Philip IV of France
Philip IV (April–June 1268 – 29 November 1314), called Philip the Fair (French: Philippe le Bel), was King of France from 1285 to 1314. By virtue of his marriage with Joan I of Navarre, he was also King of Navarre as Philip I from 1284 to 1305, as well as Count of Champagne. Although Philip was known as handsome, hence the epithet le Bel, his rigid and inflexible personality gained him (from friend and foe alike) other nicknames, such as the Iron King (French: le Roi de fer). His fierce opponent Bernard Saisset, bishop of Pamiers, said of him: "he is neither man nor beast. He is a statue."[a]
Philip relied on skilful civil servants, such as Guillaume de Nogaret and Enguerrand de Marigny, to govern the kingdom rather than on his nobles. Philip and his advisors were instrumental in the transformation of France from a feudal country to a centralized state. The king, 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.
The most notable conflicts of Philip's reign include a dispute with the English over King Edward I's fiefs in southwestern France, and a war with the Flemish, who had rebelled against French royal authority and humiliated Philip at the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302. The war with the Flemish resulted in Philip's ultimate victory with which he received a significant portion of Flemish cities, which were added to the crown lands along with a vast sum of money. In 1306, Philip expelled the Jews from France, and in 1307 he annihilated the order of the Knights Templar. He was in debt to both groups and saw them as a "state within the state". To further strengthen the monarchy, Philip tried to take control of the French clergy, leading to a violent conflict with Pope Boniface VIII. This conflict resulted in the transfer of the papal court to the enclave of Avignon in 1309.
His final year saw a scandal amongst the royal family, known as the Tour de Nesle affair, in which Philip's three daughters-in-law were accused of adultery. His three sons were successively kings of France: Louis X, Philip V, and Charles IV. Their deaths without surviving sons of their own would compromise the future of the French royal house, which until then seemed secure, precipitating a succession crisis that would eventually lead to the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453).
A member of the House of Capet, Philip was born in the medieval fortress of Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne) to the future Philip III, the Bold, and his first wife, Isabella of Aragon. He was the second of four sons born to the couple. His father was the heir apparent of France at that time, being the eldest son of King Louis IX (better known as St. Louis).
In August 1270, when Philip was two years old, his grandfather died while on Crusade, his father became king, and his elder brother Louis became heir apparent. Only five months later, in January 1271, Philip's mother died after falling from a horse; she was pregnant with her fifth child at the time and had not yet been crowned queen beside her husband. A few months later, one of Philip's younger brothers, Robert, also died. Philip's father was finally crowned king at Rheims on 15 August 1271. Six days later, he married again; Philip's step-mother was Marie, daughter of the duke of Brabant.
In May 1276, Philip's elder brother Louis died, and the eight year old Philip became heir apparent. It was suspected that Louis had been poisoned, and that his stepmother, Marie of Brabant, had instigated the murder. One reason for these rumours was the fact that the queen had given birth to her own first son the month Louis died. However, both Philip and his surviving full brother Charles lived well into adulthood and raised large families of their own.
After the unsuccessful Aragonese Crusade against Peter III of Aragon, which ended in October 1285, Philip may have negotiated an agreement with Peter for the safe withdrawal of the Crusader army. This pact is attested to by Catalan chroniclers. Joseph Strayer points out that such a deal was probably unnecessary, as Peter had little to gain from provoking a battle with the withdrawing French or angering the young Philip, who had friendly relations with Aragon through his mother.
Philip married Queen Joan I of Navarre (1271–1305) on 16 August 1284. The two were affectionate and devoted to each other and Philip refused to remarry after Joan's death in 1305, despite the great political and financial rewards of doing so. The primary administrative benefit of the marriage was Joan's inheritance of Champagne and Brie, which were adjacent to the royal demesne in Ile-de-France, and thus effectively were united to the king's own lands, expanding his realm. The annexation of wealthy Champagne increased the royal revenues considerably, removed the autonomy of a large semi-independent fief and expanded royal territory eastward. Philip also gained Lyon for France in 1312.
