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Son of Maximilian I of the Holy Roman Empire, and Mary I of Burgundy, he married Juana the Mad. Became King of Spain after a long power struggle with King Ferdinand. Bore six children, including the heir Charles V.

Philip IV of France, known as Philip the Fair (Philippe le Bel), due to his light complexion and blonde hair (not because he was by any means a just ruler, as we shall see below), was the eleventh king of the Capetian Dynasty. He was born in 1268 to King Philip III (the Bold) and Isabel of Aragon and is remembered best as the king who suppressed the Knights Templar and brought about the Avignon papacy with his sponsorship of Pope Clement V.

He was three years old when his sainted grandfather, Louis IX (St. Louis) died, so while he never knew him, he grew up in the shadow of his great achievments. He was educated by Guiles de Colonna, who later became Archbishop of Burgues, and from him would become a monarch who would fear neither God nor any office as king. Guiles de Colonna once told him:

Jesus Christ has not given any temporal dominion to his Church, and the king of France has authority from God alone.

and Philip took these words to heart in his later life.

Financial Burdens

By the time he became king in 1285, at the age of 17, he found France a kingdom sunk in debt from his father's costly ventures. He calculated that paying off these debts would take over three hundred years, even if he used all of his disposable income and not counting the interest payments, and he was not about to accept a lifetime of penury.

By the age of 26 he was at war with King Edward I of England (see below), and he thus had additional expenses in addition to his great debts, so he had to find other means of obtaining revenue. When these failed to produce enough money, he had to find other more unorthodox means of financing his debt payments as well as the war. His father came up with the idea of levying great taxes on the Jews in 1284, and Philip continued this tradition in 1292 and again in 1303. Without a great political backlash, he hit on the idea of a one hundred percent tax on all Jewish possessions. In 1306, Philip ordered the seizure of all Jewish property and deported all of the Jews in France. Further, again following a previous measure first imagined by his father, he imposed a harsh tax on the Lombard and Florentine bankers. Unfortunately, even these ruthless measures failed to produce sufficient funds. He then decided to begin devaluation of the currency in 1298, had all coinage recalled, melted down, and reminted with a much lower precious metal content. This is one of the first recorded instances of currency devaluation in history. Inflation was not a common problem in the medieval world, but by 1303 the French mark only had half the buying power it had in 1290.

While this highly desperate measure produced sufficient funds in the meantime, it also brought about a serious monetary crisis that threatened to collapse the French economy, so Philip gravely needed to find another source of precious metals to arrest the inflation. In the meantime, the powerful crusading order of the Knights Templar, having a experienced a catastrophic defeat by the Saracens at St. John de Acre in 1291, was now attempting to establish a new base in the Languedoc. This order of knights had established itself as a great financial power throughout all of Europe in its day, and they definitely had vast reserves of gold on hand within the many Preceptories they ran throughout France. The fact that they were attempting to establish an independent freehold in southern France (similar to what the Teutonic Knights had in Poland and Russia) was a further inducement to action. There was only one problem: the Knights were answerable only to the Papacy, and any attempt he made on them would have serious repercussions he could not tolerate.

Philip and Boniface

The Pope once granted his grandfather, St. Louis, the right to levy taxes on the Church and the lay community during times of war, in order to meet the needs of the state and the defense of the kingdom. Philip revived this tradition and taxed the Church in an attempt to reduce his debts. To prevent Philip from doing this to pay for his military expeditions, in 1296 Pope Boniface VIII issued a bull that forbade the clergy from giving financial subsidies to any lay power without the consent of Rome. Philip responded by issuing an order prohibiting the export of gold, silver, or other merchandise from France, preventing funds from crossing his country to the Vatican, and cutting of a large quantity of papal revenue instantly. While this hit the Vatican in the purse, combined with the monetary devaluation it caused a major currency crisis in 1303 when there were widespread calls for a return to coinage values as they were in St. Louis' day.

The Vatican struck back by issuing a decree that stated that all princes were subject to his rulings in temporal matters as well as spiritual. Philip refused to recognize this and sent a reply to Boniface that left little doubt as to his feelings on the matter:

Philip, by grace of God, King of France, to Boniface, acting as supreme pontiff, little or no health. Let your extreme folly know, that in temporals we are subject to no one.

To ensure that his contempt of papal authority was made clear to all, Philip publicly burned the papal bull to a mighty fanfare of trumpets.

Boniface could not afford to tolerate that brazen defiance of this upstart French monarch, so he summoned the French clergy to Rome to discuss how the freedoms of the Church could be preserved. Philip then called for a national assembly in Paris of both clergy and his deputies, and they passed a resolution to stand by the king in defense of his rights. Such was the force of Philip's personality that even the clergy present denied that the Pope had any jurisdiction in secular matters. Philip wanted to send an unmistakable message to Boniface as to his position, so he ordered the immediate seizure of all the assets of the clergy who obeyed the Pope's edict to go to Rome.

