9 October 1757
Reginald Birch (1705 – 1757) was the Grand Master of the British Rite of the Templar Order, and a successful English businessman. Operating primarily from the British Templar headquarters located in London, Birch was responsible for the recruitment and training of Haytham Kenway, who was the son of Birch's employer Edward Kenway, a prominent Assassin.
In 1754, Birch ordered Haytham to travel to British America to find a First Civilization storehouse after the retrieval of its key. This expedition led to the establishment of a strong Templar presence in British America, and later the United States.
Birch was born in England in 1705 to a London merchant. Following in his father's footsteps, he began his dealings at a young age, and by the time he had reached his mid-20s, Birch owned several merchant ships mainly involved with the shipment of tea to British America.
In 1723, Robert Walpole appointed Birch as one of Edward Kenway's senior property managers. Soon after, Birch began courting Edward's daughter, Jennifer. His true goal was to gain access to the journal written by Edward, which contained his research on First Civilization settlements in North America.
Birch was first introduced to Haytham Kenway in 1733 on his eighth birthday, when Birch met the Kenway family at White's Chocolate House on Chesterfield Street. On the way back home, the group was attacked by a mugger, who attempted to steal Tessa Kenway's necklace. Birch threatened to kill the man but was dissuaded by Edward. The two men smiled after putting aside their disagreement.
Over the following two years, Birch became a frequent visitor to the Kenway household and was deemed a suitable match for Jennifer, although she disliked him. Birch also sent mercenaries from Edward Braddock's regiment to blackmail Jack Digweed, Edward Kenway's valet, into revealing the location of the journal, but he did not know where it was. Afterwards, Birch had a conversation with Haytham about his sword training and learned that his father kept his steel sword in a secret compartment in the games room, indicating the journal's location.
Jennifer soon discovered Birch was a Templar and informed her father, leading to a row in his office. Birch tried to threaten Edward into giving him the journal, but he refused. A day or so later, Birch sent his mercenaries to attack the Kenway Manor, who killed Edward, kidnapped Jennifer and stole his journal. Birch arrived, ensuring Edward's killer would not do the same to Haytham, and they escaped the household as it was set on fire.
Shortly before Edward's funeral, Birch was appointed the family councilor and Haytham's guardian. He had Jennifer sold to Turkish slavers and then told Haytham he would be coming with him to Europe to "search" for her. After he introduced him to Braddock, Haytham told Birch that Digweed was behind the attack as he had been away, and Birch and Braddock discovered he had fled, providing someone to pin their crime on.
After acquiring Edward's journal, Birch spent many years decoding it and learning as many of its secrets as he could. It was from this journal that Birch first learned of the Grand Temple and afterwards made it his Order's top priority to locate it and obtain its contents. To this end, he recruited Lawrence Washington into the Templar Order and upon his return to Virginia in 1738, he was instructed to locate the Precursor site and to be Birch's eyes and ears in the Colonies.
After five years of searching for Digweed, Birch and Haytham bought a chateau near Troyes, France, where he continued to train Haytham in the ways of the Templars, eventually inducting him in 1744. When it became clear that Haytham was a skilled killer, Birch sent him to assassinate a greedy merchant in Liverpool, as well as an Austrian prince. In 1747, Birch sent Haytham to retrieve Edward's journal from Juan Vedomir, a Templar who was meant to be decoding the journal, but had begun collaborating with the Assassins.
When Haytham met Birch in Prague, he was informed that Tessa had died. After attending her memorial, Haytham discovered Digweed was living in west Germany. Birch traveled with him to find Digweed but sent two of Braddock's mercenaries to reach him before he could reveal the truth to Haytham. As Haytham reached Digweed's location, he saw one of the mercenaries about to slit Digweed's throat. Haytham engaged the mercenary, chasing him into the forest. While Haytham was thus distracted, Birch took the opportunity to silence Digweed permanently.
However, before Haytham killed the mercenary, he learned that his father was an Assassin who was killed for one of his possessions. The mercenary also revealed that he served in the British Army under Braddock, rousing Haytham's suspicions. After an argument, Haytham rode to chase the other mercenary, whom he had seen riding back to Braddock's regiment in the Dutch Republic.