Navarre remained in personal union with France, beginning in 1284 under Philip and Joan, for 44 years. The Kingdom of Navarre in the Pyrenees was poor but had a degree of strategic importance. When in 1328 the Capetian line went extinct, the new Valois king, Philip VI, attempted to permanently annex the lands to France, compensating the lawful claimant, Joan II of Navarre, senior heir of Philip IV, with lands elsewhere in France. However, pressure from Joan II's family led to Phillip VI surrendering the land to Joan in 1329, and the rulers of Navarre and France were again different individuals.
After marrying Joan I of Navarre, becoming Philip I of Navarre, Philip ascended the French throne at the age of 17. He was crowned on 6 January, in 1286 in Reims. As king, Philip was determined to strengthen the monarchy at any cost. He relied, more than any of his predecessors, on a professional bureaucracy of legalists. To the public he kept aloof, and left specific policies, especially unpopular ones, to his ministers; as such he was called a "useless owl" by his contemporaries, among them Bishop Saisset. His reign marks the transition in France from a charismatic monarchy – which could all but collapse in an incompetent reign – to a more bureaucratic kingdom, a move, under a certain historical reading, towards modernity.
In 1293, following a naval incident between the English and the Normans, Philip summoned Edward to the French court. The English king sought to negotiate the matter via ambassadors sent to Paris, but they were turned away with a blunt refusal. Philip addressed Edward as a duke, a vassal and nothing more, despite the international implications of the relationship between England and France, and not an internal matter involving Philip's French vassals.
Edward next attempted to use family connections to achieve what open politics had not. He sent his brother Edmund Crouchback, who was Philip's cousin as well as his step-father-in-law, in attempts to negotiate with the French royal family and avert war. Additionally, Edward had by that time become betrothed by proxy to Philip's sister Margaret, and, in the event of the negotiations being successful, Edmund was to escort Margaret back to England for her wedding to Edward.
An agreement was indeed reached; it stated that Edward would voluntarily relinquish Gascony to Philip as a sign of submission in his capacity as the duke of Aquitaine. In return, Philip would forgive Edward and restore Gascony after a grace period. In the matter of the marriage, Philip drove a hard bargain based partially on the difference in age between Edward and Margaret; it was agreed that the province of Gascony would be retained by Philip in return for agreeing to the marriage. The date of the wedding was also put off until the formality of sequestering and re-granting the French lands back to Edward was completed.
But Edward, Edmund and the English had been deceived. The French had no intention of returning the land to the English monarch. Edward kept up his part of the deal and turned over his continental estates to the French. However, Philip used the pretext that the English king had refused his summons in order to strip Edward of all his possessions in France, thereby initiating hostilities with England.
The outbreak of hostilities with England in 1294 was the inevitable result of the competitive expansionist monarchies, triggered by a secret Franco-Scottish pact of mutual assistance against Edward I; inconclusive campaigns for the control of Gascony, southwest of France were fought 1294–1298 and 1300–1303. Philip gained Guienne but due to subsequent revolts was later forced to return it to Edward. The search for income to cover military expenditures set its stamp on Philip's reign and his reputation at the time.
Pursuant to the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1303, the marriage of Philip's daughter Isabella to the Prince of Wales, Edward I's heir, was celebrated at Boulogne, 25 January 1308[why?] was meant to seal a peace; instead it would produce an eventual English claimant to the French throne itself, and the Hundred Years' War.
Philip suffered a major embarrassment when an army of 2,500 noble men-at-arms (knights and squires) and 4,000 infantry he sent to suppress an uprising in Flanders was defeated in the Battle of the Golden Spurs near Kortrijk on 11 July 1302. Philip reacted with energy to the humiliation and the Battle of Mons-en-Pévèle followed two years later, which ended in a decisive French victory. Consequently, in 1305, Philip forced the Flemish to accept a harsh peace treaty; the peace exacted heavy reparations and humiliating penalties, and added to the royal territory the rich cloth cities of Lille, Douai, and Bethune, sites of major cloth fairs. Béthune, first of the Flemish cities to yield, was granted to Mahaut, Countess of Artois, whose two daughters, to secure her fidelity, were married to Philip's two sons.
