Cet Ami, comment vous le présenter? Son nom demeura un mystère, mais son nombre est celui d'un sceau célèbre. Comment vous le décrire? Peut-être comme le nautonnier de l'arche impérissable, impassible comme un colonne sur son roc blanc, scrutant vers le midi, au-delà du roc noir.
This Friend, how does one introduce him to you? His name will remain a mystery, but his number is that of a famous seal. How does one describe him to you? Perhaps as the pilot of the imperishable ark, unmoved as a column on his white rock, looking attentively towards the south, beyond the black rock.
From this stanza it appears that, over and above the mentioned manuscripts, certain pieces of information about the person the poet calls his friend are also crucial in solving the mystery of the Razès. The poet holds this figure in such high regard that he not only refers to him in each of the first four stanzas, but also dedicates this whole stanza entirely to him.
Besides the clues about his friend in this stanza, one knows that this is the person to whom the manuscripts belong. In the next stanza, the poet again speaks of the 'parchments of this Friend'. As these parchments almost certainly belong to Pierre Plantard – as is explicitly stated in the notarized documents – it would seem this friend is indeed none other than Pierre Plantard himself. The poem is also widely linked to him and his friends.
2.1 The Plantards and the enigma of Rennes-le-Château
The question which now arises is why the poet would regard Pierre Plantard as such an important figure. According to him, Pierre – and actually the whole Plantard family – is the pivot on which the secret of the Razès hinges. He also states that the parchments, which belong to them, contain the key to the solving of the whole mystery.
There are strong indications that right from the start, albeit behind the scenes, the Plantards were connected with the mystery of Rennes-le-Château as well as the events surrounding Saunière. It also appears that one of them was in contact with Saunière as well as Boudet. According to the writer of Le cercle d'Ulysse, Jean Delaude, Saunière met Charles Plantard, Pierre Plantard's grandfather, during the former's visit to Paris. It seems that this meeting took place at the house of Claude Debussy, who is elsewhere mentioned as Grand Master of the Rosicrucian Order, the Prieuré de Sion, at the time. In 1892, Charles Plantard, a journalist, apparently also visited Rennes-le-Château.
In the preface to the 1978 facsimile edition of Henri Boudet's writing, La vraie langue celtique et le cromleck de Rennes-les-Bains, Pierre Plantard states that his grandfather visited this town on the 2nd June, 1892, and later recorded his impressions of Saunière and Boudet. During this visit, Boudet also gave Charles Plantard a signed copy of his book with a handwritten dedication to him inscribed in it.
According to the writer of Les descendants Mérovingiens, Saunière tried to contact one of the Plantards on his death bed. He apparently beseeched Dr. Paul Courrent (1861-1952) to summon Jean XXIII, Charles Plantard's nephew. Jean was the descendant of the oldest line of the Plantard family, who had a right to the parchments. Saunière was in all probability not aware of the fact that Jean's father, Pierre, in 1871 waived his right in favour of his brother, Charles. Jean therefore never complied with Saunière's request and as a result the parchments remained in 'Rhedae', that is Rennes-le-Château.
In August of 1938, another Plantard visited the area – this time the 18 year-old Pierre Plantard, who spent a week at the house of Marie Dénarnaud, Saunière's former housekeeper and trusty companion. The writer of Le cercle d'Ulysse states that Noël Corbu said in an interview in May of 1961 with Marina Grey of the radio station ORTF on the programme 'Roue Tourne' that during this visit, Marie Dénarnaud handed over to Pierre all the correspondence his grandfather had with Saunière, as well as several other archival records. According to the same source, Pierre Plantard again visited the area in 1966 and this time called on Noël Corbu.
It could be that these letters and archival documents were the main source of information on Charles Plantard's association with Saunière. Every one of the writings referring to this can be linked to Pierre Plantard, which strongly suggests that he, together with the archivalia in his possession, were their principle sources.
2.2 Independent evidence
Due to the personal nature of the events, hardly any additional objective sources are available. There is, however, information that correlates with the above. In the mid-1990's, for instance, it was proven that the signature appearing in Charles Plantard's copy of La vraie langue celtique corresponds with Boudet’s. In Web of Gold, Guy Patton states that during this time, a letter signed by Boudet, which he had sent to the Bodleian Library in Oxford, was also discovered, along with a copy of Boudet's book. The signatures were proven to have been made by the same person.
Another piece of evidence, dating from the 19th century, is a commemorative plaque that I stumbled upon in 1998 during a visit to Versailles outside Paris. Right at the entrance to the palace there are a number of plaques acknowledging donations and one of them bears the inscription 'M. Plantard 1891'. I must admit I was quite surprised to come across the name Plantard here. However, what struck me most was the date – the exact same year in which Saunière is said to have discovered the parchments in the church of Rennes-le-Château. Although some researchers believe it to have been in 1887, Saunière singled out the first-mentioned year by inscribing 'Mission 1891' on the Visigoth pillar outside the church. The exact same date also appears on the Plantard coat of arms.
