Philippe IV of France
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(B. 1268, 41 years old in 1309)
King of France (1283-)
Philippe IV is a cold and calculating person, who remains stonily indifferent even in the worst position of all. His reign is one of trouble and quarrel which lead to the division of France into many independent territories. The lack of money and qualified fighters are certainly the main reasons why Philippe did not succeed in governing a united country. The Crozada Coeli undermined the kingdom and the people’s faith in its monarch. The king learnt at his own expense that it is difficult and painful to attack the Church. And despite Philippe’s several attempts at restoring peace, the people become distant and prefer to serve new leaders whom they respect.
A stony-faced king
Philippe is given many nicknames during his reign. The most common is without a doubt “Le Bel” (the Fair), due to the king’s renowned great beauty. Some chroniclers of this era describe him as a tall and imposing man, having fine traits, a pale complexion and blond curls.
His coevals, however, also give him other nicknames, probably better suited to his personality. It is not unusual to read in chronicles of this era that absolutely nothing could shake king Philippe. His cold blue eyes would not look away from any difficulty. His wife’s death does not disturb him; neither does that of his children or his father. Even in the face of Charles de Valois’ betrayal, his own brother, he remained impassive.
In villages as in the court, the people call him “the stony-faced king” or the “iron king”. Unlike his grandfather, Louis IX, who was admired by all, Philippe is often feared and sometimes even hated. One of his critics and main opponent, Bernard Saisset, bishop of Pamiers, even says that “he is not a man, not even a beast. He is a statue, beautiful and made of marble, but still a statue”.
Philippe still has some admirers who see in his coldness and insensitivity, a practical spirit who refuses to let emotions guide his reason and influence important decisions. All kingdom business is managed in a well thought-out and level-headed way. No excess can be blamed on the king and to ensure this, he must keep a hard and apathetic attitude when appearing in public. However, even in an intimate environment, his family and his wife admit that Philippe does not let himself be carried away by heart-felt emotions.
The royal familyPhilippe III and his first wife, Isabelle d’Aragon who died when she fell off her horse while coming back from the Rückeroberung. His elder brother, Louis, is poisoned in 1276 when he is only twelve years old, making Philippe heir to the throne of France. In this case, the king’s second wife, Marie de Brabant, is suspected, but Philippe III takes no punitive action towards her and orders the execution of the young prince’s private tutor. Philippe IV is also Charles de Valois’ brother, a man who cherish the ambition of becoming king himself and who betrays France by declaring his earldom’s independence in 1302. The pope refuses to crown him and does not acknowledge him in his new duties.
Philippe IV marries Jeanne, Queen of Navarre, in 1284. This way, he binds the regions of Navarre and Champagne to the kingdom of France. From their union, seven children were born, four of them reach adulthood: Isabelle of France, who becomes the future queen of England after her wedding to Edward II, Louis le Hutin (the Quarreller), heir to the throne of France, Philippe le Long (the Tall), Count of Poitiers, and Charles, Count de La Marche.
Philippe is not particularly close to his children. He entrusts their education to private tutors, which was a custom in this era, and is not really concerned by their health or well-being. And when one of them dies, he does not cry over his grave as Saint Louis sometimes did. As for his relationship with his wife, some of his friends claim that they really love each other, but others find it hard to believe that such a cold man could have any kind of feelings for his queen. Nevertheless, they both reign over their domain without worrying about the other’s decisions and they rarely live in the same castle since Jeanne is in Navarre or Champagne most of the time where she frequently has urgent matters to tend to.
Philippe IV is only fifteen years old when his father mysteriously disappears in 1283. The castle is searched from top to bottom, followed by the whole kingdom. A surge of panic settles in the heart of the people. All of the king’s elderly advisors and servants are interrogated, some, tortured to death. Queen Marie is locked up. Already suspected of poisoning the crown prince a few years before, she does not live through this new accusation. A couple of days later, she is summoned to appear before a jury made up of nobles and condemned to death penalty for using witchcraft to cause the king’s disappearance. She is beheaded the next day, and her body is burnt.
The young Philippe is also interrogated. He seems to be feeling no sadness, which brings some people to suspect him of taking part in the crime. However, the accusations remain gossips that the humble people repeat on the street to sustain the scandal and the royal ministers do not pay attention to them. A few months later, Philippe is crowned in Reims.