Philip had various contacts with the Mongol power in the Middle East, including reception at the embassy of the Uyghur monk Rabban Bar Sauma, originally from the Yuan dynasty of China. Bar Sauma presented an offer of a Franco-Mongol alliance with Arghun of the Mongol Ilkhanate in Baghdad. Arghun was seeking to join forces between the Mongols and the Europeans, against their common enemy the Muslim Mamluks. In return, Arghun offered to return Jerusalem to the Christians, once it was re-captured from the Muslims. Philip seemingly responded positively to the request of the embassy, by sending one of his noblemen, Gobert de Helleville, to accompany Bar Sauma back to Mongol lands. There was further correspondence between Arghun and Philip in 1288 and 1289, outlining potential military cooperation. However, Philip never actually pursued such military plans.
In April 1305, the new Mongol ruler Öljaitü sent letters to Philip, the Pope, and Edward I of England. He again offered a military collaboration between the Christian nations of Europe and the Mongols against the Mamluks. European nations attempted another Crusade but were delayed, and it never took place. On 4 April 1312, another Crusade was promulgated at the Council of Vienne. In 1313, Philip "took the cross", making the vow to go on a Crusade in the Levant, thus responding to Pope Clement V's call. He was, however, warned against leaving by Enguerrand de Marigny and died soon after in a hunting accident.
Under Philip IV, the annual ordinary revenues of the French royal government totaled approximately 860,000 livres tournois, equivalent to 46 tonnes of silver. Overall revenues were about twice the ordinary revenues. Some 30% of the revenues were collected from the royal demesne. The royal financial administration employed perhaps 3,000 people, of which about 1,000 were officials in the proper sense. After assuming the throne, Philip inherited a sizable debt from his father's war against Aragon. By November 1286 it reached 8 tonnes of silver to his primary financiers, the Templars, equivalent to 17% of government revenue. This debt was quickly paid off and in 1287 and 1288, Philip's kingdom ran a budget surplus.
After 1289, a decline in Saxony's silver production, combined with Philip's wars against Aragon, England and Flanders, drove the French government to fiscal deficits. The war against Aragon, inherited from Philip's father, required the expenditure of 1.5 million LT (livres tournois) and the 1294–99 war against England over Gascony another 1.73 million LT. Loans from the Aragonese War were still being paid back in 1306. To cover the deficit, Pope Nicholas IV in 1289 granted Philip permission to collect a tithe of 152,000 LP (livres parisis) from the Church lands in France. With revenues of 1.52 million LP, the church in France had greater fiscal resources than the royal government, whose ordinary revenues in 1289 amounted to 595,318 LP and overall revenues to 1.2 million LP. By November 1290, the deficit stood at 6% of revenues. In 1291 the budget swung back into surplus only to fall into deficit again in 1292.
The constant deficits led Philip to order the arrest of the Lombard merchants, who had earlier made him extensive loans on the pledge of repayment from future taxation. The Lombards' assets were seized by government agents and the crown extracted 250,000 LT by forcing the Lombards to purchase French nationality. Despite this draconian measure, the deficits continued to stack up in 1293. By 1295, Philip had replaced the Templars with the Florentine Franzesi bankers as his main source of finance. The Italians could raise huge loans far beyond the capacities of the Templars, and Philip came to rely on them more and more. The royal treasure was transferred from the Paris Temple to the Louvre around this time.
In 1294, France went to war against England and in 1297, Flanders declared its independence from France. By 1295, to pay for his constant wars, Philip had no choice but to borrow more and debase the currency by reducing its silver content. This led to the virtual disappearance of silver from France by 1301. Currency depreciation provided the crown with 1.419 million LP from November 1296 to Christmas 1299, more than enough to cover war costs of 1.066 million LP in the same period.
The devaluation was socially devastating. It was accompanied by dramatic inflation that damaged the real incomes of the creditors such as the aristocracy and the Church, who received a weaker currency in return for the loans they had issued in a stronger currency. The indebted lower classes did not benefit from the devaluation, as the high inflation ate into the purchasing power of their money. The result was social unrest. By 22 August 1303 this practice led to a two-thirds loss in the value of the livres, sous and deniers in circulation.