Boniface was outraged by this continued defiance and published yet another bull, named Unam Sanctum, that asserted that not only was every human being subject to the rule of the Pope, but they also had to appear in Rome if so ordered. The battle between Pope and King was beginning to escalate rapidly.

Boniface, in his earlier incarnation as Benedict Cardinal Gaetani, had a colorful history of sexual adventures, of which Guillame de Nogaret, Philip's chief seneschal, was well aware. The Pope was bisexual, and had many lurid affairs, including keeping a married woman and her daughter as bedfellows, and well as seducing a fair number of handsome young men. He was even quoted once as saying that sexual intercourse was 'no more a sin than to rub your hands together.' Guillame trumped these charges up further and accused the pope not only of practicing adultery and sodomy (of which he was undoubtedly guilty), but of simony, sorcery, and even keeping a small tame demon in his ring, which would appear at night and perform acts of unspeakable depravity with the pontiff in the papal bed.

By now the proceedings were becoming a farce, and finally Boniface decided to excommunicate Philip, who, however, managed to intercept the papal bull proclaiming his excommunication. Boniface, now at the end of his ropes, then leaned on the Donation of Constantine, declared the throne of France vacant and offered the kingdom to Albert, emperor of Austria.

Philip had a final masterstroke to use against the 84-year-old pontiff. Working on the premise that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, Philip granted asylum to members of the Colonna family, who were Boniface's personal enemies. In 1303, Philip sent Nogaret to Italy with Scairra Colonna and a force of 300 horsemen, and with a group of 'French patriots' instigated a riot at the gates of the papal palace at Anagni. A bribed papal retainer opened the gates and the mob stormed the palace, shouting 'Live the king of France, die Boniface!' Under cover of this diversion Colonna and his troops made their way into Boniface's presence, who was praying at an altar, expecting to die. The Italians were too awed by his presence and they blanched from killing the pope, but they imprisoned him for several days and subjected him to significant quantities of physical abuse. The people of Anagni eventually drove the French out and released Boniface, but the pope was later struck by a seizure, probably brought about by the stress of his incarceration, and died soon after.

The Babylonian Captivity

Benedict XI, Boniface's successor, initially met with Philip's approval when he rescinded the sentence of excommunication. However, as Benedict began to settle into the papacy, he decided to reassert the authority of the Holy See, which Boniface failed to uphold, starting by declaring the excommunication of the leaders of the attack on his predecessor, Philip's allies Scairra Colonna and Guillame de Nogaret. Philip was tired of this constant infighting with the papacy, so he arranged to have Benedict poisoned in mid-1304, after only eight months in office, leaving the Holy See vacant, and creating difficulties in the choice of a successor. Through clever political manipulation, he managed to get the Conclave to install Bertrand de Goth, Archbishop of Bordeaux as Pope Clement V in 1305. While de Goth had no love for Philip, he was an ambitious man who wanted to be pope more than he hated the king, so he was considered as a controllable enemy who would serve the king's purposes and could be shown where his own best interests lay.

In return for the papacy Philip asked for six favors from Clement, which included reconciliation between him and the Church, admission to communion for him and his favorites, taxation on the clergy, the destruction of the memory of his enemy Boniface VIII (which was the only one which Clement never fulfilled), and that his allies James and Peter Colonna be made cardinals. His sixth favor he kept secret, and this is believed by most historians to concern his assault against the Knights Templar.

Clement did not want to look like he was a puppet of Philip (though that was exactly what he was), and he could not stay in Rome because the political climate in Italy was dangerous for Frenchmen to say the least, so soon after the debacle that ended in Boniface VIII's death. That left only one logical choice: Avignon. It was a pleasant city in the early 14th century, just across the Rhone river right outside of French territory, technically under the jurisdiction of the Holy Roman Empire. He wound up staying in Avignon for the remainder of his reign, so for the next 70 or so years the seat of papal authority remained there, beginning the so-called "Babylonian Captivity", or the Avignon Papacy.

Military Expeditions

Edward I of England, due to his great grandfather Henry II's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, was Duke of Aquitaine and in that capacity was vassal to the King of France. By Philip's time, however, his domains in France were reduced to the duchy of Gascony. However, in 1293, a dispute over the French port town of La Rochelle (which also, coincidentally, was the location of a major naval base of the Knights Templar), gave Philip a pretext for annexing Gascony for himself. A war with France was no laughing matter for Edward, very different from the Scottish and Welsh insurrections he had had fought at the time, so he had the choice to either leave Gascony or fight for it. As Edward had just as high an opinion of his royal power as Philip did, he chose to fight.

