habsburg family, which provided mining rights as securities against loans from the merchants. When the Habsburgs repeatedly defaulted on their loans, the Fuggers gained an effective monopoly in mining and the trading of silver, copper, and mercury across Europe.
The eventual decline of the Fuggers traces to a decision the family made during its golden era (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2008). In 1546, Anton Fugger and sons had a working capital of millions of guilders; the highest in the firm's history. However, he had intentions of dismantling operations and spread the money throughout the family. But another family member picked up the slack and brought banking back to prominence. Later, when Spain defaulted on a loan, it left the Fugger family in a weakened position (Sanello, 2010). From that point on, the basically operated a Ponzi scheme to keep things going. They basically borrowed money to meet their obligations for a time, until all operations finally collapsed.
3- The Rothschild's
The founder of the family was considered to be Mayer Amschel (Forbes Staff, 2005). The family's name derived from the red (rot) shield on the house in the ghetto in which Mayer's ancestors had once lived. Intended for the church, Mayer studied in school briefly, but his parents' early death forced him into an apprenticeship in a banking house (History, N.d.). Mayer was the originator of the sets of patterns that his family was to follow so successfully for so centuries up until the present day; to do business with reigning families by preference and to father as many sons as possible who could take care of the family's many business affairs abroad.
The family has been a source of countless conspiracy theories for many centuries as well and this trend continues to the present day. In fact, it is hard to find credible sources because all of the various conspiracy theories flood the searches. These theories have differing claims, such as claiming that the family belongs to the Illuminati, controls the world's wealth and financial institutions or encouraged wars between governments (Brustein, 2003). The later theory seems to hold the most weight among sources; that they have become very profitable from different wars. Many families, the Rothschild's included, financed companies that sold and funded various parts of the Allied Forces as well as the Nazi armies in WWII; though little is known about…