The defeat at the battle of Golden Spurs in 1302 was a crushing blow to French finance, reducing the value of the French currency by 37% in the 15 months that followed. The royal government had to order officials and subjects to provide all or half, respectively, of their silver vessels for minting into coins. New taxes were levied to pay for the deficit. As people attempted to move their wealth out of the country in non-monetary form, Philip banned merchandise exports without royal approval. The king obtained another crusade tithe from the pope and returned the royal treasure to the Temple to gain the Templars as his creditors again.
After bringing the Flemish War to a victorious conclusion in 1305, Philip on 8 June 1306 ordered the silver content of new coinage to be raised back to its 1285 level of 3.96 grams of silver per livre. To harmonize the strength of the old and new currencies, the debased coinage of 1303 was devalued accordingly by two-thirds. The debtors were driven to penury by the need to repay their loans in the new, strong currency. This led to rioting in Paris on 30 December 1306, forcing Philip to briefly seek refuge in the Paris Temple, the headquarters of the Knights Templar.
Perhaps seeking to control the silver of the Jewish mints to put the revaluation to effect, Philip ordered the expulsion of the Jews on 22 July 1306 and confiscated their property on 23 August, collecting at least 140,000 LP with this measure. With the Jews gone, Philip appointed royal guardians to collect the loans made by the Jews, and the money was passed to the Crown. The scheme did not work well. The Jews were regarded as comparatively honest, while the king's collectors were universally unpopular. Finally, in 1315, because of the "clamour of the people", the Jews were invited back with an offer of 12 years of guaranteed residence, free from government interference. In 1322, the Jews were expelled again by the King's successor, who did not honour his commitment.
When Philip levied taxes on the French clergy of one half their annual income, he caused an uproar within the Catholic Church and the papacy, prompting Pope Boniface VIII to issue the bull Clericis Laicos (1296), forbidding the transference of any church property to the French Crown. Philip retaliated by forbidding the removal of bullion from France. By 1297, Boniface agreed to Philip's taxation of the clergy in emergencies.
In 1301, Philip had the bishop of Pamier arrested for treason. Boniface called French bishops to Rome to discuss Philip's actions. In response, Philip convoked an assembly of bishops, nobles and grand bourgeois of Paris in order to condemn the Pope. This precursor to the Estates General appeared for the first time during his reign, a measure of the professionalism and order that his ministers were introducing into government. This assembly, which was composed of clergy, nobles, and burghers, gave support to Philip. Boniface retaliated with the celebrated bull Unam Sanctam (1302), a declaration of papal supremacy. Philip gained a victory, after having sent his agent Guillaume de Nogaret to arrest Boniface at Anagni. The pope escaped but died soon afterward. The French archbishop Bertrand de Goth was elected pope as Clement V and thus began the so-called Babylonian Captivity of the papacy (1309–76), during which the official seat of the papacy moved to Avignon, an enclave surrounded by French territories, and was subjected to French control.
Philip was substantially in debt to the Knights Templar, a monastic military order whose original role as protectors of Christian pilgrims in the Latin East had been largely replaced by banking and other commercial activities by the end of the 13th century. As the popularity of the Crusades had decreased, support for the military orders had waned, and Philip used a disgruntled complaint against the Knights Templar as an excuse to move against the entire organization as it existed in France, in part to free himself from his debts. Other motives appear to have included concern over perceived heresy, assertion of French control over a weakened Papacy, and finally, the substitution of royal officials for officers of the Temple in the financial management of French government. Recent studies emphasize the political and religious motivations of Philip the Fair and his ministers (especially Guillaume de Nogaret). It seems that, with the "discovery" and repression of the "Templars' heresy", the Capetian monarchy claimed for itself the mystic foundations of the papal theocracy. The Temple case was the last step of a process of appropriating these foundations, which had begun with the Franco-papal rift at the time of Boniface VIII. Being the ultimate defender of the Catholic faith, the Capetian king was invested with a Christ-like function that put him above the pope. What was at stake in the Templars' trial, then, was the establishment of a "royal theocracy".
