Robert IV de Sablé (died 23 September 1193) was the eleventh Grand Master of the Knights Templar from 1191 to 1192 and Lord of Cyprus from 1191 to 1192.
He was born to a respected military family in Anjou and was "a leading Angevin vassal of the King". His lordship was based in a cluster of lands in the River Sarthe valley, which he inherited in the 1160s. He married Clemence de Mayenne (died before 1209). He was succeeded in Anjou by his daughter Marguerite de Sablé, who by marriage passed the entire estate to William des Roches, also a knight of the Third Crusade. Robert died in the Holy Land on 23 September 1193. Although there are no exact records of his birth date, it is believed that he was relatively old at the time of his death compared to the average life expectancy of the 12th century.
Angevin Civil War
In 1173, Sablé supported Henry the Young King, heir apparent to the throne of the Kingdom of England and duchy of Normandy, in a revolt against his father Henry II during the Revolt of 1173-1174. The uprising was crushed but Robert must have remained in favour with the Angevin Kings, as Richard would later be instrumental in his appointment as Grand Master. He contributed money to French monastic houses in 1190 as a way of making amends.
Despite only having a short tenure, Sablé's reign was filled with successful campaigning. Before his election as Grand Master, he led King Richard I's navy from England and Normandy to the Mediterranean, getting involved in the Reconquista in passage. The combined might of Richard the Lionheart's strategy, seasoned troops, and the elite Templar knights scored many victories. During the Third Crusade, they laid siege to the city of Acre, which soon fell. Throughout August 1191, they also recaptured many fortresses and cities along the Levantine coast in the Eastern Mediterranean, which had been lost previously.
The new coalition's finest hour was the Battle of Arsuf, on 7 September 1191. Saladin's Muslim forces appeared to have become far stronger than the Christians, and a decisive victory was desperately needed. Pooling all of the crusader's strength, the Knights Hospitaller joined the ranks, plus many knights from Sablé's native Anjou, Maine, and Brittany. They met Saladin's troops on the dry plains and soon broke his ranks. Those who stayed to fight were killed, and the remaining Islamic troops were forced to retreat.
Acquisition of Cyprus
At the end of 1191, Richard the Lionheart agreed to sell Cyprus to the Templars for 25,000 pieces of silver. Richard had plundered the island from the Byzantine forces of the tyrant Isaac Comnenus of Cyprus some months earlier and had no real use for it. The Hospitallers would later establish solid bases on the islands of Rhodes and Malta, but Sablé failed to do the same with the island of Cyprus. He was lord for two years, until he gave (or sold) the island to Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, as he was without a kingdom.
Sablé did manage to establish a Chieftain House of the Order in Saint-Jean d'Acre, which remained for almost a century.
Sablé was lucky to have been Grand Master at all, as at the time of Gerard de Ridefort's death, he was not even a member of the Templar Order. However, the senior knights had become increasingly opposed to Masters fighting on the front line, and the capture and beheading of Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort became the final straw. They delayed elections for over a year so that the rules regarding active service of Grand Masters could be reviewed. During this hiatus, Sablé did join the order, just in time to be considered for election. When he was made Grand Master, he had been a Templar knight for less than a year.
In popular culture
Robert de Sablé is a character in the 2007 video game Assassin's Creed, He is presented as the leader of the Knights Templar within the game's story. However, the game dates Robert's assassination in 1191, at the Battle of Arsuf, whereas in actuality he died in 1193, in addition to presenting him as being far younger than his historical counterpart.