Arm-wrestling with the pope
Since his election in 1280, the pope Bonifacius VIII was pretty quiet. However, after Charlemagne’s death and Philippe III’s disappearance, he declares himself superior to all kings of Europe, on both temporal and spiritual level, and he grants himself the same rights the late Imperator inter homines had. He then enters France accompanied by a small escort to summon Philippe IV, king of France since a short time only, to appear before a papal court of justice. He wishes to establish the king’s innocence in his father’s recent disappearance, or at least this is what he pretends, but chroniclers of this era claimed he had other, not so noble, intentions. Thus, according to Bernard Gui, “Bonifacius wanted nothing else than the late Philippe III’s throne itself, God rest his soul. Although his mouth spoke, his mind said he would find the king guilty”. He starts claiming royal duties as soon as he arrived in Lyon, on the border of the Holy Empire and France, where he settles down to act as regent. This way, he makes many decisions concerning the rights of French clergymen. He does not, however, dare to cross the border, afraid to alienate Philippe IV, but the damage is already done. Many other European sovereigns view the king of France’s problems unfavourably. Some disparage the situation, among them Friedrich II, Emperor of Sicilia.
As far as young Philippe is concerned, he is not prepared to accept a shared reign. In fact, having witnessed his father’s difficulties with the Inquisition and the papacy’s interference, he sure hopes to establish his independence from the Church. In his court, he surrounds himself with secular jurists who have proven themselves in numerous quarrels against clergymen. Among them are Guillaume de Nogaret, Enguerrand de Marigny and Pierre Flote. As a response to the pope’s actions, Philippe abolishes the general Inquisition instituted by his grandfather, Louis IX, and decides to chase the pontifical inquisitors away from the lands of France. He thus brings down the wrath of the pope upon himself and receives a bull to enjoin him to go back on his decision and that accuses him of not respecting the Church, and therefore God Himself.
Meanwhile, the pope is also quarrelling with Edward I whom he excommunicates in January 1284. He returns to Roma to gather an army and prepares an attack on England. For his part, Philippe starts rallying troops to face a possible attack from the pope on his lands. Moreover, he refuses to allow the pope to pass through France to get to England. A new conflict then arises and a papal bull, much more vehement than the first one, attacks Philippe’s reputation and threatens him of being excommunicated. The young king of France, who has had enough of this pope whom he finds narrow-minded and full of himself, becomes allied to his cousin, Edward, and promises to protect his northern neighbour from a possible invasion. A few months later, Philippe is also excommunicated.
Bonifacius calls for the population of France and England to rebel against their sovereigns whom he describes as heretical. He launches what he calls the Crozada Coeli (Heaven Crusade) which aims to accomplish God’s will on European lands and to subject the kings who do not respect the sacred power of the papacy. Seeing this, Philippe publishes a series of accusations against the pope, notably that he usurped the papal power, that he is a vile and cupid being who thinks only about power and money, that he is a sodomite, heretic and that he has bonds with demons. The people of France, becoming more and more suspicious of the Church and this new pope, supports its sovereign’s opinions and rallies behind him in his fight against the papacy.
A few months later, pontifical troops enter France. Despite the many angels among them, they are held in check at the border with the Holy Empire. All French warriors march towards Lyon to protect their kingdom. Nevertheless, there is no great battle: the small French troops, coming from all over, do not unite in a single army, but rather fight alone against pontifical forces, in a hurry to defend their own interests. Although they manage containing the angels’ outflanking, they do not win decisive victories and fail to repel their opponents.
A welcomed alliance
Unprepared to face these crusaders who keep flocking at his kingdom’s borders, Philippe asks Edward for help. However, the king of England already wages war against his lords who refuse to follow him to France, he cannot, therefore, help his cousin. The French monarch then turns to the emperor of Sicilia, Friedrich II, who communicates with him since the beginning of hostilities. The emperor opposed the proclamation of the pope a few years before and refuses to see the papacy mingle in politics of European kingdoms. Moreover, he has been attacked sporadically for some time by inquisitors who accuse him of taking in fleaudians in his empire. He finally decides to become allies with Philippe IV and marches on the Papal States with his army, which forces the pontifical sovereign to divide his troops to protect his own territories. The Templars, helped by a few Italian crusaders, continue to fight in France while the main part of angelic forces goes south to face the Sicilian army.