There is therefore reason enough to believe that the Plantards' association with the Razès goes back much further than Pierre Plantard and also that there is indeed some kind of link between them and the whole enigma of Rennes-le-Château – which would of course be in accordance with the said mentioning of this family in the parchments.
Several of Pierre Plantard's friends were clearly of the opinion that this family played a considerable role in the whole affair, hence their writings about it. As was already mentioned, the poet too regarded Pierre Plantard as an exceptional individual, which is evident from his description of his friend in this stanza.
2.3 Name and number
When introducing his friend, the poet first of all refers to his name. Pierre Plantard's full names were Pierre Athanase Marie Plantard de Saint-Clair. The name Plantard apparently comes from 'plant-ard', which means 'rejeton ardent' – 'fiery/sprouting shoot'. One Madeleine Blancasall states that Sigebert, the son of Dagobert II, adopted this name and that his descendants carried it to this day. The Plantards allegedly acquired the added name of Saint-Clair after the marriage of Jean XIV Plantard with Marie de Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 1546.
Interestingly, during the years of the Second World War, Pierre Plantard also called himself Pierre de France, by means of which he possibly wanted to signify that he is the rightful king of France. This would imply that he had already seen himself as a contender for the French throne from an early age. This claim stems from events dating back to the Merovingian era, when the majors of the palace dethroned these monarchs and came to the throne themselves. They were later known as the Carolingians – after King Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great. The Catholic Church is said to have broken a treaty with King Clovis by acknowledging the Carolingians as rulers and as a result, the descendants of the Merovingians, i.e. the Plantards, still lay claim to the French throne.
The Plantards, however, are only one of several families who lay, or have laid, claim to the throne of France. Besides them, the Orleans branch of the French dynasty has also raised their hands, as have the Chambords – the descendants of Charles X. The latter's last contender, the count of Chambord, died without an heir in 1883, after which this family, according to the writer of Le cercle d'Ulysse, shifted their support to the Plantards. 'It was they who formed the Merovingian movement which still exists today'.
The question arises why the Plantards are convinced that they have a greater claim to the French throne than any of the other French dynasties who have ascended the throne since the Merovingians. Is this because they are the 'oldest' Frankish dynasty, or is there another reason altogether?
The poet supplies some clues ...
2.4 Descendants of David
According to the poet, his friend's name is a mystery. It is typically said of God that His name is a mystery. These words of the poet could therefore be indicative of some or other conviction that the Plantards actually are of 'godly' descent.
The authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail claim it to be possible that the Plantards are descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene. When questioned about this, Pierre Plantard, however, refused to commit himself to such a belief, saying it could not be proven as these events took place too far back in time. He then rather emphasized the fact that Jesus had brothers. He reiterated, though, that the Merovingians are from Judaic descent and specifically the Davidian lineage. This claim makes one wonder whether some individuals actually relate the meaning of the name Plantard, 'the sprouting shoot', to the 'shoot' from King David's family line referred to in the Bible – one of the metaphors used for the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 11:1).
The poet further states that his friend has a 'number', to wit that of a 'famous seal', which undoubtedly refers to the so-called seal of Solomon (the star of David). This seal consists of two triangles placed over one another in such a way that they form a hexagram ('hexa' meaning 'six').
One often sees the hexagram superimposed over the map of France. One of the covers of the magazine Circuit, the mouthpiece of the Prieuré de Sion, which was established in 1956 and of which Pierre Plantard once was the editor, shows exactly this. Pierre Plantard's association with this hexagram would therefore correspond to his chosen name, Pierre de France.
The reference to the seal of Solomon obviously again leads to the house of David. The Plantards' association with this seal would then be symbolic of their claim to have been born into King David's family line.
|Fig. 6. A cover of the Circuit showing a map of France with a hexagram|
2.5 The pilot of the imperishable ark
Next, the poet compares his friend to the pilot of a ship. It is, however, not just any ship, but an 'ark', and one that is imperishable, which inadvertently reminds one of Noah's ark that came through the Flood unscathed.
This metaphor refers to the secret order of the Prieuré de Sion. In their statutes, the Grand Master is called the 'nautonnier', the same word the poet uses for 'pilot'. The Prieuré de Sion is therefore described as an imperishable ark; imperishable because of its continued existence throughout the centuries, according to occult tradition. Pierre Plantard stated that he was admitted into this order on the 10th July, 1943, on the recommendation of the priest Francois Ducaud-Bourget.
