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Philip IV (1268-1314) The Fair

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The rule of Philip the Fair (1285-1314) played an important role in the process of the decline of the political power of the feudal lords and the strengthening of monarchism in France. He continued the work of his father and grandfather, but the conditions of his epoch, the peculiarities of character and intrigue of court councilors at times led to the manifestation of aggression and cruelty in the policy of the king. The rule of Philip strengthened the influence of France in Europe. Many of his actions, from the war with Flanders to the execution of the Templars, were aimed at replenishing the country’s budget and strengthening the army.

Litigation with the English king

Philip’s advisors, educated in the tradition of Roman law, always tried to find legitimate grounds for the king’s demands and harassment and invested the most important diplomatic disputes in the form of legal proceedings. The entire rule of Philip is full of quarrels, “processes”, diplomatic covetousness of the most brazen properties.

So, having confirmed possession behind the king of England Edward I, after a series of cavils, summoned him to court, knowing that Edward, who had fought with the Scots just at that time, could not appear. Edward, fearing war with Philip, sent an embassy to him and for forty days allowed him to occupy the Guyenne. Philip occupied the duchy and did not want, by condition, to leave him. Began diplomatic negotiations, which led to the outbreak of hostilities; but in the end Philip gave up the Guyenne so that the English king still took the oath of allegiance and recognized himself as his vassal. It happened in 1295 – 1299. The military actions against England ended because the British allies, the Flemish, pursuing their own interests, began to disturb the north of the kingdom.

War for Flanders

Philip IV managed to win over the Flemish urban population; the Count of Flanders remained almost alone in front of the invading French army and was captured, while Flanders was annexed to France. In the same year of 1301, unrest began among the subjugated Flemish, who were oppressed by the French governor Chatillon and other appointees of Philip. The uprising swept the whole country, and in the Battle of the Golden Spurs (1302) the French were utterly defeated. After that, with varying success, the war lasted for more than two years; only in 1305 the Flemish were forced to cede part of their territory to Philip, recognize the vassal dependence of the rest of the land, extradite about 3,000 citizens for execution, destroy the fortresses, etc. The war with Flanders was delayed mainly because Philip the Fair’s attention was distracted by the struggle with Pope Boniface VIII.

Avignon papal captivity

In the early years of his pontificate, Boniface VIII was quite friendly to the French king, but they soon fell out. In the fall of 1296, Boniface issued a bull, Clericis laicos, which categorically forbade the clergy to pay taxes to the laity, and the laity to demand such payments from the clergy without the special permission of the Roman curia. Philip, who was always in need of money, saw in this bull damage to his economic interests and direct opposition to the doctrine that the clergy was obliged to dominate in the Paris court that the clergy was required to help the needs of their country with money.

In response to the bull, Philip the Fair forbade the export of gold and silver from France, thus, lost a significant source of income, and this made him yield: Boniface issued a new bull, canceling the previous one, and even canonized the grandfather of the king, Louis IX , even as a sign of special favor.

This pliability did not lead to lasting peace with Philip, who was seduced by the wealth of the French church. The legists who surrounded the king, especially Guillaume Nogaret and Pierre Dubois, advised the king to remove entire categories of criminal cases from the jurisdiction of church justice. In 1300, relations between Rome and France became very tense. Bishop Pamiersky Bernard Sesse, sent by Boniface to Philip as a special legate, behaved very boldly: like many natives of Languedoc, he hated the northern French. The king began a lawsuit against him and demanded that the pope deprive Bernard of his priesthood; the bishop was accused not only of insulting the king, but also of treason and other crimes.

In December 1301, the pope replied to Philip by accusing him of encroaching on spiritual power and demanding him to his court. In the Ausculta fili bulle he emphasized the fullness of papal power and its advantage over any secular power. The King according to legend, burnt this bull. Nobles and city representatives expressed unconditional support for royal politics. The clergymen appealed to the pope with a request to allow them not to go to Rome, where he called them to the cathedral, which was preparing against Philip. Boniface did not agree, but the priests did not go to Rome because of the royal ban.

At the cathedral, which took place in the fall of 1302, in the Unam Sanctam bull, Boniface again confirmed his opinion about the supremacy of spiritual power over the secular. In 1303, he freed part of the lands subject to Philip from the vassal oath, and the king, in response, convened a meeting of high clergy and secular barons, before whom Nogaret accused Boniface of all sorts of evil deeds.

After that, Nogaret with a small retinue went to Italy to arrest the pope, who had deadly enemies there who greatly facilitated the task of the French agent. Papa went to Avignon, not knowing that the people of the city were ready to change him. Nogare and his companions freely entered the city, entered the palace and behaved rudely, almost using violence (there is a version about a slap in the face of the pope). Two days later, the mood of the people of Avignon changed, and they released the pope. A few days later, Boniface VIII died, and after 10 months his successor, Benedict XI, died. This death was very helpful for the French king, so rumors accused him of poisoning.