At daybreak on Friday, 13 October 1307, hundreds of Templars in France were simultaneously arrested by agents of Philip the Fair, to be later tortured into admitting heresy in the Order. The Templars were supposedly answerable only to the Pope, but Philip used his influence over Clement V, who was largely his pawn, to disband the organization. Pope Clement did attempt to hold proper trials, but Philip used the previously forced confessions to have many Templars burned at the stake before they could mount a proper defense.
The cardinals dallied with their duty until March 1314, (exact day is disputed by scholars) when, on a scaffold in front of Notre Dame, Jacques de Molay, Templar Grand Master, Geoffroi de Charney, Master of Normandy, Hugues de Peraud, Visitor of France, and Godefroi de Gonneville, Master of Aquitaine, were brought forth from the jail in which for nearly seven years they had lain, to receive the sentence agreed upon by the cardinals, in conjunction with the Archbishop of Sens and some other prelates whom they had called in. Considering the offences, which the culprits had confessed and confirmed, the penance imposed was in accordance with rule — that of perpetual imprisonment. The affair was supposed to be concluded when, to the dismay of the prelates and wonderment of the assembled crowd, de Molay and Geoffroi de Charney arose. They had been guilty, they said, not of the crimes imputed to them, but of basely betraying their Order to save their own lives. It was pure and holy; the charges were fictitious and the confessions false. Hastily the cardinals delivered them to the Prevot of Paris, and retired to deliberate on this unexpected contingency, but they were saved all trouble. When the news was carried to Philippe he was furious. A short consultation with his council only was required. The canons pronounced that a relapsed heretic was to be burned without a hearing; the facts were notorious and no formal judgment by the papal commission need be waited for. That same day, by sunset, a stake was erected on a small island in the Seine, the Ile des Juifs, near the palace garden. There de Molay and de Charney were slowly burned to death, refusing all offers of pardon for retraction, and bearing their torment with a composure which won for them the reputation of martyrs among the people, who reverently collected their ashes as relics.
The fact that, in little more than a month, Pope Clement V died in torment of a loathsome disease thought to be lupus, and that in eight months Philip IV of France, at the early age of forty-six, perished by an accident while hunting, necessarily gave rise to the legend that de Molay had cited them before the tribunal of God. Such stories were rife among the people, whose sense of justice had been scandalized by the whole affair. Even in distant Germany, Philip's death was spoken of as a retribution for his destruction of the Templars, and Clement was described as shedding tears of remorse on his death-bed for three great crimes: the poisoning of Henry VII, Holy Roman Emperor, and the ruin of the Templars and Beguines. Within 14 years the throne passed rapidly through Philip's sons, who died relatively young, and without producing male heirs. By 1328, his male line was extinguished, and the throne had passed to the line of his brother, the House of Valois.
In 1314, the daughters-in-law of Philip IV, Margaret of Burgundy (wife of Louis X) and Blanche of Burgundy (wife of Charles IV) were accused of adultery, and their alleged lovers (Phillipe d'Aunay and Gauthier d'Aunay) tortured, flayed and executed in what has come to be known as the Tour de Nesle affair (French: Affaire de la tour de Nesle). A third daughter-in-law, Joan II, Countess of Burgundy (wife of Philip V), was accused of knowledge of the affairs.
Philip IV's rule signaled the decline of the papacy's power from its near complete authority. His palace located on the Île de la Cité is represented today by surviving sections of the Conciergerie. He suffered a cerebral stroke during a hunt at Pont-Sainte-Maxence (Forest of Halatte), and died a few weeks later, on 29 November 1314, at Fontainebleau, where he was born. He is buried in the Basilica of St Denis. He was succeeded by his son Louis X.
All three of Philip's sons who reached adulthood became kings of France, and Isabella, his only surviving daughter, was the queen of England as consort to Edward II of England.
Philip is the title character in Le Roi de fer (The Iron King), the 1955 first novel in Les Rois maudits (The Accursed Kings), a series of French historical novels by Maurice Druon. The six following volumes in the series follow the descendants of Philip, including sons Louis X and Philip V, as well as daughter Isabella of France. He was portrayed by Georges Marchal in the 1972 French miniseries adaptation of the series, and by Tchéky Karyo in the 2005 adaptation.