According to Dossiers secrets d'Henri Lobineau, the Prieuré de Sion dates back to 1188, or even earlier, when it was called the Order of Sion. The families associated with this order include the St. Clairs, Lorraines and Stuarts. Although most researchers do not take these claims seriously, the name Order of Sion does correspond to the so-called Realm of Sion, a well-known order from the 19th century that is also associated with some of these families. That these two orders are in fact one and the same, is evident from Chaumeil's remark in Le trésor du triangle d'or  ('The treasure of the Golden Triangle') that a type of Scottish Rite Freemasonry that was earlier typically associated with the Stuarts, actually resides under the Prieuré de Sion: 'The upper grades or degrees of this Freemasonry ... were the lower grades or degrees of the Prieuré de Sion.'  This was most likely also true of the Realm of Sion.
Pierre Plantard told Henry Lincoln and his co-authors that this Prieuré de Sion was not really a secret organisation, but rather a 'discreet society' that had to do with a 'family affair'. It appears that it was only run as a secret organisation at times.
When Pierre Plantard was admitted into the Prieuré de Sion, he was already the Grand Master of another secret order called Alpha Galates. He was afforded this position at the young age of 22 after the retirement of count Maurice Moncharville, who was also his mentor. It is astonishing that figures like Prof. Louis le Fur, who held a senior position in the Vichy administration, and Hans Adolf von Moltke, a German diplomat from one of the most famous aristocratic German families, could look up to such a young person as Grand Master. It most certainly could have had something to do with Pierre Plantard's alleged descent.
In the 21st January, 1943, edition of the Alpha Galates' official paper, the Vaincre, Prof. Louis le Fur states that a 'great German, one of the Masters of our Order' (Hans Adolf von Moltke) referred to Pierre Plantard as 'Pierre de France', with all the monarchistic undertones inherent in this title. According to Le Fur, Von Moltke had said: 'I have the pleasure to say, before my departure for Spain, that our Order has at last found a chief worthy of it in the person of Pierre de France. It is therefore with total confidence that I depart to perform my mission; for while not deluding myself about the perils I run in discharging my duty, I know that until my last breath my last watchword will consist in recognition of Alpha and fidelity to its chief'.
In 1955-1956, an internal struggle is said to have raged within the Prieuré de Sion, which seemingly resulted in the establishing of their own (another) Prieuré de Sion by Pierre Plantard, André Bonhomme, Jean Delaval and Armand Defago. This Prieuré de Sion was registered in France in 1956. According to Jania MacGillivray, the dispute had something to do with a family feud. In the article 'The treasure, the priest and the Priory' she writes: 'The person who holds the key to all these mysteries, if mysteries they are, is Pierre Plantard, whose magnificent family ring, bearing the inscription 'Et in Arcadia ego', is a continual reminder of a better world somewhere ... And if one wonders why Chaumeil wrote his book, his reply is contained in an allusion to a schism in the Plantard family some years ago. One branch, he hints, held that the secret of the Priory of Sion belonged to the Church; the other claimed that it was public property.'  Very little doubt exists that the alleged unlawful moving of the parchments at the end of 1955 by demand of Pierre's uncle, Etienne Plantard, had something to do with this split.
The group associated with Pierre Plantard clearly belongs to the part of the family that is of the conviction that the 'secrets' of the Prieuré belong to the public. The registration of the 'new' Prieuré de Sion, as well as the publication of the Merovingian genealogies by 'Henri Lobineau' (both in 1956) were clearly related to the disclosure of the 'secrets' – and in particular a first step in the announcement of the Plantards' claims. In 1967, the same year Du Plantier published Dossiers secrets d'Henry Lobineau, this group went one step further by publishing Gérard de Sède's Le trésor maudit de Rennes-le-Château, which obviously drew a lot of attention thereto. In 1982, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was published, in which the English-speaking world got acquainted with Pierre Plantard and his claims. Subsequently Dan Brown has also employed these themes in his bestseller, The Da Vinci Code.
In the meantime, Pierre Plantard allegedly warded off a complete schism in the order, after which, from 1963-1981, he, Gaylord Freeman and Antonio Merzagora together were at the helm. During this time, Le serpent rouge came onto the scene, linking the 'friend' in the poem to the grand mastership of the Prieuré de Sion. The poet's use of the word '[p]erhaps (as the pilot of the imperishable ark)' in the description of his friend could be related to the expectation that Pierre Plantard would become Grand Master due to his descent from one of the exceptional European families, or otherwise to this joint grand mastership. It appears that on the 17th January, 1981, Pierre Plantard was indeed elected Grand Master, a position he held until the 10th July, 1984.
It was during this time that he supplied the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail with copies of the notarized documents – possibly the final step in lending credibility to his claim to the French throne, as these documents 'confirm' his descent from the Merovingian rulers. He was in all probability unaware of the fact that at least one of these documents was fabricated.