The new pope, the Frenchman Clement V, elected in 1304 after a nine-month electoral struggle, moved his residence to Avignon. This city did not submit to Philip, but was under the influence of the French government.

Order of the Templars

The beginning of this confrontation, which claimed many lives, as contemporaries noted, laid the case. King Philip the Fair was reported that a man was awaiting his audience, awaiting a death sentence. He claimed that he possessed information of state importance, but he could only communicate them personally to the king. This person was eventually admitted. He said that when he was sitting on death row together with a certain convicted person, he heard the following from his confession (at that time in Europe there was a judicial measure not to allow people who had committed particularly serious crimes to participate in church communion, therefore such criminals often confessed their sins before execution ). This one was a member of the Order of the Templars and spoke about the grand conspiracy of this order against secular monarchies. Possessing huge financial opportunities, the Order gradually, with the help of loans, as well as bribes, took control of almost half of the nobility and noble families of France, Italy and Spain, actually creating their own state in other states. Also convicted, argued that based initially as a Christian, the Order had long since retreated from Christianity. At their meetings the Templars (including the witness himself) were engaged in spiritualism and fortune telling. The members of the order when joining it spat on the cross, out loud renounced the authority of the church over themselves.

After listening to the scammer, Philip ordered to pardon him and “reward with a purse of coins for valuable information.”

Having contacted Rome, Phillip secretly with several people entrusted to him developed an operation to arrest members of the order. The population as a whole had a negative attitude towards knights, their estates and castles traditionally enjoyed notoriety. For example, the peasants of the southern provinces accused the Templars of stealing girls and young boys in order to get involved in orgies that were allegedly carried out by the knights of the order.

On numerous courts, which took place after the arrest, “details” came to light, which excited the public opinion of Europe. In addition to the open disobedience of state power in the person of the king by the heads of the order and, above all, his master Jacques de Molay, numerous facts of tax evasion, financial frauds with real estate (mainly with land in the southern provinces), usury, giving bribes, speculative price increases for products in lean years, the purchase of stolen goods and many other crimes, the bulk of the evidence on which was collected by the royal judges using the usual at the time in court proceedings torture.

The order was liquidated and banned, his property – confiscated. But many researchers believe that not all the wealth of the Templars was able to track and withdraw. It is believed that a significant part of the money was exported outside of France (primarily to Spain and Italy). Given the short period for which the Order was able to settle in Spain, this version can be considered plausible.

Pope rather weakly insisted on the accusation (given the severity of misconduct from the point of view of Catholic dogma), many Templars evaded responsibility in the provinces, where the pope or the Italian nobility had great influence. Perhaps the papal curia was their borrower.

Financial activities

The main nerve of all the activities of Philip was a constant desire to fill the empty royal treasury. For this, two times (1313 and 1314) General States and separate city representatives were convened; for this, various posts were sold and rented, violent loans were made from cities, goods were subject to high taxes and the estate was minted a low-grade coin. The population of the country, especially those not engaged in trade, lived very poorly.

The golden coins produced by him contained a lot of copper, and when the gilded surface was quickly erased, the foreign element first appeared on the convex part of the coin, that is, on the king’s nose.

In 1306, Philip was even forced to flee from Paris for a time, until the popular rage over the royal ordinance about the maximum price passed.

The administration was highly centralized; in particular, it made itself felt in the provinces, where feudal traditions were still strong. The rights of the feudal lords were significantly limited (for example, in the minting of coins). The king was not loved for too greedy economic policies.

Philip’s energetic foreign policy regarding England, Germany, Savoie and all frontier possessions, often leading to an increase in French possessions, was his only achievement, which was appreciated by his contemporaries and subsequent generations.


Philip IV the Fair died on November 29, 1314 in the 47th year of his life at the place of his birth – Fontainebleau, 25 days after the accident that happened to him while hunting in the forest of Pont-Saint-Maxanns. Many attributed his death to the curse of the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, who, before his execution on March 18, 1314 in Paris, foretold Philip’s death in less than a year. But most likely, the blame for everything was an extensive stroke. Buried in the Basilica of Saint-Denis Abbey near Paris. The successor was his son Louis X the Stubborn.


F. Kurganov. The struggle of Pope Boniface VIII with the French king Philip IV the Beautiful
Tarle E.V. Philip IV Handsome // Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary
Dominique Poirel. Philippe le Bel. Perrin, collection: Passé Simple, Paris
Sylvie Le Clech. Philippe IV le Bel et les derniers Capétiens. Tallandie -3
Georges Bordonove. Philippe le Bel, roi de fer. Le Grand livre du mois
Joseph Strayer. The reign of Philip the Fair. 1980
Favier, Jean. Philippe le bel
Boutaric. La France sous Philippe le Bel
Jolly. Philippe le Bel.
B. Zeller. Philippe le Bel et ses trois fils

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