The Harlequins are a secret order dedicated to protecting Travelers. Any further elaboration on that basic statement is open to controversy.

Hans Von Ritter's massive 1903 study of the Knights Templar, Die komplette Geschichte der armen Ritter von Christ was so detailed and so passionately argued that his view dominated any theory regarding the origin of the  Harlequins for several generations. Volume One, Der Bügel was about the medieval group itself. The secret, unpublished Volume Two, Der Bügel Gebrochen, argued that the modern Harlequins were direct descendants of the Templars.

The full name of the Templars was The Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. It was a militant order of Christian knights formed during the Crusades to protect pilgrims traveling to the Holy Lands. Baldwin II, the twelfth century Crusader King of Jerusalem let them occupy a wing of the former Jewish temple. The Templars quickly became a rich, powerful army with property holdings throughout Europe. They owned ships and lent money to rulers. Fear of their power and a desire to seize their treasury caused King Philip IV to enter the Paris headquarters of the group in 1307 and arrest them for heresy. The grand master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake in 1314 and the order ceased to exist. It is Von Ritter's view that the Templars only went underground and eventually became the Harlequins.

Morris Sutherland has argued against a direct line between the Templars and the Harlequins. He points out that the Harlequins are a secular group with an international membership–not a Christian-oriented military cult comprised only of Europeans. (Note: Contemporary Knights Templar are members of a Christian fraternal organization with no ties to the Harlequins.)

Researcher Ali Sa’id has written extensively about the various Sufi fraternal orders that were dedicated to defending Moslem pilgrims on their way to Mecca. Most groups were centered on one founder-leader. These groups have been active since the thirteenth century and have a central belief that–through an "unveiling"–it is possible to directly experience God. In his massive cultural study, Peter Reinhart has shown that Buddhist, Sikh, and Hindu orders were also formed to protect pilgrims and other mystics unattached to particular religions.

Theodore Bernstein's unpublished book, "The Hasidic Warriors of the Diaspora," gives the history of a similar Jewish group.

The Holy Grail of Harlequin research has always been a written account of an international summit where these pilgrim defenders from a variety of different cultures and religious background came together in one larger organization. Morris Sutherland's quip "That’s right, mate. And we need photographs, too" states the obvious truth –  that such a document is impossible to find. The summit, of course, has never occurred.

What is evident is that in eighteenth century France, a short time after the Revolution, a secret order was formed to protect–not pilgrims–but mystics who were "traveling" to different realms. Gradually, in the nineteenth century, this original group of Harlequins connected with individuals and groups throughout the world who also desired to protect Travelers. Thus, there were two crucial changes–a movement away from pilgrims actually going to a holy site and a later decision to form an international order. The Harlequins have never had a central text, a constitution, a code of rules, or a leadership hierarchy. Anthropologists might see it as an informal "tribal" group formed around strong leaders in different regions.

The nature of the current Harlequin order was decisively influenced by their enemies, the Tabula. Up until the late Victorian Era, attacks on the Travelers were organized by local religious and political leaders for their own particular reasons. It was only in the late 1880s that an international group was formed to identify and destroy Travelers. As the Tabulas began to target Travelers, the Harlequins were forced to use their funds and international contacts to find these individuals first, inform them of their power, and protect them from destruction.  

Some adults from the citizen world decide to become a Harlequin, but most Harlequins are members of families that have followed the tradition for generations. The teaching is brutal and involves not only the use of all forms of weapons, but the adoption of a cold, unemotional view of life. The only ceremony to joining the group is the adoption of a Harlequin name.

Harlequins use conventional firearms in combat, but most of them also carry swords. The possession and veneration of such an archaic weapon is part of the Harlequin subculture. Guns and explosives are manufactured by the Vast Machine, often by many of the same people who support the Tabula. A sword, however, exists outside of the modern age, free of the degradation and compromise of our times. Some Harlequins favor swords in combat because of the shock value of using them on an unsuspecting enemy.
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