As was mentioned earlier, Michael Baigent and his co-authors suggest in The Messianic Legacy that the group responsible for the forgery was the Knights of Malta. This group is almost certainly connected with the 'other' faction Jania MacGillivray refers to in her article and they most likely wanted to prevent Pierre Plantard from successfully following through with his claim to the French throne.
What was to be Pierre Plantard's big moment, subsequently contrariwise led to his claims being entirely discredited. The earlier assertions by his friends that the coded documents were in fact forgeries only contributed to the perception that the whole thing was a scam.
To me, it seems highly likely that harming Pierre Plantard's reputation were attempts made by the 'other faction' to sweep everything in under the carpet once again. In Key to the Sacred Pattern: The Untold Story of Rennes-le-Château, Henry Lincoln calls it 'agitated attempts ... to establish that the entire affaire is a fraud' . By discrediting the whole 'affaire', they diverted the public's attention away from any real secrets that could be contained in the documents in the French National Library. In so doing, this faction tried to ensure these would remain secret due to their conviction that they belong to the Catholic Church.
It is entirely possible that there are indeed real secrets between all the documents that have been deposited in the French National Library and that the secret woven into the poem Le serpent rouge, and for which the coded texts are to serve as clues, is one of them. As was mentioned earlier, these texts had not been devised by De Chérisey, as he claimed, and most probably relate to a real centuries old secret of the Hautpoul-Blanchefort family.
The reason the poet dedicated this entire stanza to Pierre Plantard was maybe to ensure that, once the riddle was solved and the 'treasure' found, Plantard would inextricably be connected with it. His acclaim of Plantard was possibly meant to prove that he was worthy of the 'treasure'.
This praise is especially noteworthy if one takes into account that it most probably came from Jean Cocteau himself. It makes one wonder even more whether the numerous attempts to discredit the person of Pierre Plantard actually project a true image. In view of the fact that the greater part of Plantard's life in all probability is not public knowledge, and that due to the secret nature thereof, he could probably not defend himself, one should perhaps reserve judgement.
2.6 A column on his white rock
The poet goes on to compare his friend to a pillar standing on 'his' white rock. The most famous pillar in the Rennes-le-Château mystery surely is the one in which Saunière allegedly discovered the parchments and on which he carved the words 'Penitence, Penitence' and 'Mission 1891'. He subsequently planted it upside-down in the garden of the church and fixed a statue of the crowned Virgin Mary on top. A clear photograph of Saunière next to this pillar is to be found in Pierre Jarnac's Histoire du trésor de Rennes-le-Château .
The poet's mentioning of a white rock can therefore imply that he is referring to something in the Razès region – and it is not hard to find exactly that. At the northern entrance to the Sals Valley at Rennes-les-Bains there is a huge white rock called Blanchefort, which literally means 'white fort'. On the back of Louis Vazart's Abrégé de l'histoire des Francs is a photograph of Pierre Plantard's son, Thomas, sitting on Blanchefort, with the Sals Valley in the background. This picture depicts exactly what the poet describes – a Plantard on a 'white rock'. It is therefore without any doubt this famous rock the poet is referring to (see Figure 7).
The poet's friend is therefore standing on Blanchefort, looking south, and past the 'black rock'. There is indeed also exactly such a rock in the area, called Roque Nègre, which literally means 'black rock'. It lies just south of Blanchefort, a bit lower down on the mountainside. The poet's friend is, in other words, looking past this rock in the direction of Rennes-les-Bains and the hills south of the town. The description in the poem therefore corresponds exactly to the topography of the Blanchefort area just north of Rennes-les-Bains.
|Fig. 7. The back cover of Louis Vazart's book|
One tends to miss them at first, but the directions which the poet indicates – some less explicitly than others – are in actual fact crucial. In the first stanza, he only speaks of a journey through unknown parts for which the 'parchments' are to serve as a guide, but in this stanza, he gives the first clear geographical directions – to all appearance from where the route through the area begins. In the following stanzas, he describes the route south from there.
As could be expected, given the connection between the parchments and the Hautpoul-Blanchefort family, this particular area had been part of their domain.
As in the first stanza, white and black are once again juxtaposed. In this case, it is the white rock and the black rock. This whole stanza is also written in parallels: The friend is introduced, but also described; the poet speaks of his name, but also his number; he is described as a pilot, but also a pillar.
Dualism is clearly the name of the game in Le serpent rouge.
 Chaumeil, J. 1979. Nice: Alain Lefeuvre.
 Ibid., p.136.
 1979. French translation in Bonne Soirée, 14 August, 1980.
 Lincoln, H. 1997. Gloucestershire: Windrush, p.147.
 Jarnac, P. 1998. Belisane: Cazilhac.
7. The Fountain of the Magdalene
10. The New Temple of Solomon