Both France and England were in monetary difficulty at the time, and they both saw fit to levy taxes from the clergy so that they could fight each other. As previously mentioned, Pope Boniface VIII was incensed by this and threatened both of them with excommunication. As previously noted Philip browbeated his clergy into submission, and Edward made similar measures in his own country.

The war was costly for both nations, and by 1298 Edward sued for peace, as local insurrections by both Welsh princes and William Wallace in Scotland were beginning to take their toll. Philip agreed, allowing Edward to keep Gascony, and went on to punish Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders who broke his feudal oaths and allied with England during the war. He sent Charles de Valois to finish the work in Flanders, and by 1305 the Flemish were defeated, and Guy's son Robert was the new count of a much smaller county of Flanders.

The Fall of the Templars

One Philip's main motivations for crushing the Templars was financial, as his extreme measures of currency devaluation and high taxes were harming the French economy so much that the nation was close to rebellion. At one time, two men incited a large crowd to riot in Paris, and Philip was chased out of his palace and sought sanctuary in the Templars' Paris preceptory, where he remained for three days until the disturbance was quelled. Seeing the great wealth of the Templars with his own eyes probably strengthened his resolve for what he was going to do to them. The two ringleaders of the riot were captured and it turned out that they were renegade ex-Templars themselves, expelled from the Order for various mischief, who were later to provide much needed "evidence" when the trial of the Knights began. As previously noted, the Templars were also trying to establish a domain of their own on territory Philip laid claim to in the Languedoc in southern France. He also had personal reasons to dislike the Templars, as they had on numerous occasions slighted him, such as by blatantly refusing to make him an honorary member of the Order as they made Richard I of England a century before.

With the Pope now in his pocket, Philip now felt confident to act against the Knights Templar. Since the time of St. Louis suggestions were floating around to merge the orders of the Knights Templar with the Knights Hospitaller, and by 1305, with the Crusades in shambles, they were louder than ever. However, neither group wanted this to happen, least of all the Templars led by Jacques de Molay, especially as Philip had the audacity to suggest himself as head of the new unified order.

In 1306, Clement called the heads of both the Temple and the Hospital together to discuss a possible merger. The Grand Master of the Hospitallers, Foulques de Villaret, was unable to attend as he was in the middle of a major assault against the Turks in Rhodes. Jacques de Molay, however, was in their temporary base at Cyprus merely fending off attacks by Muslim pirates and so had no excuse not to attend. He had documents drafted vigorously opposing the merger, and returned to France with a fleet of 18 ships, carrying a substantial quantity of gold and silver to buy Philip's favor. However, these dealings led nowhere, as Philip had far more sinister plans for them. De Molay also first began hearing disquieting rumors about impropriety within his Order.

On October 1307, Guillame de Nogaret sent sealed orders to all of the other royal seneschals throughout France ordering the arrest of all the Templars. On Friday, October 13, with the efficiency of the Gestapo, the King's Men swiftly acted and nearly all of the Templars were arrested and charged with a variety of crimes ranging from heresy, blasphemy, and sodomy. Unfortunately for Philip, some Templars, notably those connected with the Order's Treasurer, somehow slipped through his net, and much of the wealth in the Templar Preceptories was never recovered. The great Templar fleet at La Rochelle also mysteriously disappeared. Some historians believe that these escaped Templars and their treasure sailed to Scotland, where Robert the Bruce gave them solace, and received their aid at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

In the meantime, the Inquisition of the Templars proceeded, with all variety of charges being made. Philip then began to work towards destroying the Templar Order internationally, where he met with varying degrees of success. He eventually convinced Clement to issue a papal bull, Vox in Excelso, in 1312 that officially dissolved the order (but without pronouncing on the order's guilt or innocence), and followed it up with Ad Providam a few months later that was to pass what few Templar holdings remained onto the Knights Hospitaller. More on the suppression of the Knights Templar and their trial should be on their node.

On March 18, 1314, after Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay recanted his confession, he and his right hand man Preceptor of Normandy Geoffrey de Charnay were both burned at the stake alive. Jacques de Molay's last words are in dispute, but some have said that he pronounced a curse on both Philip the Fair and Pope Clement V that they would join him in death within the year. The fact remains that Clement died of dysentery (or perhaps colon cancer) a month later on April 20, and King Philip himself died a few months later from a hunting "accident", on November 29, 1314. He was succeeded by his son, Louis X (the Stubborn).


Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, The Second Messiah

Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, Holy Blood, Holy Grail

Catholic Encyclopedia, "Benedict XI", http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02429c.htm

Catholic Encyclopedia, "Boniface VIII", http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02662a.htm

Catholic Encyclopedia, "Clement V", http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04020a.htm

Article on Philip IV at http://www.infoplease.com/cgi-bin/id/CE040631


http://orb.rhodes.edu/ textbooks/Muhlberger/late_edI.html

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