The French subsequently gain strength on the battlefield and carry out small raids against the enemy. Then, the earl of Provence, Charles II d’Anjou, takes the Templar forces from the rear, close to its borders with France. The Grand Master as no other choice than beating a retreat.
During a few months, raids happen on both sides of the border between Italia and Provence. Then in June 1287, the French and Provençal armies enter Lombardia. They march towards Roma but are stopped in Genua, where the citizens refuse to surrender and oppose a fierce defence to the royal troops. Philippe IV’s generals then decide to besiege the city, which resists on its own for several weeks.
In August, the Templars, established north of the city, arrive as back-up. They then circled Philippe IV’s troops, but their small number prevents them from carrying a real attack. Cut from their supplies, the French fight twice as hard and enter the city a few days later, but find themselves in utter helplessness when they end up being besieged in turn.
Nevertheless, Philippe’s troops manage to break the Templars’ siege and leave the city. Weakened, they withdraw to the Provençal border and wait for reinforcements. They remain in Provence for the whole winter.
In January 1288, the Grand Master of the Order of the Temple dies in his sleep. Many suspect poisoning, but it is impossible to prove that there was a crime. A new man is elected to lead the famous order: Jacques de Molay.
Molay’s ideals differ from those of the pope and, a few months later, a conflict arises between both men. After numerous negotiations and threats, the Order of the Temple breaks its alliance with Roma and dissociates from the papacy. The Templars withdraw to their many domains in all Europe and leave a clear field to the French who make the most of it.
Philippe IV’s troops attack Genua in 1289 for a second time. The inhabitants fight vigorously, once again, but there are too few of them to resist a long time to the French forces and they capitulate a few weeks later. Once more, the pope divides his army and this, despite repeated warnings from his general, the Archistratege Michael. He sends angels contingents in Lombardia to face Philippe IV, but this time, the French are superior in number. They win most of the confrontations taking place during the following year. They finally reach the gates of Roma, where they wait a few weeks for Friedrich II’s arrival, who also managed to drive the enemies back to the Papal States. The surviving crusaders all retreated behind the walls of Roma.
The Holy Seat
The siege of the city of Roma lasts five weeks. When the Franco-Sicilian troops manage to enter the pontifical city as well, the carnage is complete. The buildings are sacked and burnt. All survivors are exterminated, secular or ecclesiastic, angel or human. The pope is murdered in the Roma cathedral, on the pontifical throne. Streets and alleyways are flooded with blood.
Before leaving, Philippe hands the city government to Friedrich II, as was agreed when they ratified their alliance. The king of France still takes with him many treasures piled up in the pontifical palace. The most important of them all certainly are the throne of the pontifical sovereign as well as the tiara and the ring which represent the papal power.
Returning to France, Philippe must respond to a few lords’ provocations who question the legitimacy of his reign now that the pope cannot lift the excommunication. They claim his kingdom, arguing that since he is not recognised by the Church, he does not have rights over his lands. Philippe therefore hurriedly assembles a council of cardinal electors in charge of finding a new pope. He himself proposes a candidate: a young clergyman who does not even have the status of cardinal. Moreover, because things are not moving as fast as he would like them to, he locks the cardinals up in a room where they are fed only bread and water, and this, until they ratified his choice. Three days later, Clemens V becomes pope.
The king of France settles him in Avignon where he installs the throne brought back from Roma. He orders the construction of a palace and hands the rights over this land to the new pontifical sovereign. Clemens V’s first pontifical bull lifts Philippe IV’s excommunication as well as Friedrich II’s. It does not, however, mention Edward I. Philippe IV’s status of king is confirmed and agitators are imprisoned a few weeks.
To make up with the Templars, Clemens V renounces the angels and denies them access to Avignon. Some of them are even arrested and imprisoned for witchcraft and treason against the Church. In spite of it all, Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the order, remains quiet and discreet. Reconciliation is then put on hold.
In 1292, mad with rage against Clemens V and Philippe IV, the Archangel Michael invades Lengadòc, well located between France and Avignon. He is joined by numerous troops of angels who remained true to him and encounters few difficulties in subjecting the territory. Philippe attempts at his best to react to this attack, but the Crozada Coeli weakened his military strengths. Moreover, after a few months, Michael manages to earn the respect and admiration of his new people who then rejects French soldiers, attacking even the garrisons posted at the borders.