In 1748, Birch was contacted by Madeleine de L'Isle, who told him about a Precursor artifact called the Heart of the Brotherhood that was stolen by a slave woman named Jeanne a year earlier. Upon discovering that Jeanne had been purchased by Philippe de Grandpré, Madeleine asked Birch to use his influence in the financial world to hinder the profits made by his company. When he was vulnerable, she would approach him with an offer of marriage that would allow him to restore his business and provide her with an opportunity to get close to Jeanne and the Heart.
When Birch discovered that Washington had made no progress with his search for the Temple and that there was an Assassin Brotherhood established in the Colonies, he sent Lieutenant Colonel George Monro to the Colonies in 1750 to assist him, stating in a letter that while Monro was to be Washington's subordinate, he was still "his better in every way".
It was also around this time that he learned of the existence of the Prophecy Disk in Chichen Itza from Rafael Joaquín de Ferrer, who requested to create a work site to excavate the Mayan city and attempt to locate the artifact. Birch complied with de Ferrer's request and created an operation to acquire slaves to send to Chichen Itza to dig for the disk and other Precursor relics. While initially headquartered in Florida, per the suggestion of his agent John Harrison, Birch had the operation moved to Louisiana under Madeleine's command to avoid detection by the Assassins. She impressed Birch with her resourcefulness, and was promoted to Master Templar sometime around 1751.
The Grand TempleEdit
- "Go forth, Haytham – and bring honor to us all."
- ―Birch to Haytham, shortly before Haytham's trip to America, 1754.[src]
Haytham reunited with Birch at White's in 1753, telling him of his service with Braddock in the army and his concerns over Braddock's bloodthirsty actions, believing he was abandoning the Order. Unconcerned, Birch gave Haytham his latest assignment, which was to kidnap Lucio Albertine, a Corsican scholar who could decode the journal. Haytham captured him, but he expressed concern over Lucio and his mother Monica's treatment after coming to Birch's chateau and seeing them chained in the cellar. Birch gave him his word that they would be released safely once their work was done.
A year later, Birch attended the musical The Beggar's Opera, by John Gay, in the Theatre Royal in London. Birch proclaimed his happiness at the play's revival, referring to it as Gay's "best work by far". Birch then ordered Haytham to obtain a precursor artifact from an attending patron and member of the Assassin Order, Miko. After Haytham had retrieved the key to the undisclosed Grand Temple, Birch secured Haytham's passage to Boston for him to find the First Civilization storehouse and establish a permanent Templar presence in British America.
Haytham returned a year later, having learned that his valet Jim Holden had located Jennifer. Wary of Birch, Haytham told him his search in America had given him a clue to a site in the Middle East and convinced Birch to stay while he continued the quest.
- "I tried to do what was right, Haytham. Surely you can understand that?"
- ―Reginald Birch's final words, 1757.[src]
Once Haytham rescued his half-sister in Damascus and discovered Birch had ordered the attack on the Kenway Manor, the Templar stormed Birch's chateau. Once inside, Birch tried to justify his actions to Haytham by explaining that he did everything for the greater good. Haytham reprimanded him for turning him into a Templar through lies and deceit. Birch then engaged in a struggle with Jennifer, before she eventually killed him by throwing him into a sword that Haytham had planted in a door.
Personality and characteristicsEdit
Birch was a fanatic obsessed with gaining the power of the First Civilization by any means necessary, while masking it beneath the veneer of a chivalrous Knight Templar to indoctrinate Haytham. He was prone to deception, both to his enemies and to his supposed allies; his mastery of this art allowed him to ingratiate himself with Edward Kenway, an Assassin rival. However, Birch's self-interest and manipulation of others was his weakness, leading to his downfall.
- Despite being a family friend and employee of the Kenways, Shaun Hastings told Desmond that Edward Kenway and Reginald were long time business rivals.
- Birch, along with several Templars operating in Louisiana and France, was among the targets listed in the Davenport Homestead's manor in Assassin's Creed: Rogue.