Debt as a Driving Force

Philip IV of France (born in Fontainebleau in 1268, the second son of Philip III. His mother (Isabella of Aragon) died when he was three and his stepmother, Marie de Brabant, allegedly preferred her own children to Philip and his brothers. It is even thought Marie de Brabant killed his elder brother by poison, but she was acquitted. No doubt he was not a happy child.

He grew to be tall, blonde and handsome (hence the nickname ‘Fair’) but aloof. 

Philip was said to be good at getting his own way and could be terrifying to those who crossed him.

Philip relied on skillful civil servants, such as Guillaume de Nogaret and Enguerrand de Marigny, to govern the kingdom rather than on his barons. Philip and his advisors were instrumental in the transformation of France from a feudal country to a centralized state. Philip, who sought an uncontested monarchy, compelled his vassals by wars and restricted feudal usages. His ambitions made him highly influential in European affairs. His goal was to place his relatives on foreign thrones. Princes from his house ruled in Naples and Hungary. He tried and failed to make another relative the Holy Roman Emperor. He began the long advance of France eastward by taking control of scattered fiefs. By virtue of his marriage with Joan I of Navarre, he was also Philip I, King of Navarre from 1284 to 1305. He briefly ruled the County of Champagne in right of his wife (jure uxoris) although after his accession as king in 1285 the county remained under the sole governance of his wife until 1305, and then fell to his son, Louis until 1314.

Edward I as Duke of Aquitaine was a vassal of the French King. He was in his fifties and Philip was in his twenties. Philip seemed to want to cause trouble for the elder man, so a raid by Gascon sailors in 1294 gave Philip the opportunity to go to war with England. Edward I sent his brother to dissuade Philip from war. Philip deceived the English over the terms for peace, one of which was he would send a token army to Aquitaine. In fact Philip sent a large army to the Duchy and would not give Edward safe conduct to go to Gascony and defend his interests. Edward renounced his allegiance to the French King and war broke out between both countries. 

Eventually a peace treaty of 1303 ended hostilities. It had unforeseen ramifications. Part of the treaty involved Philip’s daughter Isabella marrying Edward’s son and heir, the future Edward II. This led to a period of peace between the two countries but also gave their son Edward III a claim to the French throne, one of the major causes of the Hundred Years’ War.

To further strengthen the monarchy, Philip tried to control the French clergy and entered in conflict with Pope Boniface VIII. Pope Boniface could not gain respect from King Philip that he was rightfully Pope, and the King demanded he be replaced, the Pope responded by excommunication of the French King in 1303, but before it could be carried out, Philip arrived with troops and two recently deposed Colonnade cardinals and their relatives. They broke into the papal palace at Anagni and surrounded him. He shouted back at them and challenged them to kill him, but the troops backed off and citizens chased them out of the town. But the experience left the Pope distraught and a broken man. He died a month later. His successor was Benedict XI who only lived nine months as Pope, and so began the arguments as to who should be his successor.

The Conclave were divided between those outraged at how the French King had treated Boniface VIII and those who wanted reconciliation with France. They were in deadlock for eleven months, until the anti-French group split and some allied themselves with the reconciliation group.

The French made their own countryman Pope, Bertrand de Got, as Clement V in 1305, which is the same year the Queen of France died in childbirth. Philip and Joan’ s first child Margaret was born 1288 and died 1294. Blanche was born 1290 and she died 1294. Sons Louis X of France lived from 1289 to 1316. Philip V of France lived 1293 to 1322. Charles IV of France lived 1294 to 1328 and daughter Isabella, who married Edward II of England lived 1295 to 1358.

In 1306, Philip the Fair expelled the Jews from France – because he was in debt to them.

De Got had a close relationship with Philip and had never been a cardinal, but was a Bologna-trained lawyer and known for his diplomatic abilities.

In 1306, Philip made Clement dissolve the Knights Templar, a military order dedicated to the crusade. The Knights Templar were a religious order of unmarried men, formed around A.D. 1119 to defend the Kingdom of Jerusalem and protect Christian pilgrims during the Crusades. Over the next two centuries, Christians donated their land and their money to the order (as was common with religious societies), making the knights powerful financiers.

Against his better judgement, Clement V issued a Papal Bull which granted the lands of the Templars to the Knights Hospitalier, also known as the Knights of St John of Malta, and dissolved the Knights Templar, which took effect wherever they were. Thus in England and Scotland, they were not arrested but disbanded.

In 1307, Friday 13th October, Philip had members of the order of the Knights Templar (to whom he was in debt and believed them to be as a “state within the state”) arrested, many tortured to confess heresy, then burned at the stake.

Philip had now written off his debt to the Jews and Knights Templar.

Clement was already living in France and, due to the conflict in Italy, suggested the transfer of the papal court to the enclave of Avignon, which Clement chose. It was then the Kingdom of Aries, part of the Roman Empire, one of the Papal States, subject to the Kings of Sicily. It was closer to Europe and the sea, unlike Rome.

From Clement on, the papacy belonged to France and carried out the will of succeeding monarchs whilst it remained in Avignon. All the successors of Clement were French until the papacy moved back to Rome.

7 years after the Knights of the Templar had been burned at the stake:

Clement V died 20th April, 1314. The Pope’s body was placed in a church overnight and some said the church caught fire and the body turned to ashes, a sign of the curse of the Grand Master of the Knights Templar as he burned at the stake.

Philip died, aged 46, of a stroke whilst hunting in Fontainbleau, his birthplace, in November 1314. Rumours circulated that his sudden death was God’s revenge on his destruction of the Knights Templar.

Much has been made of the link with Knights Templar becoming a secret society, perhaps morphing into the Freemasons, but that could be because the Freemasons put that rumour about themselves. (See

About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers. In 1998 I co-wrote Millennium Countdown (US)/ A Business Guide to the Year 2000 (UK) see
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