Then, a few years later, it is Richard Coeur de Lion’s (Lionheart) turn to appear in Aquitània. The people, who never liked French royalty, pledge him allegiance. The lords are placed under his protection and are ready to fight French or English troops, it is of no importance to them as long as they regain the independence they had in the days of Aliénor. Once again, Philippe does not manage to win the battle against the people’s will and the weakening of his army is far from helping him. France sees itself cut from two rich and thriving regions, while other lords are unhappy with Philippe’s government and wait for an occasion to rebel against the crown.
Canonization of Louis IX
In 1296, Philippe, in an attempt to calm down the worked up people, asks the pope to canonize Louis IX who is respected and admired by all for his piety and his sense of justice. Clemens V complies with the king’s request and, after a few days of proceedings, Louis becomes Saint Louis. Philippe then organises great celebrations that lightens the souls of his subjects and makes them forget their disagreements.
His happiness is short-lived since a few days after the official canonisation, Philippe comes across Saint Louis in the palace corridors, a night when he is unable to sleep. This apparition is distressing for the king, who, for the first time during his reign, reacts spontaneously and without thinking. He immediately locks his grandfather up in the castle’s attic. Nevertheless, he sits down afterwards to think out the situation.
He finally decides to have him looked after by a deaf-mute who brings him his food through a small hole in the door of his room. He denies access to the attic to anyone who does not have royal permission and subtly destroys every portrait of the saint king in the castle.
Then, after a few months, he feels remorse and goes to the attic to talk with his grandfather. Louis however refuses to speak a single word. Afterwards, Philippe visits him everyday and tries to make him talk without much success. After several years of patience and efforts, the French monarch manages to talk with his grandfather. Once the ice is broken and the blame pinned, a friendship develops between both men who find themselves looking forward to moments when they discuss about the kingdom and its problems. The king sees as saving these moments when he converses with his grandfather and learns from his experience. He flatly refuses however to free him, afraid he would lose his power to the hands of this great resurrected monarch.
Reconciliation with England
It is only in 1304 that Philippe accepts to follow Louis’ advice and to reconcile with England or especially with Edward I who refused to help him during the Crozada Coeli. Both men have enough problems in their own kingdom without having to fight between each other. To seal the agreement, a wedding is organised between Isabelle of France and Edward II of England. Moreover, Philippe asks the pope to lift Edward’s excommunication and to recognise him as king of England, which Clemens V, nicknamed “royal barbet” by his critics, accepts uncomplainingly.
The rich Flemish merchants
To fill the kingdom’s empty coffers, Philippe IV targets the rich merchant cities of Flandre. He convinces the pope to condemn all cities tolerating fleaudians within its walls. Since almost all Flemish merchants hire these creatures, especially ogres and goblins, most of Flemmish cities find themselves condemned by the pope, which allows Philippe to impose them excessive taxes. The merchants strongly react to this new measure. They are displeased by those taxes that ruin many of them. During the following years, some cities are the scene of small revolts, but they are quickly repressed by the king of France’s efficient troops.
For a few years, France’s finances slowly increase. However, in 1297, the Duke of Flandre, Gwijde van Dampierre, decides to support the merchants impoverished by the king, and soon, a great part of the dukedom sides with him. Many French diplomats are massacred in Flemish cities, particularly at night, in their sleep.
Philippe assembles troops he can finally afford with the kingdom’s new funds. Reluctantly, since he wanted to use them to take back Lengadòc and Aquitània, he sends them to Flandre. The royal warriors suppress, once again, the Flemish revolt. Under the authority of Robert II d’Artois, the French army crushes the enemy militia during the Battle of Furnes and captures the duke of Flandre. Philippe leaves small garrisons to guard several cities of the dukedom and peace is restored. He also appoints a new governor in charge of making important decisions in the dukedom.
The France of knights
In 1302, things go wrong in Flandre, once again. Merchants found charismatic leaders within Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck. Moreover, the young Willem van Gulik terrifies the French borders by carrying out small deadly raids in peasant villages, wishing to avenge his imprisoned grandfather, the Duke of Flandre, this way.
Led by their new leaders, the burgess merchants massacre all French inhabitants in the city. Men and women, soldiers and citizens, even children are murdered in their sleep. Only the governor and his escort manage to flee the scene. The next day, Philippe assemble an army led once more by Robert II d’Artois. The flower of the French chivalry joins the royal troops. It is a pretentious and impetuous group that march on Flandre lands to attack rebellious merchant cities.
A few weeks later, two armies meet near Kortrijk, an uneven field filled with obstacles. The Flemish militia is made up of well-equipped and well-trained men who prepared for years to wage war, especially in these days of trouble and revolt. However, the French knights are not intimidated by these opponents who they judge as inferior or by the field obstacles which make them laugh. Robert d’Artois, finding it hard to control his impatient knights, makes the same mistake his grandfather made in Mansourah and attacks the militia without further due. The ditches stop the knights from charging efficiently and many of them are mired before they even reach the opponents. The Flemish crush the helpless French and massacre the knights caught in the ditches, piled on one another. Many great French lords and fighters are killed in this decisive battle.
Philippe remains calm, but many claim his cold eyes were flashing with anger when he heard the news. The Battle of Kortrijk -or of the Golden Spurs (a sarcasm regarding the impetuous knights)-, changes the face of the kingdom of France. The cities of Flandre proclaim their independence, each one of them is now governed by a council of rich merchants, as in Lombardia.
However, it is not over for Philippe since a few weeks later, the Count of Bar, who had been stirring up a revolt for many years now, also declares his county’s independence and makes fun of the king when he is unable to send an army worthy of the name to stop him. He easily crushes the weak royal forces made up of very young, inexperienced men. He then marches on Champagne where Jeanne de Navarre attempts as best she can to fight back. The queen must, in the end, flee to Paris and ask for her husband’s protection, helpless in his misfortune.
A disloyal brother
To crown it all, during the next month, Charles de Valois, who always wanted to be king, declares the independence of his earldom of Valois and Anjou and is crowned in Reims by the region’s bishop. Rumour has it that he would have forced the man of God to crown him by threatening him with his sword. The pope Clemens V then writes a papal bull in which he enjoins him to retract and to quickly go to his brother to ask for forgiveness and renew his allegiance. He accuses him of not respecting God’s choice. However, Charles de Valois argues that the king of France was unable to protect his first born son who died in Brugge during the merchants’ attack and that he cannot, now, avenge it. According to him, this event allows him to break the oath he pledged to the king since he did not hold his part of the deal. Philippe’s legists look into the case, but Valois does not wait to hear their verdict before strengthening his States’ borders and seize many lands dividing Valois and Anjou.
This event is a devastating blow to Philippe’s popularity in France. If the king can accept that men such as Henri de Bar, who never appreciated the royal family, rebel in such hard days, what his brother did to him comes as a slap in the face. He takes refuge in a provincial castle to think. Then, when he returns, he goes to the attic more often than ever to try and find a solution in company with his best advisor: Saint Louis.
However, many of his critics see in this attitude the king’s attempt to escape his responsibilities. The sovereign is indeed overtaken by the last events, but once more, in public, the stony-faced king shows no emotion. He remains impassive, haughty, true to character. No outburst of violence or rage, only calm, considerate movements to retaliate to this new affront. He sends a small army to capture and imprison his brother. Of course, this weak demonstration of strength does not manage to scare Charles de Valois who cuts the messenger’s hand off and sends it back to his brother. As for the young French warriors, they are all massacred in front of Crépy-en-Valois.
Division and civil war
Charles de Valois’ independence urges many other lords to act the same. Breizh, whose lord changed his allegiance more than once already, becomes independent as well. Then, part of Artois follows Robert III in his rebellion against royalty, while the other part prefers to support Mahaut, which creates a civil war within the county. As for Bourgogne, it is given the earldom of Bourgogne’s protection, former territory of the Holy Roman Empire, but is now independent.
A small part of France remains true to Philippe. However, incessant wars happen on the kingdom’s borders. The rebelled lords carry out raids in the richest lands of France, which undermines the moral of the inhabitants of the frontier regions. Then, internal conflicts soon arise within the new kingdoms, allowing Philippe to take a moment to catch his breath and to focus on the reconstruction of his own defences and finance.
A crack in the stone
Philippe is then tempted to free his grandfather and give him control over the kingdom. The stony-face threatens to break at any time. He can no longer control the wrath ravaging his heart.